Antihumanism is not, actually, a term for generalized misanthropy; it refers to the philosophical perspective which rejects humanism's elevation of human beings to a special metaphysical level of existence compared to the rest of reality. Antihumanism opposes abstract concepts of "man", "humanity" and "human nature" and posits that humans are not rationally autonomous subjects.
Martin Heidegger was a notable critic of humanism. Distancing himself from existentialism, Heidegger criticised humanism's anthropocentric approach to philosophy. Heidegger believed humans to be social and historical beings, whose will and consciousness are governed by the circumstances into which they are thrown.
"Antihumanism" was first explicitly advanced as a philosophical position by the French philosopher and Communist Louis Althusser. In opposition to Marxist Humanism, Althusser proffered a radical incongruity between the humanism of Karl Marx's early writings and the later "scientific" theory of Marx's 'Das Kapital'. Althusser claimed to find latent in Marx's writings a revolutionary rejection of the distinction between subject and object. For Althusser, Marx viewed the human individual as a product of society. His or her beliefs, desires, preferences, judgements are inculcated in him/her by society and its ideological, political and economic practices. A person's view of him-/herself as a subject whose actions can be explained by his or her beliefs and thought is not innate; rather the role of a subject is imposed upon him or her by society and its ideologies.
Althusser's student Michel Foucault is another notable thinker described as "antihumanist". Alluding to Nietzsche's proclamation of the Death of God, Foucault's 1966 book the Order of Things talks of the "Death of Man". Foucault was critical of the belief that "human nature" was at the centre of all morality. In opposition to the Enlightenment belief in the emancipatory nature of reason and knowledge, Foucault argues that it is not possible for power to be exercised without knowledge and that it is impossible for knowledge not to engender power.
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- ↑ Though some peculiar practitioners of antihumanism are in fact quite the misanthropes
- ↑ An interesting take on antihumanism and Heidegger, most of it bunk