a critical look at kass and transhumanists on ageless bodies n.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
A Critical Look at Kass and Transhumanists on Ageless Bodies: PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
A Critical Look at Kass and Transhumanists on Ageless Bodies:

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 21

A Critical Look at Kass and Transhumanists on Ageless Bodies: - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

A Critical Look at Kass and Transhumanists on Ageless Bodies:. Enhancement and Degradation of the Human Person. Transvision ‘04 August 6-8, 2004 Toronto, Ontario. Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel Tihamer.Toth-Fejel@gd-ais.com. Contents. Ethics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology Natural Law

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'A Critical Look at Kass and Transhumanists on Ageless Bodies:' - lexi

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
a critical look at kass and transhumanists on ageless bodies

A Critical Look at Kass and Transhumanists on Ageless Bodies:

Enhancement and Degradation of the Human Person

Transvision ‘04

August 6-8, 2004

Toronto, Ontario

Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel


  • Ethics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology
    • Natural Law
    • The Ultimate Questions
    • Example: Enhancing Sight
  • Ageless Bodies
    • Social Consequences
    • Disparities of Wealth
    • An Interesting Life
    • A Meaningful Life
    • A Beautiful Life
    • A Virtuous Life
  • Other Voices
  • Conclusion
introduction to ethics
Introduction to Ethics

Decisions regarding ethics can be made at four levels:

  • Politics: Should a particular enhancement be legal? Example: Should seeing in the dark be legal?
  • Ethics: How do we tell right from wrong? Is it right or wrong to enhance our vision to see in the dark?
  • Epistemology: What is knowledge? How do we get it? What is the process by which can we discover if seeing in the dark is good?
  • Metaphysics: What is the fundamental nature of reality? Is there actually such a thing as objective good? Does darkness really exist, or is it just the absence of light?
metaphysical differences
Metaphysical Differences

Moral cognitivism: objectively true or false

  • Moral realism: “The sky is blue”
  • Moral constructivism: “Drive on the right side of the road”

Moral Non-cognitivism: no objective truth-value

  • Moral nihilism: “The intelligence of rocks is curable”
  • Moral relativism: “true for me” and “true for you”
epistemological differences
Epistemological Differences

Sources of Moral Judgments

Individual: Sometimes individuals make good moral choices by following their consciences. But individuals often disagree about what is "good."

Society: There are many similar laws across cultures, as well as laws that sharply disagree. Also, laws often change. Slavery and genocide have both been codified into law.

God: Provides justification for judgments, holding us accountable to a higher power. Also connects humans together as children of God, made in His image and likeness. But sometimes our concept of God and revelation is different.

Natural Law: Reciprocal, universal, consistent, practical. Well-defined and rational method.

natural law
Natural Law


  • Literature: Sophocles’ Antigone; Tolkien's The Two Towers
  • Philosophy: pre-Socratic Greeks; Thomas Aquinas; John Paul II


  • Discover the essential nature of an entity
    • "How does it function?" (or teleologically: "What is its purpose?")
  • "Convertibility of being into good"
    • Something that exists (light, sight) is better than it's parasitic opposite (shadow, blindness).
applying natural law
Applying Natural Law

In what way is the characteristic that you’re trying to enhance really real?

Does the phenomenon really have ontological existence?

Are other deficiencies confusing the phenomenon?

Is there an overlooked benefit in one of the phenomenon?

Will the consequence of the enhancement cancel out the enhancement's original goal?

Does the enhancement helps achieve a desire but prevents the fulfillment of a need?

Does increasing a capability change the nature of the person?

determining right and wrong
Determining Right and Wrong

What are the Ends?

What are the Means?

What are the Circumstances?

the ultimate questions
The Ultimate Questions

Does a change enhance or degrade our humanity?

Since our humanity is defined by personhood, what does it mean to be a human person?

objects and happiness
Objects and Happiness


Philosophical zombie – no consciousness


Persons are not Objects

Euidimonia: Happiness, Joy, Fulfillment

Existence, Truth, and Love

Four models of a good life



Fatalistic (stoic)


example enhancing sight
Example: Enhancing Sight

Two types: body and brain

Enhancing Sight: Removing blind spots, improving visual acuity, resistance to intense brightness, and night vision.


Sight is better than blindness, but is more better? Is it just an appetite? Is it necessary for apprehending beauty?


Invasive or semi-automated surgery


Double effect: Cost, risk of permanent damage, and amount of pain

Increased pride or vanity

Discriminate against those with normal sight.

