The Crisis of Thought 101: Posthumanism

Foreword


The Crisis of Thought 101 articles serve as one of the academic courses in the precise field of contemporary philosophy. The main aim of this research is to focus attention on the current crisis of thought and existence, analysing their genesis and the way in which they have taken place. The theoretical framework will be covered from a “posthumanist” stance and, essentially, the project involves the attempt to create a diagonal discourse that promotes collective entities and collaborative agency as the main tools for resistance and, more importantly, existence.


The Crisis of Thought 101 will be mainly divided into the following chapters:


Posthumanism


This 101 series has been analyzing how the linear concept of time has been broken; how history no longer belongs only to a human "us". It has been studied how the past is no longer useful to predict future events and how the present is mixed with the future, attentive to an imminent catastrophe that affects all living beings equally. In a contemporaneity that does not cease to experience continuous crises (of knowledge, history, ecology, politics, social...), different calls for attention appear that try to respond to the proliferation of unease across the globe, human and non-human. The work of Rosi Braidotti (1954), a philosopher and feminist theorist, professor at the University of Utrecht, is highly significant for those who try to get a broader perspective over the problem in thought. Besides establishing Posthumanism as a new trend of philosophical thought, she synthesizes each of the irreverent proposals that arise before the expropriation of global existence. Her main goal is to give these proposals a common sense that explains, from a single point of view but in a crossed and multiplied way at the same time, the steps to make the common experience a liveable space for all, everyone and everything. In her own words:

The main purpose of posthuman theory is, consequently, the careful elaboration of precise cartographies for the different subject positions as a launching pad towards the posthuman recomposition of a panhuman cosmopolitan bond. (Braidotti, 2013: 68)

Figure 1: Rosi Braidotti. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, 2019.


But where do these "posthuman" aspirations of which Braidotti speaks come from?

First, to understand the explosion of posthumanist postulates, the immediately preceding state -although not for that reason ephemeral or brief- of the fields of knowledge up to the present day: humanism. The main thesis which the authoress states is that: "the human has never been a neutral or inclusive term" (Braidotti, 2019, 2). That is, she bases her proposal on the idea that the legacy of the Enlightenment has not really been something universalizable and equally applicable to all individuals, as it is believed. In this sense, the human is the way of grouping the set of Westernized white men, far from including the diversity of populations, cultures, and beings. Therefore, humanism entails, per se, a hierarchy of difference, a denial of everything that cannot be included in the original group. Humanism has been constituted as an instrument of exclusion and discrimination practices that make the difference, the otherness (Braidotti and Muñoz, 2016). In other words, those modern ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity, from the beginning, were not designed for everyone; these were the ideals promoted by a very small minority that did have the option to prosper in freedom, but always excluded others from that process (Mishra, 2017). Thus, the Westernized idea of freedom, by which social policies had been tarnished for two centuries, is sustained by the expulsion of others; there are existences that are not even necessary, and so they are forgotten, omitted (Achille, 2017). Therein lies the magic of humanism: it is capable of generating parallel universes, distinct ontological categories, divisions that no longer respond to the oppressor and the exploited, but that are interwoven and give rise to a much more complex mechanism. It is from this situation that "the structurally others of the humanist subject re-emerge as revenge in postmodernity" (Braidotti and Muñoz, 2016: 103), and who will be those laying the foundations for the posthumanist conceptualization that Braidotti will realize some years later. These are feminism, decolonial theories, racialized trends, and, above all, the unmasking of the hegemonic positions of the humanist subject carried out by Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, personalities who will be fundamental to Braidotti for the construction of her multiplied eco-philosophy.

Figure 2: Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, 1972.


This is, precisely, the integration of the multiple in discourses. If the word human, from the beginning, does not include us, i.e. women, black people, plants, animals, for instance, then we will have to start from another point to try to pave the way for common existence: a post-authoritarian, post-classist, post-speciesist place... A place where the non-uniqueness of the term "we" is recognized, where its ontology is evaluated not from relativism, which is not contrary to universalism, but from perspectivism (Braidotti, 2019, 3). This is how Braidotti's frames posthumanism, with which, she proposes the convergence of different cartographies, starting from anti-humanist and anti-anthropocentric trends. It is a transdisciplinary project that seeks to account for the contemporary challenges faced by the world's population, to immerse in them, and to coexist, making difference an instrument of affirmation with which to begin to operate.


Then, more specifically, what is the meaning of the posthuman approach? If it is born out of "multiplicity", where does its foundation lie, and does it even have one?

Certainly, if one starts from Cartesian binarism, in which pairs of different concepts are by necessity opposites and contraries (good/evil, reason/feelings, mind/body, etc.), one will not be able to understand a fundamental basis that sustains a multiplicity of thought. For instance, one could consider that feminsm and antinatalism are opposite trends. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the concept of "nomad", on which Braidotti places great importance and with which she explains the different lines of flow that will determine and shape posthuman multiplicity. Nomadic is then translated into a kind of situated thought, from the aspect that Donna Haraway proposes, which demands an ontology of relational processes, with the intention of turning around the primacy of object over subject that had been soaking Western philosophy since the beginnings of humanism. Perhaps this nomadism can be better understood by reviewing the concepts proposed by Deleuze around the "flow lines". According to him, they represent the spontaneous actions, the minimal events that escape control through the mutation of difference. For the philosopher, the power of minorities does not reside in their effectiveness, but in their capacity to exert multiple forces, in their continuous state of becoming (Deleuze, 1977). Thus, Braidotti's nomadic philosophy can be translated as a process, a conjugation of becomings, a distancing, a disidentification; a molecular exercise of revolution that, although conceived as multiple, is not rootless; for this engaged activism is nevertheless situated, aware of its own capacities and, above all and even more importantly, aware of its limitations.

Figure 2: Professor Donna Haraway and Professor Rosi Braidotti up in the Dom church tower. Utrecht, 2011.


Therefore, the new posthumanist philosophy distances itself from merely political frontiers, tries to include in its study those whom humanism despised and contemplates the future awaiting us all from a conjugated perspective, from an interwoven point of view that is being built little by little at the hands of all living beings on the planet.



Image references


Bibliographic references

  • Braidotti, Rosi (2013). “The Posthuman Challenge”. At The posthuman. United Kingdom: Polity.

  • Braidotti, Rossi and Muñoz, Eva (2016). Interviewing Rosi Braidotti: the posthuman is not the enemy of the human. Revista de Occidente, n. 426, p. 101-115.

  • Braidotti, Rosi (2019, 2). La revolución es un concepto fascista [video]. Barcelona: CCCB. Available on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6PLJqtDp6Q

  • Braidotti, Rosi (2019, 3). Posthuman Knowledge [lecture]. United States: Harvard Graduate School of Design. Available on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CewnVzOg5w

  • Deleuze, Gilles (1977). Dialogues. France: Flammarion.

  • Membe, Achille (2017). Rethinking Democracy Beyond the Human [lecture]. Malta: European Graduate School. Available on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_k3YIupGok

  • Mishra, Pankaj (2017). Why are people so angry? Blame modernity [video]. United Kingdom: BBC – Viewsnight. Available on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4FgzAe2MF0

Author Photo

Alicia Macías Recio

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