The Operationalizing of ‘Man’ and Conceptual Exaptation: Sylvia Wynter’s Sociogenic Principle and Technological Externalization

27 Mar., 2024

Lecture at the American University Beirut, Department of Philosophy, 27 March 2024, Beirut, LB.

How do concepts manifest worlds such that they become inhabitable and practicable? In this talk we’ll depart from Sylvia Wynter’s historico-philosophical model that accounts for the planetary path dependencies of our present extending from long-Euromodernity (Lewis Gordon). Her model highlights the over-inflation Eurohumanist ‘Man’ as a conceptual figure, serving as a reproductive archetype orienting hegemonic modes of human activity, while her adoption of Frantz Fanon’s ‘sociogenic principle’ accounts for the existential interpellation of (external) social systems that condition the (internal) experience of being a particular human in a world. We’ll trace Wynter’s elaboration in tandem with co-emergent technological and representational developments, such that ‘sociogeny’ becomes inseparable from ‘technogeny’, ‘epistemes’ inseparable from ‘aesthetemes’ in order to account for the operationality of a once, purely abstract, conceptual figure of ‘Man’. In arguing this planetary condition compels the abolition of ‘Man’, we’ll discuss processes and means of relocalizing human self-conception through the lens of ‘exaptation’, that is as a movement of political nonadaptation to given conditions, conditions wherein all modes of environmental ‘fitness’ to have become punitive.