“Limits” and “Limitations” of the Human Being in the Digital Era

Viorel Guliciuc and Emilia Guliciuc


In our very new cyber society, the problem of the “limits” and “limitations” of the Human Being has to be refreshed. Here, the term “limit” is used as a common restriction and the term “limitation” is understood as a restriction that cannot be over passed, based on the ideas of the Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica. Humankind has always over passed various limits; but not its limitations, too. For example, during the great geographical discoveries era, advancing more and more toward our western or eastern horizons, we have dismissed the limits of the world as we know the until then, but failed to go beyond the horizons themselves.

We seem to be, once again, in a great discoveries era. Only this time we are exploring the horizons of the Tool and of the Artifact. In the Digital Era, the Internet has a presence, an importance and characteristics that could suggest to the common user (cybercitizen) it is the Tool itself, or at least one of its preferred manifestations. As if we are living in the Tool Turn Era itself.

Or that is the perfect start for a discussion on the relationship between the “limits” and the “limitations” of the Human Being under the collision between the effectiveness and the virtuality in our lives. Here “limitation” should be understood both as “limit” and as “a principle, a quality or a propriety that limits the extent of something”. Our limits are often quantitative and external; instead our limitations seems to engage our qualities and our inner boundaries (against the common perspective where “limitation” can also be understood as “the greatest amount of something that is possible or allowed”).

In fact, the virtual worlds are invading our real worlds, generating a more and more schizophrenic human societies. Such a phenomenon is a real paradox, if we are accepting that the purpose of the Digital Tool is not only to link but also to expand the boundaries of our communities. However, simultaneously, somehow and apparently the Digital Tool is creating limits that cannot be overpassed, both in our living and learning activities.

Somehow, the Digital Era is provoking us to analyze if and how the Tool is becoming the privileged Medium for human everyday interactions. Let us observe and agree that the very appurtenance to an “e.community” (being on Mess, Skype; having a blog, an e-group; reading e-papers, e-journals and so on has become more and more similar to the (effective) normal social existence (activity, life) itself.

In order to have a good focus of this topic, we have to choose a privileged digital tool and a privileged philosophic analysis.

The Internet seems that special tool becoming the mediator of more and more of our personal, professional or social interactions. Our professional development, our skills, our gender identity, our equality and access, our responsibility, our learning environment and habits, our physical and mental health etc. everything, even our virtue, seems to be influenced by or dependent of this digital tool.

The Internet characteristic of being a true social mediator is nowadays so obvious that it has become almost a trivial research topic, even not all of the possible explorations has been classified. For many human societies and many human beings, especially those from the poor countries the very existence and use of the Internet remains a pure virtuality, without any link with the effective everyday survival challenges of the real life. The digital divide seems to send human being towards two more and more different modes of insertion into reality.

However, for the Western and/or Developped World, the digital tool has become a “moral mediator” (L. Magnani): “as a cognitive and moral mediator; it can provide stories, texts, images, combined with sounds, so that the information fosters not only a cognitive, but also an emotional and moral understanding. In this sense, the Internet represents a kind of redistribution of the moral effort through managing objects and information to overcome the poverty and the unsatisfactory character of the options available. (L. Magnani and E.Bardone),

The Internet could be also considered as an artistic mediator because it is reshaping and filtering (controlling) the relations between the artwork creation, the artwork display, the artwork contemplation and the artworks onlooker, challenging our artistic sensibility (ViGuera).

Even more, it is may be the perfect time to consider the Internet, as if it has become a real “values mediator” and/or a “creativity mediator”.

As “tool”, Internet itself has also to be analyzed as “limit” and/or as “limitation” of the Human Being (humankind, cybersociety etc.). It engages directly the theme: of the abdication from our responsibilities.

Concerning the appropriated philosophical analysis, a good starting point could be Heidegger’s concept of Gestell, understood as the determining factor of our time. Das Gestell implies simultaneously a frame of mind, a way of conceptualizing phenomena and a theory about what it means to have knowledge of a primary material reality. The negative heideggerian perspective is much more appropriate to a debate that the perspective of John Dewey, because it forces us to go beyond an understanding of the Tool somehow antique.

If the existence and use of the Tool seems to confess both the characteristics of the “limit” and those of the “limitation”, we have more and more the tendency to consider the Tool (and especially the Internet) as a “limitation”. Or this fact is major affecting our perception and consciousness of the reality itself. The explanation of this fact seems to be related to the universal generic presupposition we make considering the very identity and characteristics of the Net, despite its and ours universal non generic nature.