From Automata to Transhumans - Debating Human Nature and its Limitations 1600-2000 1600-2000- VivaMente Conference
An important part of the contemporary debate on human nature was shaped by debates taking place in early modern Europe in the attempt to remove the animal part of the human mind by turning it into an abstract monad while converting the body into a machine. Humans gained the promise of certain and universal knowledge (mathesis universalis) but began thinking of themselves as automata, bereft of individuality and real agency. This edition of the Vivamente Conference in the History of Ideas intends to shed new light on the early modern origins of automata, to discuss the impact of their legacy throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and, finally, to ask the fundamental question of how to update our knowledge – in both theoretical and moral terms – concerning automata and automation as we are confronted by a staggering and constantly evolving volume of information and innovations on the subject. Discussions will also address the field of post-human and trans-human speculations. The future is looming with the possibility of increasingly sophisticated mechanical minds in addition to the more familiar – both philosophically and technologically – mechanical bodies.
Thematically, the conference will address four major topics:
Mechanical philosophy and mechanistic thinking (origins, limits, perspectives, applications, ethical challenges);
Transcending the human in medicine, science, philosophy, art, literature, religion, etc.;
Normal, pathological and beyond: monsters, hybrid creatures and transhuman developments;
Images and metaphors of the above.