[Humanist] 23.381 boundaries of the human?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Oct 17 12:58:23 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 381.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 17 Oct 2009 11:53:28 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: boundaries of the human

In How We Became Posthuman, Katherine Hayles opens Chapter 4 with the 
following sentence:

> Of all the implications that first-wave cybernetics conveyed, perhaps
> none was more disturbing and potentially revolutionary than the idea
> that the boundaries of the human subject are constructed rather than
> given. (p. 84)

She hints at the history of this "revolutionary" notion by citing 
Gregory Bateson's use of the metaphor of the blind man's cane, a 
favourite of the phenomenologists, e.g. Merleau-Ponty and Polanyi, and 
related to Heidegger's argument in Sein und Zeit. But surely there is an 
earlier history of the idea. The experience is as primordial as homo 
faber's, not just as old as cane-using blind people's.

My question is this. How is it that human beings would have greeted this 
notion as so disturbing, so revolutionary? My guess is that the 
separation of people whose social mandate is to think and write from 
those whose mandate is to carry out skilled (or even unskilled) manual 
labour is responsible. Who has best written about this?


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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