BSP Podcast: Matt Pritchard and Philip Tovey on Human Augmentation

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Matt Pritchard and Philip Tovey presenting a paper from our 2022 annual conference.

Season 6 episode 142: 19 May 2024

Season 6 continues with another presentation from our 2022 annual conference, Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Spatiality. This episode features a presentation from Matthew Pritchard, University of Oxford and Phil Tovey, Independent UK.

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Matt Pritchard and Philip Tovey
‘Ecophenomenological Perspectives on Human Augmentation’

Just as the Anthropocene marked a geological epoch that, for the first time, would be attributed to actions according of a single species, Homo Sapiens is on the precipice of another epochal transition through Human Augmentation (HA) whereby, through technological alteration, a single species is decoupling its own evolutionary trajectory from that of its natural environment. Through HA we should anticipate major disturbances concerning the classification of what it is to be human- taxonomically, socially and importantly, phenomenologically – owing to the intrinsic relational basis of our evolutionary-biological models with nature and their effects on perceptions of selfhood. By extension, this affects what it is to be a non-human and therefore has important ethical implications beyond an anthropocentric purview, to a more-than-human world whose only opportunity for augmentation arises in tight ecological symbiosis with its natural ecosystem. HA therefore represent a sociotechnical pivot point whereby the construct human is existentially disrupted through assimilation with either the purely machinic (i.e., Cyborgs) or the animalistic (i.e., Chimeras) both leading to what we coin as ‘ecophenomenological self-disruption’. We highlight HA’s self-disruptive potentiality through re-examining Wood’s (2001) rich dimensions of ecophenomenology – the plexity of time and the boundaries of thinghood – to reveal how these technological augmentations in our physiological structures (including our sensory modalities) threaten to either entrench ontological anthropocentrism or offer a promising opportunity to transition away from it towards ecocentrism.

Biographies: Dr Matt Pritchard is Visitor to the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University. He has BA and MPhil degrees in Archaeology and Anthropology from Cambridge University and a DPhil in Embodied Cognition and Religious Naturalism from Oxford. He was Co-Chair of the Civil Service Environment Network for 2021/22 and is on the Government Office for Science’s Expert Advisory Group for Resilience. || Philip Tovey is the Head of Futures in the public sector organisation. He holds a MSc by Res in Policing from Canterbury Christ Church University and his research focuses on the cognitive phenomenology of time and futurity. Phil is a strategic partner of the University of Bristol’s ESRC Centre for Sociodigital Futures, whereby he focused on interdisciplinary research to address environmental issues of strategic importance to the UK.

Further Information:

This recording is taken from our Annual UK Conference 2022: Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Sociality (Exeter, UK / Hybrid) with the University of Exeter. Sponsored by the Wellcome Centre, Egenis, and the Shame and Medicine project. For the conference our speakers either presented in person at Exeter or remotely to people online and in-room, and the podcast episodes are recorded from the live broadcast feeds.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?