The Open Lifespan answer to Jonathan Floyd’s political philosophy organising question: how should we live? Tens of arguments

This is the 4th post inspired by Jonathan Floyd’s book, Is political philosophy impossible? that started a new methodology (paradigm, revolution?) called normative behaviourism (NB). The posts so far:

Open Lifespan and Green political philosophy as single-trend approaches; reading Jonathan Floyd

The Open Lifespan answer to Jonathan Floyd’s political philosophy organising question: how should we live? Preparations

Blind spot of academic political philosophy: not recognising health as a political incentive and healthy longevity as a political goal

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?

Briefly put, the Open Lifespan answer to the question of how should we live: We should live indefinitely longer and healthier as by doing so we ‘exponentially’ enhance all the core elements of social-liberal-democracy (SLD): making it more democratic, more liberal, and more social (egalitarian).

But I’m also adding 2 more arguments that comes from the extension I suggested to NB, namely that health/ill-health should be recognised as a political incentive just as much as crime was suggested by Floyd to be a core behaviourist measure, see the Blind spot post.

First of all, lets see what do I mean by the Open Lifespan scenario, the Open Life society and Open Healthspan technologies. Second, we take a brief look at Floyd’s overall strategy to pick out SLD as the answer. Third, we show the arguments parallel to the original arguments. Fourth, we summarise the 2 extra arguments coming from the health extension of NB. Discussing objections will be the topic of another post.

Open Lifespan is a non-apologetic health and longevity philosophy: foundations

Here we consider Open Life as a possible world (or society to be closer to the lingo of political theory), where people can choose Open Lifespan, an open-ended, indefinitely long healthy lifespan. Open Lifespan is achieved via Open Healthspan Technologies developed and accessible enough that all people can choose to go through continuous interventions to counteract the biological aging process and have a fixed, small but nonzero mortality rate due to external causes of death.

Please consider Open Lifespan Research Proposal for The Long Now Foundation to motivate how contemporary science and big life expectancy trends (think the last 20 years, not the last 2) backs the scenario of Open Lifespan to be taken seriously as THE mortalist, philosophical longevity scenario to consider between current Closed Lifespan and impossible Immortality.

With this scenario in mind, earlier I have formulated several arguments why this upper limit possible world should be the central possible world of political and moral philosophy

On the top level of why Open Lifespan is a desirable state (hence an ongoing political goal) is the Nagel-ian argument from life’s default positivity: it is simply better to be alive.

Parallel to this there’s a Nagel-ian argument concerning the description of our familiar inner experience of being alive and continue wanting to be so. I’d suggest that this experience itself can be interpreted in behavioural terms as to fit NB better, but I would not sweat too much on it. It seems important to me to be compatible with NB methodology and even tenets but there’s no need to re-write other existing OL arguments as well.

By focusing on longevity we really focus on 2 underlying components captured by one term: healthy quality time that is experienced as free time. Hence Open Lifespan is a time- and health- centric philosophy and as such it focuses on the temporal dimension of the (not necessarily but rather obviously) human biological existence. Time is the most precious resource.

Structure of Floyd’s answer: why Social-Liberal-Democracy is the convincing and meaningful answer to the organising question

Floyd establishes normative behaviourism by introducing 2 behaviourist measures to judge, justify success of existing (or past) political systems: plainly put, the more disincentives to political insurgence and crime a system enables the more successful it’s going to be. His main NB argument for SLD is that it is the system where insurgence and crime is minimised, disincentivized the most. 

Please note here that one feature of the Floyd-ian position is being apologetic, trying to defend the default institutions (the embodied principles) of SLD. This position leads to the recitation of facts that are a bit out of the element concerning the main NB argumentation like the fact:

‘no liberal democracy (egalitarian, libertarian or otherwise) with a GDP/capita of $6,055 or above has ever failed’.


