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This essay was originally published at Transhumanity.

They don’t call it fatal for nothing. Infatuation with the fat of fate, duty to destiny, and belief in any sort of preordainity whatsoever – omnipotent deities notwithstanding – constitutes an increase in Existential Risk, albeit indirectly. If we think that events have been predetermined, it follows that we would think that our actions make no difference in the long run and that we have no control over the shape of those futures still fetal. This scales to the perceived ineffectiveness of combating or seeking to mitigate existential risk for those who have believe so fatalistically. Thus to combat belief in fate, and resultant disillusionment in our ability to wreak roiling revisement upon the whorl of the world, is to combat existential risk as well.

It also works to undermine the perceived effectiveness of humanity’s ability to mitigate existential risk along another avenue. Belief in fate usually correlates with the notion that the nature of events is ordered with a reason on purpose in mind, as opposed to being haphazard and lacking a specific projected end. Thus believers-in-fate are not only more likely to doubt the credibility of claims that existential risk could even occur (reasoning that if events have purpose, utility and conform to a mindfully-created order then they would be good things more often than bad things) but also to feel that if they were to occur it would be for a greater underlying reason or purpose.

Thus, belief in fate indirectly increases existential risk both a. by undermining the perceived effectiveness of attempts to mitigate existential risk, deriving from the perceived ineffectiveness of humanity’s ability to shape the course and nature of events and effect change in the world in general, and b. by undermining the perceived likelihood of any existential risks culminating in humanity’s extinction, stemming from connotations of order and purpose associated with fate.

fate5Belief in fate is not only self-curtailing, but also dehumanizing insofar as it stops us from changing, affecting and actualizing the world and causes us think that we can have no impact on the course of events or control over circumstantial circumstances. This anecdotal point is rather ironic considering that Anti-Transhumanists often launch the charge that trying to take fate into our own hands is itself dehumanizing. They’re heading in an ass-forward direction.

While belief in predetermination-of-events is often associated with religion, most often with those who hold their deity to be omnipotent (as in the Abrahamic religious tradition), it can also be easily engendered by the association of scientific materialism (or metaphysical naturalism) with determinism and its connotations of alienation and seeming dehumanization. Memetic connotations of preordainity or predetermination, whether stemming from either religion or scientific-materialism, serve to undermine our perceived autonomy and our perceived ability to enact changes in the world. We must let neither curtail our perceived potential to change the world, both because the thrust towards self-determination and changing the world for the better is the heart of humanity and because perceived ineffectiveness at facilitating change in the world correlates with an indirect increase in existential risk by promoting the perceived ineffectiveness of humanity to shape events so as to mitigate such risks.

Having presented the reasoning behind the claim that belief in fate constitutes an indirect increase in existential risk, the rest of this essay will be concerned with a.) the extent with which ideas can be considered as real as physical entities, processes or “states-of-affairs”, namely for their ability to affect change and determine the nature and circumstance of such physical entities and processes, b.) a few broader charges against fate in general, and c.) possible ideohistorical sources of contemporary belief in fate.

The Ousting of Ousia:

Giddy Fortune’s furious fickle wheel,
That goddess blind, That stands upon
the rolling restless stone.
Henry V, 3.3.27), Pistol to Fluellen — Shakespeare

Ethereal beliefs can have material consequences. We intuitively feel that ideas can have less of an impact on the world for their seeming incorporeality. This may be a but specter of Aristotle’s decision to ground essence in Ousia, or Substance, and the resultant emphasis throughout the following philo-socio-historical development of the Western World on staticity and unchanging materiality as the platform for Truth and Being (i.e. essence) that it arguably promoted. Indeed, the Scholastic Tradition in medieval Europe tried to reconcile their theological system with Aristotle’s philosophic tradition more than any other. But while Aristotle’s emphasis on grounding being in ousia is predominant, Aristotle also has his Telos, working though the distance of time to impart shape and meaning upon the action of the present. Indeed, we do things for a purpose; the concerted actions contributing to my writing these words are not determined in stepwise fashion and inherent in the parts, but with the end goal of communicating and idea to people shaping and to a large extent determining the parts and present actions that proceed along the way to that projected ideal. Aristotle was presumably no stranger to the limitations of parts, as his metaphysical system can be seen in large part as a reaction against Plato’s.

One will do well to recall as well that Plato grounded the eternality of being not in sod but in sky. Plato’s Ideal Forms were eternal because they were to be found nowhere in physicality, in contrast to Aristotle’s Ousia, which were eternal and lasting for being material rather than ethereal. Plato’s lofty realm of Ideas were realer than reality for being locatable nowhere therein, save as mere approximation. And while Plato’s conceptual gestalt did indeed gestate throughout certain periods of history, including Neo-Platonism, Idealism, Transcendentalism and Process Philosophy, one can argue that the notion of the reality of ideas failed to impact popular attitudes of fate, destiny and predeterminism to the extent with which Aristotle’s notion of Ousia did.

