Post Humanism – New Things With Brains

NedNotes - Post-Humanism -- Things with BrainsPost-Humanism — I am fascinated by thinking about what will create the next generation of things with brains.

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Karl Rahner and Post-Humanism

Posted by on Apr 26, 2008 in ethics, posthuman, theology | 0 comments

Symbol & Cyborg: Karl Rahner’s Theology of the Body and Post-Organic Embodiment One of the more interesting features of Karl Rahner’s influential “Theological Investigations” is that it is, at heart, a theology of symbols. In fact, Rahner writes that “die ganze Theologie, ohne nicht auch wesentlich eine Symboltheologie zu sein.” God comes to our life on earth through symbols, and we respond to the divine through the use of symbol. Today, our human interactions are increasingly articulated in electronic representation, and Rahner’s symbolic emphasis seems especially applicable. After all, all software “behavior” and “virtual” activity is essential symbolic: as many have noted, computer user interfaces are essentially composed of layers of metaphorical symbols embedded within a framework of electronic emulations. This symbolic framework may eventually allow our electronic creations to find embodiment in post-human form, and in fact, to transcend their origins entirely. As a theologian of the body in symbol and as symbol, Rahner is thus uniquely suited to help us understand the theological implications of post-organic embodiment, symbol, and cybernetic transcendence. Within Rahner’s theology, his study of symbol leads naturally towards an understanding of God’s symbolic expression of transcendence in Jesus Christ. The body is the preeminent symbol, yet as we will find when we consider new modes of embodiment, it is necessary to clarify how Rahner’s theology of symbol continues to apply. Finally, a thoughtful comprehension of symbol and theology may lead us to the theme of ultimate transcendence, and emphasize possible outcomes of theological self-conceptions within a post-organic Rahnerian worldview. Yet if we are to apply Rahnerian theology to the post-organic, we must first clearly understand the nature of symbol.   i. Symbol What is a symbol? Is it the same as a sign? A sign is often simply a pointer to another thing: words are signs. Of course, the endeavor of speaking in signs about symbolic or signaling action is itself fraught with the peril of representation. These signs all point to other signs, until indeed Il n’y a pas dehors texte. Signing action result in simply a circular understanding of language and theology in which all founded meaning is mutable at best. Rahner himself notes, “Die Übergänge sind hier fließend.” However, in this realm of variability, theological constructs can still be attempted, and self-styled “a/theologians” have found fertile avenues towards a “deconstructed God” that emerges within the very polyvalency of signs. Rahner seems to anticipate this mode of theologizing by explicitly calling out the inevitability of signs that lead to derivative modes of being, or “abkünftigen Weisen des Symbolseins.” Yet he also directly rejects the usefulness of “Symbolseins” as a way to understand the reality of God in our world. Throughout his work, instead of embracing the “Vertretungssymbol” or “Symbolsein” (the same lesser sign in which future generations of Derridaen rable will revel), Rahner instead chooses to emphasize something he calls “Realsymbol.” Symbol, for Rahner, is clearly more than sign. In German and English, “symbol” comes from the Greek etymology sym-ballein, or ‘thrown together.’ Thus, the original meaning of symbol was of two things joined to create a type of bridge. A symbol is a thing which comes from two directions at once, and thus is able to point back towards both of its origin points. Signs are generally understood to have a...

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