In social theory and philosophy, antihumanism (or anti-humanism) is a theory that is critical of traditional humanism and traditional ideas about humanity and the human condition. Central to antihumanism is the view that concepts of "human nature", "man", or "humanity" should be rejected as historically relative or metaphysical.
In the late 18th and 19th centuries, the philosophy of humanism was a cornerstone of the Enlightenment. From the belief in a universal moral core of humanity, it followed that all persons are inherently free and equal. For liberal humanists such as Kant, the universal law of reason was a guide towards total emancipation from any kind of tyranny.
Criticism of humanism as being over-idealistic began in the 19th Century. For Friedrich Nietzsche, humanism was nothing more than an empty figure of speech – a secular version of theism. Max Stirner expressed a similar position in his book The Ego and Its Own, published several decades before Nietzsche's work. Nietzsche argues in Genealogy of Morals that human rights exist as a means for the weak to constrain the strong; as such, they do not facilitate the emancipation of life, but instead deny it.
The young Karl Marx is sometimes considered a humanist, as opposed to the mature Marx who became more forceful in his criticism of human rights as idealist or utopian. Marx believed human rights were a product of the very dehumanization they were intended to oppose. Given that capitalism forces individuals to behave in a egoistic manner, they are in constant conflict with one another, and are thus in need of rights to protect themselves. True emancipation, he asserted, could only come through the establishment of communism, which abolishes the private ownership of all means of production.
Martin Heidegger viewed humanism as a metaphysical philosophy that ascribes to humanity a universal essence and privileges it above all other forms of existence. For Heidegger, humanism takes consciousness as the paradigm of philosophy, leading it to a subjectivism and idealism that must be avoided. Like Hegel before him, Heidegger rejected the Kantian notion of autonomy, pointing out that humans were social and historical beings, as well as Kant's notion of a constituting consciousness. Heidegger nevertheless retains links both to humanism and to existentialism despite his efforts to distance himself from both in the Letter on Humanism (1947).
Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that in the social as well as natural sciences, information derived from sensory experience, and logical and mathematical treatments of such data, are together the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge. Positivism assumes that there is valid knowledge (truth) only in scientific knowledge. Obtaining and verifying data that can be received from the senses is known as empirical evidence. This view holds that society operates according to general laws that dictate the existence and interaction of ontologically real objects in the physical world. Introspective and intuitional attempts to gain knowledge are rejected. Though the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of Western thought, the concept was developed in the modern sense in the early 19th century by the philosopher and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte. Comte argued that society operates according to its own quasi-absolute laws, much as the physical world operates according to gravity and other absolute laws of nature.
Humanist thinker Tzvetan Todorov has identified within modernity a trend of thought which emphasizes science and within it tends towards a deterministic view of the world. He clearly identifies positivist theorist Auguste Comte as an important proponent of this view. For Todorov "Scientism does not eliminate the will but decides that since the results of science are valid for everyone, this will must be something shared, not individual. In practice, the individual must submit to the collectivity, which "knows" better than he does." The autonomy of the will is maintained, but it is the will of the group, not the person...scientism has flourished in two very different political contexts...The first variant of scientism was put into practice by totalitarian regimes." A similar criticism can be found in the work associated with the 'Frankfurt School' of social research. Antipositivism would be further facilitated by rejections of 'scientism'; or science as ideology. Jürgen Habermas argues, in his On the Logic of the Social Sciences (1967), that "the positivist thesis of unified science, which assimilates all the sciences to a natural-scientific model, fails because of the intimate relationship between the social sciences and history, and the fact that they are based on a situation-specific understanding of meaning that can be explicated only hermeneutically ... access to a symbolically prestructured reality cannot be gained by observation alone."
Structuralism was developed in post-war Paris as a response to the perceived contradiction between the free subject of philosophy and the determined subject of the human sciences; and drew on the systematic linguistics of Saussure for a view of language and culture as a conventional system of signs preceding the individual subject's entry into them.
Lévi-Strauss in anthropology systematised a structuralist analysis of culture in which the individual subject dissolved into a signifying convention; the semiological work of Roland Barthes (1977) decried the cult of the author and indeed proclaimed his death; while Lacan's structuralist psychoanalysis inevitably led to a similar diminishment of the concept of the autonomous individual: "man with a discourse on freedom which must certainly be called delusional...produced as it is by an animal at the mercy of language".
Taking a lead from Brecht's twin attack on bourgeois and socialist humanism, Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser used the term "antihumanism" in an attack against Marxist humanists, whose position he considered a revisionist movement. Althusser considered "structure" and "social relations" to have primacy over individual consciousness, opposing the philosophy of the subject. For Althusser, the beliefs, desires, preferences and judgements of the human individual are the product of social practices, as society moulds the individual in its own image through its ideologies.
