Volume 16, 1998
Dennis M. Weiss
Human Nature and the Digital Culture
The Case for Philosophical Anthropology
Within contemporary Western philosophy, the issues of human nature and our place in the cosmos have largely been ignored. In the resulting vacuum, the various subcultures that have grown up around the digital computer (the so-called "digital culture") have been actively defining and shaping popular conceptions of what it means to be human and the place of humanity in the digital era. Here one finds an implicit view of human nature that includes recurrent themes such as: an emphasis on mind as information independent of the physical body, the obsolescence of the human body, the elimination of human particularity, the malleability of human nature, and the logic and orderliness of the computer as a metaphor for the cosmos. This view of human nature shares important characteristics with Cartesian and Christian views of human nature long rejected by philosophers. A renewal of the philosophical anthropology movement — devoted to the issues of human nature and humanity's place in the cosmos — permits us to see the inadequacy of the conception of human nature implicit in the digital culture.