On the other hand what makes the argument exciting is the fact that 2 so far rock stable examples of SLD, the UK and the US are now in a fundamental turmoil and uncertainty is growing in terms of the potential outcomes of the ongoing anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and anti-egalitarian political processes.  This is also prime time for renewing and applying political philosophy.

In terms of arguments, as far as I see, the 2 main lines of NB arguments coming from the 2 behaviourist measures are being used in different group of arguments. Floyd structures them into a theory explaining the success of SLDs and a separate group of 4 new arguments. The theory has 2 parts, the first part contains 3 types of arguments corresponding to the 3 components of SLD, the 2nd part consists of 2 groups of arguments, both informed by the violence-centric literature, one related to ‘open-access’ societies, another to a rephrasing of the ‘prisoner’s dilemma. The separate group of 4 new arguments is an interesting mix, appealing to the so called rich and radicals who might still not be convinced by the superiority of SLD. Finally there are extra arguments that can be dug out of the answers given to the 5 objections discussed by Floyd at the end of the book.

Open Lifespan picks out Open Social-Liberal-Democracy as well as a convincing and compelling answer: 12+ arguments

My OL answer to OQ is going to roughly follow Floyd’s own answer showing the different type of arguments (sometimes with several sub-arguments underneath) why SLD is the convincing answer. So the strategy is to show that Open Lifespan is a radical variant of SLD (will call it OL-SLD from now on) and can provide separate arguments of the same type that was used for default SLD (d-SLD from now on) to demonstrate that is is indeed a convincing and compelling answer. Floyd did not even have to show that it is a meaningful, ie. politically determinate answer to OQ since it is an implemented system with lots of empirical data and evidence. And similarly in case of OL-SLD by completing the task of showing compelling reasons the end result is that we get a meaningful answer to for OQ. In general Open Lifespan society is introduced and recommended as something that will strengthen and improve the social, the liberal and the democracy tendencies. So Open Lifespan behaves as an accelerator of these tendencies, not following all of the Floydian arguments, but enough of them and under all categories.


#0. OL-SLD: impersonal and personal standpoints in sync

I think there’s one argument for Open Lifespan as a political philosophy, that pulls together the 3 different components of SLD into a combined argument and this is the argument expressed in the following post, passing Nagel’s suggested test in the context of political justification: Daily Effort: Open Lifespan, a political aim with impersonal and personal standpoints in sync; applying Thomas Nagel. It starts with an individual (liberal) standpoint to be applied to everybody gradually in a social/egalitarian (originally partial, then growingly impartial) manner to reach full house (democracy).

Let’s see the parallel arguments now.

#1. d-SLD: Democracy component

a., Elections are bloodless alternatives to war. Fundamental anti-violent, peaceful characteristics of democracy compared to others.

b., Enables greater dialogues and deliberation.

#1 OL-SLD Democracy

a., By focusing on life’s default positivity, OL puts individual human life into a non-negotiable, non-compromising focus. keeping all people indefinitely longer as main political goal guarantees its anti-violence.

The rest of the democracy arguments below are coming from How Open Lifespan changes the political value of time; reading Elizabeth F. Cohen

b., Open Lifespan enables slow and more complex democracy than Closed Lifespan

This is a simple argument as I think almost all political theorists would agree that given enough or ample time for commensuration to resolve normative disagreements over values and goods and principles and/or having ample time for reaching consent, Open Lifespan takes the teeth out of anti-democratic temporal pressures by overcoming temporal scarcity

c. Open Lifespan might impose a strong limit on how extensively the state can command the time of its subjects.

d., Open Lifespan is the best fit for non-static, democratic political anthropology

See The Political Value of Time on philosophical anthropology dressed up as political in p160-62:

p160 Democracy is predicated on a belief in a non-static conception of human character.

p161 If we can never assume the current state of a person’s character to be permanent, then the idea that a state could impose a permanent disability that denies the possibility of transformation, such as an inalterable restriction on rights, is based on a fundamentally flawed view of human nature.

p162 Permanence and finality run contra to the temporal premises upon which democracy is predicated.

