December 3, 2010

Daniel Dillard: "Thoreau, Embodiment, and the Nineteenth-Century Transformation of Humanity" [CFI conference on biomedical enhancement]

Florida State graduate student Daniel Dillard now discussing his paper, "Thoreau, Embodiment, and the Nineteenth-Century Transformation of Humanity."

Dillard discusses the intellectual history of the perception of the human as an embodied creature. The posthuman requires a re-thinking of the human.

Thoreau quote: "What is man but a mass of thawing clay? The ball of the human finger is but a drop congealed. The fingers and toes flow to their extent from the thawing mass of the body. Who knows what the human body would expand and flow out to under a more genial heaven? Is not the hand a spreading palm leaf with its lobes and veins? The ear may be regarded, fancifully, as a lichen, umbilicaria, on the side of the head, with its lobe or drop. The lip -- labium, from labor (?) -- laps or lapses from the sides of the cavernous mouth. The nose is a manifest congealed drop or stalactite. The chin is a still larger drop, the confluent dripping of the face. The cheeks are a slide from the brows into the valley of the face, opposed and diffused by the cheek bones. Each rounded lobe of the vegetable leaf, too, is a thick and now loitering drop, larger or smaller; the lobes are the fingers of the leaf; and as many lobes as it has, in so many directions it tends to flow, and more heat or other genial influences would have caused it to flow yet farther."

Thoreau pre-conceived the idea of the posthuman and is thus a transitional figure: information is embodied; and that there is a connection between the body and environment (animate with inanimate). Collapse of subject and object; artificial vs. natural. Who and where are we? We are material nature. Moving past the transcendence model toward a material one.

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