Posthumanism smuggling objectivity into interpretation?

Posthumanism offers interesting opportunities.  By incorporating non-human elements into analysis or foregoing any analysis of human activity, posthumanism as an interpretive frame might reveal intriguing new perspectives on our world.  To understand this shift from the human, Anderw Mara and Brian Hawk perform a service by narrating the inception and development of posthumanism within the context of technical communication.  Happily, I note the works by Foccault figure prominently (I preferred Order of Things and Archeology of Knowledge to Discipline and Punish). In regards to posthumanism, notice the similarities with object-oriented ontology, where humans are no longer the central focus, and in some instances, they are not even present save for the scholars doing the scholarship.

Posthumanism has me pondering the concept of objectivity – hence, my reference to the metaphysical system of object-oriented ontology.  On the one hand, the inclusion of non-human elements provides important insights, such as recongintion that the ecology is important, whether organic such as the bacteria in a human immune system or inorganic such as a server running algorithms on Twitter feeds and Instagram and Facebook to find correlations.  There is more to the universe than humans.  And often those systems have an indifference toward humans which necessitates de-centering or removing humans from focus.  Confusingly, I thought this practice has been advocated among sciences –  I turn and glance at a book shelf where theoretical physics has no ‘need’ for humans and most of the mathematical textbooks disregard the presence of humans and often find humans the main source of errors.

On the other hand, the inclusion of non-human elements seems to involve an intellectual chicanery.  It is challenging to engage with scholarship that avoids the phenomenology of humans in the world.  Thomas Nagel, the philosopher whom I forgot during the object-oriented onotology discussion, raises this particular issue when discussing “What is it like to be a bat?”  I find the posthumanist approach feigns the objectivity which so much scholarship has exposed as flawed.  The feint occurs through the treatment of non-human entities as involved in various processes.  Neil Badmington’s piece reminds me of the convoluted nature of this form of theorizing.  Badmington labels part of the theorizing as a trick: “the straightforward distinction between inside and outside is not always that straightforward” (19).  Okay.  That problem exists whether or not a theory factors non-human entities into consideration, so, I do not notice a contribution toward a more robust understanding of existence.

Furthermore, posthumanism also does not have a sense of freshness to it when viewed through most Asiatic writings.  But I feel as though my posts are too dependent upon the argument: guess what Americans, Buddhists / Taoists / Hindus / Sikhs / and an assortment of other philosophical traditions have already managed the concepts and offer more conscientious metaphysics and epistemologies.  An alternative phrasing is, sorry European scholars, you did not “get there” first but you are quite accustomed to planting a flag and claiming the ideas.  But I digress.

Perhaps, the primary distinction between Asian philosophies and posthumanism appears to be a fetishized interest of the latter in rather contemporary technologies such as computers and protein synthesis.  Undoubtedly these technologies warrant scrutiny and excellent criticism of these technologies occur.  However, the necessity of eliminating, de-centering, or diminishing the human seems an unnecessary feature – if not impossible.  It seems like a peculiar form of objectivity through objects.


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