What is Posthumanism and what does it mean for theology?
First of all, any movement or time period with the prefix “post” attached to it (Postmodernism for example) lacks substance by its very name. It is literally defined by what came before it, precisely as just coming after it. Today we live in an era that is built around this proliferation of the “posts,” which again, says nothing about itself. We may be able to conclude that it is all embracing—”all inclusive,” as we commonly hear today—and for that reason the “posts” have no real identity per se because delimitation is simply denied and thus avoided.
A “grandchild” of Postmodernism is the more sinister Posthumanism, the dominant philosophy today. Philosophical Postmodernism seeks to deconstruct human reason while philosophical Posthumanism intends to deconstruct the human itself. For the posthumanists, the prior era (from the Enlightenment to the 20th century, roughly), that is, the era of Humanism, was too anthropocentric. The exceptionalism of man or past anthropocentrism suppressed the emergence of other types of beings, especially artificial beings according to them.
According to the posthumanists, the very notion of “human” must be reassessed. Posthumanism proceeds from the Critical Theory philosophy which basically re-interprets reality, with the Marxist binary lens, as those who are oppressors and those who are oppressed (believe it or not there is a “Critical Cyborg Theory” based on “The Cyborg Manifesto”). The goal is to erase all inequalities in many different aspects, depending what the focus of the specific Critical Theory is. In the case of Posthumanism, dualisms such as human/animal, human/machine, and, more in general, human/nonhuman are re-investigated through a perception which does not work on the oppositional schemata. In the same way, the Posthumanist deconstructs the clear division between life/death, organic/synthetic and natural/artificial.
Posthumanism leads directly to nihilism or the belief of empty values, since no immutability exists. It is an attack on nature itself. For that reason, it can, in no way, be accepted as a sound philosophy for true Catholic theological progress. True progress in theology stems from solid philosophy applied to the mysteries of our faith. There is definitely philosophical pluralism within the Catholic tradition, but this in no way means that Catholicism can be philosophically all-embracing. There are philosophies that cannot be accepted for orthodox theological progress. In fact, all the heresies are simply rooted in bad philosophy (Nestorianism, Modalism, Monophysitism, etc.). The Church has a duty in promoting good philosophy for the sake of having a theology that can convey the truths of the divine mysteries in human terms.
Posthumanism cannot be applied to our faith to make a good theology. In particular, Posthumanism would eliminate a good anthropology that would allow for a correct understanding of man according to divine revelation. If man is purely mutable, and can ultimately merge with the artificial forming a new being (a cyborg), then in what aspect is man “created in God’s image and likeness”? How could Our Lord Jesus Christ assume a nature of something that in our day needs to be essentially reassessed? Man is substantially body and soul and he cannot essentially change.
Posthumanism promotes not only an indifference towards the essence of man, but an outright hatred for it. According to this view, the artificial being must emerge and ultimately replace our outdated and rigid concept of man in the strictly naturalistic sense. However, the truth is that man is the synthesis of God’s creation (matter plus the spirit) and God loves man for his own sake. God not only created man but re-created man in Jesus Christ, His only Begotten Son. The love of man and his dignity is fundamental in Catholic theology, especially in Christology, and this dignity is something Posthumanism negates. Profound love has to be based on an immutable good, for true love is in a sense immutable. So we see here another clear example of bad philosophical anthropology leading to bad theological anthropology.
We see clearly today that Satan is attacking nature as a means to attack supernature. The assault is extremely intelligent and strategic. The demonic attacks on philosophy have always been for the sake of attacking theology. The devil knows well the intimate relationship between heterodox theology and the condemnation of souls.
I would say that the biggest hindrance to evangelization is precisely a prevalent erroneous anthropology, especially the Posthumanist view. For if we do not know what man is, we surely will not know what is man for. For the final cause of a thing is imbedded in its very nature. Let us ask God’s grace and do our part also in studying good solid philosophy, especially anthropology. Let us also avoid theologies that diminish the importance of philosophical (metaphysical) underpinnings, like existentialist theology for example.
In the end, the existence of immutability is vital for the salvation of our very souls. Truth is essentially immutable since it refers to universal concepts (“truth”, “charity”) or historical events (Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate), and these obviously never change. Truth is our only true guide in a changing world and the basis of all truth is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Immutable Truth Himself.
Rafael Xavier Gonzalez studied Theology, Philosophy, Latin and Greek in two seminaries, one in Spain and another in Peru, specializing in Thomism, Suarism, and Molinism. He has lectured at varied parishes and centers on approved Marian apparitions. Rafael is also a veteran of the Iraq war. He is currently a teacher in a classic liberal arts high school and an adjunct professor of philosophy.