Re: PHIL: Extropianism: A Philosophy Without a Foundation

Timothy Bates (
Sun, 07 Mar 1999 17:00:51 +1100

Anders Sandberg
> I think the problem not just for Extropianism but for transhumanism in
> general is that as we are growing, we also need better
> self-definitions, firmer foundations. But most of us likely do not
> want to make them too rigid or excluding.

This is clearly a wide-spread (though not pervasive) meme on the list.

IMHO, defining does indeed make the _concept_ "rigid" and "excluding", but in exactly the degree to which this is achieved, it makes _us_ flexible and discriminating.

Extropianism can be either a philosophical construct or a scientific construct.

Philosophically, some definitions will lead to progressive science and others will stultify. An analogy might be Richard Dawkin's selfish-gene concept. Richard thinks of this as rather more of a philosophical orientation rather than a scientific theory in itself.

It has of course proven itself to be immensely powerful in generating an entire novel, progressive, research program. Some philosophical Extropys will be more progressive than others. I suggest that those which are principled about the use of force and which follow this through to its logical conclusions regarding the government as an agent of force, will be most progressive. Exactly as Dawkins has had to publicly battle against both religionists and the Marxist's such SJ Gould, so too this principled version of extropy will have to battle, but, similarly, it will be most progressive.

Scientifically, extropy could be a theory of how people best will get to their future: as such testable hypotheses can be derived and inadequate definitions junked. Some scientific Extropys will be better predictors than others, though overall, this enterprise will be of limited value. Such theories are usually better at history than futurography.

The whole point of this mail is that in neither case is being inclusive and bland helpful.

Having an "open" concept which is inclusive of lots of opposing people and not really antithetical to anything is like running for president - you promise so much to so many that you end up do nothing for anyone.

This purported "openness" is also every bit as rigid and limiting as a more precise comprehensive, and well specified definition. The more open form rigidly disallows principled choice of action, because it has constantly to say "oh well... let's not jump to conclusions: everyone has a right to their own choices ... no matter what they might be."