Posted: Mon, January 07, 2013 | By: Special Guest
by Walter Farrah
There is no greater harm to philosophical discourse than to reduce it to its history, incapable of seeing it as constant exploration. Maybe philosophical anthropology could be a good example, as it looks more like a type of theoretical cemetery than the vibrant energy that it actually has, given the current issues that put in doubt the continuity of what is “human”, anticipating the “post-humans” era, or at least the “super humans”, in either case the transhuman.
In the history of critical thought, the human issue has come and gone. As such, it was absent from the pre-Socratics cosmological period, having to wait for Socrates and the Sophists. So that “humans” became an object of thought as social beings, because back then, Prometheus had stolen the fire from the Gods.
That is, we began as man, monopolistically masculine, but not all of us; not the slaves. Only the citizens were distinguished from things and animals through a rational soul, the distinctive seal of being human thanks to Plato and Aristotle.
As human knowledge started to diversify, sacrosanct dominium of the philosophical thought made its way to anthropology and its scientific aspects. Although, in the interlude with medieval philosophy, human knowledge again lost its autonomy, positively finding out that we were different from angels.
Nonetheless, the post-Helgean German criticism would do its thing- from Feuerbach to Nietzsche and Freud. With Darwin, the breach would last forever.
Overwhelmed by the results from the new sciences, a German philosopher in the beginning of the 20th century, Max Scheller, used for the very first time the concept of “philosophic anthropology”. He vindicated what was essentially human against what, at that time, was grim nature.
In the middle of two terrible World Wars in the first part of the 20th century, the philosophic anthropology took on the key question:”what is man and what is his position within being?”, thus answering: “Man is the superior being of himself and the world”.
In a short time, philosophic anthropology had reached its highest maturity with Scheller and other contemporaries and post thinkers like Husserl, Plessner, Gehlen. With vital biological concerns- randomly, or because of need-from Chardin, Monod, and Lorenz or with the existentialists like Heidegger, Unamuno, Sartre or Camus, they assumed themselves to be abandoned in liberty.
However, a long time has passed since then, and we find out in Simone de Beauvoir and other philosophers that the Greek “ánthropos” must include man and woman, even though this started another debate at the beginning of the 21st century regarding the limitations imposed by the traditional “male-female” Manichaeism.
Above all, today we rely on open perspectives for genetic research and the enlightening discoveries that made it possible for us to understand our own journey through evolution from before we were “sapiens”. The advances in neuroscience, computer sciences and new science point towards the separation of the brain activity (our thoughts?) from the body and develop its limitless capabilities.
So we witness the tendencies derived from artificial intelligence-where the traditional lines drawn separate us from each other- are blurry, at least enough to get used to a world in which we coexist with social robots or even what we are starting to refer to as “cyborgs”, male or female, “Anthropos”; like one of the robots that Media Lab Europe develops to generate in them the ability to interact in a complex and intelligent way.
When we balance what we witness and beyond, we face a kind of assisted premature death to the anthropologic philosophy. What is surprising about this lethal blow is that it was generated from simple and very human things, as if it were trying to avoid the suffering, the sickness, aging, poisoning and death.
When we add up these series of challenges, we still have the endless question of critical reflection. Neither from anthropology nor the human origin itself, but from its future, from the end of this privileged positioning in the development of evolution and the trans-human.
Seen like this, the anthropologic philosophy is going through the worst tragedy possible: to disappear, before its object of study disappears, acknowledging also that it will disappear as fast as it appeared within its own oblivion.