Re-Centering the Human in Technology

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* Article: THE INNER SENSES AND HUMAN ENGINEERING Mark Stahlman. (Center for the Study of Digital Life). Dianoetikon 1 (2020): 1-26



"When you hear a tech executive waxing expansively about space travel, rest assured that humans are not likely to be the explorers.58 Having extravagantly failed to engineer a “better human,” the sentiment today has shifted towards “replacing” them. Replacing us. All of us. With something better. Something no longer “animal.” And, one suspects, also something no longer “rational.” The 20th century loss of our previous understanding of what it means to be human – fueled by the urge to “experiment” on us, requiring the jettison of the earlier Faculty Psychology – has stolen from us our ability to grasp what has been happening already for decades now. Happening to us all. We must retrieve that understanding or face the inevitably dire consequences.


The alternative to all this “decentering” and “deprivileging” might be to return to the beginning of our effort to understand the human psyche. Aristotle “invented” psychology in the 4th-century BC. His Peri Psyche (De Anima in Latin and On the Soul in English) is little studied today and generally unknown to the typical psychology major. Indeed, repeated and detailed discussions of Aristotle appear to be rare nowadays. Thomas Aquinas famously brought Aristotle back in the 13th-century and his Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima (along with many others, including key figures in Islamic philosophy) really has to be featured in that renewed course of study. Today, academic followers of Thomas, particularly among Spanish philosophers, while few-and-far-between, continue to keep these topics alive. Until the “Enlightenment” these were wellworn paths both in Continental and Anglophone circles. The time has come to retrieve this largely forgotten wisdom."