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What Posthumanism Isn’t: On Humanism and Human Exceptionalism in the Renaissance

What Posthumanism Isn’t: On Humanism and Human Exceptionalism in the Renaissance

Chapter:
(p.37) One What Posthumanism Isn’t: On Humanism and Human Exceptionalism in the Renaissance
Source:
Renaissance Posthumanism
Author(s):
Kenneth Gouwens
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823269556.003.0001

“What Posthumanism Isn’t: On Humanism and Human Exceptionalism in the Renaissance” points out that much of the discourse on “posthumanism” completely overlooks the “humanist” movement that arose over 700 years ago and remains influential, noting that the term “humanism” is a routine part of Renaissance scholars’ vocabulary with a meaning that critical posthumanists seem not to know. Taking, for example, Cary Wolfe’s use of the Wikipedia entry on “humanism” as the foil for his brand of “critical posthumanism,” Gouwens slowly strips away accumulated misconceptions at the same time that he explains the historically and culturally specific uses of the Latin humanus, the Ciceronian humanae litterae, the eighteenth-century French humanisme, and the nineteenth-century German Humanismus. This grand tour of humanism—from Church Fathers, such as Augustine and Lactantius; through Renaissance figures, including but not limited to Ficino, Pico and Montaigne; to twentieth-century historians and philosophers of Renaissance humanism, ranging from Kristeller and Cassirer to Grafton, Jardine, and Copenhaver—will be required reading for anyone working in the field of posthumanism or the posthumanities.

Keywords:   human exceptionalism, humanism, posthumanism

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