Silence of the Idols: Appropriating the Myth of Sisyphus for Posthumanist Discourses




Prometheus, posthumanism, transhumanism, Sisyphus, Daedalus, myths


Both current and past analyses and critiques of transhumanist and posthumanist theories have had a propensity to cite the Greek myth of Prometheus as a paradigmatic figure. Although stark differences exist amongst the token forms of posthumanist theories and transhumanism, both theoretical domains claim promethean theory as their own. There are numerous definitions of those two concepts: therefore, this article focuses on posthumanism thought. By first analyzing the appropriation of the myth in posthumanism, we show how the myth fails to be foundational and how we need to rethink the posthumanist mythological framework. We then introduce Haldane‟s Daedalus figure as a fruitful analogy to understand the demiurgic posture that critics mean to unveil by first using Prometheus. Daedalus embodies the artisan role, whose status as an inventor for the mighty preserves from the gods' direct opprobrium. Thereafter, we introduce the Camusian Myth of Sisyphus as a competing analogy that ultimately serves as a myth better suited to address the posthumanist position on an existential standpoint. we ultimately show that Sisyphus, as the „absurd man‟ that Camus claims him to be, is himself the posthuman, thus serving as a more ideal foundational myth for posthumanism and preserving the importance of narrative in posthuman discourses. To conclude, we specifically show that the concept of Sisyphus as a posthuman icon has significance that reaches beyond narrative value to current ecological debates in posthumanism.

Author Biography

Steven Umbrello, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Steven Umbrello is the Managing Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies with research interests in explorative nanophilosophy, the design psychology of emerging technologies and the general philosophy of technology.


Apollodorus. (1921). The library. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from g001.perseus-eng1:1.9

Anders, G. (1956). Die antiquiertheit des menschen [The antiquity of man]. Munich, Germany: C.H. Beck.

Atlan, H. (2005). L’utérus artificiel [The artificial uterus]. Paris, France: Seuil. Retrieved from

Besnier, J.-M. (2016). Le transhumanisme est une machine de guerre contre la vie [Transhumanism is a machine of war against life]. UP Magazine. Retrieved from

Bostrom, N. (2005). A history of transhumanist thought. Journal of Evolution and Technology, 14(1), 1–25. Retrieved from

Camus, A. (1942). The myth of sisyphus. New York, USA: Penguin Random House.

Chifflet, S. (2009). L‟imaginaire technoscientifique récit, mythe, image [The technoscientific imaginary story, myth, image]. Raison Présente, (171), 63–74.

Collard, M. (2002). Sisyphe : Histoire d’une liberté. La version grecque du châtiment comme illustration de la pensée camusienne [Sisyphus: History of a freedom. The Greek version of retribution as an illustration of Camusian thought]. l‟Université de Louvain. Retrieved from

Decker, D. B. (2010). The liberation of humanism of Albert Camus. California, USA: California State University. Retrieved from 88c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Drexler, K. E. (2006). Engines of creation 2.0. The coming era of nanotechnology. New York, USA: Anchor Books - Doubleday. Retrieved from Creation.pdf

Dreyfus, H. L. (1991). Being-in-the-world: A commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time, Division I. Cambridge, USA: MIT Press.

Ferrando, F. (2013). Posthumanism, transhumanism, antihumanism, metahumanism, and new materialisms: Differences and relations. Existenz, 8(2), 26–32. Retrieved from 2Ferrando.pdf

Franssen, T. (2014). Prometheus: Performer or transformer? In R. Ranisch & S. L. Sorgner (Eds.), Post- and transhumanism: An introduction. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang.

Fuller, S. (2013). Preparing for life in humanity 2.0. Architectural review. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1057/9781137277077

Hadot, P. (2004). Le voile d’Isis. Essai sur l’histoire de l’idée de nature [The veil of Isis. Essay on the history of the idea of nature]. Paris, France: Gallimard.

Haldane, J. B. S. (1923). Deadalus of science and the future. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Harman, G. (2002). Tool-being: Heidegger and the metaphysics of objects. Chicago, USA: Open Court Publishing. Retrieved from

Harman, G. (2016). Immaterialism: Objects and social theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Retrieved from

Hassan, I. (1977). Prometheus as performer: Toward a posthumanist culture? The Georgia Review, 31(4), 830–850. Retrieved from

Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New York, USA: Harper Collins.