The Ideal Real or the Real Ideal?

My stars shine darkly over me:
the malignancy of my fate might
perhaps distemper yours.
(Twelfth Night, 2.1.3), Sebastian to Antonio) — Shakespeare

I’ve thus far argued that Artistotle’s notion of Ousia as the grounds for Truth and Essence has promoted the infatuation with fate that seems pretty predominant throughout history, and that Plato’s Ideal Forms have deterred such physics-fat infatuation by emphasizing the reality of ideas, and thereby vicariously promoting the notion that ideas can have as large an impact on reality as substance and real action does.

If we act as though God is watching, are not all the emergent effects (on us) of his existence, which would have been caused were he actually there watching in some sense, instantiated nonetheless or with any less vehemence than if he were not watching? If a tribe refrains from entering a local area for fear of legends about a monster situated there, are they not as controlled and affected by that belief as they would be if such a monster actually existed? The idea of the monster is as real as otherwise because the tribesmen avoid it, just as though it were real. These examples serve to illustrate the point that ideas can be as real as real states-of-affairs because by believing in their reality we can consequently instantiate all the emergent effects that would have been present were such an idea a real “state-of-affairs”.

This notion has the potential to combat the sedentizing effects that belief in fate and destiny can engender because it allows us to see not only our ideas, with which we can affect circumstances and effect changes in the world, can have material impact on the world, and to see that objectives projected into the future can have a decided impact on circumstances in the present insofar as we shape the circumstances of the present in response to that anticipated, projected objective. We do things for projected purposes which shall not exist until the actions carried out under the egis of satisfying that purpose are, indeed, carried out. It doesn’t exist until we make it exist, and we must believe that it shall exist in order to facilitate the process of its creation. This reifies the various possible futures still waiting to be actualized, and legitimizes the reality of such possible futures. Thus Plato’s ideo-embryo of Ideal Forms constitutes a liberating potential not only for making ideas (through which we shape the world) real, but also by reifying Telos and the anticipated ends and fetal futures through which we can enact the translation of such ideas into physical embodiment.

Yet Plato is not completely free of the blame for solidifying lame fate in the eyes of the world. The very eternality of his Forms at once serves to reify fate and promote public acceptance of it as well! Plato’s forms are timeless, changeless. What is time but a loosening of the strings on fortune’s sling? What is eternality but destiny determined and the fine print writ large? While Plato’s firm forms vilify fate they also valorize it by sharing with it memetic connotations of timelessness and changelessness.

So damn you Plato for spaciating time rather than temporalizing space, for making the ideal a form rather than a from and eternal rather than eturnatal, for urning where you should have turned and for grounding the ideal rather that aerating it as you should have. And damn you Aristotle — phlegmy future-forward blowback and simmerred reaction against Ur philosophic father — but a batch of Play-Doh bygone hardy and fissury — for totalizing in ontic aplomb the base base and bawdy body and for siding with ousia rather than insiding within nousia. Your petty chasm has infected the vector of our memetic trajectory with such damnbivalent gravity as to arrest our escapee velocity and hold us fast against the slow down and still to wall the wellness of our will. Your preplundurance with stuff has made your ideational kin seek suchness and understanding in what overlies the series of surfaces all the way down, without any gno of flow or recourse to the coursing middle that shifts its center and lifts its tangentail besides. Aristotle the Ptolemaic totalizer of cosmography by curation rather than creation, each moment a museum to be ripped asunder its supple matrix maternal and molested with scientific rigor-mortis in quiet dustless rooms. Being is but the jail-louse diminutive bastard-kid-brother of Becoming, which Heraclitus in his dark light saw and which Parmenides despite getting more limelight did not. But again, even Aristotle had his retro-causal final causes — the Telos televisualized…

Was Aristotle aristotally wrong, or did he just miss a right turn down the li(n)e?

Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown; Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own. (Hamlet, 3.2.208), Player King — Shakespeare

Then again (…again?), Aristotle may not be as culpable as he was capable. While I argue that his notion of Ousia had predominantly reifying effects on people’s notions of the existence of fate and the irreality of ideas, thereby undermining our perceived ability to determine the conditions of our selves and the world in particular, this may have been a consequence of promiscuous misinterpretation rather than underlying motivation. Aristotle is often allied with Parmenides for deifying Being over the Becoming of Heraclitus, but Aristotle’s notion of Ousia, when considered in contrast to the Plato’s Forms (which it can be seen as a reaction against) may actually bear more similarities with Becoming-as-Being al a Heraclitus than with Being-as-Sole-Being al a Parmenides.