The Political Value of Time

I feel that in these thoughts Cohen actually describes the ‘essence’ of Open Lifespan, emphasis being on open, transformative, dynamic, changing. An Open Life following an Open Narrative is not unlike a TV series. Here political anthropology and philosophical psychology actually converges and I’m happy to report that I’ve participated in an actual empirical psychological study that is now under peer review.

#2. d-SLD: Liberal component

a., greater personal freedom provided

p203 ‘Because they enjoy a greater number of choices regarding how they live their lives, as well as a greater degree of personal ‘space’ within which they can explore all manner of lifestyles and experiences, these systems make it possible for all sorts of individuals to live what are for them all sorts of meaningful existences’

#2. OL-SLD: Liberal component

This is home territory for Open Lifespan, back then I published a, retrospectively pretty immature post, answering a call (an essay competition) by The Economist, apropos of their 175th anniversary issue to make the case for reinventing liberalism, it was called Open Future: Open Life(span) as a foundation to reinvent liberalism

Open Lifespan as a philosophical concept is fundamentally built around the value of individual human life. Open Lifespan as a choice to pursue is an individual choice, one that can be found on a free marketplace of ideas. Open Lifespan is not something kids learn about at school or being told to pursue at church. It is still rarely (but increasingly more) a conversational topic at the family table.

Those wanting to pursue Open Lifespan are placing individual human freedom at the top in the hierarchy of political values.

In the Open Future post once section was called Open Future/Ideas/Access/Science/Markets/Society/Progress/Borders. Some of these points got new arguments modifying them, for instance see section 4. of How Open Lifespan changes the political value of time; reading Elizabeth F. Cohen on More rights: immigrants, probationary periods, naturalisation, citizenship. Some other points are still actively being developed, some points will be re-used here in other places in the argument.

a., OL requires an Open ‘Self’ Narrative, an open trajectory, not unlike a TV series, where season endings become new beginnings see Open Narrative post.

b., Open Life’s temporal value-pluralism enables neutrality towards different concepts of good life

#3. d-SLD: Social-Egalitarian component

They provide equality of opportunity. 

#3. OL-SLD: Social-Egalitarian component

In the context of the prevention/therapy vs enhancement debate please see Superpower enhancements are pro-inequality, Open Lifespan is pro-equal-opportunity

Open Lifespan is the capacity that would provide equal opportunities for all those who can access it. The equal opportunity would be provided by the extra time gained through Open Healthspan interventions. This extra time is the one giving a recurring, repeated chance to start anew, to reset, to re-gain opportunities potentially lost at an earlier time. Open Lifespan is a continuous, temporal, recursive opportunity provider.

General Conclusion: Open Lifespan is an equal opportunity provider condition, Open Healthspan technologies leading to interventions to counteract the aging process are the most progressive ones. Open Lifespan is not an enhancement, it’s a default, foundational motivation and tendency.

A methodological note related to the prevention/therapy vs enhancement bioethical context of this argument: If one browse thought the SEP entry called Theory and Bioethics in the light of the Floyd NB book it seems pretty obvious that investigation of bioethical issues run easily into troubles when trying to apply high theory, out of which examples are e.g., consequentialist utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, rights-based theories, natural law, etc. These branches have a big overlap, I believe, with the big mentalist schools mentioned and argued against by Floyd.

#4. d-SLD: combined SLD argument: open access societies

Virtuous cycle dynamic concerning the different open aspects of an SLD society where each elements of SLD support and enhance and rely upon each other.

#4. OL-SLD: combined SLD argument: open access societies

THE fundamental, defining aspect of Open Lifespan is it being Open and openness across most departments, activities of individuals and societies are the building blocks of such society and potentionally world order as expressed with Open Future/Ideas/Access/Science/Markets/Society/Progress/Borders slogan above.

Now I won’t exclude the possibility that upon further investigation some parts of openness might be in tension with each other, so going against mutual enhancement and virtuous cycle, but leave this now for the critics.

