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. It might seem funny to do that for the first type, that is the weakest of the 4 in the category of Particular Valuing, but actually it’s the logical way to do so. All the other 3 arguments will be informed by and benefit from this work and if this kind of argument has an appealing effect on some of my readers, all the better to start with the weakest of them.  

The pan-conservative argument: Valuing all actual, existing entities in general

The argument:

  1. Conservatives want to conserve everything that has an intrinsic value. (Particular valuing is a conservative attitude.) 
  2. Wanting to conserve physical entities includes developing technologies to do so.
  3. The most general form of conservatism is pan-conservatism which values all actual, existing (intrinsic valuable) entities. 
  4. Individual human lives are existing (intrinsic valuable) entities. /note that the term ‘human lives’ here is used as a substitute for ‘actually existing, present human lives’, although derivatively the term can pick out ‘past’ and ‘future’ lives too.

Conclusion: Conservatives want to preserve individual human lives as long as possible and develop technologies to do so.

Proposition (lemma): ’as long as possible’ entails ‘indefinitely long’. (actually this point can be put forward as a definition too, but since this is not simple as that, I leave this as a lemma, that can be attacked.)

Corollary: Conservatives endorse preserving human lives indefinitely and develop technologies to do so.

This is the most general argument that can be put forward to preserve actual instances of existing value and hence also the weakest. 

The evaluation of the strength of this argument depends on how we think on what is intrinsically valuable, since the particular valuing itself relies on the assessment of the particular instance having intrinsic value and the recognition of intrinsic value through its ‘carriers’.

Cohen describes intrinsic value in a footnote related the concept of particular valuing as: ‘which is the value that something has in itself, independently of its consequences, including its consequences for human utility and edification.’ Cohen is quick to add that ‘not everybody believes that there exists intrinsic value’ but cuts the note short by saying that his principal opponents in this debate do.  

Now the quantitative scope of the preserving nature of the conservative attitude  reaches its climax in this pan-conservative argument. While it is likely that for most people, there are categories of physical entities that do have intrinsic value, it is also likely that an explanation of the nature of intrinsic-ness in different classes of entities will make arguments of this type more convincing. In the pan-conservative argument we cannot provide the particular explanation. But we will attempt to provide those explanations in the other 3 particular valuing arguments for Open Lifespan in the following posts, where the scope of the entities to be preserved is restricted by its types.