For Marxist humanists such as Georg Lukács, revolution was contingent on the development of the class consciousness of a historical subject, the proletariat. In opposition to this, Althusser's antihumanism downplays the role of human agency in the process of history.
Post-structuralists such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida rejected structuralism's insistence on fixed meaning, its privileging of a meta-linguistic standpoint, but continued all the more to problematize the human subject, favoring the term "the decenter-ed subject" which implies the absence of human agency. Derrida, arguing that the fundamentally ambiguous nature of language makes intention unknowable, attacked Enlightenment perfectionism, and condemned as futile the existentialist quest for authenticity in the face of the all-embracing network of signs. He stressed repeatedly that "the subject is not some meta-linguistic substance or identity, some pure cogito of self-presence; it is always inscribed in language".
Foucault challenged the foundational aspects of Enlightenment humanism, as well as their strategic implications, arguing that they either produced counter-emancipatory results directly, or matched increased "freedom" with increased and disciplinary normatization. His anti-humanist skepticism extended to attempts to ground theory in human feeling, as much as in human reason, maintaining that both were historically contingent constructs, rather than the universals humanism maintained.
The heroine of the novel Nice Work begins by defining herself as a semiotic materialist, "a subject position in an infinite web of discourses – the discourses of power, sex, family, science, religion, poetry, etc." Charged with taking a bleak deterministic view, she retorts, "antihumanist, yes; inhuman, no...the truly determined subject is he who is not aware of the discursive formations that determine him". However, with greater life-experience, she comes closer to accepting that post-structuralism is an intriguing philosophical game, but probably meaningless to those who have not yet even gained awareness of humanism itself. In his critique of humanist approaches to popular film, Timothy Laurie suggests that in new animated films from DreamWorks and Pixar "the 'human' is now able to become a site of amoral disturbance, rather than – or at least, in addition to – being a model of exemplary behaviour for junior audiences".
one of the features of positivism is precisely its postulate that scientific knowledge is the paradigm of valid knowledge, a postulate that indeed is never proved nor intended to be proved.
A General View of Positivism (Discours sur l'ensemble du positivisme) was an 1848 book by the French philosopher Auguste Comte, first published in English in 1865. A founding text in the development of positivism and the discipline of sociology, the work provides a revised and full account of the theory Comte presented earlier in his multi-part The Course in Positive Philosophy (1830–1842). Comte outlines the epistemological view of positivism, provides an account of the manner by which sociology should be performed, and describes his law of three stages.Andrew Zimmerman
Andrew Zimmerman is a professor of German history at George Washington University.Berlin Circle
The Berlin Circle (German: die Berliner Gruppe) was a group that maintained logical empiricist views about philosophy.Constructive empiricism
In philosophy, constructive empiricism (also empiricist structuralism) is a form of empiricism.Epistemological idealism
Epistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology that holds that what one knows about an object exists only in one's mind. It is opposed to epistemological realism.Existential humanism
Existential humanism is humanism that validates the human subject as struggling for self-knowledge and self-responsibility.Geisteswissenschaft
Geisteswissenschaften (German pronunciation: [ˈɡaɪstəsˌvɪsənʃaftən], "sciences of mind") is a set of human sciences such as philosophy, history, philology, musicology, linguistics, theater studies, literary studies, media studies, and sometimes even theology and jurisprudence, that are traditional in German universities. Most of its subject matter would come under the much larger humanities faculty in the typical English-speaking university.Letter on Humanism
Letter on Humanism (German: Brief über den Humanismus) refers to a famous letter written by Martin Heidegger in December 1946 in response to a series of questions by Jean Beaufret (10 November 1946) about the development of French existentialism. Heidegger reworked the letter for publication in 1947. He distanced himself from Sartre's position and existentialism in general in this letter.Marxist humanism
Marxist humanism is a branch of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marx's earlier writings, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx espoused his theory of alienation, as opposed to his later works, which are considered to be concerned more with his structural conception of capitalist society. The Praxis School, which called for radical social change in Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia in the 1960s, was one such Marxist humanist movement.
Marxist humanism was opposed by the "antihumanism" of Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, who described it as a revisionist movement.Misanthropy
Misanthropy is the general hatred, dislike, distrust or contempt of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope or misanthropist is someone who holds such views or feelings. The word's origin is from the Greek words μῖσος (misos, "hatred") and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, "man, human"). The condition is often confused with asociality.Nina Power
Nina Power is a cultural critic, social theorist, philosopher and translator.
She is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Roehampton University and the author of One-Dimensional Woman. She served as both editor and translator (with Alberto Toscano) of Alain Badiou's On Beckett.
