Post- and Transhumanism

An Introduction

by Robert Ranisch (Volume editor) Stefan Lorenz Sorgner (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 313 Pages


Scientific advances in genetics, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence signal the end of our traditional concept of the human being. The most vigorous movements dealing with this ongoing crisis of humanism are posthumanism and transhumanism. While posthumanism reconsiders what it means to be human, transhumanism actively promotes human enhancement. Both approaches address the posthuman condition in the technological age. In 20 articles, written by leading scholars of the field, this volume provides the first comprehensive introduction to debates beyond humanism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editors
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introducing Post- and Transhumanism: Robert Ranisch & Stefan Lorenz Sorgner
  • Transhumanism
  • Posthumanism
  • About this Volume
  • Confessions
  • Lands of Cockaygne
  • Neo-Socratic Reflections
  • Ontologies of Becoming
  • Paragone of the Arts
  • Bibliography
  • Confessions
  • Pedigrees: Stefan Lorenz Sorgner
  • Transhumanism
  • Posthumanism
  • In Between Post- and Transhumanism: Metahumanism
  • Modernity and Postmodernity
  • Beyond Humanism Movements
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Religion: Hava Tirosh-Samuelson
  • Clarification of Terms
  • Philosophical and Cultural Posthumanisms
  • Technological Posthumanism and Transhumanism
  • The Religious Roots of Transhumanism
  • Transhumanism as a New Religious Movement
  • Religious Traditions Engage Transhumanism
  • Conclusion: Post- and Transhumanism and the Post-Secular Moment
  • Bibliography
  • Prometheus: Performer or Transformer?: Trijsje Franssen
  • The Myth
  • Posthumanism
  • Transhumanism
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Nietzsche: Yunus Tuncel
  • 1. Nietzsche as Ancestor of Posthumanism
  • 1.1 The Will to Power Ontology
  • 1.2 Rationality and Perspectivism
  • 1.3 Relationship between Humans and Animals
  • 1.4 The Posthuman, the Cyborg, and Nietzsche’s New Type of Human
  • 2. Nietzsche as Ancestor of Transhumanism
  • 2.1 The Übermensch and the Posthuman and the Transhuman of Transhumanists
  • 2.2 The Importance of the Renaissance Ideal for Transhumanists and Nietzsche
  • 2.3 Nietzsche’s Self-Overcoming and Human Beings as Work-in-progress
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography
  • Lands of Cockaygne
  • Utopia: Michael Hauskeller
  • Bibliography
  • Brave New World: Curtis D. Carbonell
  • Bibliography
  • Life Extension: Eternal Debates on Immortality: Sascha Dickel & Andreas Frewer
  • 1. Suggested Methods of Life Extension in Transhumanist Thought
  • 1.1. Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence
  • 1.2. Nanomedicine
  • 1.3. Mind Uploading
  • 1.4. Cryonics
  • 2. Technological Life Extension: A Modern Utopia
  • 2.1. The Discourse of Technological Immortality
  • 2.2. Never-Ending Individual Options
  • 2.3. Critical Perspectives
  • 3. Posthuman Immortals
  • Bibliography
  • Neo-Socratic Reflections
  • Politics: James Hughes
  • Becoming Posthuman
  • Transhumanism and Humanism’s Critics
  • Transhumanist Politics
  • Post-Genderism: An Opportunity for Posthumanist/Transhumanist Dialogue
