The Anthropocene concept emerged from questions raised by scientists about whether human activity has ushered in a new and perilous geological age. The term migrated into the humanities and social sciences and now involves a proliferation of metanarratives about anthropogenic disruptions to systems that support life on this planet. This article develops an interpretive framework drawn from Hans Blumenberg’s theories of myth and metaphor, philosophical anthropology, and philosophy of history to address how Immanuel Kant’s fourth question, “What is the human being?,” has reemerged in the Anthropocene, and to assess which narratives tend to best reflect realistic responses to the current crisis. In contrast to the mythical species-subject Anthropos, Blumenberg’s minimal anthropology characterizes humans as having a permanent bioanthropological need for orientation that requires cultural compensation, including partial reliance on metaphor and myth. As an interpretive optic, this anthropology has the resources to deflate narrative excess. In addition, Blumenberg’s philosophy of history can shed light on how the Anthropocene is both unprecedented yet not entirely new insofar as it addresses problems or questions suppressed by modernist progress myths. Through the prism of a minimal anthropology and an application of Blumenberg’s philosophy of history, this article explores those questions and presents criteria for distinguishing between harmless narratives and unrealistic, dangerous myths, such as ecomodernist fantasies of controlling the Earth system.
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February 1, 2022
Research Article| February 01 2022
Working on the Myth of the Anthropocene: Blumenberg and the Need for Philosophical Anthropology
New German Critique (2022) 49 (1 (145)): 97–130.
Vida Pavesich; Working on the Myth of the Anthropocene: Blumenberg and the Need for Philosophical Anthropology. New German Critique 1 February 2022; 49 (1 (145)): 97–130. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-9439643
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