Body, Mind, and the Posthuman: A Corollary to Postmodern Thought
“Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?” – - -- – Nietzsche
Within post-Enlightenment thought supremacy of a disembodied and ahistorical Cartesian subject, surveying the objective world lying before and imparting it meaning in accordance to its own wishes, becomes the ground of what is understood as being human. This anthropocentric conception, challenged in various manners—most comprehensively in Heidegger’s reformulation of human subject as Dasein—within the history of ideas, however remains the frame of reference till the end of 20th century. With the advent of 1990s epistemologies are remodelled, tracing their roots to Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism, to incorporate first an anti-human strain of thought and then, subsequently, announce the death of a coherent human subject—whether in Derrida’s concept of differánce, or in Foucault’s dirge on death of man with the corollary of the author being reduced to a “function”—as an essential and stable entity, an announcement that contributed to a scattered and de-constructed postmodern landscape of mind.
During this inclement climate for the essential human subject, discursive practices around the duality of mind and body—seeds of which were sown in the epistemological dialectic of the rationalists and the empiricists in the beginning of Enlightenment itself—reify into a fracture between the two. Literature contributes to this thought by conceptualizing body as a (corporeal) trap, never opted for willingly, against the liberating force of mind that allows for transcendence over bodily limitations. Experimental outlook from various writers all through the 20th century—Woolf’s idea of body in multiple spaces and time, Kafka’s metamorphosis of bodily realm, Kundera’s exploration of body through history, and Pynchon’s cybernetics—underline this fracture through a rethinking of the duality of mind and body. In the latter half of 20th century this fracture translates itself into disintegrated and disorganized body within the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari through their conceptualization of body without organs (BoW) – a polymorphous disintegration of conventional body for literal and conceptual understanding. As deterritorialized site of desire this body of the subject gets transformed into a mechanical force that breaks socially articulated and regularised structures through non-natural assimilations – frozen foetuses, organ transplant, uterus exchange, male pregnancies, androgynous bodies, etc.
Against the impending dissolution of its facticity bodily roots of subjectivity are given up for new epistemological order, impelled by the discourses of technology and capital, that defines the individual as one who can ‘embody’ different identities and exist in the world through heterogeneous modes. Around this epistemology are built of many twentieth century postmodern discursions in the fields of Sociology, Anthropology and Humanities where the dis-embodied Cartesian subject gets to transform into an em-bodied one. The most trenchant critique of the Cartesian subject, at this time, is the emergence of the ‘posthuman,’ through heterogeneous exegetical endeavours, as the possibility of transformation on the level of both physical body and mental realm. Within this strain of thought there is constant grapple between the mind and the body as two disparate and individual entities where body, now seen to be equally crucial, gets replaced by mechanical ones within the fantasy of technological worldview. Posthuman thus brings together man and machine—there being no essential demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulations, biological organisms and cyborgs—to redefine the contours of human existence in terms of how we see ourselves and the nature of society we wish to create. Technology, foremost in increasing the potency of body by manifesting it, aids in the extension of human experience through a continuity of mind and body mechanisms thus overturning the primacy of mind as the superior power. Through the themes of simulation technology, cybernetics, and robotic uprisings etc. the exploration of ‘posthuman,’ while decentring an almost redundant human subject, creates multiple new ways of engaging the receding discursive space allotted to human subject. Within literature, as in reality where they have created mechanized bodies that are paradoxically being seen as a potential threat to an already beleaguered human existence, representation of this struggle is sketched across vast spectrum of science fiction, (LGTB) queer body, desubjectification, modern and postmodern rethinking of the centrality of mind over body and vice-versa along with coordinates of space and time.
Interested scholars can go through the series of topics provided to think over the issue without being limited to them:
- Cloning and Cyborg culture
- Artificial Birth
- Eugenics and Ethics
- Cybernetic Humans: dystopia or Utopia? Situating human in Posthuman
- Body without Organ(BwO): Refracting through Artaud and Deleuze and Guattari
- The Ship of Theseus or the Theseus Paradox: Problematising ‘essense’ of identity
- Body as space in time or vice versa
- Human: Prosthetic God?
- Fantasmatic desires: overcoming Anxiety of Death and semblance (illusions) of immortality
- Reclaiming or recovering body in literature and Visual Arts
- Becoming animal, becoming the other
- Production of the Rhythms of Desire: a contested plane
- Corporeal Body as the Condition of possibility of Transendence
- Holism: a reconsideration of human world
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