Herbrechter, S. (2013). Posthumanism : A critical analysis. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved from m+prometheus&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Hesiod. (1959). The works and days. Theogony. The shield of Herakles. Ann Arbor, USA: University of Michigan Press.

Homer. (1900). The Odyssey. London, UK: Perseus Digital Library. Retrieved from 9.01.0218%3Abook%3D11%3Acard%3D13

Hottois, G., & Goffi, J.-Y. (2017). Philosophie et idéologies trans-posthumanistes [Transposthumanist philosophy and ideologies]. Paris, France: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin.

Jones, G., & Whitaker, M. (2012). Transforming the human body. In C. Blake, C. Molloy & S. Shakespeare (Eds.), Beyond human: From animality to transhumanism (pp. 254–279). New York, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved from

Kurzweil, R. (2006). Transcript for Ray Kurzweil on Transcending Biology. To the best of our knowledge. Retrieved from

Law, J., & Mol, A. (1995). Notes on materiality and sociality. The Sociological Review, 43(2), 274–294. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.1995.tb00604.x

Leroy-Gourhan, A. (1965). Le Geste et la Parole II. La mémoire et les rythmes [Gesture and the The Speech II. Memory and rhythms] (vol. 2). Paris, France: Albin Michel.

Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple : Ontology in medical practice. Durham, USA: Duke University Press. Retrieved from ple&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Morton, T. (2007). Ecology without nature: Rethinking environmental aesthetics. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

Morton, T. (2012). The ccological thought. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

Morton, T. (2013). Hyperobjects: Philosophy and ecology after the end of the world. Minneapolis, USA: University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved from

Morton, T. (2016). Dark ecology: For a logic of future coexistence. New York, USA: Columbia University Press.

Müller, K. (1841). Pherecydis fragmenta. In Fragmenta historicorum graecorum . Parisiis Editore Ambrosio Firmin Didot. Retrieved from

Pausanias. (1918). Description of Greece. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from 2.5.1&lang=original

Plato. (1997). Protagoras. In J. M. Cooper & D. S. Hutchinson (Eds.), Plato: Complete works. Indianapolis, USA: Hackett Pub Co Inc.

Roco, M. C., Bainbridge, W. S., Tonn, B., & Whitesides, G. (2013). Overview and recommendations. In M. C. Roco, W. S. Bainbridge, B. Tonn & G. Whitesides (Eds.), Convergence of knowledge, technology and society: Beyond convergence of nano-bio-info-cognitive technologies (pp. 7–32). New York, USA: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-02204-8

Sandel, M. J. (2009). The case against perfection. Cambridge, USA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

Shakespeare, S. (2012). Articulating the inhuman: God, animal, machine. In C. Blake, C. Molloy & S. Shakespeare (Eds.), Beyond human: From animality to transhumanism (pp. 227–253). New York, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved from

Sorgner, S. L. (2014). Pedegrees. In R. Ranisch & S. L. Sorgner (Eds.), Post- and transhumanism: An introduction (pp. 29–48). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang. doi:10.15496/publikation-738

Stock, G. (2002). Redesigning humans : Our inevitable genetic future. Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from TqbOTHEcC

Theognis. (1931). Elegy and Iambus. (vol. I) The elegiac poems of Theognis. Retrieved from

Von Hassel, M. E. (2017). The rebel hero: Albert Camus and the Search for Meaning Amidst the Absurd. Inquiries, 9(6). Retrieved from

Wadlow, R. (2013). Albert Camus at 100: Stoic humanist and world citizen. Retrieved from

Welsch, W. (2017). Postmodernism – Posthumanism – Evolutionary anthropology. Journal of Posthuman Studies, 1(1), 75–86. doi:10.5325/jpoststud.1.1.0075

Wheeler, M. (2011). Being-in-the-world in Martin Heidegger. Retrieved from

Wolfe, C. (2009). What is posthumanism? Minneapolis, USA: University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved from




How to Cite

Umbrello, S., & Lombard, J. (2018). Silence of the Idols: Appropriating the Myth of Sisyphus for Posthumanist Discourses. Postmodern Openings, 9(4), 98-121.



Theoretical articles