The Radical Imagination: Toward Overcoming the Human

Panel of "The Radical Imagination: Toward Overcoming the Human." Photo credit: Ostin Zarse

Friday, April 27
3:15pm –5:00pm
ACT Cube, e15-001

Part of the Zooetics+ Symposium

Often reduced to a capacity of either a subject or consciousness, imagination could be thought as a way of opening up to the future and the unknown. Simultaneously being a sphere of change and trans- formation, it invents the directions of its own development and acts as a link between a human and the powers of the world. The field of imagination enables the exposure of radically impossible possibilities, introduces the perspectives of their development, and overcomes predetermined articulations and representations.

Chiara Bottici, Richard Kearney and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Respondent: Kristupas Sabolius

Chiara Bottici

Associate Professor of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College

The Imaginal and the Transindividual

In this talk, I will discuss how the concept of imaginal and its correlated the ontology of the transindividual, can help us to set up the framework for zooethics. Whereas the concept of imagination tends to be understood as an individual (human) faculty, and the social imaginary, as a (human) social context, the imaginal, as a space populated by images, that is by representations that are also presences in themselves, does not make any ontological assumptions as to the nature of the subject of imagining. As such, it is it is a better tool for thinking about zooethics, that  is, about a form of ethics that escapes the humanistic prejudice and focuses instead on the trans-individual relationships between all living beings.


Richard Kearney

Professor of Philosophy, Boston College

Beasts, Golems and Monsters: as the limits of the Human

Most human cultures from their beginnings have sought to differentiate the human from the non-human, either celebrating the Other as divine or scapegoating it as beast or monster. There are also stories of created non-human beings called Golems, treated ambivalently as either saviors or destroyers of human kind – a paradox running from Talmudic and Kabbalistic legends to the modern stories of Frankensteins and simulated cyber beings (particularly in postmodern cinema and gaming). The presentation will look at some examples of this paradoxical phenomenon of the human becoming inhuman and explore its critical implications for both poetics and ethics.


Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg

Artist and Author

Critical Imaginaries and Generative Terrains Design is a process to change an existing situation into a preferred one, suggested political scientist Herbert Simon. To  design is to project oneself into the fictional space of the future, imagining how things could be otherwise. Simon gives us one way to see humans: dissatisfied, striving, and always imagining. Now, as new technologies like synthetic biology enable certain humans to design biology to their increasingly exact specifications, we must ask whose preference is being gratified, and at what cost to other humans, other species, or to the planet? The Oxitec Friendly™ Aedes mosquito, a male engineered to produce no offspring, may be better for humans, but is it better for the mosquito that never lives? How might we imagine what other worlds might be possible? First describing my research into social imaginaries of better futures, powerful dreams that materialise in synthetic biology as objects like designed mosquitoes, I then propose the design of “critical imaginaries”, heterotopian spaces where we can explore and generate simultaneous worlds to reflect on our own. By designing the conditions of these worlds, rather than their precise paths, could emergent art/design works help us imagine different ways of being?


Kristupas Sabolius

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Vilnius University

Thinking of imagination in terms of essentially human, we used to lose its primordial power, i.e. the power to empower the transformation and to migrate outside the zone of comfortable anthropomorphic habits. However, is it possible transcend human imagination? What would a nonhuman imagination look like? The imaginary has always appeared as the surplus of the human. Today we could see it as a radical chance to revision our realities. Radical imagination leads to the recognition of worldly creativity – as sympoiesis that necessarily occurs through autopoiesis. In this sense, the imaginary can be conceived as a constant expansion of mind outside itself – the process of creating novel regimes of interaction with other species, discovering and embracing alternative understandings of material intelligence, reformulating and learning new ethics that emerge in the light of non-human factors, recognizing and intensifying the ways of creativity outside the subordinating schemata of our needs and purposes.




  • act cube
    Wieser Building E15-001
    20 Ames Street
    Cambridge, MA 02142