The Human

William Blake. 'The Sun at His Eastern Gate' 1816-1820 (detail)


Modern notions of the Human are centred on terms like reason and imagination (critique and creativity), which in turn inform the Creative Arts and the Humanities, as well as key strands of political, legal, and ethical thought. And from these defining terms important attributes of the Human are thought to be derived, such as autonomy, judgment, human rights, cosmopolitanism, even compassion for others.

In the late 20th-century this notion of the Human, which was drawn primarily from the cultures of Enlightenment and Romanticism, was itself subject to critique from a wide range of intellectual positions and traditions, such as feminism, postcolonialism, disability studies, and posthumanism. And in the present century, it has often seemed threatened by developments in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, neuro technologies, and so on.

What then is the Human? And what is the relation between ‘Western’ notions of the Human, of critique, and of creativity and those found in non-European cultures?

Image: William Blake. The Sun at His Eastern Gate 1816 - 1820 (detail) Public domain