Utilitarianism is a double-edge sword for healthy longevity: apropos of de Grey’s ‘suffering’ argument , part 1: 4 problems

Last time I had a chance to have a longer in person chat with Aubrey de Grey was in 2018 in Cambridge in the Panton Arms Pub. Mostly we were talking science, translational geroscience as it is frequently been called lately in the context of foundational research into biological aging with the explicit purpose of translating it back to human to counteract/slow/stop/reverse the negative consequences of biological aging.

We also exchanged some thoughts on the relevance of the philosophy of healthy longevity in the context of the whole movement and emerging industry. I think I’ve understood Aubrey’s minimalist position while obviously readers of Open Lifespan can observe to me a well articulated philosophy is a crucial ingredient of the success of the whole movement and a super exciting new research topic in itself.

Aubrey, being one of the most visible faces of the longevity movement in the last 15 years or so, had been confronted many times with philosophical issues or counterarguments around this topic and he sort of worked out himself a master argument during these years. I call this the ‘suffering’ argument. You can already read about this argument in my 2006 blogterview with Aubrey.

Now this argument has reached its more or less finalised form in a Pairagraph discourse between Aubrey and philosopher John K Davis and was published in August, 2020 under the moniker Should Defeating Aging Be Humanity’s Foremost Priority?

In it Aubrey writes that ‘arguments for or against utilitarianism far exceed my philosophical pay grade’. Although am certainly not paid for doing Open Lifespan, but my philosophical training and specialising on the philosophy of longevity since my MS thesis in 2005 puts me in a comfortable position to work out this very problem in this very context. And am doing this cause working this out has a utility in this field. Honestly, it initially presented itself to me as quite a boring task, since I’ve always thought of utilitarianism as an intellectually unchallenging and outdated philosophical position, but my evaluation on this changed as I dug deeper and the process is still ongoing. Such is the nature of actual and active philosophical enquiry. And there’s more to it concerning longevity politics, but more on that later.

In this post I do 3 things. Continue reading “Utilitarianism is a double-edge sword for healthy longevity: apropos of de Grey’s ‘suffering’ argument , part 1: 4 problems”

Open Lifespan as conservatism: a defence of human life as existing value, part 3: particular valuing, the pan-biological argument

In part 1 I introduced 3 kinds of conservative dispositions or attitudes, following G.A. Cohen.

  1. Valuing the valuable -> Particular Valuing
  2. Valuing the valued -> Personal Valuing
  3. Accepting the given

In part 2 I mentioned 4 different arguments in the context of Particular Valuing that can be formulated for the ongoing and unending preservation of individual human lives:

  • The pan-conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing entities in general,
  • The pan-biological conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing biological lives in general,
  • The pan-human, weak anthropocentric, conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing human lives,
  • The ecological diversity argument: Valuing all actual, existing, living instances of ecological diversity.

In part 2 I worked out the first, most general pan-conservative argument in detail.

Today we discuss the more specific pan-biological conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing biological lives in general.

Continue reading “Open Lifespan as conservatism: a defence of human life as existing value, part 3: particular valuing, the pan-biological argument”

Open Lifespan as conservatism: a defence of human life as existing value, part 2: particular valuing, the pan-conservative argument

In part 1 I introduced 3 kinds of conservative dispositions or attitudes, following G.A. Cohen.

  1. Valuing the valuable -> Particular Valuing
  2. Valuing the valued -> Personal Valuing
  3. Accepting the given

Today we start to discuss different arguments to be made for indefinite healthy longevity a.k.a Open Lifespan in the context of Particular Valuing.

Now if we think along the line of Particular Valuing a la Cohen, we can make an argument for the ongoing and unending preservation of individual human lives according to at least 4 different respects/arguments:

  • The pan-conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing entities in general,
  • The pan-biological conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing biological lives in general,
  • The pan-human, weak anthropocentric, conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing human lives,
  • The ecological diversity argument: Valuing all actual, existing, living instances of ecological diversity.

In the current post I spell out the general form of the argument in details using the first type of pan-conservative argument as a vehicle. Continue reading “Open Lifespan as conservatism: a defence of human life as existing value, part 2: particular valuing, the pan-conservative argument”

Open Lifespan via conservatism: a defence of human life as existing value, part 1

Introduction

Open Lifespan (OL) is the philosophy of biomedical longevity thinking itself and its limits. Its central part seems to be rooted in political philosophy, but not in the sense of applied ethics, so the task is to re-apply existing concepts in this discipline in order to illuminate its own problematics and in order to seek potential answers to t he problems of those pre-OL political philosophies. The original formulation of OL philosophy started referring to and in the context of the central and centrist liberal tradition, but now it’s time to look to the left and to the right for further considerations and new angles. At the time of this writing, this means looking into Marxian formulations on the left, and libertarian and perhaps conservative conceptualisations on the right. Generally, political philosophy as a political tradition, as well as an academic discipline ignored health and life expectancy issues actively and down-prioritised the central role these issues play in the life of individuals and institutions, so this tradition has a lot to compensate for.