Plato’s Forms may have for Aristotle epitomized resolute eternality and unyielding predetermination. Indeed, essence connotes immateriality, idealism, and possibility; an airyness very easy to conflate with becoming or idealism by various semiotic channels, but for Plato essence – which he locates in his Ideal Forms — was almost antithetical to such attributes: a type of being, eternal and changeless. Aristiotle’s Being or Ousia, however, grounds Truth and Essence in the parted parts, the particulate particular and the singular segment. His Ousia may have been an attempt, in reaction against the unmoving Forms of Plato, to ground truth in the diverse, the particular and the idiosyncratic rather than the airy eternal and skybound ground unflinching. Aristotle’s Ousia then may be more correlative to Becoming-as-Being in the sense in which Heraclitus meant it, and in accordance with the notion’s potential to reify the existence, value/dignity and effectiveness of our autonomy, individuality, and difference. Indeed, the reification of these ideals, threatened by any notions framing essence as changeless, may have been Aristotle’s main gain and underlying motivation.

This brief foray into the semiotic jungles of transhistorical memetics and the ways in which notions formulated in Ancient Greece may have fermented throughout history to help form and shape our attitudes toward fate, destiny, predeterminism, and thereby our ability to affect changes in the world — and to cast away the slings and clutched crutches of fate — serves to illustrate, in a self-reflective fit of meta, how notions wholly immaterial can still matter insofar as they shape our contemporary beliefs, desires, attitudes and ideals. The two notions briefly considered here, of Plato’s Ideal Forms and Aristotle’s Ousia, have been considered in regard to the extent with which they shape contemporary belief in fate and predestination.

Conclusion: Inconclusivity is Key

My fate cries out, And makes each petty artery in this body As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve. (Hamlet, 1.4.91), Hamlet — Shakespeare

Indeed, infatuation with fate constitutes an increase in Existential risk by undermining the extent with which we perceive our usefulness and effectiveness in combatting Existential Risks in general, as well as by undermining the perceived likelihood of such existential risks causing serious harm and death or culminating in the extinction of humanity.

Belief in destiny is also dehumanizing and alienating. The only determinism fit for Man is self-determination, the self not in-and-of itself but within-and-for itself. The deterministic connotations inextricably associated with fate, destiny and preordainity are dehumanizing and epitomize the very antithesis of what constitutes humanity as such.

Combatting the dehumanizing and disenfranchising connotations of determinism is also imperative to increasing the public appeal of Transhumanism. It is easy to associate such connotations with technology, through an association of technology with determinism (in regards to both function and aesthetic), and since technology is very much emphasized in Transhumanism, one could even say is central to Transhumanism, this should impel us to re-legitimatize and to explicate the enchanting, mysterious, and wonder-full aspects of technology inherent in Transhumanist thinking and discourse. Technology is our platform for increased self-determination, self-realization and self-liberation. We can do the yet-to-be-possible with technology, and so technology should rightly be associated with the yet-to-be-determined, with the determinedly indeterminatal, the mysterious, the enchanting, and the awe-some. While its use as a tool of disenfranchisement and control is not impossible or nonexistent, its liberating, empowering and enchantment-instilling potentialities shouldn’t be overly undermined, or worse wholly ignored, as a result.

Whether in the form of determinism grounded in scientific materialism, or in the lofty letharge of an omnipotent god with a dogged determination to fix destiny in unflinching resolve, belief in fate increases existential risk by decreasing our perceived ability to effect affects in the world and make changes to the shape of our circumstance, as well as decreasing the perceived likelihood of a source of existential risk culminating in humanity’s extinction.

If all is fixedly viced then where lie room to revise?

Dead Immortalist Sequence - #1: Immanuel Kant (1724−1804)

kant1 Kant is often misconstrued as advocating radical conformity amongst people, a common misconception drawn from his Categorical Imperative, which states that each should act as though the rules underlying his actions can be made a universal moral maxim. The extent of this universality, however, stops at the notion that each man should act as though the aspiration towards morality were a universal maxim. All Kant meant, I argue, was that each man should act as though the aspiration toward greater morality were able to be willed as a universal moral maxim.

This common misconception serves to illustrate another common and illegitimate portrayal of the Enlightenment tradition. Too often is the Enlightenment libelled for its failure to realize the ideal society. Too often is it characterized most essentially by its glorification of strict rationality, which engenders invalid connotations of stagnant, statuesque perfection – a connotation perhaps aided by the Enlightenment’s valorization of the scientific method, and its connotations of stringent and unvarying procedure and methodology in turn. This takes the prized heart of the Enlightenment tradition and flips it on its capsized ass. This conception of the Enlightenment tradition is not only wrong, but antithetical to the true organizing gestalt and prime impetus underlying the Age of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment wasn’t about realizing the perfect society but rather about idealizing the perfect society – the striving towards an ever-inactualized ideal which, once realized, would cease to be ideal for that very reason. The enlightenment was about unending progress towards that ideal state – for both Man as society and man as singular splinter — of an infinite forward march towards perfection, which upon definitively reaching perfection will have failed to achieve its first-sought prize. The virtue of the Enlightenment lies in the virtual, and its perfection in the infinite-perfectibility inherent in imperfection.

This truer, though admittedly less normative, interpretation of the Enlightenment tradition, taking into account its underlying motivations and projected utilities rather than simply taking flittered glints from the fallacious surface and holding them up for solid, tangible truth also serves to show the parallels between the Enlightenment gestalt and Transhumanism. James Hughes, for one, characterizes Transhumanism as a child of the Enlightenment Tradition [1].

One can see with intuitive lucidity that characterizing the Enlightenment’s valorization of rationality goes against the very underlying driver of that valorization. Rationality was exalted during the Age of Enlightenment for its potential to aid in skepticism toward tradition. Leave the chiseled and unmoving, petty perfection of the statue for the religious traditions the Enlightenment was rebelling against – the inviolable God with preordained plan, perfect for his completion and wielding total authority over the static substance of Man; give the Enlightenment rather the starmolten fire-afury and undulate aspiration toward ever-forth-becoming highers that it sprang from in the first place. The very aspects which cause us to characterize the enlightenment as limiting, rigid, and unmolten are those very ideals that, if never realized definitively — if instead made to form an ongoing indefinite infinity — would thereby characterize the Enlightenment tradition as a righteous roiling rebellion against limitation and rigour — as a flighty dive into the molten maelstrom of continuing mentation toward better and truer versions of ourselves and society that was its real underlying impetus from the beginning.

This truer gestalt of the Enlightenment impinges fittingly upon the present study. Kant is often considered one of the fathers of the Enlightenment. In a short essay entitled “What is the Enlightenment?” [2], Kant characterizes the essential archetype of Man (as seen through the lens of the Enlightenment) in a way wholly in opposition to the illegitimate conceptions of the Enlightenment described above — and in vehement agreement with the less-normative interpretation of the Enlightenment that followed. It is often assumed, much in line with such misconceptions, that the archetype of Man during the Age of the Enlightenment was characterized by rational rigour and scientific stringence. However, this archetype of the mindless, mechanical automaton was the antithesis of Man’s then-contemporary archetype; the automaton was considered rather the archetype of animality – which can be seen as antithetical to the Enlightenment’s take on Man’s essence, with its heady rationality and lofty grasping towards higher ideals. In his essay, Kant characterizes the Enlightenment’s archetype of Man as the rebellious schoolboy who cannot and shall not be disciplined into sordid subservience by his schoolmasters. Here Kant concurs gravely from beyond the grave that Man’s sole central and incessant essence is his ongoing self-dissent, his eschewing of perverse obligation, his disleashing the weathered tethers of limitation, and his ongoing battle with himself for his own self-creation.

It is this very notion of infinite progress towards endlessly-perfectable states of projected perfection that, too, underlies his ties to Immortalism. Indeed, his claim that to retain morality we must have comprehensively unending lives – that is, we must never ever die – rests cruxially on this premise.

In his Theory of Ethics [3] under Part III: The Summum Bonnum, God and Immortality [4], Kant argues that his theory of ethics necessitates the immortality of the soul in order to remain valid according to the axioms it adheres to. This is nothing less than a legitimation of the desirability of personal immortality from a 1700’s-era philosophical rockstar. It is important to note that the aspects making it so crucial in concern to Kant’s ethical system have to do with immortality in general, and indeed would have been satisfied according to non-metaphysical (i.e. physical and technological) means – having more to do with the end of continued life and indefinite-lonbgevity or Superlongevity in particular, than with the particular means used to get there, which in his case is a metaphysical means. Karl Ameriks writes in reference to Kant here: “… the question of immortality is to be understood as being about a continued temporal existence of the mind. The question is not whether we belong to the realm beyond time but whether we will persist through all time…Kant also requires this state to involve personal identity.” [5]. While Kant did make some metaphysical claims tied to immortality – namely the association of degradation and deterioration with physicality, which when combined with the association of time with physicality may have led to his characterization of the noumenal realm (being the antithesis of the phenomenal realm) as timeless and free from causal determination. These claims are beyond the purview of this essay however, and will only be touched upon briefly; what is important to take away is that the metaphysical and non-metaphysical justifications are equally suitable vehicles for Kant’s destination.

