Günther Anders: Prometheanism in an Age of Accelerated Possibilities

I will provisionally call it ‘Promethean shame’ for myself. I understand this to mean the ‘shame when confronted by the “humiliatingly” high quality of fabricated things (selbstgemachten Dinge).’

—Diary entry, Günther Anders

Technics and Technology have been a force in human existence from the beginning, a notion Günther Anders reminds us is because we are born unfinished, as beings who need to make themselves with the help of artifice in order to be at home in the world.1 Anders who in the wake of Martin Heidegger, a man who was for a short time married to Hannah Arendt, would remain for the most part an unknown in the English speaking world (and, even now, one is hard pressed to find translations of his works from German into English). And, yet, his work is slowly gathering a following and resurgence, a man whose works align with such luminaries as Zygmunt Bauman, Thierry Bardini, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Veit Erlmann, Roberto Esposito, Maurizzio Lazzarato, Jean-Luc Nancy and Bernard Stiegler. A man who wrote on the impact of technology and technics in the lives of humans.

As Christopher John Müller in his study of Anders work Prometheanism: Technology, Digital Culture and Human Obsolescence  remarks it is in the world of Anders that the challenge to which our present philosophical turn to technology in responds, and consists in ‘taking conceptual account of the extent to which, in increasingly explicit ways, technology defines and redefines the human and does so downstream from the point at which a given technological creation was brought into effect’.1 That humans have been torn out of nature and the natural environment, developed artifice and artificial habitations to defend themselves against the dangerous environmental worlds surrounding it. Devising artificial prosthesis, tools, and appendages to support its own lack and nakedness in the face of a hostile and chaotic environment is part of what Stiegler following such thinking as Anders terms the denaturalization of the human: “this means that ‘“human nature” consists only in its technicity, [only] in its denaturalisation’. And with this notion we have, in effect, arrived back at our point of departure: Anders’s suggestion that ‘artificiality is the nature of human beings and their essence instability’. (P: KL 310)

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