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The Rise and Fall of Modern Man

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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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9. Technology and the Mind, God-Machine, The Individual vs. Facebook

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He who knows himself in a modern way faces three great riddles: the mystery of the body; the mystery of the mind; and the mystery of the “I”. These are the three fundamental orientation points of self-knowledge and self-understanding and science can supply them with a common denominator in the form of empirical explication, although with various degrees of success. We know a lot about the body and much less, and less clearly so, about the “I”; we know more and more about the mind. We also know that, in some sense, they are identical: the body is the mystery of the mind and the mind is the mystery of the “I”. The “I” is also related to the multiplicity of minds and thus the multiplicity of bodies and community. If so, there are ultimately only bodies and they are the proper object of our knowledge. And yet what does this actually mean, what is the exact purport of this identity? Despite all reductions, does some kind of dualism not provide the necessary tool for a description of what is subjective and thus impossible to be made into an “object”? Of course, this does not mean that dualism can successfully convince us about immortality—nowadays, in the era of late modernity, this conviction seems to be an especially rare grace.

Scientific inquiry into the mind rested at the center of interest of modernity from its very inception and it would be difficult to deny its progress...

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