Note that any italics appearing within direct quotations are not my own and are recorded as they appeared in the original. All italics external to direct quotations are my own. In the 4th Section, The immortality of the soul as a postulate of pure practical reason , of the 3rd Part of Theory of Ethics, Kant writes: “Pure practical reason postulates the immortality of the soul, for reason in the pure and practical sense aims at the perfect good (summum bonnum), and this perfect good is only possible on the supposition of the soul’s immortality.” [5]

Kant is claiming here that reason (in both senses with which they are taken into account in his system – that is, as pure reason and practical reason) is aimed at perfection, which he defines as continual progress towards the perfect good – rather than the attainment of any such state of perfection, and that as finite beings we can only achieve such perfect good through an unending striving towards it.

In a later section, The Antinomy of Practical Reason (and its Critical Solution) [6], he describes the Summum Bonnum as “the supreme end of a will morally determined”. In an earlier section, The Concept of the Summum Bonnum [7], Kant distinguishes between two possible meanings for Summum; it can mean supreme in the sense of absolute (not contingent on anything outside itself), and perfect (not being part to a larger whole). I take him to claim that it means both.

He also claims personal immortality is a necessary condition for the possibility of the perfect good. In the same section he describes the Summum Bonnum as the combination of two distinct features: happiness and virtue (defining virtue as worthiness of being happy, and in this section synonymizing it with morality). Both happiness and virtue are analytic and thus derivable from empirical observation.

However, their combination in the Summum Bonnum does not follow from either on its own and so must be synthetic, or reliant upon a-priori cognitive principals, Kant reasons. I interpret this as Kant’s claiming that the possibility of the Summum Bonnum requires God and the Immortality of the Soul because this is where Kant grounds his a-priori, synthetic, noumenal world — i.e. the domain where those a-priori principals exist (in/as the mind of God, for Kant).

Kant continues:

” It is the moral law which determines the will, and in this will the perfect harmony of the mind with the moral law is the supreme condition of the summum bonnum… the perfect accordance of the will with the moral law is holiness, a perfection of which no rational being of the sensible world is capable at any moment of his existence. Since, nevertheless, it is required as practically necessary, it can only be found in a progress in infinitum towards that perfect accordance, and on the principles of pure practical reason is nonetheless necessary to assume such a practical progress as the real object of our will.” [8]

Thus not only does Kant argue for the necessitated personal immortality of the soul by virtue of the fact that perfection is unattainable while constrained by time, he argues along an alternate line of reasoning that such perfection is nonetheless necessary for our morality, happiness and virtue, and that we must thus therefor progress infinitely toward it without ever definitively reaching it if the Summum Bonum is to remain valid according to its own defining-attributes and categorical-qualifiers as-such.

Kant decants:

“Now, this endless progress is only possible on the supposition of an endless duration of existence and personality of the same rational being (which is called the immorality of the soul). The summum bonnum, then, practically is only possible on the supposition of the immortality of the soul; consequently this immortality, being inseparably connected with the moral law, is a postulate of pure practical reason (by which I mean a theoretical proposition, not demonstrable as such, but which is an inseparable result of an unconditional a priori practical law). This principal of the moral destination of our nature, namely, that it is only in an endless progress that we can attain perfect accordance with the moral law… For a rational but finite being, the only thing possible is an endless progress from the lower to higher degrees of moral perfection. In Infinite Being, to whom the condition of time is nothing… is to be found in a single intellectual intuition of the whole existence of rational beings. All that can be expected of the creature in respect of the hope of this participation would be the consciousness of his tried character, by which, from the progress he has hitherto made from the worse to the morally better, and the immutability of purpose which has thus become known to him, he may hope for a further unbroken continuance of the same, however long his existence may last, even beyond this life, and thus may hope, not indeed here, nor in any imaginable point of his future existence, but only in the endlessness of his duration (which God alone can survey) to be perfectly adequate to his will.” [9]

So, Kant first argues that the existence of the Summum Bonnum requires the immorality of the soul both a.) because finite beings conditioned by time by definition cannot achieve the absolute perfection of the Summum Bonnum, and can only embody it through perpetual progress towards it, and b.) because the components of the Summum Bonnum (both of which must be co-present for it to qualify as such) are unitable only synthetically through a priori cognitive principals, which he has argued elsewhere must exist in a domain unconditioned by time (which is synonymous with his conception of the noumenal realm) and which must thus be perpetual for such an extraphysical realm to be considered unconditioned by time and thus noumenal. The first would correspond to Kant’s strict immortalist underpinnings, and the second to the alternate (though not necessarily contradictory) metaphysical justification alluded to earlier.

