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Theory and Practice: Anthropotechnics


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Modern European Philosophy
MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Humanities


This course will engage in a "history of the present" by examining the effects of technology on the current understanding of what human existence means. The course will tackle with technology as a philosophical problem by showing how contemporary technologies and especially computational technologies invite to develop the very definition of what technology means (instrumentality, environmentality, artificial life). It will also show how philosophy has had to evolve in order to respond to these evolutions.

The course will pay particular attention to the evolution of the notion of humanity that has evolved from a competent user of technical objects towards a being determined by its technological environment and finally into a being who is an explicit object of anthropotechnics. We will start by examining the idea advanced by certain post- and transhumanists according to which progress in technology, especially information and biotechnology, is about to lead to an overcoming of humanity. We will show why authors such as Plessner, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Agamben, Stiegler, Hayles, Sloterdijk, Hui would not agree with this idea, and examine their different ways of analysing the the intertwining of the ideas of humanity and technics.

Course objectives

This course aims to present and critically discuss contemporary philosophical conceptions of humanity, technics, and anthropotechnics. The students will read, discuss and analyse key texts from Plessner, Heidegger, Foucault, Stiegler, Derrida, Agamben, and others. In the written assignations, they will be expeted to 1) show ability to make a critical close reading of one or two of the assigned texts and 2) develop this reading into an essay that discusses the chosen author(s) in the light of a personal research question that reflects contemporary life.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • contemporary philosophical conceptions of humanity, technics, and anthropotechnics.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • address contemporary existential and societal questions by means of philosophy;

  • write a philosophical paper that shows how a contemporary author addresses the question of anthropotechnics, and eventually how concrete anthropotechnical developments can challenge philosophical theories in return.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Seminars

The sessions will take the form of lectures by the instructor and seminar discussions of key texts. Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Take home examination (30%)

  • Paper of 4,000 words (70%)

The take home examination will consist in a critical presentation of one of the books mentioned in the reading list; in the final essay, the presentation will be expanded into a personal argumentation discussing the book.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the subtests (see above).
Class participation is a mandatory requirement for submitting the final paper.


The resit covers the following exam components: paper (70% of the grade). Papers that fail will need to be rewritten in line with instructor’s comments.
The grades for other exam component (take home examination) remains in place.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Discussion of the paper is by appointment after publication of the final grade.

Reading list

  • Extracts from Ranish and Sorgner (eds): Post- and Transhumanism: an Introduction (introduction).

  • Extracts from N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman

  • Extracts from Helmuth Plessner, Levels of Organic Life and the Human. An Introduction to Philosophical Anthropology. (Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch. Einleitung in die philosophische Anthropologie)

  • Extracts from Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. World, Finitude, Solitude (Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik. Welt – Endlichkeit – Einsamkeit) (GA Bd 29/30)

  • Extracts from Jacques Derrida, "Plato's Pharmacy", in Dissemination ("La pharmacie de Platon", dans Dissémination)

  • Extracts from Foucault:* The History of Sexuality vol 1: The Will to Knowledge* (Penguin Press, 1998) (Histoire de la sexualité tome 1: La volonté de savoir (Gallimard 1994))

  • Extracts from Stiegler: Technics and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus (Stanford UP 1998) (La technique et le temps 1: La faute d'Épiméthée (Galilée 1994))

  • Extracts from Giorgio Agamben: The Use of Bodies (L'uso dei corpi)

  • Extracts from Peter Sloterdijk, "Rules for a Human Park" (Regeln für den Menschenpark. Ein Antwortschreiben zu Heideggers Brief über den Humanismus), or You must change your life (Du Musst dein Leben ändern)

Further literature will be posted on Brightspace.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.