File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 135

Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001 20:19:11 +0000
Subject: Re: cyborgs and the inhuman


I agree that there are multiple uses of the term 'inhuman' there are as 
you say the uses of the inhuman as a term that reflects the radical 
critque of  the enlightment versions of humanism - it is this which in 
my reading is referred to below in the Apollinaire (nice poetry) and 
Adorno references below.  What Lyotard does, and I have some sympathy 
with this, is to discuss 'with the Frankfurt school'(p64 Time Today) 
 and yet beyond it through refusing to stop at the 'subordination of the 
mind to the culture industry', a conceptualisation which it is worth 
while remembering in these dark days, however Lyotard goes beyond this 
and discusses the way in which post-modern culture  is on the way to 
spreading to all culture. Unifying us into a single cultual and economic 
system, colonising the world... Placing us  in the thrall of gross 
stereotypes and 'apparantly leaving us with no place for reflection and 

It is at this point in Lyotard's logic that the other inhuman appears - 
the target of Lyotard's attack - development and the techno-scientific 
apparatus. The seperation of 'thought from the phenomenological body...' 
what Lyotard is denying and attacking, and is fearful of, is the idea 
that thought and being can be seperated from the human gendered body. 
Inhumanism in this aspect is endlessly calling for a reestablishing of 
the significance of the human, a different relationship between the 
human and technology. It is this which Lyotard is warning us against, 
for he believed that this form of  the inhuman would cause the 
'forgetting' of the other. These are apt issues for Lyotard is not 
discussing the establishment of  relations of equivilance, i.e. humans 
and intelligent machines existing/living together as equals but the 
supplanting of the human by machines. For what Lyotard values is that 
thought cannot be seperated from the physicality of our bodies, machines 
can neither suffer nor feel pain - more directly they do not respect 
difference.  As he correctly states, a machines concern, inherited from 
their engineers, is always standardisation and the eradication of 
anything that hinders performance.

Most days I am an engineer, i construct or organise the construction of 
software machines,  as a consequence the fact of a machine being 
intelligent or desiring to exist is not my concern, for at that point it 
would be indistinguishable from a living being. At this point we would 
have another negative '-ism' to address, or perhaps we would have to 
accede to machines being added to the list of oppressed species. Plainly 
it is unlikely that machines will ever be capable of the sheer 
rule-defying creativity that is part of the constitution of what it is 
to be human.What concerns me is the idea of humans being 'replaced', 
superceded by the results of development which is an implicit dream of 
the techno-scientific apparatus. (This obviously accepts that the new 
range of machines constitutes a form of technology that is beyond the 
uncomfortable prostheses of previous technologies - language, farming, 
the wheel and so on)

Perhaps then I should state that I agree with lyotard that the question 
is one of 'difference', as a philosopher of difference I believe Lyotard 
would,  like me, be standing outside the door of the university or IBM, 
placard in hand saying to my fellow engineers - 'hold it - you've just 
told me its alive and intelligent - hence it has a right to existence 
and you are not allowed to turn it off...' 

The cyborg issue is slightly different in that it is necessary to accept 
that to go beyond the metaphor of the cyborg is to place yourself, 
including in the case of remote sexuality, simply in the control of 
machines.  The aburdity and stupidity of the position is encapsulated in 
Haraway's statement - 'I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess...' 
 Sorry we are just humans - there are no gods and a cyborg is just as 
mixed up as the rest of us... Defining ourselves as cyborgs does not, 
cannot remove the inherently problematic relationship we have with our 
technologies - technologies are never ultimately naturally 'in-handed'.

(funny no matter how many times i think against the notion of difference 
- the sheer radical liberatory nature of the concept returns to haunt me...)


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>I thought you had me at a disadvantage. I could't find my copy of the
>Inhuman. I simply have to get more organized.
>Ah, there it all too human of me!
>I have always been struck by the sheer ambivalence of the way Lyotard
>uses the term 'inhuman'; haven't you? Certainly, he sometimes uses it in
>the sense that you mean, as the "inhuman nature of the system which
>wants to remake humans closer to the inhuman."
>But why does he also favorably quote Apollinaire and Adorno who say,
>respectively, "More than anything else, artists are men who want to
>become inhuman." and "Art remains loyal to humankind uniquely through
>its inhumanity in regard to it."
>It seems to me that two concepts of the inhuman are at play here. There
>is the complexity of development that leads to inhuman ends and there is
>the infanta, the inhuman who resists the process of humanization and to
>which the artist must subsequently bears witness.  
>It is in this latter notion of the inhuman that straddles the no mans
>land between human-inhuman, animal-machine, where the cyborg appears
>like Pinochio.
>Unless you are arguing as a luddite against technology, (is this your
>position?) it seems that the cyborg is a necessary concept as the
>micro-serfs begin to take responsibility for their machinic desires. 
>The recognition that language is always already a form of technology is
>to recognise that far more is involved here than "the
>military-scientific complex, criuse missiles, intelligent mines and
>smart bombs."
>My point, Steve, is simply this. I am not necessarily adverse to using
>pulp science fiction to further the development of philosophy, I refuse,
>however, to limit myself to Dona Haraway's use of the concept.  
>The cyborg, like Badiou's Immortal and Deleuze's desiring machines,
>shows that something more is at stake in ethics beyond alterity and the
>Or to put the question another way - what is your stance on technology?
>Are you for it or agin it? or do you recognise this is the wrong way to
>formulate the question?


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