- Philosophical Posthumanism by Francesca Ferrando
In this updated and revised translation (by the author) of Francesca Ferrando's Il Posthumanesimo filosofico e le sue alterità, Ferrando skillfully disentangles the umbrella term "posthumanism" and offers original thought experiments concerning a posthuman future. Her monograph achieves two things: it introduces readers to the field of posthumanism with its different streams and definitions and offers strategies necessary for being or becoming posthuman. As such, Philosophical Posthumanism is well-suited to audiences who are new to posthuman theory, but it also provides original critical material that will interest readers familiar with the field of posthumanism.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part explains what philosophical posthumanism is, the second covers the history of the human, and the third emphasizes the importance of post-anthropocentrism for the current era—the Anthropocene—and defines the posthuman multiverse as a relational, networked, post-dualistic ontology. While each part builds on the last, it is possible to immediately dive into any of the later parts if the reader is familiar with the various philosophies—such as humanism and anti-humanism—that feed into posthumanism as well as with the distinction between transhumanism and posthumanism. [End Page 193]
Ferrando makes each part accessible through the questions that guide the subsections: not only every chapter within the parts but even most paragraphs are introduced by a question. These questions can also be found after the table of contents and can be used as a quick reference for specific aspects of posthumanism, at least in theory. The questions form a conversation between Ferrando and the reader, oftentimes anticipating a potential counterargument or need for clarification; as such, they are most effective when accessed within the flow and context of the individual chapters rather than consulted individually. Therefore, despite its structural similarity to a glossary, Philosophical Posthumanism remains most useful as a thorough introduction to be read in its entirety.
The particular strength of Ferrando's monograph rests with its accessibility for readers new either to the field of posthumanism or to reading philosophical works in general. Philosophical Posthumansim takes no previous knowledge for granted; instead, Ferrando patiently and skillfully explains not only terminology specific to posthumanism—such as "posthumanities" for the "hypothetical future species which would be genetically related to the human species (Homo sapiens), but no longer definable as such" (124)—but all jargon, from solipsism to multiverse. While this might strike some readers as unnecessary, it means that Ferrando's arguments are based on clearly defined terms that anyone can follow. Furthermore, Ferrando also explains all the foundational texts on which her arguments rely. From Friedrich Nietzsche's Übermensch in Thus Spoke Zarathustra to Carl Linnaeus' classification of Homo sapiens as a relative of primates in Systema Naturae, Ferrando contextualizes each work, highlighting its significance within its historical and cultural frame, and introduces the main arguments in easy-to-understand terms.
Concrete examples drawn from relatable, everyday scenarios further make Philosophical Posthumanism less abstract than other publications on posthuman theory. In order to explain that "the ways we are developing technology are not neutral, but have deeper consequences" (43–44), Ferrando uses the example of the computer: the computer's development and rise has caused poor posture and other health problems, such as vitamin D deficiency, because of its static setup and indoor use. Ferrando meditates on other ways that this piece of technology could have developed: what if the computer was a solar-powered device with a less stationary interface? Humans might develop strong legs and would require stronger UV protection in the long run (43). In short, technology and humans mutually shape each other (44). Even when Ferrando delves into the concepts from physics of string theory and the multiverse, she does so through easy-to-imagine scenarios: to enable [End Page 194] the reader to think through one's entangled existence—or the ripple effect of one's habits and actions—she proposes to think about "you" as singular; yet, the "you" of the present moment is also inextricably related to the "you" of yesterday, or...