Ray Brassier: The Human
In the contemporary
'critical' humanities, the privileging of the human has become as suspect as every other sort of privilege. Far from being
the uncircumventable horizon for emancipatory politics, humanism is denounced as integral to a logic of domination that proceeds
from the subjugation of nature to the enslavement of all those deemed less than human.
easy to retort that this indictment of humanism follows from conflating the restrictive specification of the human (as white,
male, heterosexual, European etc.) with its generic de-specification - the human as what Alain Badiou calls 'the voided animal',
an exception that includes the unspecified part of everything: neither white nor black, neither male nor female, neither heterosexual
nor homosexual, etc. But the suggestion that universalization proceeds not by generalizing specific predicates but by subtracting
them tends to fall on deaf ears in a theoretical context where the Nietzschean equation of universalization with domination
continues to hold sway. Once the inference from exception to exclusion is made, an all-inclusive post-humanism supplants exclusionary
humanism as the politically 'progressive' optic consonant with the liberal ideal of inclusiveness that has become the humanities'
critical lodestone. This ideal stipulates a formal equivalence of human and non-human which is the ontological ratification
of capitalism's personification of things and reification of people. But it is not enough to expose the conservative kernel
underlying post-humanism's radical veneer. Counteracting it requires more than abstractly opposing the generic de-specification
of the human to its restrictive specification. What must be shown rather is how both this specification and de-specification
are conjoined in capitalism as a historically specific mode of social production. Doing so reveals how the human is neither
a metaphysical subject nor an anthropological attribute; it is the name for a possibility that cannot be located within the
difference between actuality and potentiality.