This paper engages directly with the theme of Herodotus@2500, by considering what it means to read and interpret Herodotus’ Histories in the context of the unfolding Humanities. Specifically, it will stage a dialogue between Herodotean interpretation and divergent theories of post-humanism.
Building on familiar work on Herodotus’ ‘historical method’ (Lateiner 1989) and on his ethnographic logic (Hartog 1980; Munson 2001), this paper will analyze Herodotus’ manifold logos (logos as account, logos as narrative unit, logos as argument, logos as speech, logos as text, logos as prose muse, logos as narrative compulsion) as a supple technology of and for knowledge that underwrites the distribution of authorial knowledge in the Histories. It will consider ways in which Herodotus harnessed different cultural traditions and media for the transmission of knowledge, which while they exceed the capacity of the individual human mind or anyone human community, nonetheless rely on the organizing and limiting perspectives of this mind to transmit them and translate them in the constellation in which they occur in Herodotus’ Histories. Through Herodotus’ subtle manipulation of the different conventions of logos and historiē, authorial knowledge is outsourced and then assimilated to Herodotus’ discerning intellect and voice with the result that the Histories become their own technology and system for receiving, evaluating, assessing, cross-examining, displaying, and disseminating knowledge.
After presenting examples from the Histories in support of this argument about the Histories as a system and technology for producing knowledge, I will turn to the dialogue between post-humanism and Herodotus’ Histories, arguing that Herodotus’ interest in the distribution of knowledge across space, time (human and geological), culture, ethnicity, and genre offers an interesting counterexample to the technological and digital determinism of one strand of post-humanism. Put crudely, this is the argument that the post-1950s technological and increasingly digital and robotic age precipitates a crisis in human intelligence and concepts of the human (analyzed in Hayles 1999). In addition, I will suggest that, as a thinker whose approach to history and culture pays close attention to the situatedness of human history in larger geographical, geological, and environmental histories and its contingent relationship with these spheres, Herodotus offers rich material for comparison with the nature-culture critique of humanism and the human associated with the post-humanist scholarship of Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway (Latour 1991/1993; Haraway 2008).