Re: Striving for Eudaimonia

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Aug 28 2001 - 13:08:27 MDT

On Mon, Aug 27, 2001 at 09:50:40PM +1000, Russell Blackford wrote:
[A very nice run-trhough of aristotelian ethical thinking]

> Transhumanism, by contrast, does not invoke common sense, or practical
> reason, in the normal way (though its means of inquiry may well be
> *continuous* with common sense methods of inquiry, as I explained of
> scientific inquiry in an earlier post). To apply the Aristotelian concepts
> of human functioning, eudaemonia, virtue (as disposition) and so on in a
> transhumanist context may be quite a challenge. I cannot immediately see how
> to do it, though there are aspects that seem more attractive than the rival
> theories, particularly the emphasis on rationality and happiness.

Well, cooking up a transhumanist neoaristotelian system is not something
that can be done in an afternoon (Waldemar has spent some effort in
convincing me about this, finally succeeding by lending me Rasmussen and
van den Uyl - ouch! :-).

> I suppose we might need to begin a few steps back with the function of
> leading an active life in accordance with reason, and what this might now
> involve. Certainly, the particular virtues (and vices) that Aristotle
> identified don't take us very far, and I don't think they were meant to,
> since Aristotle was not a thinker who was oriented to moral reform.

One development that might be interesting to link with the aristotelian
idea of reason as the human end with the renaissance humanist view of
the human as a being not just endowed with freedom but also the freedom
to change and shape itself (as expressed beautifully by Mirandola). If
we extend the idea of the human as a rational animal to the idea of the
human as a rational self-changing animal we get a lot of transhumanism
into the system right at the start. This view of human nature as
basically processual (we are not so much human beings but human
becomings) seems to fit well with modern perspectives on how the body
develops, how the brain self-organises, learns and shapes itself through
interactions with the environment, evolutionary epistemology a la Popper
and the informational paradigm that seems to be growing in the sciences
today. W can reach happiness not just by reason, but also by growing
(although strictly speaking these are just two sides of the same
concept, the general adaptability of the human mind).

I think quite a few "new" virtues can be derived from this extended
concept of the human. A local :-) example would be the extropian
principles. While they are not per se virtues (rather good things to
strive towards), they encompass virtues. If we look at the comments in
the principles practical optimism is described as a mean against
pessimism and unfounded optimism. Self-transformation is it is expressed
a mean between personal stasis and unfounded dreams of greatness.
Perpetual progress is a mean between accepting unnecessary limits and
railing against unyielding limits. Intelligent technology is the virtue
of using technology properly. Self-direction balances independence with
being controlled by others. Rational thinking is a mean between
dogmatism of any kind and paralysing scepticism. Open society is not a
virtue per se, but rather a striving for societies where virtues of this
kind can be developed, and hence implies a certain responsibility for
creating and maintaining one's society.

Transhumanism does not just deal with actualizing human potential, but
also extending human potential (to its own fullest potential). There
might thus even exist meta-virtues dealing with the potential increase:
how much effort to spend on fulfilling my current potential and how much
on enlarging this potential?

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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