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

Brian Manning Delaney (
Fri, 13 Aug 1999 18:46:09 -0700

Stan Kretler <> wrote (cc'd -- I'm on the digest version):
> Brian Manning Delaney wrote:
> <snip>
>> So, again, I wonder: why not "human," and
>> "humanism," or some ratcheting up of the
>> same: like "neo-humanism," or "ultra-humanism"?

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

Hi Stan,

Yes -- more like "the" conference for this list, by the way. (For the record, he may, of course, have come up with the idea years before my email. Extropians are capable of independent thought, you'll discover!)

Thanks for the OED definitions. Very helpful --

> 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."

My "fetishism" comment may indeed explain much, but I stress the "may." The question is: What, precisely, characterizes the group of people here on this list (which I so far consider myself a part of, though I know you are skeptical about whether you would want to be)?

Consider these two alternative ways of characterizing the group:

  1. "Humanism minus technophobia."
  2. "Humanism plus technophilia (or 'techno-fetishism')."

Those who would suggest that (1) is the right characterization would need to argue that humanism actually does include technophobia. If humanism included technophobia, then "post-humanism" would be a perfectly good term -- a more accurate term, in fact, than "ultra-humanism" (though "post-human" would _not_ be a good term). Yet I haven't seen such an argument about humanism (and believe a sound one can't be made -- naming a few people who today call themselves humanists but are technophobic doesn't count as an argument).

Those who would claim that (2) is the right characterization would need to argue that technophilia -- the particular kind of technophilia that many of us have, the kind that almost does seem like a fetishism -- makes sense. The technophilia does not make sense, if (2) amounts to:

2a) "Humanism minus the non-technological."

The reason it wouldn't make sense, I contend, is that the sort of technophilia suggested here would be exclusionary of the non-technological, yet potentially useful, means to self-advancement. If (2a) describes a person's beliefs, he or she could accurately use the term "post-humanism" to describe his/her beliefs. But I wouldn't share those beliefs.

I think (2) may indeed amount to (2a) in some form (though perhaps without a _complete_ exclusion of the non-technological): when you come to love something new, you detach from the old loves, at least partly. A very tricky question, though.

So then, yes, "anti-carbohumanism," or "non-carbohumanism," or, more precisely, "techno-humanism" would be the most accurate term for the belief which is (2), especially if (2) means (2a). Its not feeling right might be illuminating.

Looking over various posts to this list, I think there are many people here would accurately be described as "post-humanists." I don't share their beliefs. Others are to the current age what humanists four or so hundred years ago were to their age. These people _should_ be called humanists (or perhaps "ultra-humanists," or "neo-humanists"). I share their beliefs.


Brian Manning Delaney
I still have to live, for I still have to think.
Sum, ergo cogito: cogito, ergo sum. -Nietzsche.