Thursday, January 24, 2008

Formal Blog Post #2 (Option #3)

"Can Thought go on without a Body?," by Lyotard, is concerned with this whole idea of the "inhuman" or "posthuman." These terms have come out of this idea of the "human" becoming more and more indulged in technological advances to move forward. To me, the term "human" means the highest ranked living organism on the face of the earth. The two most important parts of the human are the mind and the soul. The mind allows for reasoning and intellect and the conscience's function is to keep everything in balance or under control. The soul sets the human apart the most, because it is the foundation of our make-up; our physical body is just built around the soul as it's house and protection. To me, the term "posthuman" means the new age or era of the human. It's the human that is supposed to be "better off"and more advanced in terms of thinking and technology.

Lyotard's definition of the "posthuman" is, "learning to manufacture a hardware capable of nourishing our software or its equivalent, but one maintained and supported only by sources of energy available in the cosmos generally" (Lyotard 14). He is basically saying that in the posthuman age one must find a way to allow our thoughts to rely on some other source that doesn't depend on the physical world to survive. The posthuman race must get rid of the body which needs the earth to survive and find some type of safe-house for thoughts that can be completely independent of the physical. It is also important to point out the language and specific words that Lyotard uses to get his point across. He uses the term "software" to refer to thoughts and the term "hardware" to refer to the body. He uses these words to get the reader to see that technology is having an impact on every field, including language and writing. He also used these terms to get the reader to see how much of an impact technology has on him/her. If the reader can understand the metaphor and identify with the terms, without being confused than he/she will see that technology has impacted his/her own way of thinking.

Even still, Lyotard is hinting at something bigger. He wants the reader to realize that this "posthuman" way of thinking has an agenda. The ultimate goal is to make humans less and less aware that the body exists, so that they will only be concerned with the thoughts of the mind. They will be unaware of the tasks that the body performs, and merely consumed in thoughts. This allows for the creator(s) of the "posthuman" ideas to have control over the users and make their bodies perform tasks to which their independent minds will be oblivious.

Twain is aware of this idea of the "posthuman" and the changes that are soon to come. Through his character of Hank Morgan, Twain portrays the "posthuman" ideas that strive for the mind's independence of the body and complete self-reliance. Twain writes,

"The newest prisoner's crime was a mere remark he had made. He said he believed that men were about all alike, and one man as good as another, bearing clothes. He said he believed that if you were to strip the nation naked and send a stranger through the crowd, he wouldn't tell the king from a quack doctor, nor a duke from a hotel clerk. Apparently here was a man whose brains had not been reduced to an ineffectual mush by idiotic training. I set him loose and sent him to the Factory" (Twain 167).

Of course Hank would like the ideas of this prisoner, because they sum up the whole idea idea of "posthumanism." This prisoner is allowing his thought to be independent of his body and he forgoes the fact that he will probably be jailed for his comments. His thoughts led him and were not hindered by his body or his conscience, which tries to keep our thoughts and actions under control. The prisoner also portrays the idea of the insignificance of the body, because he describes how everyone is essentially the same. Hank likes this idea because then it will be easier for him to control these people. If they are all put on the same level it will be easier for him to have control over their bodies. If they become one unit they will no longer be able to distinct themselves from those around them. After he praises this man, he then sends him off to work in his Factory. This illustrates the process that Hank wants to take all of the people through. He wants the impoverished and uneducated commoners to become educated so that they can rise up and revolt against the monarchy. Meanwhile, he tries to tear down the monarchy with his laws and knowledge of the nineteenth century that he imposes on them. He wants the nobility to be knocked down and the commoners to rise up so that eventually they will be on the same level; there will be no distinctions between them. This way, he can control them and send them to work in his Factory, Academy, Army etc. once they become consumed in education and their thoughts. He will have convinced them that education is their ticket to freedom, while their bodies will become his servants and means of production. They will no longer be aware of the functions of the body, because the mind is consumed in the independence of thoughts.

In addition, Hank describes his dislike for the conscience, which ironically is one of the key components of a "human." He says, "If I had the remaking of man, he wouldn't have any conscience. It is one of the most disagreeable things connected with a person; and although it certainly does a great deal of good, it cannot be said to pay, in the long run; it would be much better to have less good and more comfort" (Twain 163). Hank sees the conscience as a hindrance more than a help, and that explains his "posthuman" tactics. He would much rather that these sixth century inhabitants be completely free of any type of inhibitions that would keep their bodies from being even more submissive and willing to work for him. Hank would also like to get rid of his won conscience so that he can continue to play mind games and persuade everyone to follow him without feeling guilty. Either way one looks at Hank's actions, he still appears to be obsessed with this "posthuman" mentality, which Twain uses to illustrate his ideas about where society was headed.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

I obviously got lucky this semester, and I'm grateful for that. Why do I say that? Because this is the fifth post in a row I've read which is genuinely smart and thought-provoking, regardless of its small flaws.

I'd like to note a few things to start out with. First, your way of using Twain and Lyotard together is quite effective -- you're successfully emphasizing some of the key ideas involved in "the posthuman": mind, not body; enlightenment and reason, not tradition, etc.

Let's turn briefly to your definition of the human, which focuses on the uniqueness of the human mind and soul. One obvious difficulty here is that you aren't making clear where the mind ends and the soul begins (I suspect many theologians would struggle with the same problem!).

At the risk of sounding ungrateful for quite a good blog post, let me ask this: does Twain buy into Hank's belief in the mind without the body? Does Lyotard actually believe in it either, given his strong emphasis on the idea that gender difference is absolutely fundamental to thought itself? There is much here to be admired, but you aren't _testing_ your definitions with the texts, I think.