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Froggett, L. Kaufman, W. (2002). Quixotic Humanism. Free Associations, 9(2):177-188.

(2002). Free Associations, 9(2):177-188

Features

Quixotic Humanism

Lynn Froggett and Will Kaufman

Having started from an anguished awareness of the inhuman, the meditation on the absurd returns at the end of its itinerary to the very heart of the passionate flames of human revolt. (Albert Camus, 1975c, ‘An Absurd Reasoning’)

Just as the young child passing through the depressive position is struggling, in his unconscious mind, with the task of establishing and integrating his inner world, so the mourner goes through the pain of re-establishing and re-integrating it. (Melanie Klein, ‘Mourning and Its Relation to Manic-Depressive States’)

Humanism has Faced Considerable critical challenges throughout its history. In the recent abundance of international conferences and publications exploring ‘the inhuman’ in all its forms — whether through conceptions of a machine-dominated ‘viroid life’ or contemplation of a ‘transhuman’ and ‘posthuman’ future — we can see the latest in a long series of critiques (Brewster et al., 2000; Fuss, 1996; Halberstam & Livingston, 1995; Pearson, 1997; Tester, 1995). Cyber-criticism flourishes as only one strand in the postmodern interrogation of perceived humanist certainties. There are other more overtly moralising attacks. A particularly strident example is John Carroll's Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture (1993), which implicates the entire tradition in an arrogance and paralysis that is said to define the legacy of the last century:

We live amidst the ruins of the great, five-hundred-year epoch of Humanism. Around us is that ‘colossal wreck’. Our culture is a flat expanse of rubble … We are desperate, yet we don't care much any more.

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