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Friday, November 3, 2023

Posthumanism’s Revolt Against Responsibility

Nolen Gertz
Commonweal Magazine
Originally published 31 Oct 23

Here is an excerpt:

A major problem with this view—one Kirsch neglects—is that it conflates the destructiveness of particular humans with the destructiveness of humanity in general. Acknowledging that climate change is driven by human activity should not prevent us from identifying precisely which humans and activities are to blame. Plenty of people are concerned about climate change and have altered their behavior by, for example, using public transportation, recycling, or being more conscious about what they buy. Yet this individual behavior change is not sufficient because climate change is driven by the large-scale behavior of corporations and governments.

In other words, it is somewhat misleading to say we have entered the “Anthropocene” because anthropos is not as a whole to blame for climate change. Rather, in order to place the blame where it truly belongs, it would be more appropriate—as Jason W. Moore, Donna J. Haraway, and others have argued—to say we have entered the “Capitalocene.” Blaming humanity in general for climate change excuses those particular individuals and groups actually responsible. To put it another way, to see everyone as responsible is to see no one as responsible. Anthropocene antihumanism is thus a public-relations victory for the corporations and governments destroying the planet. They can maintain business as usual on the pretense that human nature itself is to blame for climate change and that there is little or nothing corporations or governments can or should do to stop it, since, after all, they’re only human.

Kirsch does not address these straightforward criticisms of Anthropocene antihumanism. This throws into doubt his claim that he is cataloguing their views to judge whether they are convincing and to explore their likely impact. Kirsch does briefly bring up the activist Greta Thunberg as a potential opponent of the nihilistic antihumanists, but he doesn’t consider her challenge in depth. 

Here is my summary:

Anthropocene antihumanism is a pessimistic view that sees humanity as a destructive force on the planet. It argues that humans have caused climate change, mass extinctions, and other environmental problems, and that we are ultimately incapable of living in harmony with nature. Some Anthropocene antihumanists believe that humanity should go extinct, while others believe that we should radically change our way of life in order to avoid destroying ourselves and the planet.

Some bullets
  • Posthumanism is a broad philosophical movement that challenges the traditional view of what it means to be human.
  • Anthropocene antihumanism and transhumanism are two strands of posthumanism that share a common theme of revolt against responsibility.
  • Anthropocene antihumanists believe that humanity is so destructive that it is beyond redemption, and that we should therefore either go extinct or give up our responsibility to manage the planet.
  • Transhumanists believe that we can transcend our human limitations and create a new, posthuman species that is not bound by the same moral and ethical constraints as humans.
  • Kirsch argues that this revolt against responsibility is a dangerous trend, and that we should instead work to create a more sustainable and just future for all.