I posted this review-essay for one reason: I've been seeing Adam Kirsch's name a lot in The New Criterion and First Things (and other places). I guess his name has been popping up in those journals for years and I just hadn't noticed.
Anyway, his new book divides the post-humanists into two camps: antihumanists and transhumanists. The antihumanists are the ecology folk who relish the idea of people dying off for the good of the earth. The transhumanists are the tech folk who relish the idea of people becoming mini-gods through artificial enhancement.
Both want to eliminate current humanity. The antis love a depopulated humanity; the trans love a future humanity. Both snarl at the rabble now.
Of course, they'll snarl at future humanity as well. It's easy to love or hate abstract people. It's much harder to hate or love the person in front of you. That's why Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa are saints and abstract theorizers like Paul Ehrlich are useless sons of bitches.
"Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil. Edmund Burke
This Burke quote contains it all. The metaphysician (the guy who likes to think in abstractions) has no heart: he's all rationality. He doesn't appreciate the embodied reality that the person in front of him presents . . . and he himself is (the "frailty and passion" of people). He resists Michael Polanyi's "tacit mode" of knowledge: the implicit, the poetic, and the paradoxical, opting instead for "incorporeal, pure, mixed, dephlegmated, defecated" rational conclusions from his own head.
Such are the antihumanists and transhumanists, in my estimation.
Though I have only recently come into contact with Kirsch's line of argument, it appears the antis and trans are strongly controlled by their left hemispheres: the love of abstraction, the adoration of their own rational conclusions, and their disgust with embodied reality and implicit ways of knowing.
So, today's takeaway: Hate the antis and trans in front of you. Love the leper in front of you. Act in the immediate and embodied, without grand designs and battles.
And this might, just might, be Adam Kirsch's conclusion as well. The last lines of the review-essay:
I detect a quietist tone to the book. Certainly, there is no call to arms—no injunction to bring on the disappearance of humanity or the arrival of a brave new “posthuman” era. Kirsch quotes with approval the one-time—but now “recovering”—“mainstream environmentalist” Paul Kingsnorth’s remark that “action is not always more effective than inaction.” I suspect that Kirsch shares the same writer’s “longing,” not for “progress,” but for a gentle and personal retreat or “escape” from the ugly world humanity has manufactured.