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Morality: Robert Ranisch
  • Transhumanism and the Bioliberals
  • Transhumanism versus Bioconservatism
  • Morality of Transhumanism
  • (Morphological) Freedom
  • Harm-Principle
  • Reproductive Freedom
  • Promoting Well-being and Reducing Suffering
  • Rejecting Anthropocentrism
  • Rejecting the Wisdom of Nature
  • Progressivism
  • Obligation to Support Science
  • Perfectionism
  • Obligation to Enhance
  • Transhumanist Morality: Between Neutrality and Perfectionism
  • Posthumanism: A Critical Take on the Transhumanist Project
  • Moral Bio-Enhancement: Better Acting Trough Chemistry
  • Moral Status Enhancement and the Fear of Post-Persons
  • Posthumanist Criticism on Human Exceptionalism
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Bibliography
  • Ontologies of Becoming
  • Ontology: Thomas D. Philbeck
  • Definitions and Differences
  • Transhumanism and Posthumanism
  • Ontological Frameworks
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Nature: Martin G. Weiss
  • Nature and Posthumanism or Heidegger and Agamben on Human Being and the Animal
  • Transhumanism and (Human) Nature
  • Enhancement and Human Dignity
  • Transhumanism and the Co-creation of Nature
  • Bibliography
  • Evolution: Steve Fuller
  • 1. Posthumanism and Transhumanism as Alternative Takes on Evolution
  • 2. Is Evolution Something that One Overcomes or to Which One Submits?
  • 3. Evolution’s Normative Implications in a Post- and Transhumanist Key
  • Bibliography
  • The Body: Francesca Ferrando
  • The Body
  • How We Became Humans
  • Which Humans are Human?
  • Embodied Selves
  • Posthuman Bodies
  • Transhuman Bodies
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • Bibliography
  • Paragone of the Arts
  • Bioart: Andy Miah
  • Defining Bioart
  • Rejecting Bioart
  • Interpreting Bioart
  • Conclusion: Bioart as Trans- and Posthumanist Thought
  • Bibliography
  • New Media Art: Evi Sampanikou
  • The Heritage of Conceptual Art and Posthumanist Art
  • Joseph Beuys: Conceptual Performance as an Ancestor of Posthumanist Art
  • Nam June Paik: From Fluxus to Video Sculpture
  • Bill Viola: From Experimental VHS Video to Digital Media Screening as Director
  • Shirin Neshat and William Kentridge: Posthumanist Sex and Identity and Humanism in Post-Humanist Disguise
  • Transhumanist Art: A Non-Humanistic Discipline?
  • Bibliography
  • Literature: Marcus Rockoff
  • Post- and Transhumanism
  • Three Classes of References to Transhumanism in Literature
  • References to Specific Technologies Relevant for Transhumanism
  • Thematological References to the Transhumanist Idea of Overcoming Human Nature
  • References to Transhumanism as an International Movement
  • Everybody’s Darling: Using Literature to Illustrate the Pros and Cons of Post- and Transhumanism
  • Questioning Our Perception of Humanity by Reading Literature
  • Summary
  • Bibliography
  • Science Fiction Literature: Domna Pastourmatzi
  • The Use of Science Fiction
  • The Transhuman and Posthuman Condition in Science Fiction
  • Bibliography
  • Movies: Dónal P. O’Mathúna
  • Technology
  • Anthropocentrism
  • Problems with Technology
  • Controlling Evolution
  • Injustice
  • Embodiment
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Music: Stefan Lorenz Sorgner
  • Bibliography
  • List of Contributors

