David Roden | Speculative and Unbounded Posthumanism

Updated: Apr 18


Saturday, April 23, 10 am Pacific Time

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Posthuman Dialectics: the Antinomy of Embodiment and Abstraction

Summary: Posthumanism needs a body. Without a notion of embodiment, it is unclear how to explore the ethical salience of the 'posthuman predicament' the place of agency within a world of accelerating technical and ecological change. On the other hand, a rigorous posthumanist and inhumanist epistemology implies that we should abstract from empirical bodies. But this subtractive move threatens to leave us without a philosophical basis for thinking embodiment. Is this an irresolvable aporia, or is there a path beyond this antinomy that can foster a posthumanist ethics and politics?

Google Drive Folder link for the Readings:

‘Speculative and Unbounded Posthumanism.’

Part 1: Disconnection and Unbounded Posthumanism  


Section one serves an introduction to the theoretical core of Speculative Posthumanism. Reading 1) develops an analytical, anti-essentialist account of the conditions for posthuman succession or ‘disconnection’. In what I term ‘Unbounded Posthumanism’ the scope for disconnection is no longer bounded by a priori constraints on agency or subjectivity. The implications of this for thinking about action in time and performance are modelled through a philosophical reflection on improvisation in reading 2) and posthuman performance compared with a more rationalist and Hegelian model of the inhuman agent found in the work of Ray Brassier. Reading 3) develops this on the more abstract plane by thinking about the work of Robert Brandom, an extensive influence on the thinking of Brassier, Negarestani and other neorationlist thinkers. The bottom line of Spectral Machines is that Brandom’s impressive theory of meaning and interpretation is fundamentally incomplete, requiring a supplementary subject (interpreter, reader or auditor) that it cannot account for. Thus, his abstract account of subjectivity or agency does not provide a secure set of constraints on posthuman possibility. Thus an unbounded posthumanism is to be preferred to the bounded posthumanism of Brassier et al. 

  1. Roden, David. "The disconnection thesis." In Singularity Hypotheses, pp. 281-298. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2012.

  2. Roden, David. "Promethean and Posthuman Freedom: Brassier on Improvisation and Time." Performance Philosophy 4, no. 2 (2019): 510-527.

  3. Roden, David. 2017. ‘On Reason and Spectral Machines: Robert Brandom and Bounded Posthumanism’, in Philosophy After Nature edited by Rosie Braidotti and Rick Dolphijn, London: Roman and Li