Since its emergence in the 1990s, the term “posthuman” has been used to mark a historical juncture at which the present and future status of the human are radically destabilized. Thus, two distinct posthumanisms can be discerned over this period. Futurists regularly concatenate “post” and “human”` when speculating about the long-run impact new technologies have on the future shape of life and mind. By contrast, for philosophers in the “Continental” tradition, the posthuman is a cultural moment marked by the philosophical and material untenability of the foundational status of the human. Posthumanism, in this critical sense, is defined through the deconstruction and overcoming of the dualism of human subjectivity versus the non-human objectivity of “things”.
In this seminar, students will engage Roden’s Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human, which integrates the speculative and critical approaches to thought within a philosophical account of the passage from a human to a posthuman state. The seminar will consider the themes of the first five chapters of the book: What is the relationship between posthumanism and other critiques of humanism? Does critical posthumanism undermine the futurist understanding of the posthuman? Can transcendental philosophy impose anthropological constraints on the space of possible posthumans? Is it possible to develop a rigorous and naturalistic theory of the posthuman that is compatible with the dated nonexistence of real posthumans?
The seminar will be composed of four 2.5 hour sessions, each split between a 10 minute introduction to the session, a 20 minute lecture, 30 minutes of student-facilitated group discussion, a brief break and 1.25 hours of instructor-facilitated Oxford/Williams-style tutorial presentations on the readings and topics of the day. All students will write four mini-essays of 600-1000 words each addressing a current event or recent cultural object in light of the readings, due at the end of each week. These will be posted to the Google Classroom page for everyone to read and comment upon as they wish, providing some preliminary threads for the group discussions and tutorials. The top pieces will be given extensive feedback for revision into a full paper and promoted by the professor for publication in leading academic and/or para-academic venues.