Lyotard and the Inhuman (Postmodern Encounters) Paperback – 5 Mar 2001
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Death of the Universe
We live in a universe with an expiry date: between 4.5 billion and 6 billion years from now (estimates vary, but 6 billion appears to be the upper limit) the sun will have suffered a heat death and life on earth will be over. Dramatic (and even melodramatic) though this may sound on first hearing, in the early twenty-first century few of us are likely to lose too much sleep over such a projected scenario, given a time-span which is all but unimaginable to us as individuals surviving for only a few decades each. There seems little sense of urgency about such a prospect from where we now stand, and, for the time being at any rate, life goes on as normal.
One recent exception to such apathy about the ultimate fate of the universe, however, was the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, who towards the end of his life (he died in 1998) became somewhat obsessed with the topic, speculating in The Inhuman (1988) as to what the projected death of the sun might mean for the condition of humankind now. The human race is already in the grip of the necessity of having to evacuate the solar system in 4.5 billion years, he informed us, attempting to inject a note of urgency into the debate. Lyotard is best-known for the positive message of The Postmodern Condition (1979), an enquiry into the status of knowledge in late twentieth-century culture, which announced the decline of oppressive grand narratives in effect, ideologies and the rise of a new cultural paradigm based on scepticism towards universal explanatory theories in general. According to Lyotard, humanity now had the opportunity to pursue a myriad of little narratives i! nstead, returning political power to the individual and threatening the power base of the authoritarian state (and states in general are authoritarian to the postmodernist thinker). The postmodern era he pictured promised to be one of liberation from ideological servitude. In The Inhuman, however, less than a decade later, a much darker tone prevails, that suggests humanity has acquired a new set of enemies to replace the grand narratives of yesteryear.
We shall consider Lyotards argument in The Inhuman in more detail at a later point; suffice it to say for the present that he expresses the fear that computers eventually will be programmed to take over from human beings, with the goal of prolonging life past the point of the heat death of the sun. It will not, however, be human life that survives, and Lyotard is deeply opposed to any shift towards such an inhuman solution, which, he claims, has the backing of the forces of techno-science (technology plus science plus advanced capitalism, the multinationals, etc.). Lyotards response is to call for a campaign against techno-science and all its works: What else remains as politics except resistance to the inhuman?, as he puts it, inviting us to join him in opposition against the planned eclipse of the human by advanced technology. His task as a writer and philosopher, as he sees it, is to ensure that we bear witness to such a process, so that techno-science does ! not succeed in imposing its programme on us by stealth an outcome which, given the power and prestige enjoyed by techno-science in our society, is only too likely. The feminist theorist Donna Haraways remark that science is the real game in town, the one we must play, captures the general perception well.
Lyotards reflections have a wider significance than the particular problem he is addressing, however, and these do merit closer attention. Whether we are aware of it or not, the inhuman has infiltrated our daily existence to a quite remarkable degree in the sense of the supersession of the human by the technological. For the remainder of this study we shall be considering a range of arguments on the topic of the inhuman, running from critics such as Lyotard to enthusiasts such as the feminist theorists Donna Haraway and Sadie Plant; taking in excursions into medical technology, computer technology, computer viruses, Artificial Intelligence and Artifical Life, humanism, and finally science-fictional narrative (William Gibson) along the way. The infiltration of the inhuman into our everyday concerns demands such a wide range of reference. After engaging with the arguments we may decide it is more appropriate to fear, resist, welcome, actively encourage, or perhaps just simply tolerate the inhuman; but one thing is certain we cannot avoid it.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
The book is highly successful at explaining these complex ideas in a straightforward manner that is very reader friendly. The book contains an index of the central ideas and terms (such as Cyberspace, a word coined by William Gibson) as well as a comprehensive bibliography for further reading. Stuart Sim gets to grips with Lyotard and the other writers with ease and efficiency and in true postmodern style leaves the reader questionning everything they have just read. A short book, but one that is supremely relevant to people today, whether your interests be philosophy, film, science or politics.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > E-Commerce
- Books > History > Cultural History
- Books > Science & Nature > Engineering & Technology
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Academic Philosophy
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Philosophy > History
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Philosophy > Philosophers
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Cultural Studies