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.
11. The Death of Death and Late Modern Man
The 19th century was the century of the death of God. The 20th century of the death of man. It may be high time to announce the coming of the 21st century and the death of death. However, the point is not to arrive at the negation of negation, which is an affirmation, but to realize that the formula of breakthrough, of an anthropological turn, which is symbolically and briefly expressed by the notion of “death” is too gross a simplification in a processual and dynamic world where crisis is intertwined with development and growth with degeneration. The concept of “death” is too “grand” in the sense in which Lyotard spoke of grand narratives—it is too compartmental and pretentious not to have to die of exhaustion. The complexity of historical time with its complicated and multi-track course does not allow for such cross-sectional conceptions, especially since they are always accompanied by strong postulates. Meanwhile, everything points to the fact that the principle of “strong demands” has also been exhausted and lost its intellectual appeal: who in our times would like to delegate “great tasks” to man with anthropological hooray optimism when the question of the very survival of civilization is sufficiently difficult?
This may be the starkest paradox: the exhaustion of the formula of an “end” came right when the end of man ceased to be a matter of intellectual history and humanistic ideas and migrated to a much more literal register—to the natural...
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