Once arguing that the possibility of the Summum Bonnum requires personal immortality, he argues that our freedom/autonomy, which he locates as the will (and further locates the will as being determined by the moral law) also necessitates the Summum Bonnum. This would correspond to his more embryonically-Transhumanist inclinations. In the first section [The Concept of Summum Bonnum] he writes “It is a priori (morally) necessary to produce the summum bonnum by freedom of will…”. I interpret this statement in the following manner. He sees morality as a-priori and synthetic, and the determining principal which allows us to cause in the world without being caused by it — i.e. for Kant our freedom (i.e. the quality of not being externally-determined) requires the noumenal realm because otherwise we are trapped in the freedom-determinism paradox. Thus the Summum Bonnum also vicariously necessitates the existence of God, because this is necessary for the existence of a noumenal realm unaffected by physical causation (note that Kant physicality ‘the sensible world’). Such a God could be (and indeed has been described by Kant in terms which would favor this interpretation) synonymous with the entire noumenal realm, with every mind forming but an atom as it were in the larger metaorganismal mind of a sort of meta-pantheistic, quasi-Spinozian conception of God – in other words one quite dissimilar to the anthropomorphic connotations usually invoked by the word.

Kant’s real embalmed skull and deathbed head-mould

Others have drawn similar conclusions and made similar interpretations. Karl Ameriks summarizes Kant’s reasoning here thusly:

“All other discussion of immortality in the critical period are dominated by the moral argument that Kant sets out in the second critique. The argument is that morality obligates us to seek holiness (perfect virtue), which therefore must be possible, and can only be so if God grants us an endless afterlife in which we can continually progress… As a finite creature man in incapable of ever achieving holiness, but on — and only in — an endless time could we supposedly approximate to it (in the eyes of God) as fully as could be expected… Kant is saying not that real holiness is ever a human objective, but rather that complete striving for it can be, and this could constitute for man a state of ‘perfect virtue’…” [10]

The emphasis on indefinity is also present in the secondary literature; Ameriks remarks that Kant ”…makes clear that the ‘continual progress’ he speaks of can ultimately have a ‘non-temporal’ nature in that it is neither momentary nor of definitive duration nor actually endless”. Only through never quite reaching our perfected state can we retain the perfection of lawless flawedness.

Paul Guyer corroborates my claim that the determining factor is not the claim that mind is an extramaterial entity or substance, but because if morality requires infinite good and if we are finite beings then we must be finite beings along an infinite stretch of time in order to satisfy the categorical requirements of possessing such an infinity. He writes that ”..the possibility of the perfection of our virtuous disposition requires our actual immortality…” [11] and that ”…God and immortality are conditions specifically of the possibility of the ultimate object of virtue, the highest good — immortality is the condition for the perfection of virtue and God that for the realization of happiness…[12]

In summary, it doesn’t matter that Kant’s platform was metaphysical rather than technological, because the salient point and determining factors were not the specific operation or underlying principles (or the “means”) used to achieve immortality, but rather the very ends itself. Being able to both live and progress in(de)finitely was the loophole that provides, for Kant, both our freedom and our morality. Kant said we can’t die if we want to be moral, that we can’t die if we want to gain virtue and that we can’t die if we want to remain free.



[1] Hughes, J. J. (2001). The Future of Death: Cryonics and the Telos of Liberal Individualism. Journal of Evolution & Technology, 6 .

[2] Kant, I. (1996). In M.J. Gregor Practical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press.

[3] Kant, I. (1957). In T. M. Greene Kant selections, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[4] Ibid,. p. 350.

[5] Ameriks, K. (2000). Kant’s Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason: Oxford University Press.

[6] Ibid., p. 352.

[7] Ibid., p. 350.

[8] Ibid,. p. 358.

[9] Ibid,. p. 359.

[10] Ameriks, K. (2000). Kant’s Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason: Oxford University Press.

[11] Freydberg, B. (2005). Imagination of Kant’s critique of practical reason: Indiana University Press.

