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The Coming Prehuman (A Peculiar Relation to Life and Life-Time): Two Perspectives, "What Is Life?" Conference, University of Oregon

  • University of Oregon 70 Northwest Couch Street Portland, OR, 97209 United States (map)

In 1961, in his last published essay, “L'Oeil et l’Esprit” (“Eye and Mind”), Maurice Merleau-Ponty warned that if the reign of “thinking ‘operationally’ . . . a sort of absolute artificialism” were to be extended, we would enter into “a cultural regimen where there is neither truth nor falsity concerning man and history, into a sleep, or a nightmare, from which there is no awakening.”  Calling upon a range of thinkers as interlocutors, including Ivan Illich (spectrality), Giorgio Agamben (the shattering of forms), Erwin Schrödinger (order-from-disorder), Peter Sloterdijk (suspended animation), and Slavoj Žižek (zombie life), we locate (in)distinguishability as a singularly important criterion and 21st-century challenge, examining what seems to be a deep resemblance and mutual implicature of electro-optical media, synthetic biology, quandaries of verification, socio-political madness, and the inability to distinguish between the real and the fake, sleep and wakefulness, “life” and “Life itself,” the living and the dead.

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