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The Rise and Fall of Modern Man


Jacek Dobrowolski

Award-winning essay in philosophical anthropology meditating on who, in terms of history of ideas, modern western man was, is, and will perhaps become. The author focuses on developments of modern man’s self-knowledge, understood both as concept of his own human nature and as individual self-consciousness, made possible by the idea that each human being is an autonomous rational agent. The book examines how Selfhood and self-governed individuality connect to science and technology, and offers an imaginative exploration of various modern narratives of human singularity, from Robinson Crusoe to Zarathustra, and to contemporary individual Facebook profiles.

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7. Evolution and Zoodicy: The Animality of Modern Man


The question of the animal origin and animality of man, first brought to the fore by the Theory of Evolution, certainly extends back earlier than the Darwinian turn—the questions of what it means that man is also an animal and what animality is have always been fundamental for human self-understanding. However, evolution changes the configuration of elements from vertical to ultimately horizontal (although with an upward slope). Instead of the old fashioned supremacist structure of God-man-animal, another conception turns out to be more adequate: the development of animal into man, the humanization, the evolution of humanity itself, the intermediate links between the animal and the human, the ultimate blurring out of the boundary separating them. Evolution shows definitively that the difference is fluid and vague and that it is about quantity not quality. Ultimately, the only quality which still appears to distinguish man relatively sharply is the trait of “individuality”, although Dolphins have also developed a rudimentary notion of individuation and some minimum of self-consciousness, which suggests that individual self-consciousness may also only be a matter of the degree of development of the brain and mind. Incidentally, this recently (the beginning of 2014) resulted in granting dolphins the status “non-human persons” in India—an event which heralds relatively important changes in the latest trends in human self-knowledge, apparently inclined to negotiate more and more with the animal party, the kind of negotiation which is especially lively in the context of animal studies. The opening of a space...

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