[12] Guyer, P. (2000). Kant on Freedom, Law, and Happiness: Cambridge University Press.


heaven4 This essay was one of Transhumanity’s biggest hits last month, getting about 1200 hits in its first week, as well as 87 up-votes and 93 comments on Reddit within 2 days. A shortened version is currently the 3rd most-viewed article on ImmortalLife

“Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope.” — Robert Green Ingersoll

Recent polls indicate that 80% of Americans and over 50% of global citizens believe in an afterlife. I argue that conceptions of death which include or allow for the possibility of an afterlife are not only sufficiently different from conceptions of death devoid of an afterlife as to necessitate that they be given their own term and separate designation, but that such afterlife-inclusive notions of death constitute the very antithesis of afterlife-devoid conceptions of death! Not only are they sufficiently different as to warrant their own separate designations, but afterlife-inclusive conceptions of death miss the very point of death – its sole defining attribute or categorical-qualifier as such. The defining characteristic is not its specific details (e.g. whether physical death counts as death if the mind isn’t physical, as in substance dualism); its defining characteristic is the absence of life and subjectivity. Belief in an afterlife is not only categorically dissimilar but actually antithetical to conceptions of death precluding an afterlife. Thus to believe in heaven is to deny the existence of death!

The fact that their belief involves metaphysical, rather than physical, continuation isn’t a valid counter-argument. To argue via mind-body dualism that the mind is metaphysical, and thus will continue on in a metaphysical realm (i.e. heaven), in this specific case makes no difference. Despite not being physical in such an argument, its relation to the metaphysical realm is the same as the relation of physical objects to the physical realm. It operates according to the “rules” and “causal laws” of the metaphysical realm, and so for all effective purposes can be considered physical in relation thereto, in the same sense that physical objects can be considered physical in relation to physical reality.

heaven5The impact of this categorical confusion extends beyond desire for semantic precision. If we hope to convince the larger public of radical-life-extension’s desirability, we need to first convince them that death exists. If one believes that their mind will continue on after physical death, then the potential attraction of physical immortality becomes negligible if not null. Why bother expending effort to attain immortality if it is inherent in the laws of the universe? It becomes a matter of not life or death but of convenience. This is a major problem: if the statistics mentioned can be trusted, then over half of the world population, and over 4/5ths of the U.S.A, lack even the potential to see the attraction and advantage of life-extension!

Widespread public awareness of and desire for radical longevity is important because it is our best tool for achieving it. One promoter is more effective — that is, has more of an impact on how soon indefinite longevity is realized- than one researcher working on life-extension. One promoter can get their message to scores of people per day. Conversely many researchers have little say on what they want to work on, or the scope and uses for what they work on. One must be conservative to get research grants, and the research directions taken in any science discipline is more influenced by public opinion than the opinion of individual researchers. We can get more traction by influencing public opinion, per unit of time or effort (damn these unquantifiable metrics!) than with pragmatic research. If we get widespread support then funding for research will come.

heaven7The preponderance of atheists in the Transhumanist community is not a coincidence. Only through godlessness can each become their own god – in which case god-as-superior-being becomes meaningless, and god-as-control-of-self-fate, god-as-self-empowerment and god –as-self-legitimation, self-signification-and-self-dignification are the only valid definitions for such that remains. Autotheism encompasses atheism because it requires it (with the possible exception of co-creator theologies). Atheism is still to be valorized and commended in my opinion, for it exemplifies the resolute acceptance of freedom and ultimate responsibility for what we are and are to become. To be an atheist un-paralyzed by fear is to take for granted the desirability of one’s own freedom and lawless godfullness. On the other hand, successful intersections of religious thinking and Transhumanism do exist, as exemplified by the Mormon Transhumanist Association — whose success lies I think in its emphasis on co-creator theology (Mormons believe that it is Man’s responsibility to “grow up” into God – and if man and god are on equal footing, then where lie the dog, titan and grandFather?). Thus while belief in heaven and by consequence all religions that include or allow for conceptions of an afterlife constitute a massive deterrent to the widespread popularity if immortalism, it also constitutes, in utmost irony, one of its greatest potential legitimators due to its potential to evidence immortality as a deep-rooted human desire that transcends cultural distance and historical time.

2 this heavenThus we should neither be precisely denouncing nor promoting religion, yet neither should we ignore it and simply let it be. Rather we should be a.) heralding them for their keen insight into the true values and desires of humanity, while b.) taking care to show them that life-extension is nothing less than the modern embodiment of the very immortalist gestalt that they exemplified via conceptualizing an afterlife in the first place, and that belief in heaven held or maintained today goes against the very motivation and underlying utility that such a belief was trying to maintain and instill all along! By believing in heaven they are going against all it was ever meant achieve (the temporary satisfaction of our insatiable urge for life and escape from petty death) and all it was ever meant to constitute. This is not only the truest state of affairs, but the most advantageous as well. It allows us to at once ameliorate the problems caused by widespread belief in heaven, utilize the widespread and long-running belief in afterlife for the purpose of legitimizing immortalism to the wider and more conservative public, and showing the long historical tradition of a belief in or longing for immortality to constitute perhaps the most deep-rooted human value, desire and ideal (in both terms of historical time and in terms of importance, or a measure of how much it shapes our values, desires and ideals) while at the same time avoid irremediably insulting people who believe in an afterlife – which is detrimental only insofar as it risks having them ignore our cause not from reasoned conclusion but rather from seasoned spite.

