Tübinger Forum für Wissenschaftskulturen

What Is Left of Being Human?

On the Anthropology of Trans- and Posthumanism


July 13 and 14, 2022

Neue Aula, Großer Senat
72074 Tübingen

The promise of a New Human is at least as old as St. Paul’s call to put on a new self (Eph. 4:22). In the 19th and 20th century, several ideologies took up this idea. They all claimed to cultivate what they considered to be an improved, more moral, more intelligent, happier type of human being. It appears that today the myth of a New Human returns in the guise of trans- and posthumanism.

Whereas the ideologies of the 19th and 20th century employed mainly political and social means, transhumanism relies on technological optimization. According to this view, “human nature” needs to be enhanced – or even overcome – by new methods and tools such as nanotechnology, pharmaceutical manipulation, and implants. Critical Posthumanism, on the other hand, aims to question humanism and its anthropocentric tendencies. Technology is seen as a tool for dissolving traditional forms of identity and distinctions such as the one between human and non-human agents.

Both trans- and posthumanism have recently attracted significant interest and have grown into popular, well-organized movements. However, the reactions to their proposals range from euphoric affirmation to dystopian pessimism. Transhumanism has been criticized for its simplistic account of human beings and for overlooking its social and political implications. By contrast, posthumanism fails to articulate a clear-cut alternative to humanist anthropology.

During the conference, prominent advocates as well as opponents of trans- and posthumanism will engage in a critical dialogue. They will explore a broad spectrum of questions such as:

  • How do trans- and posthumanism relate to traditional humanist values and concepts?

  • In what ways might embodiment pose a challenge to the transhumanist vision?

  • Can morality be the subject of „enhancement”?

  • What political consequences does the technological transformation of human beings entail?

  • And what is left of anthropology as a discipline?

The conference is open to the public and will take place in presence. We highly encourage students and colleagues from all disciplines to join us. No application required. Please contact michael.herrmannspam prevention@tfw.uni-tuebingen.de should you like to participate via zoom.

Conference Program

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

14:00–14:30 Michael Herrmann

14:30–15:30 Stefan Herbrechter (Heidelberg)
                       Perfectibilities, or, How (Not) to Improve Humans

16:00–17:00 Steve Fuller (Warwick)
                      Kant between Swedenborg and Linnaeus:
                     A Trans/Human Fork in the Enlightenment's Legacy

17:30–18:30 Cheryce von Xylander (Lüneburg)
                       On the Metaphysical Conceit of Making like a Human

Thursday, July 14, 2022

 10:30–11:30 Christopher Coenen (Karlsruhe)
                       Progressive Future Bodies: In Defence of Early Transhumanism     

12:00­–13:00 James Hughes (Boston)
                       A Social Democratic Approach to the Politics of Moral Enhancement

14:30­–15:30 Thomas Fuchs (Heidelberg)
Transhumanism and Embodiment. On the Prospects for “Mind uploading“

16:00–17:00 Stefan Lorenz Sorgner (Rome), via Zoom
                       We have always been cyborgs

17:30–18:30 Paolo Benanti (Rome), via Zoom
                       Humans and Machines: A Blurring Distinction in the Digital Age

The Speakers

Stefan Herbrechter is one of the most influential proponents of Critical Posthumanism, a line of thought which aims to deconstruct humanism and anthropocentrism. He has held teaching positions in Leeds, Heidelberg, and Coventry. Dr. Herbrechter is the author of Posthumanism – A Critical Analysis (2013), an important introduction to the topic, and is one of the directors of the Critical Posthumanism Network.

Steve Fuller holds the Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology at the University of Warwick. He is Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and Senior Research Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg: Cultures of Research. Prof. Fuller has written over 20 books on diverse topics. He is interested in how we are redefining our notion of what it means to be human in light of modern technological progress. His most important publications on transhumanism include Preparing for Life in Humanity 2.0 (2012) and The Proactionary Imperative: A Foundation for Transhumanism (2014).

Cheryce von Xylander is Guest Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sciences of Art at the Leuphana University Lüneburg. She has a broad interdisciplinary background in cognitive science, philosophy of science, and history. Dr. Xylander has taught in Darmstadt and Berlin. Her research focuses on the historicity of concepts and subjectivity within the context of digital transformation.

Christopher Coenen works at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) within Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). He heads the ITAS research group “Life, Innovation, Health and Technology” and he is KIT’s expert on the topic of ‘human enhancement’. Coenen is as the editor-in-chief of the journal ‘NanoEthics: Studies of New and Emerging Technologies’. Currently, he also coordinates the transnational NEURON-ERANET research project FUTUREBODY on the future of human corporeality in light of neurotechnological progress.

Martina Heßler holds the chair for History of Technology at the Technical University of Darmstadt. She is an expert in the field of Historical Anthropology of Technology and has taught in Munich, Potsdam, and Aachen. Currently, Prof. Heßler is investigating the issue of emotional attachment to technological objects, the history of the idea of humans as „faulty” beings and the narrative of substituting humans by machines.

James Hughes is one of the most well-known transhumanists. From 2004 to 2006, he was executive director of the World Transhumanist Association (now Humanity+) and in 2004 he founded (with Nick Bostrom) the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). Sociologist by education, Dr. Hughes belongs to the very few transhumanists who address the social and political consequences of the movement. In his book Citizen Cyborg (2004): Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future, he argues for a „democratic transhumanism”.

Thomas Fuchs is Karl Jaspers Professor for Philosophy and Psychiatry at the Department of General Psychiatry at the University of Heidelberg. He works at the intersection between phenomenology, neuroscience, and psychology. He is a resolute opponent of transhumanist anthropology. In his Verteidigung des Menschen (2020), Prof. Fuchs argues against the monistic ontology of information and the understanding of the brain as an input-output machine. Instead, he proposes an anthropology that places corporeal experience at the center of human existence.

Stefan Lorenz Sorgner is considered the leading advocate of transhumanism in Germany. He is the co-founder of the Beyond Humanism Network. His main research interests include Nietzsche’s philosophy (whom Dr. Sorgner sees as a precursor to transhumanist thinking), philosophy of music and ethics of emerging technologies. He currently teaches at the John Cabot University in Rome.

Paolo Benanti is a Franciscan friar and Professor for Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He is particularly concerned with the anthropological and ethical implications of technological innovation. Prof. Father Benanti was appointed ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope Francis where he serves as an expert on technological matters. He has also assisted the Italian government on several occasions with the development of a national strategy for dealing with the opportunities and challenges of Artificial Intelligence.


Organization: Michael Herrmann, Aleksandar Georgiev