222931 SE Research Seminar: The Anthropological Challenge of the Digital Revolution

winter semester 2020/2021 | Last update: 30.11.2020 Place course on memo list
SE Research Seminar: The Anthropological Challenge of the Digital Revolution
SE 2

Practicing research in a field of contemporary interdisciplinary significance.

According to leading technology philosophers, the digital revolution of the 21. century represents one of the greatest civilizational challenges since the invention of phonetic writing at about 500 BC – the so called ‘axial period’ of world history. However, the main problem is not that our human intelligence might become replaced by an artificial ‘superintelligence', as the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom suggests. The real problem lies in the fact that the digital revolution goes hand in hand with a gradual assimilation of our lived experience to the probabilistic ‘rationality‘ of mindless machines. This problem is not caused by digital innovations per se. Rather it is caused by the solutionist and individualistic attitude of liberal societies toward ‘scientific and social progress’ and the resulting careless design of technological innovations. The epistemic malposition, which causes this problem, has already been analysed in 1936 in Edmund Husserl’s unfinished book on the ‘Crisis of European Sciences’. Leading philosophers of technology, like the Paris philosopher Bernard Stiegler, build on this analysis and interpret the resulting crisis as the cause of the ‘symbolic misery’ of our time –  a kind of emotional and intellectual mal-nutrition that provokes various types of cognitive proletarianization (what Stiegler calls ‘generalized stupefaction’).
This seminar will build on my forthcoming book: “Wege aus der Symoblischen Verelendung. Zur anthropologischen Herausforderung des Digitalen Zeitalters. Part I: Transhumanismus als Symptom symbolischer Verelendung.“ Its sessions will focus in particular on the question, to what extent the epochal break of the 21st century requires us to rethink basic assumptions of modern humanism and related concepts of scientific rationality.
Our investigation of this complex of problems will include a critical assessment of classical analytic discussions on the ‘philosophy of mind’ in the light of most recent anthropological discussions on the ‘Körper-Leib-Problem’ (Thomas Fuchs). Yet, it will be no less critical with regard to the competing ‘continental tradition’ and the (in socio-economic terms) fatal basic assumption of continental philosophers that we are ‘autonomous subjects’. The emergence of both traditions can be traced back to the ‘metaphysical rebellion’ of Franciscan theologians of the late middle Ages. For this reason, the quest for alternative paths into the future will draw our attention to more reliable virtue ethical and mystagogical thinkers such as Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa.

Reading and discussion.

Active participation in the class and seminar paper.

General information on exams, dates and sign-on at the department:

Bernard Stiegler, Die Logik der Sorge. Verlust der Aufklärung durch Technik und Medien (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2008)
Bernard Stiegler, The Neganthropocene. Transl, by Daniel Ross (London: Open Humanities Press 2018)
Bruno Latour, Pandora's Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP 1999) / Bruno Latour, Die Hoffnung der Pandora (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2002)
Johannes Hoff, "Transhumanismus als Symptom symbolischer Verelendung. Zur anthropologischen Herausforderung der Digitalen Revolution". In: Stephan Herzberg; Heinrich Watzka (Ed.), Schöne neue Welt, oder was kommt nach dem Menschen? (New York - Berlin: De Gruyter 2020) (https://www.academia.edu/37992578/Transhumanismus_als_Symptom_symbolischer_Verelendung_Zur_anthropologischen_Herausforderung_der_Digitalen_Revolution_Final_Version_ )
Johannes Hoff, "Rückkehr zur Wirklichkeit. Wissenschaft und Spiritualität nach der Wiederentdeckung unserer leiblichen Existenz". In: Reiner Frey; Gerd Doeben-Henisch (Ed.), Meditation und die Zukunft der Bildung 2019: Spiritualität und Wissenschaft (Weinheim - München: Beltz-Juventa 2020) (https://www.academia.edu/41370894/JoH_R%C3%BCckkehr_zur_Wirklichkeit )
Thomas Fuchs, Das Gehirn als Beziehungsorgan. Eine phänomenologisch-ökologische Konzeption (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 52016) / Thomas Fuchs, Ecology of the Brain. The Phenomenology and Biology of the Embodied Mind (Oxford: Oxford UP 2018)
Tamar Sharon, Human Nature in an Age of Biotechnology. The Case for Mediated Posthumanism (Dordrecht: Springer 2014)

The manuscript of my book will be distributed in the preparatory meeting. Further sources will be announced in the seminar.


A related seminar of SS 2021 (222931) will resume this discussion and build on the second part of the above book. However, the respective seminars can be attended independently of each other.

Group 0
Date Time Location
Mon 2020-10-05
18.00 - 19.45 SR III (Theologie) SR III (Theologie) Barrier-free Vorbesprechung und Terminvereinbarung
Fri 2021-01-29
09.00 - 16.00 eLecture - online eLecture - online
Sat 2021-01-30
09.00 - 16.00 eLecture - online eLecture - online