#5. d-SLD: ‘Pacifist’s dilemma’

This is going to be a looked at from a bird’s-eye view. A modified version of the prisoner’s dilemma is the pacifist dilemma that assign value to the participants to engage into violence or maintain peace. Mutual non-aggression provides the greatest pay-off. Adding prosperity to the formulas mutual cooperation becomes more attractive.

#5. OL-SLD: ‘Pacifist’s dilemma’

OL with its life-centered philosophy and incredibly complex biomedical technology agenda requires very peaceful manners and an unprecedented level of mutual cooperation between governments, public projects, private companies, the nascent longevity industry, down to human individuals adopting quantified self strategies early on.

Arguments for the ‘rich and the radical’ and others too

Now we are moving to the separate group of 4 new arguments appealing to the ‘rich and radicals’ who might still not be convinced by the superiority of SLD. This is an interesting selection of people to appeal to, sort of ad hominem argumentation, dedicated to  groups of people. Rich is easier to define than radical I think.

These arguments operate with the concepts of safety, vulnerability, suffering, interpreted in an external concept, so the harm, danger, cruelty, violence presented by others is the focus. 

This comes from over-evaluating crime as a behaviourist measure, and under-valuing health/longevity as a political goal/behaviourist motivator. In Blind spot of academic political philosophy: not recognising health as a political incentive and healthy longevity as a political goal I argued through different examples that health/longevity is increasingly an important political incentive and conceptually speaking there’s no more reason to think of crime as more political than health/ill-health. Floyd in presenting arguments for SLD cites North/Wallis/Weingast p198 from the violence literature he’s relying on:

Violence must be near the heart of any explanation of how societies behave.

Rather a grim view, if you ask me, but am certainly not doubting here the relevance of analysing violent behaviour concerning the past. I just think that adding health/longevity as an equal behaviourist measure will balance this view towards a potential net positive.

What we are going to do with the concepts of safety, vulnerability, suffering in the arguments below is to internalise them so they are re-interpreted to involve harm, danger, suffering within the context of the human body. Jokingly I might say we will do a little holobiont politics, and here we are using, in the background, ecolongevity investigations that uncovered connections between individual longevity and ecological thinking, taking the human body as it is, an instance of a complex ecosystem.

#6 d-SLD: Maximise external safety. Minimise external vulnerability

Floyd says it’s an openly Hobbesian case (p229), one the invokes ‘Hobbesian equality’ (p230)  a condition in which

‘pretty much every individual is capable, should they wish it, of killing any other individual’.

Rich people who want to maximise their external security and minimise their external vulnerability  suddenly thinking on this will subscribe for the best political thing on earth is d-SLD, thinks Floyd.

This is the principle of ‘live and let live’ guaranteed by only d-SLD amongst the not too many contenders out there.

#6 OL-SLD: Maximise internal safety. Minimise internal vulnerability

Let’s make the internal extension of safety and vulnerability, by developing Open Healthspan technologies, and making it available for every citizen, OL-SLD is the system in which citizens are going to be the least likely, dead, in the long run. The logic of the politics of longevity is not just a minimal one, content with guaranteeing the ‘live and let live’ principle, it is a maximal one aiming for ‘live and let live longer’.

Instead of ‘Hobbesian equality’ let me introduce (contrapose?) the condition I call ‘Csordasian equality’ (sorry for the name :)): imagine a world, a condition, a state of affairs where every individual is capable to improve the health of any other individual. This is the world we are potentially heading to with the help of technology, both the default and the biomedical kind. For example, under this condition, if I were in a position to have access to Jonathan Floyd’s medical history and biological omics data, I could probable help Jonathan Floyd’s to live longer. And this is not because I’m a wandering magic healer (a Baal Shem) but because I can analyse that data and uncover information from it that might be actionable once sent to Jonathan and he would be in a position to make the call or not.

So keep in mind ‘live and let live, live and keep yourself alive’, but also think increasingly ‘live and let live longer, by keeping others alive longer’.

