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Beyond Disintegration: Transhumanism and Enactivism
chapterposted on 2022-11-29, 02:41 authored by Marilyn StenderaMarilyn Stendera
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—an umbrella term for a varied set of discourses sharing the view that our minds don’t just happen to be ‘in’ bodies, but are enabled, shaped and (at least partly) constituted by the specifics of our physicality. This chapter will argue that the rise of enactivism is particularly relevant to transhumanist discourses, and vice versa, because their concerns intersect and conflict in vital ways. 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 transhumanism to problematise one another. 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 transhumanist discourses, in the tension between the promise of radical self-transformation and the concern about taking this too far. These discourses, however, also challenge enactivism’s potential 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 integration always mean death, or can it facilitate redefinition?