Enhancing sight may also require an enhancement of a person's character - a task that nanotechnology cannot do.

But if everyone is enhanced, then vanity, pride, or discrimination won't be a problem.

ageless bodies
Ageless Bodies

Extreme Life Extension

Six mechanisms of aging

Fear of death

Life is intrinsic good

Many negative social consequences

social consequences
Social Consequences


  • Overpopulation
  • Reduced innovation
  • Skewed demographics


Negative social consequences are challenges that will need to be faced head on, not avoided… technological capacity is extremely likely to soften or eliminate the negative social impact of widespread life extension usage.

Technology rarely solves social problems

“There is no problem no big and complicated that it can’t be run away from.”

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Children and “giveness”

Is there anything worth dying for?

disparities of wealth
Disparities of Wealth

Kass: rich vs poor, and mortal vs immortal.

Anissimov: medical advances initially more accessible to the wealthy, but they filter down.

We should thank the rich for volunteering to be the guinea pigs.

an interesting life
An Interesting Life

Kass: a limited human life span offers the benefits of interest and engagement. Will personal happiness increases proportionally to life span?

Anissimov: we didn’t lose interest and engagement in life when average lifespan increased from 30 to 70…. thanks to the explosion of culture and technology; there are more exciting things to do than ever before.

Suicide rates are higher in developed countries than in undeveloped ones.

“Millions yearn for immortality, but know not what to do with a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

What it is about life that makes it interesting?

a meaningful life
A Meaningful Life

Kass: Could life be meaningful without the limit of mortality?

Anissimov: Life only becomes unserious, devoid of meaning, etc, if we want it to be.

Will any philosophy going to lead to a meaningful life?

A life without love and truth will be a hollow one for everyone.

Kass: the boundaries and shape of the life cycle give possible meaning to life… reminding us that we will someday die, and that we must live in a way that takes heed of that reality.”

The solution isn’t relinquishing life extension; it is finding other ways for people to take heed of the reality of death, even if it is hundreds of years away.

“No matter how long you live, you’ll be dead much longer”

a beautiful life
A Beautiful Life

Kass: “Death is the mother of beauty”

Classical response: Doesn’t God create beauty?

Anissimov: Our appreciation of beauty probably has evolutionary roots, and as we enhance our brains and discover new elegant structures in this universe, our appreciation for beauty will increase.

Darwinists have admitted that beauty has little evolutionary purpose.

We cannot program what we cannot understand.

Kass places love on same footing as beauty, and Anissimov misses it. Are these guys human?

Heinlein: “I want to live long enough to love every decent human being.”

a virtuous life
A Virtuous Life

Kass: “Immortals cannot be noble.”

Classical response: Isn’t God immortal? Aren’t angels noble?

Anissimov: some aspects of our present-day consensus morality do probably rest upon limited lifespan, [but] the injustice of nonconsensual death far overwhelms the small portions of our morality which will be thrown off balance with the introduction of extreme life extension… In almost every case, it's easier to do more good if one is able to live longer, than through sacrifice.”

The connection of morality to death is rather slim. The connection to sacrifice is not.

“Nonconsensual death”? Inalienable rights can be relinquished?

other voices
Other Voices

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “When one tries to rise above Nature, one is liable to fall below it. … The spiritual would not avoid the call to something higher. It would become the survival of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor world become?”

Bill McKibben : Death makes us human; Avoiding death is nasty.

Robert Freitas: Death is an outrage.

Isaac Asimov: The social costs of immortality are too high.


Natural Law helps us discover the morality of enhancements.

Enhancement must improve a characteristic of a human without changing the ordering of goods inherent to personhood.

Enhancements must not degrade our humanity, must not turn us into objects, nor contradict who we are as persons.

Our difficulties:

Recognizing which enhancements are degrading us,

Discovering how this degradation occurs, and

Resisting the seductive promises they make.

study questions
Study Questions

Is the millennia old Natural Law theory the best method of dealing with 21st century moral issues? Why or why not? If not, what method is better?

Can you think of an example of something evil that exists independently and not parasitically?

What is a human person? How is that essentially different from a zombie, sentient robot, or uplifted animal?

What are the “goods of personhood” How are they ordered?

Would you like to have a youthful, ageless body? Why? Would you tend towards teenage recklessness or old-age over-cautiousness. Why?

How would you recognize if some medical procedure was degrading? How might it be seductive? What concrete steps could you take to resist its temptation?