Re: Anti-Capitalism

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Sat Apr 21 2001 - 08:02:33 MDT

----- Original Message -----
From: Anders Sandberg <>
> You better get working on coming up with some sane model of a "leftist
> transhumanism" (for lack of a better word). I have been asking for it
> for ages - I think there is nothing that has hurt the development of
> transhumanism as much as the lack of internal debate over the
> philosophical foundations of transhumanism. We need something more than
> just taking one's normal political stance with transhumanism tacked onto
> it, we need a true synthesis.
As a philosopher myself it is pleasant to think that this is true. But I
wonder why. Do you mean by a "synthesis" that we ought to be looking for a
unifying political philosophy for transhumanism? Why isn't a healthy
pragmatism here sufficient? For example, why can't liberal, socialist,
libertarian, and facist transhumanists be content to work together on
specific issues? Or by synthesis do you mean that we ought to have a menu of
traditional political philosophies synthesized with transhumanism? E.g., if
you are socialist please press 3, if you are a facist please press 4, etc.
My own view is that the question of whether a transhumanist ethics can be
fashioned is the logically prior question. For all political philosophies
announce or presuppose some theory of human nature. But transhumanism raises
the question of which nature ought we to have; which is in itself an ethical
question. Suppose, for example, your political philosophy is based on a
theory of human nature which says people are basically selfish: "man seeketh
power after power ending only in death". Transhumanism asks whether we ought
to be selfish by nature. Socialism is sometimes derided for being based on
an overly optimistic view of human nature. If this is so then it looks like
it is merely a technical problem to implimenting socialism, viz., we have to
tweek human nature. Conversely, perhaps we could make libertarianism more
successful if we made everyone value liberty above all else, etc. My own
ethical research at present is whether the virtue based perfectionist
tradition in ethics (Plato to Nietzsche) might--if radically reworked-- be
the appropriate for transhumanism. Whether this ethical research will have
dividends for political philosophy I can't say at this point. I am not that
optimistic for the possibility of a synthesis given that transhumanism is
working in a completely new ecological space in the intellectual
environment. (Unless by 'synthesis' we mean aufheben). Part of the problem
is that traditional ethics suffers from a similar limitation as political
philosophy, namely, that all ethical theories presuppose a theory of human
nature. (It is true that some ancient and modern conceptions allow for
differences of degree in human nature, but not the difference in kind
suggested by the notion of posthumans). As a simple example of this consider
the claim by Kant that "ought implies can". It is absurd to say that I
ought to allievate all suffering on this earth because I can't. (I can lend
a hand, but I can't do it all by myself). What we can and can't do is
circumscribed in part by who we are, i.e., in part by our nature. By
changing the scope of what we can do, by altering our natures, will likely
lead to an increase in the scope of what we ought to do.

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