Since I posted the summary of the Labor of the Inhuman (LoIH) yesterday, I have had various conversation with friends. I thought it would be best to at least provide a few brief correcting remarks. I think I was clear at the beginning of the previous post, that I no longer endorse the full scope of the original essay as well as its recap. There are many problems in that essay that need to be resolved, even though I’m still committed to its core theses. Allow me to address a couple of problems which are more significant and serious.
In LoIH, there is too much emphasis on the Brandomian conceptions of normativity and reason as rooted in special kinds of social practices. The problem is that Brandom’s idea of sociality or social practices, at times, confounds substantive sociality and sociality as a formal condition. The ramifications of this confusion are not at all philosophically or politically pleasant. The whole notion of sociality should be treated with utmost caution otherwise the descent into regular humanism is inevitable. Brandom elides in many occasions the substantive sociality and sociality as a formal condition of reasoning. The first consequence of such an elision shows up in the the realm of politics and political consciousness. I strongly believe that the reason Brandom is a quietist liberal is because of this confusion. Reason is wrongly understood as a sufficient tool for political change, rather than merely necessary. Just because we are reason-giving and taking animals, it does not mean we either have fathomed what reason is or our reason is a sufficient tool for political change. One should not be surprised that Brandom’s rationalism coincides with a Habermasian soap-opera of a rational society in which all we need is more rational discourse or communication. Having said that, I believe Brandom has a far more sophisticated idea of reason and reasoning than Habermas, perhaps even unbeknownst to him.
Both Peter Wolfendale and I agree that sociality of reason should be investigated as a formal condition, and as such it would be more accurate to model it on computational processes and dynamic or truly concurrent information processing systems (the interactionist paradigm of computation, complexity sciences, hierarchies of types of computation, etc.). Wolfendale has already written about this point, here. Per Wolfendale’s thesis, we can even go so far as envisioning an artificial agent who has an internalized model of sociality as a formal—or more precisely, computational—condition.
Another point of objection is that even then—once we model the human in terms of hierarchies of special kinds of computation —we might find ourselves in the square one which is conservative humanism. Such a computational model of the human should be coupled with what I call in Intelligence and Spirit, ‘the thoroughgoing critique of transcendental structures’ (e.g., how our structure of memory, natural language and representations of time and space as conditions of the possibility for perception-cognition-action limit the process of the unbinding and return us to human biases). I think at this point, both David Roden and I can be considered as supporting and complementary critics of each other. Roden offers the prospects of a disenthralled posthuman freed at last from its homo sapience substrate, and I provide the semblance of a list of necessary constraints for what it takes to arrive at such prospects. Even though in the forthcoming book, I do offer a critique of Roden’s extremely sophisticated account of the posthuman using his own approaches and not a rationalist critique—by way of the Bayesian analysis of human biases, computational complexity and dynamic system theories—I think that in a strange twist, my thesis of the inhuman converges on his idea of posthuman, but with some caveats. As Wolfendale suggested, rationalist inhumanism—adequately thought—is a genuine form of posthumanism, but also an explicit response to and a critique of it.