On Progress and Reason: Stories of Gods, Animals and Humans


Thomas, A. 2020. On Progress and Reason: Stories of Gods, Animals and Humans. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 41 (3/4), pp. 331-347. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-09-2019-0179
AuthorsThomas, A.

While transhumanists and posthumanists understand the human condition as mutable, for transhumanists this represents the possibility for enhancement, opening up a teleological narrative of evolution towards. For posthumanists, it represents a fracturing of the liberal human subject, undermining its hegemonic principles. The former advocates the potentiality of instrumental rationality, the latter engages with values, demanding ethical consideration of the implications of the unmooring. The paper conceives of a way to underpin posthumanist thought to enable to serve a more effective critique of transhumanist aims.
This is a theoretical paper that outlines a history of transhumanist thought and the roots of posthumanism. It provides a partially reconstructed Enlightenment humanist framework to bolster the effectiveness of posthumanism as a critique of transhumanist thought.
The paper recongnizes Theodor Adorno’s conception that the central contradiction inherent to Enlightenment thinking is the entanglement of knowledge and power. Hence the metanarrative of progress as historical fact is fundamentally imbued with an imperial, colonizing force. For reason to achieve its promise as the organ of progress it must become self-aware of its own limitations and its own potential destructiveness. Humility is thus vital in the task of preventing instrumental reason leading to inhuman ends.
Whilst developments such as 'metahumanism' attempt to bring 'posthumanism' and 'transhumanism' into direct conversation, it is done from the perspective of uniting their positions. Here, I endeavour instead to consider their antithetical nature and in particular whether posthumanism can provide an effective critique of transhumanism. Drawing on Adorno and Feenberg in particular I attempt to justify posthuamanist theory but also to employ a partially reconstructed Enlightenment humanism to bolster its fruitfulness as a critique of transhumanism.

JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Journal citation41 (3/4), pp. 331-347
PublisherEmerald Publishing
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-09-2019-0179
Publication dates
Online29 Apr 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted27 Mar 2020
Deposited01 Apr 2020
Copyright holder© 2020 Emerald Publishing Limited
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