#7 d-SLD: Minimise external cruelty. Minimise external caused suffering

This appeals more to the idealistic (‘radical’) than the privileged, says Floyd. Invoking the ‘better angels of our nature’ (p230) minimises external cruelty and suffering.

#7 OL-SLD: Minimise internally caused suffering, and health care cruelty

Actually here OL-SLD has a positive point on minimising external cruelty too and here you need to think of all those frightening news or second-hand information concerning geriatric, everything but dignified, care, (younger and healthier) nurses gone wild showing cruel behaviour towards older and sick people requiring daily attention with their lives. In Open Lifespan this is a non-existing situation, end of institutionalised ageism.

In terms of minimising suffering we make the internal conversion again and think of all the painful chronic conditions affecting older people so the majority of people over 65 have at least 1 chronic condition that turns into 3 or more chronic, usually painful conditions (arthritis, hip pains, anyone?) upon reaching 80 (can provide reference to data but don’t feel the need to do so just yet, seems so obvious). Amongst longevity supporters this argument is very (the most?) popular saying counteracting the aging process in every which way will alleviate suffering in gigantic proportions. Kinda utilitarian argument, not my favourite but has credit.

#8. d-SLD: Flourishing and meaningful lives, maximise individual well-being

This argument is a variant of a pluralistic approach praising the diversity of meaningful life trajectories d-SLD protects, allows and facilitates. 

#8. OL-SLD: Flourishing and meaningful lives, maximise individual well-being

One could argue that if an Open Life Society is by definition is the scenario which grants the opportunity of a healthy indefinite lifespan to all its citizens (optionally) then it is the one that maximising flourishing and meaningful lives and maximises individual well-being, whatever that loose, broad concept might include.

For an Open Lifespan parallel argument to be made about flourishing lives along the lines of pluralism, please see here the post that was mentioned in the liberal component already: Open Life’s temporal value-pluralism enables neutrality towards different concepts of good life

#9. d-SLD ‘no person could reasonably reject’

An apologetic, negatively tuned argument revolving around the concept of ‘behaviourist reasonableness’ assuming a political system that no person could reasonably reject as a reason to wholeheartedly embrace it.

#9. OL-SLD: temporal value-pluralism makes it very hard to reasonably reject system

A somewhat similar argument can be made, I think, using the temporal value-pluralism enabled by OL. Once people realise that OL will provide them a potentially indefinite and consecutive series of lives they can only reasonably accept as it provides everybody with fuel to be not be able to reasonable reject it.

#10. d-SLD: Openness to new ideas, innovation, room for progress 

This argument coming from answering objection (3) against SLD blaming it being too static, not creative and lacking trajectories for improvement. p244

As an answer Floyd highlights SLD societies radical openness to new ideas, one that experiments all the time with ‘new and different policies’.

‘As a result of being open enough to both generate and import new ideas, and as a result of being democratic enough to foster genuine electoral competition,  SLDs are always able to improve.’


#10. OL-SLD: Openness to new ideas, innovation, room for progress 

Open Lifespan is the real opener/unlocker of every open tendencies an SLD can contain, it is indeed SLD on steroids. I’m not saying more about this, because I have so much to say about this, but said it elsewhere.

Two extra arguments coming from the extension of NB, accepting health/longevity as behaviourist political triggers.

Here I build upon Blind spot of academic political philosophy: not recognising health as a political incentive and healthy longevity as a political goal suggesting an extension of NB including health/longevity as a legitimate behavioural variable showing political preferences. Accepting this extension, orthodox NB has to admit that the answer provides to d-SLD needs be extended to, towards OL-SLD, in order to be a convincing answer to the organising question, touching upon the political in all of us: how should we live?.

#11. If health is a valid political goal for an extended NB then d-SLD alone will not suffice as a solution, only OL-SLD

#12. If healthy longevity is a valid political goal for an extended NB then d-SLD alone will not suffice as a solution, only OL-SLD

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