Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it’s now the subject of serious investment – both intellectual and financial – by philosophers, scientists and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be ‘cryopreserved’ in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative ‘solutions’ being mooted?
‘The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One,’ wrote Albert Einstein in December 1926. ‘I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice.’
Historicism: The theory that to understand a historical event, you must understand the philosophical context that it took place in, rather than explain it with supposedly timeless or fundamental ideas.
The best of the philosophical internet from Virtual Philosopher, Five Books, Aeon, Vox, The Stone, The BBC, Quartz, Donald Robertson, The New York Review of Books, The Philosophy Guy, The Partially Examined Life and History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps.
Nihilism: The philosophical view that the world, and human existence in particular, is without meaning, purpose, truth or value.
An “observer columnist” at The Guardian thinks an idea is valid only if a name is attached to it. Kenan Malik, the columnist in question, was discussing the recently proposed “Journal of Controversial Ideas.” The journal, according to Jeff McMahan, a professor of moral philosophy at Oxford University and an initiator of the project, “would … Continue reading A Journal for ‘Controversial Ideas’ in Sensitive Times… Why Not?
On either side of the Atlantic, groups of public intellectuals have issued a call to arms. The besieged citadel in need of defending, they say, is the one that safeguards science, facts and evidence-based policy. These white knights of progress – such as the psychologist Steven Pinker and the neuroscientist Sam Harris – condemn the apparent resurgence of passion, emotion and superstition in politics. The bedrock of modernity, they tell us, is the human capacity to curb disruptive forces with cool-headed reason. What we need is a reboot of the Enlightenment, now.
We live in strange times. But few people could have expected today’s rise of a global movement of self-describing Stoic online communities numbering over 100,000 participants.