Accepted Paper:

Anthropology's meta-problematic: approaching post-human assemblages with Gabriel Marcel  
Benjamin Evans (Deakin University)

Paper short abstract:

The concepts under discussion in this panel are challenged by Gabriel Marcel's notion of meta-problematic. This paper will use Marcel's work, as well as Kant's critical philosophy, to demonstrate their potentially dehumanising effects and defend the preservation of ontological 'mysteries'.

Paper long abstract:

A more consistent and life-affirming reaction to the incommensurability that has led to innovative re-conceptions of human beings, is a respect and even reverence for what Gabriel Marcel called meta-problematic. Some anthropologists attempt to apply the concepts associated with the ontological turn to more immediate networked and ontological re-imaginings of the self that are connected with recent developments in technology. It is ironic that what started as an attempt to validate and somehow make room for the human potential for radically different ontologies within anthropology, thus affirming (sometimes glorifying)the breadth of ontological pluralism, ultimately undermines the ethical premise that motivated the adoption of these concepts in the first place. This is thrown into relief when a plurality of ontologies is used to explore post-human assemblages connected to new technologies. This paper explores how the self and notions of being are, to borrow from Marcel, not so much 'problems' but 'mysteries'. They are 'meta-problematic' and we do not have the faculties to resolve them directly. This notion will be supported by a brief defence of anthropology's Kantian origins and the importance of critical philosophy for the discipline. The meta-problematic has powerful implications for how we approach the concepts listed in this panel (assemblage, multi-species, cyborg, dividual, post-human, etc.) and when they are applied, in an analytic sense, to the mystery of being, they have a dehumanising effect. They reduce the human being to something that can be understood directly.

Panel P11
Society 2.0: post-human assemblages and the death or rebirth of the social