class="csc-frame csc-frame-default"Is a knowledge society pure ideology?

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

PROF. DR. TOBIAS REES

ZGW Lecture series May 17, 2017

‘of’ the human/after ‘the’ human

I think of my talk as a playful provocation – and this provocation comes in four parts. Part I revolves around two observations. First, the question concerning the human – what is a human being? how shall I live? – appears today in venues that lie far beyond the expertise of the human sciences (from AI to microbiome research to discussions around climate change). Second, it appears in ways that often defy the conception of the human on which the human sciences are historically contingent.
Part II offers a history of the human. we usually take it for granted that the human exists. that there is something that we – we humans – all share. something that is independent from where we are born. or when. independent of whether we are rich or poor, old or young, woman or man. independent of the color of our skin. something that is supposedly universal – independent of time and place: the human. But when was the human first articulated? Who were its authors? How did it evolve over time? And when was it lost out of sight that the human is actually a philosophical invention?
Part III, then, zooms in on what one could call contemporary displacements of the human, with a specific focus on microbiome research and artificial intelligence: I am interested in how, in what precise ways, microbiome research or AI research make a classical human sciences analysis difficult (to a degree perhaps even impossible). The talk closes with the invitation to think of these instances of displacement as ways to consider the human as a philosophical project, one that grounds in an empirical inquiry of the here and now.