Advisory Board

Dr. David Roden

David Roden, Ph.D. is Research Affiliate and Associate Lecturer in Philosophy at The Open University.
His published work has addressed the relationship between deconstruction and analytic philosophy, philosophical naturalism, the metaphysics of sound, and posthumanism. He wrote a chapter for the Springer Frontiers volume The Singularity Hypothesis: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment and is currently completing Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human to be published by Acumen in 2013.
His papers include The Disconnection Thesis, Posthumanism and Instrumental Eliminativism, In and Out of Control: Self-Augmenting and Autonomous Technique, Cylons in the Original Position: Limits of Posthuman Justice, Radical Quotation and Real Repetition, Sonic Art and the Nature of Sonic Events, and The Subject.
David’s current research addresses the philosophical issues raised by contemporary discussions of posthumanism and transhumanism within a systematic metaphysical framework.
He is developing a position which he refers to as “speculative posthumanism” (SP) in contradistinction to “critical posthumanism”. Critical posthumanists claim that current technoscientific change “deconstructs” the philosophical centrality of the human subject in epistemology, ethics and politics. SP, by contrast, is not a metaphilosophical but a metaphysical thesis. It articulates the claim that descendants of current humans could cease to be human by virtue of a history of technical augmentation and that this possibility is significant. SP is compatible with naturalistic or “anthropological” humanism but not with transcendental forms of humanism — a distinction mostly elided by critical posthumanists. He also distinguishes SP from the ethic of transhumanism advocated by proponents of technological enhancement. One can, like some advocates of technological relinquishment, hold that posthuman life is a significant but not desirable possibility.
SP raises several philosophical questions about posthuman difference. These form the focus of his work:
1) How wide is the relation descendant of current humans? What kinds of hypothetical non-human (synthetic lifeforms, artificial intelligences, uploaded minds, etc.) should be viewed as wide descendants?
2) Does the possibility of ceasing to be human entail a human nature? If so, does this require posthumanists to be essentialists about the kind human? Can some conception of human nature be accommodated within anti-essentialist metaphysical schemes?
3) How do ideas of posthuman transcendence (e.g. in Vinge’s notion of the technological singularity) compare with traditional conceptions of transcendence developed in other philosophical movements or traditions (e.g. speculative realism, negative theology, and postmodern ethics)?
4) What is the semantic and epistemological status of claims about posthumans made by pre-posthumans?
5) Given an answer to 4, is the understanding of the posthuman predicated on synthetic undertakings in areas like artificial intelligence? If so, does a theoretical interest in posthumanity entail a practical interest in creating it?
6) Assuming the need for a partially synthetic approach, David is currently developing speculative models of posthuman life based on current ideas in cognitive science and phenomenology. For example, while propositional attitude psychology is arguably part our current cognitive structure, it could be instrumentally eliminated by removing the vehicles of content required for propositional attitudes. He argues that this could occur as a result of cognitive enhancements which obviate the need for lingua-formal modes of representation and that this scenario furnishes one scenario for posthuman transcendence. He will also consider the methodology for hypothetical phenomenologies of posthuman lifeforms — e.g. multiply or heterogeneously-embodied entities or “multi-threaded” forms of consciousness.
7) Finally, David will consider the scope for ethical and epistemological incommensurability between humans and posthumans and its ethico-political consequences for contemporary debates between the advocates of human enhancement and their bio-conservative critics.
David earned his BA with Honors in Philosophy at the University of Bristol in 1982. He earned his Ph.D. with the thesis “The Metaphysics of the Deconstructive Text” at Cardiff University in 1999.
Read his LinkedIn profile. Read his blog enemyindustry: philosophy at the edge of the human.