Günther Anders’s prolific philosophy of technology is undergoing a major revival but has never been translated into English. Prometheanism mobilises Anders’s pragmatic thought and current trends in critical theory to rethink the constellations of power that are configuring themselves around our increasingly “smart” machines.
The book offers a comprehensive introduction to Anders’s philosophy of technology with an annotated translation of his visionary essay ‘On Promethean Shame’, part of The Obsolescence of Human Beings 1 published in 1956.The essay analyses feelings of curtailment, obsolescence and solitude that become manifest whilst we interact with machines. When technological solutions begin to make humans look embarrassingly limited and flawed, new emotional vulnerabilities are exposed. These need to be thought, because our wavering confidence leaves us unprotected in an ever more (un)transparent, connected yet fractured world.
Acknowledgments/ Introduction: Thinking Finitude, Digital Technology and Human Obsolescence with Günther Anders / Part I: On Promethean Shame/ Preface to the Translation of ‘On Promethean Shame’/“On Promethean Shame” (by Günther Anders)/ PART II: Utopia Inverted - Günther Anders in the Digital Age/1. Better than Human: Promethean Shame and the (Trans)humanist Project/2. The Punishment of Prometheus/Part III: Anaesthetic Lives: Joyful Surrender to Painful Obsolescence/3. The Unsalaried Masses: Working toward a ‘World without Us’/ 4. Invisible Monsters: Your Smartphone is an Atom Bomb/ Bibliography/Index
Christopher John Müller is an Honorary Research Associate of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University and an Associate Teacher at the University of Bristol. His recent publications include ‘Desert Ethics: Technology and the Question of Evil in Günther Anders and Jacques Derrida’, Parallax (2015), 21 (1): 42-57 and ‘Style and Arrogance: The Ethics of Heidegger’s Style’, Style in Theory: Between Literature and Philosophy, ed. Ivan Callus, Gloria Lauri-Lucente, James Corby (Continuum, 2013), pp. 141-162. His work draws on Literature, Philosophy and Critical Theory to address the manner in which technological and linguistic structures shape human perception, agency and interaction.
Although Günther Anders (1902-1992) is considered one of the most important philosophers of technology and although he spent many years exiled in the US, he received scant attention within the English-speaking world itself. Christopher John Müller’s comprehensive and sophisticated presentation and his nuanced translation of Anders’ crucial writing “On Promethean Shame” should hopefully change this. It demonstrates vividly the significance of Anders as a shrewd and original thinker who was able to anticipate a number of recent societal and technological developments. Müller’s book is crucial reading for anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of the workings of our technology-driven world.
Who was Günther Anders? In this brilliant book, Christopher Müller not only reconstructs Anders’s crucial place in the history of modern philosophy of technology but shows that Anders still has much to say to us about our own postmodern technological condition. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in critical theory, philosophy of technology and the history of 20th century thought more widely.
Building upon (and exceeding) Heidegger on technology, Günther Anders diagnosed the “obsolescence of humanity.” In the posthuman, transhuman era, the Anthropocene dominates obscenity. Departing from Jean-Luc Nancy’s analysis of our technology ‘fetish,’ Christopher Müller’s Prometheanism examines our bodily relation to technology, noting our naked vulnerability, including a cultural critique of the technologies of our lives, our finitude and “Promethean Shame.”
Modernity aims at placing mankind in the position of being the divine maker of the world while at the same time condemning human beings to see themselves as out of date. German philosopher Günther Anders remains one of the best thinkers of this tragic paradox. It is a shame that his work is almost unknown in the English-speaking world. Christopher Müller’s admirable book will no doubt fill this blatant gap.
Around Anders’s ‘On Promethean Shame’, Müller [describes] the way in which contemporary technology both enhances our perception and obscures our vision, increases our capacity to control while at the same time giving rise to what Gilles Deleuze called a society of control, itself now running out of control. As an attempt at thinking these limits, and at taking thinking to the limit, Müller’s step back to Anders’s finite thinking promises to provide resources for a new thinking in and of the Anthropocene.
A book that provides a new inroad to an often overlooked thinker’s work. … When it comes to the great critics of technology Günther Anders is criminally overlooked. … With Prometheanism Müller has done a great two-fold service to Anders – he has provided a wonderful translation of part of one of the key works by Anders, while also providing several chapters that help place Anders’ thought into present discussions … Luckily Müller has done an excellent job of capturing Anders’ wit and pithiness which makes “On Promethean Shame” a pleasure to read despite its considerable pessimism. Yet, what makes Prometheanism particularly noteworthy is the second half of the book wherein Müller considers Anders “in the digital age” – as these four chapters demonstrate the continuing utility of Anders’ thought. This book is a wonderful introduction to a tragically overlooked figure!
The Librarian Shipwreck Blog
This is a very important book, and hopefully it will lead to a higher profile for [Günther] Anders’s provocative and essential thought. We owe Christopher Müller a debt of intellectual gratitude.