Floyd has used NB in his book to argue for social-liberal-democracy (SLD) as the (only) convincing and meaningful answer to the organising question of political philosophy: how should we live?
Our post today is the most relevant one concerning Open Lifespan, the main reason I studied Floyd’s book in the first place. Today, I’m going to demonstrate through a series of arguments that Open Lifespan as a political philosophy also picks out social-liberal-democracy as a compelling (convincing) and politically determinate (meaningful) answer to the foundational question of political philosophy, Floyd poses: how should we live?
This is a Daily Effort, which is a quicker, shorter piece, grown out of usually a same-day thought, reading, see earlier efforts.
According to Thomas Nagel the central ethical question of political theory is to work out and then synchronise together the impersonal standpoint human individuals are capable of and the personal standpoints they actually have.
Justification in political theory must address itself to people twice: first as occupants of the impersonal standpoint and second as occupants of particular roles within an impersonally acceptable system. This is not capitulation of human badness or weakness, but a necessary acknowledgement of human complexity. To ignore the second task is to risk utopianism in the bad sense.
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: