The figure of the human looms large of the history of philosophy, from the ancient Greeks speculating about featherless bipeds to contemporary programmers wondering if they can recreate human intelligence with a series of algorithms. Much philosophical thought in the last few decades has involved much speculation about the human subject, even if it was often hostile to the idea that there is such a thing, rather than an odd effect of linguistic and cultural practices. Other critics have pointed out that the idea of a universal human subject has often been used to legitimate and cover up nefarious political ideas and practices.
Still, many thinkers today continue to argue for an ontology that includes a unique place for the human subject. One of these thinkers is my guest today, Zahi Zalloua, here to discuss his new book Being Posthuman: Ontologies of the Future (Bloomsbury, 2020). Written both as an introduction and intervention, it kicks off with a long history of humanism and its critics, which helps set the stage for the four chapters that make up the main book. The first explores cyborgs, and the ways technology is slowly becoming a part of our lives and what that might mean. The second explores animals and our treatment of them, and what our willingness to send them to slaughterhouses and consume them in enormous quantities says about us. The third explores new theoretical frameworks such as Object Oriented Ontology and New Materialism, and the place of the subject in these frameworks. The final chapter looks at race in Afropessimism, and what a true emancipation might look like. In all this, Zalloua combines theoretical frameworks with cultural analysis, giving the book a sense of accessibility and relevance to our current moment (as well as a couple plot-spoilers for Black Mirror and Sorry to Bother You). Those interested in philosophy and critical theory, and particularly the work of Slavoj Žižek will find this to be both an accessible and provocative text.