Re: "Post-humanism": The right term?

Stan Kretler (
Fri, 13 Aug 1999 16:19:05 -0700

Brian Manning Delaney wrote:


> So, again, I wonder: why not "human," and "humanism," or some ratcheting up of > the same: like "neo-humanism," or "ultra-humanism"?


As one of those "academics in the humanities" with whom you recently spoke I of course agree that "posthuman" is the wrong term.

Note that according to the Web page for a conference (follow links from Max More seems to have heeded your counsel.

For reasons discussed in person, which you yourself explained in your article from last week, I still don't think, however, that "ultra-" is the right prefix.

"Ultra-" does indeed mean "beyond," as you suggested. The question is whether "ultrahuman" would mean beyond the human, or would mean beyond the NORM of what is thought of as human. If the former it definitely won't do. If the latter it's less problematic. Here are some definitions from The OED:

: 1. Signifying 'lying spatially beyond or on the other side of':
: ultra-stellar
: ultra-terrene
: ultra-terrestrial
: ultra-zodiacal
: ultra-red
: [....]

This is the "beyond" meaning that won't work.

: 2. a. With adjs., signifying 'going beyond, surpassing, or
transcending the
: limits of' (the specified concept)

Here one of many examples is actually:

: ultra-human

: 3. a. Signifying an excessive or extreme degree of the quality or
: expressed by the adjective forming the second element of the compound,
: ultra-clear
: ultra-clerical
: ultra-critical

Definitions 2 and 3 suggest going beyond the norm, not going beyond the essence of. With those definitions in mind, "ultrahuman" doesn't seem so bad.

Nonetheless, the "human" itself is already something that seeks to go beyond the norm. Why the need for a new name? If it's more than a name, in what way is it more than what humanists think of as the human? Your "fetishism of the noncarbon" comment may explain much.... If so, the appropriate term should maybe be "anticarbohumanism."

Personally, I like "neo-humanism," if "humanism" itself is deemed wrong.