Ivan Illich and Epimethean Man

One of the interesting aspects of many critiques is what the authors will leave out rather than in what they say as they support their annihilation of an author’s book, essay, etc. So that instead of realizing that all authors must delimit and circumscribe their horizon of thought, lest it become too great too ever say anything at all, much less everything about the subject to which their words enframe a world, they will castigate the author for not knowing enough; or, for simplifying the conceptuality; or promoting a one-sided argument to the detriment of a multi-dimensional problem, etc. All to the bias minded reader who will then willy-nilly dismiss the said author for not including what the critic in his critique spouts out as law. Of course I exaggerate, but we’ve all seen it and we’ve all either gone on and pumped the actual text in question for ourselves, or in agreement with the critic accepted his critique without a thought and dismissed the said author out right. Nothing about fairness or balance here at all. In fact one wonders how knowledge ever gets out the door to begin with in these days of the instant critic, the blogorama instant reception repeatosphere of Facebook and Twitter, where the success or demolition of an author goes hand in hand with the metrics of likes or dislikes.

Such is the life of thought, condemned to oblivion for not saying everything. But isn’t that the point of all thought: to abstract, make distinctions, circumscribe the field of discourse, select, collate, filter, analyze, describe, evaluate? Or, are we to assume that what we leave out by not including – whether through footnote or entry, the indelible stamp of conceptuality or genealogy of traces within a tradition that we will always be condemned to the hindsight of a Epimetheus? Or as Stiegler will point out in his own rendition of Heidegger’s phenomenological system, that “sharing, caring, meeting and dwelling and loving” should suffice?

Maybe Ivan Illich said it better when he states in ‘Rebirth of Epimethean Man’ – part seven of Deschooling Society to the Rebirth of Epimethean Man:

“…the primitive world was governed by fate, fact, and necessity. By stealing fire from the gods, Prometheus turned facts into problems, called necessity into question, and defied fate. Classical man framed a civilized context for human perspective. He was aware that he could defy fate-nature-environment, but only at his own risk. Contemporary man goes further; he attempts to create the world in his image, to build a totally man-made environment, and then discovers that he can do so only on the condition of constantly remaking himself to fit it. We now must face the fact that man himself is at stake.”

Isn’t this techno-capitalism on steroids? Are we not seeing capitalization as the financialization of reality, one in which we’ve all become standing-reserve in a systematic liquidation of material life by the virtualization of all commodities, even reality itself? Our new Prometheans run ahead or accelerate the processes at the detriment of every aspect of existence, dissolve all barriers and limits, re-invent capital at every stroke while the real world precariat dies or is enslaved to work the fringe salvage operations on the outskirts of this techno-utopian inferno?

Ultimately Illich would admonish us to a “new sense of the finiteness of the Earth and a new nostalgia now can open man’s eyes to the choice of his brother Epimetheus to wed the Earth with Pandora”. As well as: “We need a name for those who love the earth on which each can meet the other… and, who do so to enhance their ability to tend and care and wait upon the other…”.

Yet, the marriage of Earth and Pandora spells poison in the hands of our Promethean brothers, who would turn a blind eye to the precariousness of our oceans, our soil, our cities, our poor, our excluded… our finitude. Instead they would invent a future without humans, an inhuman world of machinic intelligence where humans are nothing more than a meme of a bygone era. Is this what we want? Are we like cattle to be herded into a future oblivion? Or, can Epimethean Man & Woman guide us out of this maze of horror?


see: http://www.preservenet.com/th…/Illich/Deschooling/chap7.html

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