When I started to study philosophy at the ELTE University in Budapest my first social/intellectual action was to compile a list of classical, modern and contemporary writings about the philosophy of time and then look for other undergrads being interested to seminarise these works. Think about Aristotle’s Physics IV. 10-14, St. Augustine’s Book XI of the Confessions and … the wonderful essay collection on The Philosophy of Time edited by Poidevin/McBeath. Eventually I think it was too nerdy an offering even amongst philosophy students but I stuck with studying these writings a lot. To me studying the philosophy of time was a huge part of my personal motivation as after studying aging in the years before as a biology student I realised I have a problem understanding what is this ‘time thing’ with respect to biological aging is defined, what are we measuring here …
Philosophy of time and analysis of temporality by conceptual means is a great field and Elisabeth F. Cohen, Associate Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University, managed to open a new chapter within this field by writing The Political Value of Time, that was published this very year by Cambridge University Press and I was lucky enough to see it amongst the new offerins at the CUP Bookshop.
I studied this book repeatedly this year, here’s a photo on my annotated copy.
Cohen’s analytical starting point is the tendency to ignore durational time in politics by the social sciences. Hence, most of the study is focusing on the temporal aspects of establishing sovereignty, mostly assumed hidden behind spatial boundaries and then how temporalities like schedules, waiting periods, deadlines are constitutive in the procedures of modern democracies. The main, deliberate subset of examples (‘temporal formulae’) are the age of maturity delimiting children from full citizenship, the probationary period needed for the naturalisation of non-citizens and prison sentences.Continue reading “How Open Lifespan changes the political value of time; reading Elizabeth F. Cohen”
Let’s continue studying Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects to harness it for Open Lifespan. Earlier I talked about ‘viscosity’ and ‘nonlocality’ and applied them to Open Lifespan trajectories.
Quick recap: Hyperobjects are ‘things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans’: think global warming as a paradigmatic case. Now consider a (counterfactual)individual open lifespan trajectory that is your life lived for hundreds of years: wouldn’t that object qualify for being a hyperobject in the Mortonian sense?
Anthropocentrism is also known by other names as humanocentrism, human-centeredness or human exceptionalism. It has something to do with attributing a special significance to humans in the universe.
According to the Environmental Ethics entry of Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy strong anthropocentrism only assigns intrinsic value to human beings alone. So intrinsic value, whatever it would be, is captured in absolute terms and applied only to humans.
In weak anthropocentrism value assignment gets relative and quantitative by human beings representing greater amount of intrinsic value than any non-human things.
Ecological thinkers and environmental ethicists have a rather easy job finding traces of anthropocentrism in the works of canonical thinkers of Western philosophy.
Object-oriented ontology also attacks and rejects anthropocentrism and moves away from epistemological approaches.
The immediate focus of this post is to investigate the possibility of a world community centered around longevity. Is there an existing seed of such a community and conceptually what other features make a compelling case for the emergence of an organised Longevity World Community?
The historical apropos is the emergence of such a world-wide longevity community in the last two decades starting in the nineties of the last millennium and the very recent turning of part of this community into a world-wide longevity industry aiming to capitalise on the breakthrough understanding of the biological aging process and interventions counteracting it in order to increase healthy lifespan.
The background context of this mini-study is the question of how longevity can be introduced into politics. One prominent feature of this introduction is informed by the philosophical discussion between Rawls-ian liberalism and its communitarian critics.
My current main theoretical inspiration and guide is Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects. Here I need to acknowledge that I am less certain in what I have to say as Morton writes in the style of continental philosophy and draws largely from that tradition, while the knowledge and method base am using mainly comes from analytic philosophy. But I welcome the uncertainty that comes with moving into a stranger territory.
Let’s start with the thought experiment of assuming that Open Healthspan technologies counteracting the biological aging processes have been developed and mature enough to grant individuals Open Lifespans, that is people have open-ended, indefinite lifespans and a fixed low mortality rate.
This is going to be a very dense daily effort as I’m sitting alone in a big reception tent at the Eden Project in Cornwall, tired and it’s getting cold.
Already discussed Nagel’s Death essay twice, now is the 3rd time. In the text, after he has introduced the principle of life’s default positivity he is aiming to conceptually restrict discussion on the value of one person’s life. So he makes the following attempt to dismiss ‘mere organic survival’:
The value of life and its contents does not attach to mere organic survival: almost everyone would be indifferent (other things equal) between immediate death and immediate coma followed by death twenty years later without reawakening.
Nagel is asking us here to do a first-person, moral thought experiment in which we are given 2 options to conclude quickly that mere organic survival (coma being an obvious example of it) is not satisfactory (fit enough) when the value component of the principle ‘it is good simply to be alive’ is being discussed. He knows that coma technically speaking is still being alive so it’s important for him to dismiss it from the discussion.
The important principle of life’s default positivity was introduced via Thomas Nagel’s Death essay in an earlier post. This essay is a masterful essay of analytical philosophy: dense, full with deep thoughts, yet it is clearly written and most arguments and positions can be recovered with relative ease. On the other hand, it keeps you engaged as it opens up new questions and make you think further. Today my job is to type here almost the complete last section of the essay as it provides a great description of why the assumption of open-ended, indefinite lifespan is a familiar, default and ‘natural’ inner experience of people. As such it can be used as an argument for wanting to actually live an Open Life and push for developing the technology (what I call Open Healthspan) eventually yielding an external experience matching this inner experience. Continue reading “Thomas Nagel and the familiar inner experience of Open Lifespan”
Last time I’ve introduced the principle of life’s default positivity, and the first formula provided was the one used by Thomas Nagel in his Death essay:
It is good simply to be alive.
Another way to phrase this is comparatively
It’s better to be alive than dead.
Let me introduce now a potential counterargument, extracted from the words of one of my favourite fictional characters, Rosencrantz, played by Garry Oldman in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Mind you, this is Stoppard’s but not Shakespeare’s Rosencrantz, speaking. How about watching it first:
The thesis or principle I’d like to introduce today is a (possibly) central thesis behind Open Lifespan philosophy and I’ll keep coming back to it throughout this blog and book in the making. I’m going to extract it first from Thomas Nagel’s masterful and dense essay, Death, originally published in Noûs, in 1970 but am actually going to use the edited version published in Mortal Questions, in 1979.
Then I simply try to provide different formulations. So no arguments today, just a start to understand this principle by stating it and have a glimpses at the heavy philosophical concepts behind it.
Nagel’s main problem in the essay is to investigate why and how and when death can be a misfortune (evil, bad) to the persons who died. And it has to do something with bringing ‘to an end all the goods that life contains’.
And in this context the principle is first stated as an ‘allegiation’ that
It is good simply to be alive, even if one is undergoing terrible experiences.
So first formula
1. It is good simply to be alive.
Let’s continue here cause this leads to another formulation of the principle: