What Is Posthumanism? (Posthumanities)

What Is Posthumanism? (Posthumanities)

Cary Wolfe

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0816666156

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

What does it mean to think beyond humanism? Is it possible to craft a mode of philosophy, ethics, and interpretation that rejects the classic humanist divisions of self and other, mind and body, society and nature, human and animal, organic and technological? Can a new kind of humanities-posthumanities-respond to the redefinition of humanity's place in the world by both the technological and the biological or "green" continuum in which the "human" is but one life form among many?

Exploring how both critical thought along with cultural practice have reacted to this radical repositioning, Cary Wolfe-one of the founding figures in the field of animal studies and posthumanist theory-ranges across bioethics, cognitive science, animal ethics, gender, and disability to develop a theoretical and philosophical approach responsive to our changing understanding of ourselves and our world. Then, in performing posthumanist readings of such diverse works as Temple Grandin's writings, Wallace Stevens's poetry, Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, the architecture of Diller+Scofidio, and David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, he shows how this philosophical sensibility can transform art and culture.

For Wolfe, a vibrant, rigorous posthumanism is vital for addressing questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems and their inclusions and exclusions, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. In What Is Posthumanism? he carefully distinguishes posthumanism from transhumanism (the biotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality. In doing so, Wolfe reveals that it is humanism, not the human in all its embodied and prosthetic complexity, that is left behind in posthumanist thought.


















redundant possibilities”—­namely, what was selected (the actual) and what could have been (the possible)—­a nd this is crucial for any system’s ability to respond to environmental complexity by building up its own complexity via the form of meaning. This is what Luhmann means when he says that “this formal requirement refers meaning to the problem of complexity.”32 “The genesis and reproduction of meaning presupposes an infrastructure in reality that constantly changes its states,” he writes.

that the human occupies a new place in the universe, a universe now populated by what I am prepared to call nonhuman subjects. And this is why, to me, posthumanism means not the triumphal surpassing or unmasking of something but an increase in the vigilance, responsibility, and humility that accompany living in a world so newly, and differently, inhabited. 47 This page intentionally left blank 3 Flesh and Finitude Bioethics and the Philosophy of the Living But who, me? —­j acques derrida,

alternative models to the use of animals,”31 it is obvious that the question ostensibly being asked has already been decided, since the question is really not “can we consider using them?” but simply “under what pragmatic circumstances?” Beyond “Rights” So far, I have been responding to the shortcomings of bioethics in its own terms—­that is to say, the terms of analytical philosophy and what is sometimes called its “justice tradition.” As I hope I have shown (far too hastily, I’m afraid), even

novel, Supreme Court ruling, political speech, or advertisement—­as merely a site for mining content, an alibi “sufficient to get the machinery of ‘archaeology’ and archive-­churning” up and running (561). Surely Rooney is right that the real issue here is “not to transcend the New Historicism, poststructuralism, cultural materialism,” or “any of the other critical interventions marking literary studies in the late twentieth century” (18)—­it’s not about picking your favorite brand name and

relationship of disciplinarity to subjectivity that I have been discussing—­and this is the point usually overlooked in Derrida’s later work on “the question of the animal”—­is that there are two kinds of fini­ tude here under which the “man” of the humanities labors; and, moreover, that the first type (physical vulnerability, embodiment, and eventually mortality) is paradoxically made unavailable, inappropriable, to us by the very thing that makes it available: namely, a second type of “not 118

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