Evolving humanity, emerging worlds
Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013
Location University Place 4.214
Date and Start Time 08 Aug, 2013 at 09:00
The panel addresses the idea that human beings find themselves haunted by some otherness that demands responses. It asks specifically how this idea may assist a culturally orientated anthropology in reconnecting its subject matter with its biological conditions without succumbing to reductionism.
The panel aims at bringing philosophy and anthropology together in exploring the idea that human beings are responsive beings. A responsive being does not begin spontaneously from itself, but from somewhere else. It always finds itself challenged, provoked, questioned, animated, urged, motivated or otherwise haunted by some otherness that perpetually demands new responses. We encounter such otherness at all levels of our existence: inter-culturally, inter-personally, inter-corporeally etc. A responsive being is posed as a question to itself and not as a reaction to physical causation and environmental pressure. Ontogenetically such a being is not at home in its body from the outset. Even basic modes of perception and movement are acquired in a strenuous process of incorporation. More generally a responsive being does not only live its life, but must, in order to do so, lead it. The ensuing process of developing self-understandings and world-orientations is mediated by technological inventions, gestural programs, playful expressivity, pragmatic habits, social roles, legal regulations, moral imperatives, religious commandments and cultural learning. The idea of responsiveness challenges the nature/culture-distinction and the universal/particular-distinction. Human life-forms are not just cultural achievements on top of biological conditions. Responsiveness can be traced back into these very conditions and into the evolutionary past of the responsive being - and perhaps also extrapolated forth to trans-human prospects or pitfalls. Nor are human life-forms the re-enactment of the same universality. They share a responsiveness which does not amount to a common being, but to a participation in an ongoing evolution: the human becoming.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Responsiveness and technicity
The paper explores the idea that animate life is characterized by responsiveness and human responsiveness is technical from the outset. It specifically addresses the possible transformation of human responsiveness in present conditions indicated e.g. by ‘ubiquitous computing’ and ‘telecommunication’.
The paper explores the idea that animate life in general is characterized by responsiveness and human responsiveness specifically is technical from the very outset. The human body finds itself to be "essentially open and friendly to the technē" (Jean-Luc Nancy). Human responsiveness thus always finds itself responding by means of various technical supports or programs. The paper specifically addresses the possible transformation of human responsiveness occurring when the technical object is no longer tools of craftsmanship or machines of industrialization but rather networks of communication. What happens e.g. to human responsiveness given technological conditions indicated by terms such as 'ubiquitous computing' or 'telecommunication'? Does it entail the foreclosure of human responsiveness or rather that it is being enhanced? Are we suffocating responsiveness with bio- and psycho-technological programs inhabiting a technological unconsciousness? Or are we liberating responsiveness by co-responding with new technological objects as open as our responsiveness itself. And ultimately: do we enter another mode of being human or another mode of being than that of the human?
Bodily self-control and the power of habit
At the point where habit becomes a force of its own, it introduces unfamiliarity within oneself, for in view of this power of my habits, how can I be in self-control? The paper suggests a reading of self-control that isn’t compromised by the power of habit.
Bodily habits are acquired by repetition and serve as one among many enabling conditions to cultural learning. They build the way to skilled practice where we need not be conscious of every performed detail while practicing. However, some habits take control of us. Driving in my too Scandinavian fashion in Marseille is dangerous; I am unable to refrain from biting my nails; and the order in which I put on my cloths in the morning has a certain spell to it that is not so easily broken. At the point where habit becomes a force of its own, it introduces unfamiliarity within oneself, for in view of this power of my habits, how can I be in self-control?
My body is something I control, yet at the same time it is in control of me. Despite all familiarity, the body shapes our lives in ways beyond our complete grasp. In phenomenology, it is so often stated that the body opens up the world to me while being the starting point for all my experiential orientation; the body is experienced with a mine-ness that indicates ownership and control. However, there is a double sidedness to bodily habits that introduce a basic bodily dissonance which also shapes the way we are bodily in the world.
In the light of the unfamiliarity we embody, so this paper argues, we are forced to change our ordinary notions of freedom and self-control.
In the grasp of moral experience: toward an understanding of the attunement of human responsiveness to the force of moral experience
This paper presents an inquiry into the ontological structures of moral experience. It is argued that a study of morality must find its vantage point in certain moods, which fundamentally attune human responsiveness to the force of moral experience.
This paper seeks to illuminate the complex phenomenon of morality, not by inquiring into the essence of the Good, examining moral principles or norms as such (i.e. casting morality in terms of spirit, pure reason, or social fact), nor by reducing morality to a logic of brute nature (i.e. casting morality in terms of biology or neurology), but by focusing phenomenologically on how 'the moral' is concretely experienced. Ethnographically informed by recent anthropological studies of morality, this paper works toward the hypothesis that moral experience is the experience of an overwhelming, yet empty force, which demands of us a response, without delineating the nature that response. In this sense, we might experience being called upon - seemingly out of nowhere - to care for our children, yet the demand in itself leaves us without directions as to how we should concretely act. How can we begin to grasp such an ephemeral force and our responsiveness to it? Inspired by Heidegger, this paper claims that an existential category of mood is quintessential to understanding the experience of being human and thereby also moral experience in particular. Thus, before this force within moral experience is analytically graspable, the existential conditions of our being in the grasp of moral experience must be disclosed - and hence, this paper argues, the question of moral experience becomes a question of mood. This finally opens perspectives for analyzing certain responsive moods (e.g. hopefulness, despair) and their attunement of human responsiveness to the bindingness of moral experience.
Responsiveness and the project of philosophical anthropology
Philosophical anthropology, a largely overseen discourse within 20th century philosophy, approaches the question ‘what is the human being?’. The paper suggests the concept of ‘responsiveness’ to provide a philosophical, non-naturalist take on what it means to be a human being, avoiding the pitfalls of traditional metaphysics and theological speculation.
The paper wants to introduce the concept of 'responsiveness' into philosophical anthropology. The term and the corresponding claim - the human as the responsive being - reflects the openness of the human being, i.e. the fact that the human life has to be lead in order to be lived (Gehlen 1940). This overall condition does not come to us as a cultural or social Überbau on top of a biological base. It seems to determine human being all the way through. Responsiveness is hence presented to characterize human embodiment, individual existence, sociality, technology and history (Waldenfels 1994, 2011). It captures the human life from a phenomenological perspective, i.e. from the perspective of what it means to be a human being that always finds itself thrown in certain situations (Heidegger 1962) that have to be met properly. One can describe this throwness in terms of responsiveness, i.e. as being in need to come up with an answer that is taken to be satisfying to meet the challenge in question. The paper has two parts: It will circumscribe the project of an existential anthropology (Jackson 2007) in light of a phenomenological conception of responsiveness. It then will analyze complex phenomena such as the attunement of being embarrassed and/or feeling shame. Disregarding the peculiar normative systems that support or sanction embarrassment or shame the paper wants to ask what kind of being the human being is providing over such complex, bodily mediated phenomena as embarrassment and shame.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.