The Arts and the Definition of the Human: Toward a Philosophical Anthropology

By Joseph Margolis | Go to book overview
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Preface

A YOUNG FRIEND OF MINE who lives and works in Madrid and who knows my published views very thoroughly recently sent me the draft of a longish paper of his in which, rather generously, he reviews some themes of mine, featuring in particular my having said that although Homo sapiens is a “natural-kind” kind, human beings—human selves—really have no nature, are no more than artifacts, histories, hybrids of biology and culture, the sites of certain transformed powers peculiar to human possibility That single idea is as close to the pivot of my best intuition as anything I can think of It was indeed the unmarked focus of a book my young friend had reviewed, as well as the somewhat more explicit but still decentered focus of the book before you now, a notion translated into the puzzles of the art world, very far removed in an academic sense—but not really—from the moral/political topics of the earlier book.

I can't say that I've chosen this conception of the self for my own; it's nearer the truth to confess that it's captured me, as I imagine will be clear enough when you read on. It's been shaping my thought over the span of an entire career, deployed I realize in every philosophical niche that has caught my interest. So that now it's a broadly unified conception, still somewhat elusive, which, though hardly orthodox, I've tried to demonstrate is a most resourceful replacement for many a canonical philosophy able to command a sizable fiefdom.

I've been at these inquiries too long to be unaware of my direction. I've been retracing my steps back from the distinctive compartmentalizations of philosophical topics that hold sway in our time and that have put

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