Humanism versus Posthumanism

In brief, humanism has humans as its center while posthumanism has Beings as its center. Descartes’ focuses on thinking as the incarnation of all bodily elements when he says that “corporeal things [are] images…formed by thought” (paragraph 10). Descartes means that our minds create the things we perceive and that “[the senses are]…nothing else than thinking” (paragraph 9). “Bodies themselves,” Descartes says, “…are…properly perceived…by the intellect alone…because they are understood by thought” (paragraph 16). We exist, then, because we are seen, and seeing exists as a rational sense within the human mind alone.

Posthumanism, though, requires a body and mind relationship, but it is not the sole relation. We “describe a world covered over with our own projections” (136) and are trapped in “a fundamental narcissism of all vision” (139). But we should not superimpose humanity on the world because humans are but one variant with a “paradox of Being, not a paradox of man” (136). Merleau-Ponty quotes Leibniz and his donkey who knows as much about “the properties of the straight line as we do” (153). The visible, tactile, vocal, perceptive, and spoken are part of an enfolding that is both interior and exterior (154), an entanglement of mind and body (152) but also an entanglement of relations of Beings, be they Nature, donkeys, bacteria, or (as Wittgenstein suggested through Dr. Broglio) a line. The difficulty then comes with seeing and communicating this other, and that occurs at the horizon, the space where Beings touch, perhaps even overlap, but do not subsume the other.

Works Cited

Descartes, Rene. “Meditation II: Of the Nature of the Human Mind; and That It is More Easily Known Than the Body.” 27 July 2005. Web. 14 Mar. 2016. <http://www.wright.edu/~charles.taylor/descartes/meditation2.html>.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “4 The Intertwining - The Chiasm.” The Visible and The Invisible. Ed. Claude Lefort. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1968. 130-155. PDF.

As told by a high school student (16 Mar. 2016): Rene Descartes walked into a bar. The bartender asked, “Do you want a beer?” Descartes replied, “I don’t think so” and disappeared.

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