Introducing Post- and Transhumanism

Robert Ranisch & Stefan Lorenz Sorgner

Scientific and technological advances have questioned predominant doctrines concerning the human condition. Transhumanism and posthumanism are among the most recent and prominent manifestations of this phenomenon. Debates on trans- and posthumanism have not only gained a considerable amount of academic and popular attention recently, but have also created a widespread conceptual confusion. This is no surprise, considering their recent dates of origin, their conceptual similarities, and their engagements with similar questions, topics, and motifs. Furthermore, trans- as well as posthumanism frequently question their relationship to humanism1 and reconsider what it means to be human. In this regard both movements are streaming beyond humanism. What this means, however, is far from clear and shall be subject of discussion in this volume.

In order to make sense of these two approaches and to investigate their interrelationship, a clarification of these concepts is necessary. As a first approximation, transhumanism can be seen as a stance that affirms the radical transformation of human’s biological capacities and social conditions by means of tech ← 7 | 8 → nologies. These transformations are widely perceived as human enhancement or augmentation which might be so fundamental that they bring about life forms with significantly different characteristics as to be perceived as other than human. The result of such technologically induced version of evolution is referred to as the posthuman. However, there is no commonly shared conception of what posthumans are, and visions range from the posthuman as a new biological species, a cybernetic organism, or even a digital, disembodied entity. The link between the human and the posthuman is the transhuman, an abbreviation for a transitional human, to which transhumanism owes its name. In this regard, transhumanism can be understood as a transhuman-ism. By the same token, transhumanism, according to its self-understanding, is a contemporary renewal of humanism. It embraces and eventually amplifies central aspects of secular and Enlightenment humanist thought, such as belief in reason, individualism, science, progress, as well as self-perfection or cultivation.

While transhumanism presents a more or less coherent set of technooptimist ideas, advocated by numerous distinguished transhumanist institutions and authors, posthumanism is a highly ambiguous notion. If transhumanism is seen as an intensification of humanism, a type of hyper-humanism, it may help to analyze posthumanism as a break with humanism; it is a post-humanism. In recent years “posthumanism” served as an umbrella term for a variety of positions that reject basic humanist concepts and values. Above all, the construction of “human beings” is deemed to be ideologically laden, insufficient, dangerous, or paternalistic. While there is certainly not one humanism, which could be identified as a common target of posthumanist criticisms, there are persistent concepts and dualities in Western culture, such as nature/culture, man/woman, subject/object, human/animal, or body/mind, which are deeply rooted in the Western tradition and which get challenged by posthumanist thinkers. Yet, not every criticism of these concepts must be seen as a posthumanist one (see Hayles 1999, 4). Feminism, postcolonial theory, and other postmodern theories have already questioned many of these historical constructs. Posthumanism, as we understand it here, is characterized by a specific focus on (emerging) technologies. The predominant concept of the “human being” is questioned by thinking through the human being’s engagement and interaction with technology. It is this peculiar aspect that has caused confusion concerning the meaning of the concepts of trans- and posthumanism. Both philosophical approaches consider the question of human coevolution with technology, and both, post- as well as transhumanist thinkers, sometimes employ the motif of the “posthuman”. However, in posthumanism the concept serves as a label for a new narrative, which may replace that of “the human”, rather than one for a radically enhanced human being. Transhumanism, on the other hand, is characterized by a straightforward ← 8 | 9 → affirmation of technological augmentations and visions of an enhanced posthumanity.

This sketch of transhumanism and posthumanism is certainly vague and far from capturing all facets of both discourses. However, this initial attempt to characterize both ways of thinking shall give us some guidance for exploring central discourses beyond humanism. Before moving on and providing an overview on the topics of this volume, some further remarks on fundamental aspects of transhumanism and posthumanism are necessary.


The terms “transhumanism” and “posthuman” have an ambiguous origin2 and ideas of human perfection can be found throughout the history of ideas.3 However, contemporary transhumanists emphasize their roots in Enlightenment thought and their commitment to secular humanism (see Hughes 2010). Furthermore, they frequently associate the notion “transhumanism” with Julian Huxley (1887–1975).4 Darwin’s bulldog, Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895), was his paternal grandfather. The author of the novel Brave New World, Aldous ← 9 | 10 → Huxley (1894–1963), was his brother. Their lesser-known half-brother Andrew Huxley (1917–2012) won the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Julian Huxley was not only the first director-general of the UNESCO but also president of the British Eugenics Society. In 1957,5 he coined the term “transhumanism” in New Bottles for New Wine, where he maintains:

“The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself – not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.

‘I believe in transhumanism’: once there are enough people who can truly say that, the human species will be on the threshold of a new kind of existence, as different from ours as ours is from that of Peking man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny” (Huxley 1957, 17).

