Steel – 12/1 OPTIONAL

Karl Steele’s chapter is largely concerned with shaking up preconceived notions of humans and their superiority. He cites several examples (like Marx pg. 5 and Augustine pg. 6) which insist on human beings’ superiority over all living things. Throughout the semester we have investigated ways in which “human” can (and should) be approached without such a bias. Do you think that the modern world still holds on to the opinion that humans are superior to all, or do you think that we are slowly moving away from this belief system? If not, how can we begin to move away from this bias?

4 thoughts on “Steel – 12/1 OPTIONAL

  1. The ideals versus the actions of the modern world widely contrast. I think the modern world is starting to understand that humans are not superior to all, yet they still act like they are superior. This reflects in humans actions towards the environment and even towards one another. As humans begin to utilize other resources to improve themselves, creating the posthuman, they become more debted to their surroundings, possibly feeling less superior and more equal.
    Besides all of this, this article greatly helped me further develop connections between these works of medieval literature and the concept of posthuman, deepening my understanding of our class discussions and analysis.

  2. To answer your question plainly: yes, I do believe the modern world believes humans are superior to all and we are moving, negligibly (if at all) away from this belief system. Humans still domesticate livestock, only to eat them or to have them produce some market good item to use. Humans still belief they have control over mother nature in the sense that they don’t (for the most part) believe global warming is a reality. Even within the scope of humanity in the modern world, some humans believe they are superior to one another. Steele said,
    “the question of human recognition, and the accompanying question of who or what will be treated “as animals,” will always be answered in ways that fall unequally and cruelly on the most vulnerable” (7-8). By the most vulnerable, he specifically cites woman, the poor, Jews, and Muslims, which in our society today, some humans still deem these groups as able to be controlled and they are superior.

    However, I do believe that we are slowly (as slow as slow can get) moving away from this belief system. Some people are vegetarian because they see animals as just as meaningful as humans, some people believe climate change is a real thing and do not try to pretend like something larger is not at stake due to our decisions, and not everyone is a racist/sexist/anti-semite etc…

    The article overall is helpful in the sense that it delineates the essentials of medieval post-humanism through the animal, something we have seen time and time again in the medieval works we have looked at.

  3. While claims about our increasing concern with the welfare of animals or nature are just, I would argue that we are as egocentric as ever. The fact that we insert ourselves in positions of activism for these things shows our sense of superiority (and responsibility) for these creatures and nature. One of Steele’s examples of our sense of superiority is in terms of immortality. Religion grants us the ability to “live forever” and is almost exclusively granted to humans and no other animals. This ideal may be attributed to the posthuman imposition of technology. Many of the modern texts we’ve dealt with in this class have been concerned with the power of technology, and the possibility of our superiority being overthrown by it. While we are incredibly dependent on technology in contemporary society, I agree with Kristy’s idea that as of now, we hold superiority over it but are very slowly moving away from that belief. In the futuristic “Battlestar Galactica” the cylons do question their immortality and relationship with God, however, today’s society rarely considers the afterlife of our devices we’ve become so dependent on.

  4. As said above, I agree that humanity as a whole is very egocentric, with man superior to all things human and technology based, where all the ‘inferior’ creations serve to support the ‘superior’ mankind. While this has been changing, though very slowly, we can see humanity growng out of this selfishness. Men were at the top of the supposed pyramid of creation, and only white men for a long while, now that is no longer such an exclusive club despite issues like racism and ideas of gender still cause issues.
    Science is showing us more and more tht animals can empathize, can learn, that thye mourn, and possess a number of very ‘human’ traits. The idea of what makes us ‘human’ is changing, whales communicate and have regional dialects, various species of apes use tools, bees can communicate and learn, all things that even fifty years ago would have seemed preposterous. I am sure that in another fifty or a hundred years that even our AI will be looked at in a similar manner. It is all about bias, and once that bias is addressed, it can be moved past.

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