For a starter let’s cite from Open Future: Open Life(span) as a foundation to reinvent liberalism:

Strange as it sounds but Open Lifespan is about conserving life if viewed from an unbiased angle. It is about conserving, maintaining human life using what we are familiar with as human life as its starting point. Open Lifespan is life conservatism at its most revolutionary, as I said it earlier when immersing this thought into liberal thinking.

G.A.Cohen’s Resucing Conservatism essay

The philosophically deepest formulation of conservatism I’ve found so far was G.A. Cohen’s unfinished Rescuing Conservatism: A Defense of Existing  Value, Chapter 8 of Finding Oneself in the Other

Cohen says his conservatism is of a Hegelian type, by which he means exploring ‘modes of finding oneself in the other’, where ‘the subject is at peace with the object’.

In our current essay, we use his deep conceptual advances and apply it to a mode of finding and re-finding oneself in oneself, in the longer term. This is eminently doable, as Cohen himself does not say, his small c conservatism only applies in a Hegelian, ‘other’ setting and as it actually requires intellectual effort to realise the value of human longevity. What we loose though, apparently, is the Hegelian ‘subject-object’ type-of conservatism, which is not that big of a sacrifice to make in our context. 

The meat of Cohen’s assay is distinguishing between the following 3 kinds of conservative dispositions or attitudes.

3 cases:

  1. Valuing the valuable -> Particular Valuing
  2. Valuing the valued -> Personal Valuing
  3. Accepting the given

In what follows we introduce all 3 of them. Continue reading “Open Lifespan via conservatism: a defence of human life as existing value, part 1”

OL and the economy of time, part 4: how and why can Open Lifespan society be classless?

In the previous, third part of our study we introduced our main thesis defining  Open Life Society as the Free Association of Open Lifespan (Citizen) Producers. We started to work out an argument, using only the vocabulary of OH workers and OL citizens leading to the conclusion that in an OL Society that can be characterised as Free Association of Open Lifespan (Citizen) Producers, literally everybody should do OH duties for that OL society to qualify as such.

In other words the defining feature of OL Society is OH technology and work, and in terms of social roles it means OH workers are the one defining this society.

For the basic thought experiment and vocabulary please check Open Lifespan Possible World part of Part 2.

The main bundle of problems I’d like to discuss today is related to whether such an OL society can be described as a class society?

The crucial problem to analyse here is whether OH workers in an OL society can form an actual economic class in the Marxian sense.

The answer is an unambiguous NO, OH workers cannot form a class and hence OL society is not a class society. But we need to leave behind some conceptual sweat before we can reach this conclusion. So let’s start the intellectual exercise.

First, I introduce the concept of class, class division, class society, class oppression, class struggle following mainly G.A. Cohen’s reading of Marx.

Second, I specify the Open Lifespan possible world a bit further to situate the class-question.

Third, I introduce separate arguments to show why OH workers cannot form a proper class in an OL society.

Fourth, I try to describe the role of OH worker further by describing it as a mandatory social role.

Continue reading “OL and the economy of time, part 4: how and why can Open Lifespan society be classless?”

OL and the economy of time, part 3: Towards a Free Association of Open Lifespan Producers

Continuing the Open Lifespan and the economy of time series here. The following draft contains top level theses and foretells conclusions, a Grundrisse if you like, not as formally elaborated argument yet, as content beats the form currently. As such, this post is the most significant so far in terms of leading into the heart of the analysis and emerging new insights, but not in a yet analytical way. The ampleness of the draft material enforces this and the modified summary reflects the current status. Conceptual hardship remains but the robust outlines shine through. For the basic thought experiment and vocabulary please check Open Lifespan Possible World part of Part 2.

Summary of the whole study

Open Healthspan as a Service (Product) completely re-defines production as an activity by re-producing, re-generating indefinitely Open Lifespan bodies and lifetimes, including that of Open Healthspan workers providing these very services. This service leaves no space for alienation anymore. No objectification of labour, no externalisation of work -> no alienation. An Open Life Society, equipped with Open Healthspan as the main service product implements the real economy of time by exclusively producing additional healthy human lifetime. It neutralises the logic of capital but not killing it off with a revolution or anything. Just makes it redundant by making abundance in only one dimension by default, that of biological human lives. Leaves scarcity in other dimensions as it is.  An Open Life Society is the Free Association of Open Lifespan (Citizen) Producers. It continuously produces abundant human labour time and indefinitely and mutually reproduces all of its citizens.  Continue reading “OL and the economy of time, part 3: Towards a Free Association of Open Lifespan Producers”

Imagining Life Beyond Current Life Span study published in Innovation in Aging

In What is it like to be 572 year old? Self-imagining Open Lifespan; part 1, slides from 2017 I mentioned a philosophical thought experiment I thought up to have a device to exercise and test intuitions related to Open Lifespan from an individual point of view.