The meaning of “transhumanism”, however, has changed after Huxley. While he still believed that “man” will be “remaining man” and associated transhumanism with “creating a more favorable social environment” as well as “techniques of spiritual development” (ibid., 16–17), “transhumanism” soon became the keyword for the transgression of human’s biological boundaries by means of technologies.

The futurist Fereidoun M. Esfandiary (1930–2000), who later changed his name to FM-2030, is often said to have introduced the term “transhuman” in its current sense. During the mid-1960s, while he was teaching at the New School for Social Research in New York, he founded a futurist group, called the Up-Wingers and popularized speculative ideas about future human conditions (see Hughes 2004, 161). While FM-2030 seems to have used the term at least since the 1970s (see Esfandiary 1974), his non-academic book Are You Transhuman? (1989) explicitly addresses transhumanist ideas in greater length. Unlike Huxley, FM-2030 believed that the “most urgent problem facing us is not social – economic – political” (ibid., 161) but rather the brute fact of our biological limitations, namely human mortality. FM-2030 predicted that by the end of the 20th Century “monumental breakthroughs” would fix this flaw and transform the human species. Transhumans are “the earliest manifestations of new evolutionary beings”, playing a “bridging role in evolution” (ibid., 205). The “transhuman” is an abbreviation for transitional human, the link between the human and posthuman.

Today FM-2030 is regarded as a forerunner of contemporary transhumanism. He was particularly influential for the American wing of contemporary ← 10 | 11 → transhumanism, including Natasha Vita-More (born as Nancie Clark), who drafted a Transhuman Manifesto in 1983 (see More 2013). Nevertheless, in comparison to current transhumanist visions, FM-2030’s depiction of the transhuman conditions seems rather odd: His transhumanist checklist includes factors such as having a pacemaker, having acted as a surrogate mother, or having died and being resuscitated (see ibid., 202–203). FM-2030 hoped for his own resuscitation: his body has been cryogenically preserved after his death in 2000, thirty years before his hoped-for 100th birthday.

Perhaps the best known figure speculating about the possibilities of cryonics is Robert Ettinger. He is frequently regarded as another pioneer of the transhumanist movement. In particular in Man into Superman (1972), he emphasizes the role of cryonics for transhumanity. Since cryonic freezing might be the only chance for most living beings to benefit from future transhuman technologies, the question of longevity is of central importance for most transhumanists. It is no surprise that a prominent figure of the contemporary transhumanist movement, Max More (born as Max O’Connor), husband of Natasha Vita-More, is director of one of the biggest cryonics organizations, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Furthermore, it is sometimes maintained, notably by the author himself, that Max More introduces the “-ism” into transhumanism and thus coined the name of the current movement.6

Most recent technological advances of the 1980s, and the increasing relevance of science fiction in mainstream culture brought about a broader interest in reflections on the technological future of humanity. Before the hype concerning gene technologies of the recent two decades, the techno-futurist discourse during this time was particularly interested in artificial intelligence, robotics, and nanotechnology. Seminal works of this time period include Marvin Minsky’s The Society of Mind (1986), Eric Drexler’s Engines of Creation (1986), Hans Moravec’s Mind Children (1988), and Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990) just to name a few. While their work does not yet have the conceptual framework of current transhumanism, they reflected on future impacts of possible technologies and were a common source of inspiration for the current generation of transhumanists. ← 11 | 12 →

Only when the internet established a broader world wide connectivity, transhumanism as a movement gained momentum. During the 1990s various institutions and local groups were founded and contributed to the dissemination of transhumanist ideas. The World Transhumanist Association (WTA) is particularly well known, also for providing a widely recognized definition of transhumanism, in the Transhumanist FAQ, firstly drafted in 1998. Even though this definition has been dropped in the recent version (3.0) of the FAQ, it still sums up the core elements of transhumanism. There transhumanism is defined as:

“The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities” (Humanity+ n.d.).

Transhumanism today is a slogan for a variety of cultural, political, philosophical or digital movement, promoting techno-futuristic visions about the transgression of human biology. While transhumanism cannot be identified with a single movement or set ideas, some transhumanists are organized in the non-profit organization Humanity+ (H+), which popularizes transhumanist ideas. Current chair of H+ is Natasha Vita-More. The organization emerged out the World Transhumanist Association (WTA) and the Extropy Institute (see Humanity+ n.d.). The Extropy Institute was founded in the early 1990s by Max More and Tom Morrow. Both edited a journal of transhumanist ideas called Extropy together since 1988.

Nick Bostrom and David Pearce founded the WTA in 1998 (see Bostrom 2005, 12). Before Bostrom turned away from the mainstream transhumanist movement in recent years, he was the leading academic voice of transhumanism of the previous decade. In his role as director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford he made transhumanism accessible for a broader academic audience. Together with James Hughes, Bostrom also founded the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies (IEET) in 2004. Today the IEET is one of the most important transhumanist platforms, promoting a liberaldemocratic form of transhumanism, which they call technoprogressivism (see Hughes 2004). The IEET also publishes a peer-reviewed online journal, the Journal of Evolution and Technology (formally known as Journal of Transhumanism), which is one of the most prominent academic organs for transhumanist ideas.

Apart from H+ there are a number of other institutions which are associated with transhumanist ideas (see Tirosh-Samuelson 2011, 52), including the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (formally know as Singularity Institute), the Foresight Institute, or the Beyond Humanism Network. The Mormon Trans ← 12 | 13 → humanist Association, which is affiliated to Humanity+, is the rare instance of a religious foundation which is supporting transhumanism.

Transhumanist ideas are also an issue of growing importance in academic biomedical ethics. Quite a few liberal bioethicists, often with sympathies for utilitarian ethics, sometimes referred to as bioliberals, share many of transhumanists’ aspirations. During the previous two decades an increasing amount of literature has been concerned with the ethical and legal questions of non-therapeutic uses of biomedical technologies. This includes questions like healthy patients using psychopharmacological drugs to increase or maintain cognitive functions or parents selecting their offspring for certain genetic traits. This so-called “human enhancement debate” bears similarities to transhumanist discourses (see, e.g., Savulescu/ Bostrom 2010). Even though the radical transformation of humanity is not the primary focus of all bioliberals (see, e.g., Agar 2010), some openly embrace the use of cutting-edge enhancement technologies and even regard their use as moral duty (see, e.g., Harris 2007).

While transhumanists as well as authors being associated with transhumanist ideas are not a homogenous group, they all share the belief in the desirability of technologically supported human enhancement procedures. Transhumanism, as we have seen already, owes its name to the fact that it affirms human enhancements technologies, aiming for trans- and finally posthumanity. However, in recent years the motif of the transhuman or posthuman has more and more disappeared from the transhumanist agenda, a trend which might be related to the rebranding of the WTA to Humanity+.

Regardless of the labeling, in current discourses the aspiration stays the same. Based on a neo-Darwinian wordview, it is upheld that humans should take evolution into their own hands and undertake broad-scale attempts to incorporate technologies into their lives. These projects aim for a radical increase of bodily functions (e.g. healthspan, longevity), cognitive and emotional capacities (e.g. intellect, memory), physical traits (strength, beauty), and behavior (e.g. morality). On the basis of the affirmation of specific traits, there is the promise that technologies promote the common good and individual happiness. For realizing these aims, transhumanists have a firm confidence in scientific progress. Transhumanism is not limited to specific technologies but embraces all kinds of means to realize their visions, including established ones like education and vaccinations. Their primary focus today is on emerging and converging technologies, such as nanotechnology, biotechnologies and means of artificial reproduction, information technologies and cognitive sciences (see Roco/ Bainbridge 2003). ← 13 | 14 →


Transhumanism can be described as a techno-optimist discourse. Ideas, concepts and reflections associated with transhumanism are brought forward by philosophers – mainly from the analytic and utilitarian tradition –, bioliberal thinkers, bioethicist, engineers, computer scientists as well as futurists. It has been shown, that advocates of transhumanism are sometimes organized in institutions, which provide the movement with a certain political leverage. By contrast, it is difficult to identify a coherent posthumanist movement. We rather see disagreement concerning history, concepts as well as objectives of posthumanism.

