What We Mean When We Say “Posthumanism”


“What it means to be human,” if entering a posthumanist discussion, proves to be a very unreliable way to enter such a discussion. If our concern, at this point, is with meanings related to being human, we reach an unhelpful line of argument. When we concern ourselves, then, with what it means to be human, we limit ourselves theoretically to a hermeneutical circle, which never truly unfolds what we wish to explore: the meaning of posthumanism. We certainly, at least in some regard, must address “the human” when addressing posthumanist concerns. Yet, if we remain strict to the assertion of “what it means to be human,” we do considerable violence to what we wish to unfold, before it can ever come into view for us. The thinking necessary to unfold posthumanity is a kind of thinking that becomes limited by “what it means to be human,” since, as a beginning assertion, we fail to venture any further that the meaning of “the human” and the underlying realm of humanity and the very Anthropocene we need to escape. To simply interpret “what it means to be human” means, In fact, remaining within an anthropocentric thinking, where what we think about the meaning of being is always-already attached to what we think about the meaning of being human. To be sure, “what it means to be human” alerts us to certain imperatives that undergird this thinking–these are issues of meaning, being, and the human. Posthumanity’s imperatives are more expansive. Because of this, “what it means to be human” greatly narrows our thinking to the Anthropocene and the extent to which what we make meaning out of is linked to being human. The meaning of being human and the thinking associated with it cleaves us unnecessarily to a meaning/thinking that cannot and will not lead us toward posthuman meaning/thinking.

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