Wednesday 30 October 2013

Human exceptionalism

On the AIME reading group blog sam asks: "How else can we account for the uniqueness of human existence (if we can at all)?"

I’d say that we, as humans, can’t leave the uniqueness of human existence up to transcendental principles. If humans are unique it is because we make ourselves such – it’s down to what we do, not who we are (or, who we are is a result of what we do). So, the more valid question is: how do we exceptionalise ourselves (because surely we do)? And, if we answer that, we can then ask: how can we exceptionalise ourselves better (because surely we must)?

sam notes that "The hierarchy would not be simply given, but must be articulated through the cosmopolitical process of composition, which is to say, we have to make the truth (facere veritatem)."  That seems to be saying basically the same thing, although it implies a degree of self-awareness, deliberateness and futurity than differs from what I'm saying, which is that we already exceptionalise ourselves (and not just in our thoughts and self-representations) and we need to learn how to do this better.  The problem isn't the idea that human beings have unique qualities that must be understood, respect and celebrated, it is the belief that these qualities set us apart from the rest of existence - a practice that I have elsewhere called barbarism.

Is what we really need a kind of alter-humanism?