Frames /sing



Modern Aftermaths

I’m sure that this has been said enumerable times in a variety of ways and these are not sophistocated thoughts, but today comes back to me the words of my professor in Greek, that “new” for the ancient world, was not a compliment, but something of a distorting monstrosity. It gives us to say that Modernism is the alternate…

1. Craving for the new, for its own sake.

2. A counter-balanced appeal to the stripped down essence/frame behind all that is newish.

And what one says of its Post-, hair-of-the-dog, condition…

1. A renouncing of this craving through re-involution (only the old gets combined but to no substantive effect).

2. The stripped-down essence is this act of re-combination.

Post-Human: Ambulatory Cognition

We can see how the post- falls back into the modern, and then back out again. But is this economy of craving and renunciation enough to describe our relative horizon? Does the Humanist/post-humanist divide show through a different relationship to the “new”? It seems to me that the Humanist (in the Renaissance sense) and the post-Humanist (cybernetic) are of the same relationship to the “new”. They are both looking for the new-Human, so to speak, but not through novel combinations that are defined/driven by their novelty. Instead the Human/post-Human trajectory seems anagogic in its combinations, where “human” does not act so much as categorical boundary of exclusion, but more so a functioning ballast of the power-to-combine itself. In this sense, Humanism (to its post-) is and has ever been cybernetic, combinatory…but combinatory in a sense that is not oriented towards the “novum”  per se (at least not the psychological category). What is “new” is not the thing itself (under some determination that has to be located), but rather, what is topographically “fresh” given our position, even in the understanding/appreciation that even experiences of decay, can be in a certain regard fresh.

6 responses to “Modernism/Post

  1. Scu July 8, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    This seems somewhat similar to a blog post I made a while back

    It seems to me that while not all things that go by posthumanism operates completely within the economy of humanism, much of the desire around posthumanism is really for a purer humanism. For, as the slogan in bladerunner went, something “More Human than the Human”.

    • kvond July 8, 2009 at 8:01 pm

      I like the reference, but I can’t see how this departs from Renaissance Humanism.

      (To offer an interesting real world example, Michael Chorst’s biographical, cybernetic title on cochlear implants indicates exactly what you say,

      Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human

      There is a sense in Chorst’s account that not only as deaf person did he become “more human” via the implant, because he could now hear, but also there is a sense that his very cybernetic modification itself made him more human than human, as you say.)

  2. Scu July 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I don’t think I was saying that it departed from Ren. humanism. Or maybe I wasn’t following what you were saying.

    Also, thanks a lot for the Chorst reference, that is exactly the sort of thing I mean.

    • kvond July 8, 2009 at 8:49 pm

      Sorry, I looked closer at what you said and it seems that we are in close agreement:

      “It seems to me that while not all things that go by posthumanism operates completely within the economy of humanism, much of the desire around posthumanism is really for a purer humanism.”

      While not all things…posthuman are within the economy of humanism…

      Yes. It is for this reason that I tried to restrain Humanism to Renaissance humanism, which itself is quite diverse. But the Chorst example seems to put us in agreement.

  3. anodyne lite July 10, 2009 at 12:00 am

    A few days ago, I was also thinking about how disappointing most attempts at starting up a “post-humanist” discourse within theory have been… then I was wondering if this is perhaps because the positing of a clear line between “man” and “machine” is was a mistake to begin with. So I think you’ve hit on something really interesting here–what’s “human” has always been a cybernetic entity, even ante-industrial and technological ‘revolutions’…

    • kvond July 10, 2009 at 12:05 am


      Yes, I think so. This is also how I read some of the Renaissance humanism, for instance the wonderful utopian radicality of Tomasso Campanella. Man/machine creates a continuity, a mutual expression. Ultimately, man is a machine of the universe in these positionings (we see this with Spinoza who is somewhat in this tradition).

      You may find Chorst’s book interesting. I found it in a nice STS class.

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