Recap: Considering inhuman features in Chinese cosmologies and history after the end

PhD candidate Jonathan Hui talks about the cosmos, humanity, Tianming, inhumanity and the tri-solar system.


The conference talk on cosmology was hosted by Jonathan Hui.

He is a PhD. candidate at Balsillie School of International Affairs with research interests in the discipline of futures studies, political ecology, and the intersections between digital infrastructure and climate resilience. His interests lie in the context of East Asia and China, in particular, around regional ecologies, technology sharing, and political economy as means toward climate adaptation over the next century.


At the conference, Jonathan talked about the Chinese cosmologies and the probability of an inhuman existence. He opened with 5 main questions that drive the question of ‘what is cosmos to humanity?’ home; the questions of dealing with humanity, dealing with cosmos, the mandate of heaven or Tianming, authority in a tri-solar system, and inhumanity as an emerging future.


Dealing with humanity

The topic of humans and humanity, he noted, might be a dangerous one; even though we’ve grown up hearing the words, to be a human is not something that has been explained in tangible terms. This in turn can bring up curiosities about the word inhumanity or inhuman. Jonathan explained through the works of Yuk Hui that inhumanity is not a result of the outer forces of the world but also the inner core of the soul of a human being. Inhumanity, though, should not be confused with Transhumanism. The transhumanism he talked about, is the idea that humans are going to transcend all the limits that bound them.


Dealing with the Cosmos

When talking about the Cosmos, Jonathan brought in the idea of a relationship between nature and humans. He quoted Philippe Desmond, who said that nature is everything that is not human, and only humans have the ability to create culture and hence, dominate. This dominance of humans and their ability to create irreversible changes is the core concept of Anthropocene. But when did the creation of this irreversible change commence? That is debatable and debated about quite a bit. Did it begin with the dawn of Agriculture or with the Industrial Revolution? This is what drives the idea of Cosmology, it deals with everything from the Big Bang to the present and the future. It treats the universe as an ordered system. But the cosmos is not a binary entity dealing with only nature and humans but includes space, time, and matter. In an attempt to visualise cosmologies the pictures of Maya (breaks down the world into the Upperworld, the Middleworld, and the Underworld, with the Earth present in the Middleworld), Hobbe’s Leviathan (a metahuman who lords over a countryside), an ancient Chinese Diagram (lays down the universal principles; at the top of said diagram is the supreme ultimate or the Tai Chi Tu, that splits into the Yin and the Yang, further splits into the five elements and has two aspects: the male and the female, this culminates with the creation of things) were shown.


The mandate of heaven and the tri-solar system

One of the main concepts in Chinese thinking is Tianming or the mandate of heaven. But what exactly is Tianming and how does it change the relationship between the heavens and humans and the earth? The solution comes from understanding Tianming and the three-body problem(a Chinese science fiction) in alignment. Imagine there exists a world with three suns, when they are not in harmony, they scorch and dehydrate the world: the Chaotic Era. When they are in their Stable Era, the ruler uses his intuition to analyse if he should rehydrate the planet. The dehydration and rehydration, in this context, mean mass killing and repopulation respectively. The way that this relates to Tianming is through the king's intuition; he uses his intuition to predict the future of the sun's movement and other possible events. Thus, he predicts the future of something that is not necessarily human.


Inhumanity as an emerging future

In the last question, Jonathan reiterated that inhumanity is not the presence of negative thoughts but the existence of entities that are not human or animals. He talked about imagining a future not just for humans but also for incalculable entities like Tian or heaven. He then proceeded to ask if humans have responsibilities to anything beyond other humans and the planet.


Watch the talk here :



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