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Category
Speakers Luczewski, Michal
Year 2018
See also Oxford University Podcasts

Łuczewski - Conversion, Coercion, and Transhumanism

Michał Łuczewski

JPII Centre, Warsaw 

“Conversion, Coercion, and Transhumanism”

The aim of my talk is to show how transhumanism, as a thoroughly modern phenomenon, is transforming what can be called the experiential infrastructure of Christianity. In this way it reframes the contemporary moral landscape. Transhumanism is based in three distinct processes characteristic of modernity: (a) rendering evil no longer evil (Odo Marquard), (b) developing the vision of time as infinite progress (Reinhart Koselleck), and (c) immanentization of the eschaton (Eric Voegelin). With regard to the question of evil from traditionally distinguished forms of evil (following Leibniz) – physical, moral, and metaphysical – modernity underscores physical evil. Its main goal is to overcome pain, suffering, and ultimately death. This process has far-reaching consequences for Christianity with its guiding principle of conversion (René Girard, Bernard Lonergan, Karol Wojtyła). Christianity is premised on the dramatic vision of social reality as torn apart between good and evil. The drama is set in motion by a universal calling to conversion, from evil to good, from darkness to light. Let us distinguish three elemental experiences that are conditions of the possibility of conversion: (a) bodily suffering (the level of physical reality); (b) facing the Other (the level of morality), and (c) conscience (the level of metaphysics; see Ricœur’s Oneself as Another). Put differently, conversion is possible only as an answer to psychical, moral, and metaphysical evil.

Once transhumanism renders physical evil no longer evil and obliterates the vision of death, conversion is no longer a viable option. In order to dismantle the experiential infrastructure of Christianity, transhumanism does not have to be openly anti-Christian. By not being so, it can actually undermine Christianity more effectively. Paradoxically, however, whereas transhumanism renders evil no longer ‘evil’, it resurrects the very notion of evil on a different level. While physical evil is being eliminated, two other dimensions of evil collapse into the psychical one. Traditional multilayered understandings of evil become flattened, and at the same time the role of physical evil is dramatized. It now also encapsulates moral and metaphysical evil. Suffering gains an almost demonic quality, and enhancing or transcending the human body becomes, then, an angelic calling. Those who overcome human limits acquire higher moral status, and those who don’t appear to be immoral. In consequence, transhumanism re-invokes a pre-Christian vision that associated physical suffering with moral guilt and god’s – or the gods’ – condemnation. In the final instance the progressive worldview of modernity, which is embodied by transhumanism, produces its dark, Gnostic counterpart wherein conversion is replaced with transgression.

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