Snelgrove, Chelsea Harold
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This essay proposes a posthumanist theory of ethics and politics. It addresses the philosophical problems which occur when ethical and political values are not derived from a theory of human nature. Two basic difficulties are addressed. The first difficulty is conceptual: how should we think of society if not as a group of human individuals whose nature determines the nature of society? The second difficulty is normative: how can ethical and political values be supported without reference to a human nature which validates them? The first difficulty is addressed via the work of Niklas Luhmann. He conceives of modern society as composed of self-producing communication systems. Society consists of communications. This view is posthumanist in that it does not depend upon any theory of human nature. Luhmann’s theory does not, however, offer resources for specifying ethical or political norms. Luhmann’s theory thus requires supplementation. Michel Foucault regards the fashioning of a self to be the task of ethics. The principle of ontological liberty is proposed as an ethical norm which would protect such an ethical practice. The principle states that any project of self-creation should be permitted so long as that project does not interfere with another’s ability to engage in a similar project. The selves created under the principle’s protection might include elements traditionally considered non-human. Donna Haraway discusses cyborg selves—beings who include elements of humanity, technology and nature in their identities. Cyborgs are a variety of hybrid beings—imbroglios of society and nature--as discussed by Bruno Latour. He argues that modernity has produced a proliferation of hybrid beings while struggling to maintain society and nature as distinct categories. He proposes that we create a parliament of things as a posthumanist political body capable of dealing with the implications of hybrids’ existence. A further ethical and political norm is found in Jacques Derrida’s notion of unconditional hospitality. Derrida recommends an attitude of unconditional welcome toward the other, whether human or not. This attitude undergirds Derrida’s vision of utopia—the democracy to come. This democracy would extend freedom and equality to all beings, of whatever nature.