When I checked psychological research looking into distant self-simulation I’ve found that this philosophical idea can be exploited as a psychological tool. My favourite orienting academic paper was Turning I into me: Imagining your future self. So I contacted the first author, Professor C. Neil Macrae, out of the blue, who then connected me to the last author. The last author, now assistant professor of psychology, Brittany Tausen, then took the idea and turned it into a professional project: surveys were conducted including 700+ people enough for 3 different studies looking at different angles. We had a pretty good manuscript within ~3-4 months calculating from the birth of the idea itself, and that was early 2018. Next comes 2 years of painful peer-review experience at different journals, but eventually persistence, professionalism and innovation won, so here’s the paper, published in Innovation in Aging, and you can read it as free access!!!

The Mental Landscape of Imagining Life Beyond the Current Life Span: Implications for Construal and Self-Continuity

and here’s Translational Significance

The dialectics of Lifespan: Closed, Immortal, Open

A more descriptive, but alas longer, title would be: The dialectics of Lifespan: Mortal Closed, Infinite Immortal, Mortal Open.

Introduction 

In what follows I present an intentionally dialectical thought process of mine. Although it’s my first such explicit attempt, it’s been in the making for a while, so first does not mean immature or naive [1].

My philosophical education and willingness prepared me to express myself using the techniques and manners of analytical philosophy. But it also gave me plenty exposure to other traditions of philosophy. Dialectics has a pretty ancient, and as such, dignified, ancestry within Western-style philosophy, starting explicitly with Plato’s version of back-and-forth dialogue between usually Socrates and his partners in dialogue. In this post the main concern is a dialectic process extracted from Hegel by more contemporary philosophers of the analytical school.

By introducing a dialectical process concerning how our human lifespan can be considered in 3 different ways what I aim to gain are the following 3 features evoking reactions from the readers: 

  • Heuristic as an epistemological a-ha experience: by showing Open Lifespan through the lens of other, contradicting or opposing concepts
  • Existential Reality Check on what’s possible and feasible.
  • Political Message to instigate turning the Existential Reality check into a political expression by providing some of the heuristic.

What is not aimed here is to use the dialectical process as a distinctive method, as opposed to default analytical tools, and as having its own explanatory import. I believe that all dialectical processes present in philosophy, can be expressed in simple analytical means, devoid of this extra clothing, even if it means a reinterpretation of the ingredient concepts. On the other hand, I don’t claim, and stay neutral, whether all analytically presented concepts or arguments can be turned into dialectical processes.

Continue reading “The dialectics of Lifespan: Closed, Immortal, Open”

Jonathan Floyd’s comment on extending normative behaviourism with aspects of health and longevity via Open Lifespan

One recent political theory, and/or meta-theory, I studied a lot last year was Jonathan Floyd‘s normative behaviourism. It lead at least to 6 lengthy posts, mini-studies in the context of Open Lifespan.

In this post, first, I cite Jonathan’s comment, then briefly introduce his approach and then summarise the extension of this approach with Open Lifespan, the political philosophy of healthy longevity.

Jonathan Floyd’s comment

‘We face tough questions right now about whether to maximise quality of life or the number of people living; about how we compare young lives to old lives; about how we compare irresponsible lives to responsible ones; and of course how we measure death in all its causes. It’s great if you can help with these questions and the wider policy implications, and if you can do so by drawing on my theory, then that would be very heartening indeed.’

Jonathan Floyd, email communication
Continue reading “Jonathan Floyd’s comment on extending normative behaviourism with aspects of health and longevity via Open Lifespan”

Open Lifespan and the economy of time, part 2: resources might be scarce, except human lifetime

In the first post of this series I introduced my study applying, connecting concepts in the Marxian tradition to my problem and programme, that of Open Lifespan. Also I referenced the texts, I’ve been using. More often than, not, this investigation will lead to showing philosophical differences from this tradition, but expressed with the vocabulary of this tradition. The content of the current post has been sharped that way.

Summary of study

The rough summary of these notes: Open Healthspan as a Service (Product) completely re-defines production as an activity by re-producing, re-generating indefinitely Open Lifespan bodies, including that of Open Healthspan workers providing this very services. This service leaves no space for alienation anymore. No objectification of labour, no externalisation of work -> no alienation. An Open Life society, equipped with Open Healthspan as the main service product implements the real economy of time by exclusively producing additional healthy human lifetime. It neutralises the logic of capital but not killing it off with a revolution or anything. Just makes it redundant by making abundance in only one dimension by default, that of biological human lives. Leaves scarcity in other dimensions as it is. Continue reading “Open Lifespan and the economy of time, part 2: resources might be scarce, except human lifetime”