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Post- and Transhumanism

An Introduction


Edited By Robert Ranisch and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner

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.
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Prometheus: Performer or Transformer?: Trijsje Franssen


Trijsje Franssen

In an article called Prometheus as Performer: Toward a Posthumanist Culture (1977) the literary theorist Ihab Hassan was one of the first to use the word “posthumanism”. As the title suggests, the mythological figure of Prometheus is used to signal the emergence of a posthumanist culture. Interestingly, not only Hassan referred to Prometheus to make his point, but so did many posthumanists after him, and quite a few transhumanists use the myth as well to support their arguments. By focusing on these references in the following I will try to clarify some of the important differences between the two movements. I will start with a description of the myth and will then analyze a selection of key posthumanist and transhumanist texts.1

There are many versions of the myth of Prometheus, of which one of the best known is Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus (5/6th century BC). After the older generation of deities had been conquered in the Clash of the Titans, Zeus threw all of them, including his father Kronos, in the dark hole of Tartaros, the lowest depths of the underworld. Only one of them, Prometheus, was saved because he had helped Zeus to win the war by means of his cunning and advice. Soon, however, Zeus turned out to be a merciless tyrant. When he conceived a plan to wipe out the whole human race, Prometheus took pity on them. He stole fire for them from heaven, gave them wisdom and taught them...

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