5 thoughts on “Anthropologically Bounded Posthumanism

  1. Goddamn. You have no idea how much I’m waiting for your book, David! (Now I understand why my readers are prone to bitch and moan…)

    Two things, one a curmudgeonly comment, and one critical suggestion regarding your argument.

    First, it drives me to distraction the way ‘correlation’ is characterized as a ‘faulty ontological choice’ made by Kant. This just gives the spec-realism crowd a way of paying lip service to the history of philosophy while almost entirely ignoring it. Kant, like most every non-skeptical philosopher, sees correlation as THE problem, one that philosophy had been backed into by Hume. He bites the Humean bullet – the disclosure of subjectivity as a cognitive constraint – because he sees no alternative, then elaborates transcendental idealism to find a way out. The logical positivists thought they had discovered the exit with Frege and formal semantics, only to have Wittgenstein slam the door on them much as Hume had on the rationalists, only this time with the disclosure of normativity as a cognitive constraint. Spec-realist philosophers have no answers for either Hume or Wittgenstein, so they go after Kant, a would-be fellow escapee, then seem to think they have accomplished ‘spooky knowledge at a distance’ by what amounts to declarations of ontological fiat. Is Harman not caught up in a very particular, specialized normative context? Of course. Does he not possess a brain, that if damaged, would produce spectacularly different claims? Of course.

    And yet his claims regarding OOO are not conditioned by this? Of course they are. So then how are they conditioned? To the point where their objectivity is compromised? Well, we don’t know *one way or another.*

    Unless I’m missing something pretty glaring, I just don’t see why any of these guys should be taken seriously. (The larger argument can be found here: http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/speculative-musings/adventures-in-speculative-realism/causa-suicide/ )

    Second, in the same critical, epistemological vein, as valuable as I think your definitional work is, and as much as I hope its taken up in the post-humanities as tools for more rigourous debates, I still think you need to include a full-blooded discussion on the difficulties pertaining to conceptual arguments generally, and to clarify the extent to which you offer your concepts in a *stipulative* spirit. Doing so, I think anyway, would encourage more thinkers to use your categorizations as opposed to quibbling with them – as we wankers are prone to do.

  2. Hey David… too bad I couldn’t have listened to your lecture! Either way looking forward to your book! What’s interesting in the gentleman aboves message is that he seems to lump all speculative realists under one banner, when in fact each of the original members have quite different and opposing views. I think people who see something new on the scene condemn it without ever truly reading critically the works of its authors.

    I’ve been away for a while but am not back and publishing again… have been trying to catch up on others blogs… am rummaging through much of your excellent thoughts! thanks…..

    I like your critical approach with a dialectical interactive movement toward speculation and critique.

  3. Hi S.C., Scott,

    It’s a pity neither of you could be here – it would have been great to discuss this over some grappa. The conference has been notably successful example of interdiscplinarity. We have bio-aestheticians like Monika Bakke, cultural historians of AI like Kevn Le Grandeur, some very interesting work on the significance of embodied interfaces by Jelena Guga – not to mention bioethicists, logicians, biologists, media theorists, ecologists, … I’ve been too busy to right a report or summary, but I may try to talk about some of the other contributions when I have minute.

    Scott – you’re right that we can’t just dissolve correlationism by ignoring it. I had to compress a wide ranging meta-theoretical argument into 20 minutes and needed to express the range of Critical Posthumanist approaches quickly. I disagree with Harman about some things, but he conveys one of the stakes in CP with great economy – obviously Ladyman and Ross, won’t regard themselves as posthumanists of any kind, but their account of naturalism is an exemplary statement of a certain kind of anti-anthropocentrism.

    Also this is a problem defining talk. It’s not about objecting to anti-realism or correlationism. Yet. It’s about showing how the critique of anthropocentrism is necessary for an evaluation of the scope of posthuman possibility space. This is a limited but necessary step in the argument and it’s the kind of synoptic material that drives me nuts to write – which is precisely why I’m here. The definitions of the posthuman are argued for at length in the Disconnection thesis. Bottom line, they’re designed to convey what’s at stake in discussions of future technological landscapes. It’s also an attempt to cut through the facile techno-optimism of much transhumanist writing while seriously addressing the epistemicand metaphysical implications of radical technical change. So my definitions are stipulative, but well motivated I hope.

    Not sure if PL will be anything like as fun to read as the Great Ordeal, tho!

  4. Dubrovnik is such a gorgeous gorgeous locale. A real bastion for the metaphorical.

    Every Thing Must Go plunged me in over my head, but it struck me that their argument wasn’t so different than the one I’m trying to make in a cogsci context: some notion of nonsemantic information is the way to go. ‘Objects’ are too low-res as heuristics to generate anything more than perpetual confusion. But this just makes me think I *really* don’t get the spec-realist crowd. Is there something of Harman’s you can point me to?

    Which reminds me of a book you simply have to read, if you haven’t been following the eco-rat literature already: Todd and Gigarenzer’s Ecological Rationality. It’s one of those game-changers, and with formidable empirical evidence to boot. Big implications for the posthuman, I think.

    Not to weird you out or anything, but PL is something I hope to use to *escape* the Great Ordeal! The Posthumanities will very shortly become very big – of this I have no doubt. Since I’ll never publish anything on the topic myself (if only because I can’t seem to agree with myself longer than the space of an afternoon), and since you’re the only person I know who appreciates the full breadth of the problematic *on it’s own terms* instead of using it as a sop for some other agenda (like Wolfe or Bostrom), I fear I’ve bet the mortgage on you, David!

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