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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
Enhancement and Degradation of the Human Person
August 6-8, 2004
Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel
Decisions regarding ethics can be made at four levels:
Moral cognitivism: objectively true or false
Moral Non-cognitivism: no objective truth-value
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.
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?
What are the Ends?
What are the Means?
What are the Circumstances?
Does a change enhance or degrade our humanity?
Since our humanity is defined by personhood, what does it mean to be a human person?
Philosophical zombie – no consciousness
Persons are not Objects
Euidimonia: Happiness, Joy, Fulfillment
Existence, Truth, and Love
Four models of a good life
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.
Extreme Life Extension
Six mechanisms of aging
Fear of death
Life is intrinsic good
Many negative social consequences
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?
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.
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?
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”
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.”
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?
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.
Recognizing which enhancements are degrading us,
Discovering how this degradation occurs, and
Resisting the seductive promises they make.
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?