Power received her PhD in Philosophy from Middlesex University on the topic of Humanism and Antihumanism in Post-War French philosophy, and also has an MA and BA in Philosophy from the University of Warwick. She has taught at Middlesex, Orpington College, London College of Communication, Morley College. Power also worked as a Tutor in Critical Writing in Art and Design at the Royal College of Art, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the British Philosophical Association.
Power has a wide range of interests, including philosophy, film, art, feminism and politics, and is interested in independent publishing and reviving certain political forms and genres of writing (the polemic, the pamphlet, the declaration, the address, etc.). She writes for a variety of different publications and journals, in a variety of genres and on various different topics (including music, critical theory, film, policing and protests). Some of the publications she regularly contributes are frieze, Wire, Radical Philosophy, The Guardian, Cabinet, Film Quarterly, Icon and The Philosophers' Magazine.
She is currently working on two book-length projects – one on the topic of work and the other on the history of the collective political subject. She is also working on a number of more experimental collaborations with artists and writers. In 2015, she commissioned Bad Feelings by Arts Against Cuts, a collection of writing and 'set of materials for conflict and commonality' published by Book Works.Post-behavioralism
Post-behavioralism (or post-behaviouralism) also known as neo-behavioralism (or neo-behaviouralism) was a reaction against the dominance of behavioralist methods in the study of politics. One of the key figures in post-behaviouralist thinking was David Easton who was originally one of the leading advocates of the "behavioral revolution". Post-behavioralists claimed that despite the alleged value-neutrality of behavioralist research it was biased towards the status quo and social preservation rather than social change.Posthumanism
Posthumanism or post-humanism (meaning "after humanism" or "beyond humanism") is a term with at least seven definitions according to philosopher Francesca Ferrando:
Antihumanism: any theory that is critical of traditional humanism and traditional ideas about humanity and the human condition.
Cultural posthumanism: a branch of cultural theory critical of the foundational assumptions of humanism and its legacy that examines and questions the historical notions of "human" and "human nature", often challenging typical notions of human subjectivity and embodiment and strives to move beyond archaic concepts of "human nature" to develop ones which constantly adapt to contemporary technoscientific knowledge.
Philosophical posthumanism: a philosophical direction which draws on cultural posthumanism, the philosophical strand examines the ethical implications of expanding the circle of moral concern and extending subjectivities beyond the human species.
Posthuman condition: the deconstruction of the human condition by critical theorists.
Transhumanism: an ideology and movement which seeks to develop and make available technologies that eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities, in order to achieve a "posthuman future".
AI takeover: A more pessimistic alternative to transhumanism in which humans will not be enhanced, but rather eventually replaced by artificial intelligences. Some philosophers, including Nick Land, promote the view that humans should embrace and accept their eventual demise. This is related to the view of "cosmism", which supports the building of strong artificial intelligence even if it may entail the end of humanity, as in their view it "would be a cosmic tragedy if humanity freezes evolution at the puny human level".
Voluntary Human Extinction, which seeks a "posthuman future" that in this case is a future without humans.Posthumanization
Posthumanization comprises "those processes by which a society comes to include members other than 'natural' biological human beings who, in one way or another, contribute to the structures, dynamics, or meaning of the society." Posthumanization is one of the key phenomena studied by those academic disciplines and methodologies that identify themselves as "posthumanist", including critical, cultural, and philosophical posthumanism. Its processes can be divided into forms of non-technological and technological posthumanization.Russian Machism
Russian Machism is a political/philosophical viewpoint which emerged in Imperial Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century before the Russian Revolution. They upheld the scientific and philosophical insights of Ernst Mach to be of great interest. Many of the Russian Machists were Marxists, and indeed viewed Machism as an essential ingredient of a materialist outlook on the world.The Logic of Scientific Discovery
The Logic of Scientific Discovery is a 1959 book about the philosophy of science by Karl Popper. Popper rewrote his book in English from the 1934 German original, titled Logik der Forschung. Zur Erkenntnistheorie der modernen Naturwissenschaft, which literally translates as, "Logic of Research: On the Epistemology of Modern Natural Science"'.The Universe in a Nutshell
The Universe in a Nutshell is a 2001 book about theoretical physics by Stephen Hawking. It is generally considered a sequel and was created to update the public concerning developments since the multi-million-copy bestseller A Brief History of Time published in 1988.Werturteilsstreit
The Werturteilsstreit (German for "value judgment dispute") is a Methodenstreit, a quarrel in German sociology and economics around the question whether the social sciences are a normative obligatory statement in politics and its measures applied in political actions, and whether their measures can be justified scientifically.The quarrel took place in the years before World War I, between the members of the Verein für Socialpolitik. Main opponents were Max Weber, Werner Sombart and Gustav Schmoller.
The Zweiter Werturteilsstreit is the debate between the supporter of the Kritische Theorie and the Kritischer Rationalismus during the 1960s — better known as Positivismusstreit.