Robert Pepperell – The Posthuman Condition Consciousness Beyond the Brain (Extrato do texto)

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Texto em inglês nº 1

Text extracted from the book:

The Posthuman Condition Consciousness beyond the brain

Robert Pepperell

Preface to the new edition

Without wishing to claim any credit, I have detected a subtle shift in favour of the ideas offered in The Post-Human Condition since it was first published. In the mid- 1990s, when I asked an audience the question “Is consciousness something confined to the human brain?” the almost universal response was “yes”. Now I ask undergraduates the same question and a significant proportion say “no”, or at least look uncertain. I have also noted a shift in the positions adopted by some high- profile brain scientists and philosophers who are starting to accept that, perhaps, the body has a significant role in the production of higher mental functions.

Meanwhile, the increasing respect given to what is broadly called eastern philosophy has made the continuity between object and subject more readily acceptable, along with the idea of consciousness as a phenomenon that pervades all reality. At the same time a large number of technical developments, especially in genetics and cloning, have further confused the distinctions between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’. As I write, controversy is growing about the Italian researcher, Severino Antinori, who claims the first successful human clone is imminent; it may well have already been born (Sunday Times, October 20th, 2002).

Elsewhere the subjects of cultural and literary studies and social science are starting to pay attention to the emerging field of ‘posthuman studies’, with several recently published books and articles staking their claims to the rapidly expanding ground. Books such as How We Became Posthuman (Hayles 1999) have attempted to negotiate the synthesis of science fiction, cybernetics and artificial intelligence from within the tradition of literary criticism. Others, like Our Posthuman Future (Fukuyama 2002), attend to increasing uncertainty about human nature in the age of genetic manipulation and pharmaceutical engineering, and give consideration to the political and ethical implications of these technologies.

But perhaps the most significant change to have occurred in the intellectual landscape since the mid-1990s is the growth of interest in consciousness studies, and particularly the consolidation of multi-disciplinary approaches to the question of human existence, drawing on areas such as philosophy, neurology, quantum physics, art theory and spiritual traditions. In this new version I have added a subtitle, ‘Consciousness beyond the brain’, which I hope conveys the essential thesis of the book and positions it within this wider field of consciousness studies.

I have also replaced the rather speculative term ‘Post-Human’ with the now more widely accepted compound ‘posthuman’. This change in itself is the most obvious indication of the shift that has occurred since the first version was first published. This book touches on many complex intellectual and philosophical issues from a broad range of areas, and is firmly aimed at the general student rather than any specific academic discipline. This cross-disciplinary approach is both a weakness and a strength. I imagine the ideal reader to be well-informed, curious and open- minded; someone more interested in the synthesis of many diverse ideas than detailed analysis of any particular one.

Of necessity, therefore, the book includes a certain amount of generalisation, some unsupported assertions and even some imaginative speculation: things I usually advise my students to avoid. However, I have adopted this approach in the hope that the overall value of the synthesis will outweigh the deficiencies of any particular analysis. I have also tried to use, where possible, bibliographical references that are widely available and accessible, even if they are not in all cases the most recent work in the field.

Further information can be found at the Web site ‘www.post-human.net’, where comments will be warmly received. Finally, I must thank all those whose stimulating conversation, criticism and support has, in one way or another, contributed to what is written here. This book is dedicated to “Billie”, whose future is probably beyond our imagination.

Robert Pepperell, October 2002

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