Compartim amb vosaltres l’assaig sobre Ciutadania i herència cultural que va presentar la Sofia Medina a l’Institut de Filosofia del CSIC, el qual li va permetre ser seleccionada per participar a l’IPO 2019 que va tenir lloc a Roma el passat mes de maig. En aquesta prova, la Sofia va ser premiada amb una Menció d’Honor, com ja vam comentar en aquest bloc.
Cultural Heritage and Citizenship
Towards a new Enlightenment
From Kant to Kubrick
I was born in 2001, which is famously known for the movie Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick in which questions of the evolution of humanity are approached: What we are, where we come from and in which direction we are heading. From the primate to intelligent machines and the possibility of a post-human life. In this essay I intend to prove how those born in this third millennium, sons or seven great-grandsons of the enlightened cultural heritage are going to confront a new type of enlightenment that will perhaps lead to a new type of “human” being.
The conquest of the personal autonomy of mankind is the great cultural heritage of the last centuries and can be summarized in one word: Enlightenment . With it, a new vision of man appears, seen as a free and rational being from whose base is determined a political system and a whole series of values. Since approximately three centuries ago, the enlightenment tries to convey the values of humanism that we can outline in the ideals of the French Revolution: equality, freedom and fraternity.
Let’s see how the enlightened cultural heritage can be summarized in a paragraph: Enlightenment signifies the abandoning of man from his self-incurred minority. This minority means the impossibility of making use of his own intelligence without the guidance of another. One is guilty because their cause does not lie in a lack of intelligence but in decision and courage to serve himself without the tutelage of another. Sapere aude!” Have courage to use your own reason” , that’s the motto of enlightenment .”
This text by Immanuel Kant presents the illustration as the departure of man from his self-incurred minority. Until then, the human being lacks the independence and determination needed to be self-sufficient without being guided by other forces. At their legal age, a human being becomes autonomous from external dependencies. Among these dependencies, there are political relations based on the domination of man by man, but above all, the subordination of man to God: theocentrism.
According to Kant the liberation of man is achieved by overcoming natural inclinations which are a product of man’s animality, and at the same time by conquering his own independence with respect to any external instance like God or a despotic power. For modern enlightened philosophy, man must free himself from paternalism and dependence on God in the same way that he must be able to control his instincts in so far as he is a being that can and should be guided by reason. This is reflected very clearly in Kant’s following sentence: “Sapere aude”. This “dare to think” is a clear appeal to the use of reason and self-development.
From “Sapere aude” to “Dare to create”
We can see that the incapability of man is not due to lack of intelligence but lack of decision and courage to serve himself from his intelligence. Almost 250 years later, we need to update Kant’s appeal to leave the self-incurred minority by assuming the new challenges and possibilities that knowledge offers us. We are given the opportunity of a new enlightenment in which through reason and technical knowledge we can become creators of our own human nature. Assuming the Kantian “Sapere aude” we could go a step further and say “Dare to create”. This “Dare to create” gives rise to the challenge of a new enlightenment. It supposes a revision of the human condition that implies accepting the possibility of rethinking existence as it has been given us by biological evolution and assuming the risk of transforming the human being, becoming our own creators. There is no doubt that in the future this will be possible. In fact, we are already witnessing how biotechnology and artificial intelligence are transforming our vision of mankind.
The doubt that many humanistic defenders are concerned about is if whether just because we have the capability of generating a great change we must carry it out. Where would the limits for the expansion of posthuman capabilities be, in the event of their existing? If so, based on what criteria would these limits be grounded ? Should we create a series of values different from the current ones since these are linked to the present humo-sapiens? The intervention in the human condition comes from a technical capacity nonetheless it is a political, philosophical and moral matter.
The philosopher Hans Jonas recommends acting according to the principle of responsibility: we must act in such a way that the effects of our actions are compatible with the permanence of authentic human life on Earth. Will we be able to keep under control the consequences of the potential of this man of the future considering that we are ignorant of what their capabilities can be?Presumably , a posthumanistic future will force us to rethink the ideas of equality, freedom and of course citizenship.
Due to obvious and understandable reasons, trying to change the human species can seem risky and even for many a dystopian idea. However, that is because we fear progress. We call this transformation of the human being the new enlightenment because it has many similarities to the revolutionary change that the enlightenment that we have inherited since the 18th century entailed. The pre-modern citizens had the same fears that we do. Isn’t it true that our ancestors felt overwhelmed by the idea of a self-sufficient and independent human being?
We believe that by transforming the human being we are betraying our cultural heritage. However, this assumption could not be further from the truth. Being faithful to the idea of an enlightened man represented by Kant, he must be able to free himself from all those forces that enslave him in order to become independent. Consequently, we would do no more than applying the enlightened idea of Kant by freeing the human from its natural condition.
However different it may seem, in the same way the man from the XVIII century was afraid to stop depending on God, the one from the XXIst century feels the same fear and distrust towards ending dependence on human nature as we know it.
Abandoning theocentrism made possible the development of the modern man. Now that we are presented with a change from humanism to posthumanism involving both physiological and cognitive variations, we must not close our eyes with the intention of rejecting the inevitable. On the contrary, we must decide which direction to take according to the future ahead of us. Instead of fearing it we must confront it and consider on which values we want to build the human being of the future on. This implies questioning the absolute validity of our enlightened cultural heritage. Should we continue to defend the values we have inherited when having citizens that belong to a new mankind? Will we have to rethink a new vision of equality, freedom and fraternity? Will we be able to continue talking about freedom when we are designed in a laboratory? And will we be able to continue talking about equality in a world in which individuals who do not share the same nature will have to coexist together? I do not have the answer. Nonetheless I do believe that it is necessary to ask ourselves these questions.
This year I’m turning 18 years old. I will no longer be a minor, which is the same process the human experiences through the process of enlightenment. By freeing myself from the guardianship of my parents I will have to decide through which values I want to guide my life. This implies great risks, dangers and new situations to which I am not used to but above all it represents a great opportunity. It is inevitable in order to become an adult but if we approach it in a proper way it can augur the best years of our existence.
St.Peters School Barcelona
Josep Soler (Teacher)