6th JCU Posthuman Studies Workshop
Animaloids and Plantoids
70th Anniversary of Transhumanism
Dedicated to the Huxley Family
Increasing attention for animals and plants by ethologists, biologists and cognitive scientists has developed from early modernity, that is to say, since exploration into worlds other than the human has been used as a way to overcome anthropocentrism. Starting with explorers like Sybilla Merian in the XVII century, or writers like Johann Wolfgang Goethe in the XVIII century, Alexander von Humboldt and Ernst Haeckel in the XIX century, we find more and more scholars involved in the new field of inquiry, among whom biologist Julian Huxley and his brother Aldous, being fascinated in different ways by living beings that show surprising factors of intelligence and beauty.
Julian Huxley was central for the development of posthuman studies, as he coined the term transhumanism in the year 1951. 2021 is the 70th anniversary of transhumanism, which we celebrate with this event. In his article “Knowledge, morality, and destiny” he defined transhumanism as follows: “Such a broad philosophy might perhaps best be called, not humanism, because that has certain unsatisfactorily connotations, but transhumanism. It is the idea of humanity attempting to overcome its limitations and to arrive at fuller fruition; it is the realization that both individual and social developments are processes of self-transformation” (Huxley 1951, 139).
Julian Huxley had a brother who is at least as well-known as he himself, Aldous Huxley. Between Julian Huxley’s affirmative considerations concerning the impacts of technologies and those of his brother Aldous Huxley, the author of the critical novel Brave New World, there are significant tensions in terms of content. Julian Huxley also shares his fundamental evolutionary approach with his grandfather Thomas Henry Huxley, who distinguished himself as Darwin’s supporter. He was known as Darwin’s bulldog. Julian Huxley’s half-brother, Andrew Fielding Huxley, was also active as a natural scientist. He was a university professor of biology in London and even won the Nobel Prize, but is currently less well known than the other family members already mentioned. Julian Huxley was a university professor in London, too. In addition, he was the first general director of the UNESCO who made a significant contribution to the first Declaration of Human Rights.
During the 20th century, evolutionary biology, embryology and evo-devo biology developed, from Darwin’s first insights, bringing together different fields that seemed unrelated until then. The XX-century neo-Darwinism, enriched by molecular biology, has confirmed the existence of genes common to different species, and in the XXI century research on and through the new technologies has reached an enormous level of refined observation and analysis…. Now we are allowed not only to enter animals’ and plants’ environments and behaviors more in depth, but also to steal from them the secret of their ‘technologies’ which explain their survival power. This research culminates in the field “biomimicry” and the construction of hybrids which may give birth to new species of animals and plants, as they do at the Centro di Microbiorobotica in Rome (Istituto Italaino di Tecnologia), or at the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, based in Florence. The construction of hybrids also called animaloids and plantoids shows animals and plants not as objects of inquiry, but models of imitation of their techniques.
Our workshop is developed in two sections, which will be held on the 6th of March as well as on the 6th of November 2021.