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The Labor of the Inhuman, Part II: The Inhuman

Continued from “The Labor of the Inhuman, Part I: Human”

Enlightened humanism as a project of commitment to humanity, in the entangled sense of what it means to be human and what it means to make a commitment, is a rational project. It is rational not only because it locates the meaning of human in the space of reasons as a specific horizon of practices, but also and more importantly, because the concept of commitment it adheres to cannot be thought or practiced as a voluntaristic impulse free of ramifications and growing obligations. Instead, this is commitment as a rational system for navigating collateral commitments—their ramifications as well as their specific entitlements—that result from making an initial commitment.

Interaction with the rational system of commitments follows a navigational paradigm in which the ramifications of an initial commitment must be compulsively elaborated and navigated in order for this commitment to make sense as an undertaking. It is the examination of the rational fallout of making a commitment, the unpacking of its far-reaching consequences, and the treating of these ramifications as paths to be explored that shapes commitment to humanity as a navigational project. Here, navigation is not only a survey of a landscape whose full scope is not given; it is also an exercise in the non-monotonic procedures of steering, plotting out routes, suspending navigational preconceptions, rejecting or resolving incompatible commitments, exploring the space of possibilities, and understanding each path as a hypothesis leading to new paths or a lack thereof—transits as well as obstructio­ns.

From a rational perspective, a commitment is seen as a cascade of ramifying paths that is in the process of expanding its frontiers, developing into an evolving landscape, unmooring its fixed perspectives, deracinating any form of rootedness associated with a fixed commitment or immutable responsibilities, revising links and addresses between its old and new commitments, and finally, erasing any image of itself as “what it was supposed to be.”

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