Beyond Disintegration - Enactivism and Posthumanism
Marilyn Stendera (Deakin University)

May 5, 2022, 4:15pm - 6:15pm
Philosophy Discipline, University of Melbourne

Babel G03 (Lower Theatre)
Professor's Walk
Melbourne University 3010


University of Melbourne

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The enactive approach is becoming increasingly influential within the philosophy of cognition, to the extent that it is now one of the dominant models of embodied cognition. This paper argues that the rise of enactivism is particularly relevant to post- and transhumanist discourses, and vice versa, because their concerns intersect and conflict in vital ways.  Enactivism defines life and cognition in terms of autonomy; that is, it posits that living systems generate and maintain themselves as porous yet bounded self-unities. This sets up a delicate balance – both for the enacting system and for enactivism itself – between the dual imperatives of adaptive self-creation and homeostasis. The system must change constantly in order to sustain itself, yet there is a limit to the system’s flexibility. Beyond a certain point, change means disintegration, and disintegration means death. This balance itself resonates within post- and transhumanist discourses, in the tension between the promise of radical transformation and the concern about losing something valuable in the process. These discourses, however, also challenge enactivism’s ability to capture the full potential of the kinds of systems it describes. How do we determine the limits of morphological flexibility for cognisers as complex as ourselves? Are those limits fixed or malleable – and must disintegration always mean death, or can it facilitate redefinition?  The discussion will use three core enactivist themes – organisational integrity, embodiment and precarity – to draw out the kinds of tensions and intersections that enable enactivism and posthumanism to problematise one another.  

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