While it was possible to identify historical roots of transhumanism, it is much more difficult to present a coherent history of these set of ideas that are associated with posthumanism.7 It has sometimes been argued that the “history of posthumanism has no obvious beginning, middle or end point in philosophical thought” (Miah 2008, 89). By contrast, Stefan Herbrechter (2013, 31–33) suggests that posthumanism is a reaction to Nietzsche’s revaluation of values and Neil Badmington (2000, 4–7) suggests Marx’s rejection of a natural human essence outside social relations and Freud’s discovery of the power of unconscious forces as beginning of posthumanism. Pramod K. Nayar (2014, 11–34) finds the origin of posthumanism in three recent critiques of humanism: Foucauldian poststructuralism, feminism, and technoscience studies.

Whereas there is evidently a significant amount of disagreement about the origins of posthumanism, most analysis locates its origin in a different context than transhumanism. Posthumanism is associated with postmodern and continental philosophy, science and technology studies, cultural studies, literary theory and criticism, poststructuralism, feminism, critical theory and postcolonial studies. In these contexts “posthumanism” serves as an umbrella term for ideas that explain, promote or deal with the crisis of humanism. So far, however, no common name for these critical discourses has been established. Sometimes “posthumanism” is used in a broad sense, encompassing transhumanism as a form of technological posthumanism, too (see, e.g., Miah 2008). Then specifications, such as critical posthumanism are used to distinguish those critical discourses from techno-utopian discourses (see, e.g., Braidotti 2013; Herbrechter 2013; Nayar 2014). Sometimes a difference is drawn between cultural and philosophical posthumanism (see, e.g., Miah 2008; Tirosh-Samuelson in this volume), highlighting different disciplines where posthumanist thinking is an issue. The concept “posthuman studies” might be even more promising to refer to a discipline which deals with post- and transhumanist questions, as the concept ← 14 | 15 → “posthuman” is employed in both traditions, even though the meaning of this term is employed in different ways. Thereby, the word “posthuman” serves in an integrative way. By being concerned with it’s meaning, members of both movements step outside of the limited borders of their own discourses and get acquainted with different perspectives.

While there are different concepts of “posthumanism” and the “posthuman” in a variety of contexts, it is widely agreed that the term “posthumanism” has been coined by postmodern philosopher Ihab Hassan in 1977.8 In his essay Prometheus as Performer: Towards a Posthumanist Culture, based on a presentation delivered for a symposium on postmodern performance in 1976, Hassan talks about this “dubious neologism”, as he puts it, whereby he maintains:

“We need first to understand that the human form – including human desire and all its external representations – may be changing radically, and thus must be revisioned. We need to understand that five hundred years of humanism may be coming to an end, as humanism transforms itself into something that we must helplessly call posthumanism” (Hassan 1977, 843).

This transformation becomes evident when we consider experiences of journeys through space, artificial intelligence and “those Bionic Women from the German Democratic Republic” at the Olympic Games (ibid., 846). Nevertheless, Hassan’s announcement of posthumanism has little to do with the posthuman in transhumanism. Similar to Foucault’s (2002 [1966]) proclaimed “end of man”, posthumanism does not mean “the literal end of man but the end of a particular image of us” (Hassan 1977, 845). In other words, for these theorists, our biological nature may remain unchanged, but the self-concept of the human changes, in particular when we consider the integration of technology in our life.

