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

Brian Manning Delaney (
Wed, 18 Aug 1999 00:55:48 -0700

Chris Fedeli wrote:
> Brian Manning Delaney wrote:

> >> To put my objections to both "post-"
> and "trans-humanism"
> somewhat turgidly: The "human" itself is already
> the permanent "self-post-ing" of what we are (the
> "self-overcoming beast," to sound Nietzschean and/or
> Aristotelian). To be post-human would thus
> amount almost to being "post-post-human" -- not
> something I want to be (assuming no state of
> perfection is possible). "Trans-human" would
> mean moving towards adding that second "post-."
> Who needs it? <<
> .......

> If we fully honor the humanist tradition and
> consider "human" to mean "self-overcoming beast"
> then there is no need for "trans"-humanism at all.
> We will continue to be humans until we fully
> overcome the beast in ourselves, a point that
> could be arbitrarily designated at either our
> full genetic re-engineering or at that time we
> are uploaded.

Hi Chris,

Actually, the idea of the "beast" in the metaphor simply stresses our sub-divine nature, i.e., our imperfection, something that we can never fully overcome. Perhaps that's where you might disagree, arguing that we can overcome the most important aspect of our imperfection, our "animal instinct," as you put it (not quoted here). I would disagree with such a view, for reasons too lengthy to get into here. (In short: Nietzsche.)

But all this speaks to two questions which I'm realizing should be kept quite separate: 1) What do we want? And 2) What describes that goal most accurately? There may be only a very generally describable "we" here, and thus the answer to the first question might be radically different for many of us.

A third question is: 3) Which name has the best PR value? -- a question you address here:

> We need some name for our own current, pro-technlogical
> evolutionary stance that distinguishes us from
> those humanists with no real foresight on how we
> will eventually overcome the beast, or who would
> prefer that we remain in a perpetual state of
> 'beast overcoming-ness' (ugh). "Techno-humanism",
> "evolutionary humanism", or "cyborg-humanism"
> all come to mind as ways to decribe our position
> on the current path of humanity.

I agree, and think "techno-humanism" is probably the most accurate term for what most here believe.

> Changing the name at this point might gain us
> some points with academics, but would cost us
> the name recognition in the public that we have
> developed in the past decade. As it concerns
> the spread of our memes, I have several reasons
> for why we might favor keeping the term "transhumanism",
> at least in some capacity.

> "Transhumanism" rolls off the tongue. My
> experience is that the term strikes many
> neophytes as intuitively obvious in meaning (unlike
> evolutionary humanism, I would guess)

My experience with it is different. (But I may hang out with very different people.) "Transhumanism" strikes most people I know as denotng a kind of collectivism.

> I base some of this on my experience at the
> recent World Future Society conference in
> Washington DC.

> My own thoughts on the effectiveness of the term
> "transhumanism" are that it conjures up positive
> associations that many people have with the
> American Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau.

Interesting. Such associations seem partly inaccurate to me, but at the level of a first pass understnding, perhaps that doesn't matter.

> I personally like that association - a "spiritualism"
> for people who don't believe in ghosts or spirits,
> but rather are looking for an inspiring and
> personally meaningful worldview along with a
> community of people who share that common sense
> of purpose.

It sounds great, but seems perhaps too generally applicable? Again, if the question is the first pass grasp of it, then maybe there isn't a problem.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.