Rosi Braidotti’s work is fascinating, and I think some of her ideas will be important figures in new drafts of my Ecophilosophy project, and will likely join the flow of ideas taking shape on my back burner in the Utopias project.* For one, admittedly superficial, point, she and I share the same general view of Georg Hegel’s philosophy of history. Because he reads European culture as uniquely expressing self-reflective reason, Hegel gives the most profound justification of Eurocentrism. Rationality itself privileges Western man over other paradigms of culture and thought. Braidotti and I both call shenanigans on this entire project.
* For those of you wondering how I can so quickly shift projects from the front to back burners as contingent events like feedback from consulting colleagues, conference deadlines, or upcoming job opportunities assail me — I’m a professional. We work on multiple projects at once and have a lot of priorities to deal with. This is the life of the modern intellectual and writer. So get used to it.
I touched yesterday on what precisely transhumanism is, the philosophical engagement with the possibility of transcending or overcoming the limitations of the human organism through technology. I’ve only recently become interested in it because it strikes me as a more whitewashed iteration of the brutal Futurism of Marinetti, the vision of humanity remade through industrial machinery. While I was researching the Ecophilosophy project, however, I just thought of the transhumanist project or perspective as naive. It was barely worth my engaging with the scene because not even a critical thought about whether technological progress is ethical or ecological progress even appeared to me. But the transhumanists I knew of were the most obnoxious, like Max More. And even their role in the Utopias project will be minor at best — modern transhumanism seems a pale shadow of the real first technological utopian, Filippo Marinetti.
|It is frankly a beautiful cover, which|
reflects its fascinating content.
Braidotti arose from a tradition that combined feminist political philosophy with the ontology of difference of Gilles Deleuze. And when I say she’s part of that tradition, I really mean that this is a basic account of how she approaches philosophy herself. I like to think of good philosophers as constituting their own traditions, even if in the next generation, we don’t find too many self-professed Braidottians. Her posthumanism doesn’t have the violent thrust of the transhumanist vision of progress, instead asking a subtler question of what in our current conceptions of humanity needs to be overcome. More will come on this notion as I read more of her book last year on the subject.
My own encounter with this notion of posthumanity came from engaging with Nietzsche, which is why I consider Braidotti a fellow traveller, now that I’m growing familiar with her work. In the proliferation of academic writing, she is another voice that is worth reading, which is more than can be said for many (quite possibly myself included, and I write this project, of all things). The problem with the technological forms of transhumanism is that they are closely integrated with economic factors. As far as I'm concerned, it's of no use creating a new cybernetic iteration of humanity if only the super-rich will be able to invest in the enhancements, if only those who can afford it can enter cryogenic sleep, or enhance their lifespan and perceptual abilities with technological additions. Most people will be left behind in a technological transhumanism. But an ethical posthumanism, which Nietzsche was really the first to develop, or at least the most influential single figure to do so, is democratic. Reconsidering one's ethics and self-definition is a task that has no price tag. All it takes is to think about your life in a particular way that calls the moral values you have long taken for granted into question, and develop new practical priorities in the face of problems to which those old values are inadequate. The transvaluation of values sounds like an epic cultural shift, and in fact constitutes one. But such a shift is so mundane that it happens all the time, as moral priorities change with every generational changeover.
More to come.