This aspect has been the source of conceptual confusions concerning the relationship between transhumanism and posthumanism. This confusion was also intensified by the fact that leading proponents of posthumanism, Donna Haraway and N. Katherine Hayles present metaphors of the “cyborg” and the “posthuman”, which resemble concepts that can also be found in transhumanism. In her seminal work A Cyborg Manifesto (1991), firstly drafted during the mid-1980s, Haraway introduces the cyborg as “a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century” (Haraway 1991, 149). She employs the metaphor of the cyborg to question persisting binaries in the Western tradition. Our high-tech culture challenges dualisms such as mind/body, animal/human, organism/machine, culture/nature, male/female etc., and “ironically” from our “fusions with animals ← 15 | 16 → and machines” we can learn “how not to be Man, the embodiment of Western logos” (ibid., 173).

Another landmark posthumanist work is N. Katherine Hayles’ How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (1999). Hayles makes clear that the posthuman is a construction just like the human is and also that a “biologically unaltered Homo sapiens counts as posthuman“ (ibid., 4). There again, the “posthuman” does not mean the end of humanity. Instead, it signals…

“[…] the end of a certain conception of the human, a conception that may have applied, at best, to that fraction of humanity who had the wealth, power, and leisure to conceptualize themselves as autonomous beings exercising their will through individual agency and choice” (Hayles 1999, 286).

For Hayles it is not the question “whether we will become posthuman”, because “posthumanity is already here”. The question is, “what kind of posthumans we will be” (ibid., 246). While she has sympathies with the deconstruction of the liberal humanist subject in the technological age, she rejects transhumanist “fantasies of unlimited power and disembodied immortality” (ibid., 5), which she identifies with Moravec (1988) in particular. At best we can resist the temptation of post-biological phantasies and “put back into the picture the flesh that continues to be erased in contemporary discussions about cybernetic subjects” (Hayles 1999, 5). At worst we will bring about a culture “inhabited by posthumans who regard their bodies as fashion accessories rather than the ground for their being” (ibid.).

Even though, it is difficult to ascribe a common position to Haraway, Hayles and other posthumanist thinkers, it can be stressed that posthumanists reject the humanist belief that “man is the measure of all things” and that a dualist account of human beings is an appropriate starting point for further academic investigations. According to posthumanists, humanism has lost its credibility and the “crisis in humanism is happening everywhere”, as Badmington (2000, 9) points out. Posthumanism, however, is not only a critical enterprise, but also entails positive consequences (see Braidotti 2013, 51). There are several emancipatory impulses, and political standpoints, which can clearly be associated with posthumanism, e.g. feminist positions or the attempt to transcend anthropocentric views or speciesism. Still, in most cases, the normative dimension of posthumanism is being stressed in a critical manner rather than in an explicit affirmative one, which is a further central difference from the transhumanist approach that is usually associated with an immediate and explicit normative standpoint. ← 16 | 17 →

About this Volume

Freeing human beings is the main objective of transhumanism and posthumanism. Transhumanism aims at liberating humans from their biological limitation. As part of this enterprise transhumanists might partly reinstall humanist concepts. Posthumanism, by contrast, can be identified with a critical approach that hopes to liberate humans from the harmful effects of the established humanist paradigm by debunking its false assumptions. While both traditions celebrate the “end of human beings” and reconsider and reinterpret what it means to be human, this happens on the basis of a different theoretical framework. While in some sense transhumanism can be seen as an intensification of humanism (see Wolfe 2010, xv), posthumanism can be analyzed as a criticism of humanism. Yet, both views have in common that they regard the humanist “human” as outdated, be it in physiological or conceptual terms. Hence, transhumanism as well as posthumanism try to move beyond humanism.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (February)
Humanismus Bioethik Anthropologie Onthologie
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 313 pp.

Biographical notes

Robert Ranisch (Volume editor) Stefan Lorenz Sorgner (Volume editor)

Robert Ranisch is a philosopher and Research Associate at the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tübingen (Germany). Stefan Lorenz Sorgner is Director of the Beyond Humanism Network and Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.


Title: Post- and Transhumanism