Post-humanism and contemporary philosophy

Radical Philosophy Review 4 (1/2):247-262 (2001)
Abstract
Humanism, the dominant underpinning theory of modem philosophy, has gone through significant challenges from the antihumanist critiques coming from thinkers such as Heidegger, Lacan, and Foucault. While humanism is certainly not dead, the pre-critical humanisms of thinkers such as Locke and Rawls are no longer sufficient ways to theorize the human after the anti-humanist critique. The anti-humanist critique has been sufficiently successful that we now stand in a philosophical landscape that is best understood as “posthumanist.” This does not mean that the desire to theorize the human from the human perspective, a la Husserl, is altogether dead. Rather, it is to suggest that any successful attempts at theorizing the human must take the anti-humanist critique into account. Theories that do so are best labeled “post-humanisms.” If, as Foucault suggested, Sartre and Lacan once stood as “alternate contemporaries” in the humanist/antihumanist landscape of the 1950s, then now, in this post-humanist landscape of contemporary philosophy, it is Lacan and Levinas, antihumanist and post-humanist, who stand as alternate contemporaries. Lacan’s anti-humanism is a powerful and attractive critique of the excesses of earlier humanisms that relied too heavily on transparent self-knowledge and freedom, instead placing the unconscious as the forefront of the human experience and encouraging us to dissolve “the subject who is supposed to know.“ Levinas’s post-humanism is a powerful and attractive way of attempting to rescue humanity from the totalizing forces of earlier humanisms while taking seriously the antihumanist critique, placing an an-archic responsibility to the other person at the forefront of the human experience. New possibilities await the philosopher in this new landscape, new ways of theorzing the human without falling into the pre-critical naivete of earlier humanisms. As we move philosophy deliberately into this post-humanist landscape, exciting new work has begun emerging, and will continue to emerge
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