Wednesday 30 October 2013

Understanding human speciation in a broader sense

In response to my last post on human exceptionalism dmfant writes:
going back to our being creatures of habit why isn't the differences in our response-abilities (our place in the family-rhizome), from other beings as human-beings, just a matter of evolution and adaptation/socialization?
Perhaps it is but which adaptations, which socialisations, which habits?  Which ones are particularly important?  Which are particularly destructive?

We can accept that we are the product of unexceptional processes and still ask how we exceptionalise ourselves within all of that.  While all living things are subject to evolution not every living thing shares the same evolutionary pathways.  If humans are a species then we can ask what it is about their pathways, in the ways they persist in particular, that is exceptional relative to other pathways, each of which is exceptional in its own way (Stephen Jay Gould was good on this kind of point).

So, we must ask not 'what distinguishes humans from all the rest of existence?' but rather 'what marks human pathways off from all the other pathways that all have their own particular qualities?'.

To believe that human being is so exceptional that it makes all other existents homogenenous by comparison is as foolish as it is dualist.  To believe that human being has its own qualities, its own resonant frequencies and that all other natural kinds (in all their fuzzy-edged glory) have their own characteristic kinds of resonance too is a pluralist tenet - and an entirely sensible one, in my view.  The search for only one exception - the human exception and the human exception -, the dualist task, is barbaric, as I have argued before.

Of course, no amount of exceptionality can extract us from our complex worldly relations.  If the Gaia hypothesis is true then we are inextricably bound up in not only evolutionary processes on the biological level but on practically every level - chemical, geological, atmospherical.  If we recognise that every atom in our bodies was once part of a star then this realisation is taken even further.

So, I suppose what I'm saying is that understanding human speciation (in a non-biologically reductive sense) is an ontological and political imperative.  It's a political imperative simply because 'knowing oneself' is an intrinstic part of subjectivation.  Becoming more human (not more than human), amplifying the best parts of the human condition, becoming alter-human - this requires a grasp of human speciation in the broadest possible sense.