heaven6We should consider two options. The first is to convince them that contemporary belief in heaven must be lain down, because it’s contemporary utility actually works against the original utility of a belief in heaven, as described above. A second option, which I think is less favorable but may be met with less ideological opposition, is that physical immortality constitutes the new embodiment of heaven on earth. Religious institutions like the like the Roman Catholic Church have ‚through the Vatican in this case, reformed their doctrine on evolution. Might the eschatological occurrences in the Book of Relevation be interpreted as the culminating intersection of the realm of Heaven with the realm of Earth? Might we try and incite them to change their doctrine on the afterlife, removing all metaphysical connotations due to society’s increasing secularization and the growing popularity of scientific materialism (also called metaphysical or methodological naturalism)? The change-in-doctrine over evolution, which they did presumably due to the large popularity of belief in evolution and their desire not to alienate so large a demographic,may be a precedent. Thus we should consider suggesting that they reinterpret their vision of heaven as a continuing physical realization of the perfect society on earth.

heaven2We should be portraying every religious crusade and mission to spread the word of god as a pilgrimage to bring immortality to the world! If one thinks that a specific moral, metaphysical or cosmological (i.e. religious) system is required to attain life after death, what else is their pilgrimage to spread god’s word but a quest to bring methodological means of immortality to humanity? Let us at once show believers in an afterlife why they are wrong, commend them for their insight into deep rooted and historically-extensive human values, beliefs and eternal longings, and win them over to our side!

We have been hurling our rank rage at death and staunch demand for life at the unyielding heavens since before the recognized inception of culture! From the first dawn in Sumer and on, extending across the Abrahamic tradition, to touch upon Hinduism and the Chinese Faith, from Egyptian religion (with its particularly strong emphasis on the afterlife) to Norse mythology and beyond. Even Buddhism, which is often considered more philosophy than religion for its lack of a dogmatic stance on cosmology and an afterlife, has its versions of eternal life. Reincarnation is just as much a validating force for our desire for immortality as belief in an afterlife is. Reincarnation holds that non-metaphysical, physically-embodied immortality, through cyclic rebirth, is possible (and while metaphysics is involved, the belief nonetheless reifies the concept or corporeal rebirth). And indeed, even though they precede Nirvana and are still located within the “illusory” realm of Samsara, this only goes to further emphasize the predominance of physical forms of radical longevity, the desire for and belief in which both reincarnation and the Buddhist versions of “heaven” exemplify. According to the Anguttara Nikaya (a Buddhist text), there are several types of heaven in existence, all part of the physical realm, the inhabitants or “denizens” of which have varying degrees of longevity. The denizens of Cātummaharajan live 9,216,000,000 years; denizens of Nimmānarati live 2,284,000,000 years; denizens of Tāvatimsa live 36,000,000 years; denizens of Tusita live 576,000,000 years; and the denizens of Yāma live 1,444,000,000 years.

heaven1Our history overflows with humanity’s upheaved herald of heaven, our exaltation of the existential extra, our fiery strife towards continued life. The mythic and religious historical traditions constitute at once indefinite longevity’s greatest contemporary obstacle and its greatest historical legitimator.

“There can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.” Robert Green Ingersoll


Belief of Americans in God, heaven and hell, 2011 (2011). Retrieved March 22, 2013 from
Poll; nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe in angels (2011). CBS News. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from
Conan, N. (2010). Do You Believe In Miracles? Most Americans Do. In NPR News. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from
Americans Describe Their Views About Life After Death (2003). The Barna Group. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from
43,941 adherent statistic citations: membership and geography data for 4,300+ religions, churches, tribes, etc. (2007). Retrieved March 22, 2013 from


lifebFreedom fironically found in flesh, not knowing whe’er I’m foul or fowl… tickly bound neath trickly form twisting and more unfresh as dawn upon dawn dies in menstrual skyfire like blood made light — a mocking microcosm of my own transubstantiation from rotting viscera to lightstorm infinity?

Just what sick joke is this? To wake and ache and dream and be and become! – and then to die..? To culminate the very universe itself!.. and then to simply die?! For what I ask you! What! Death… what audacious greed! What reckless squander and heedless extravagance!

Guttural red fringed black a bulbous muck death bastphelgmy! We cannot comprehend the sheer stature of death and so hurriedly cover the unknown with a word to hold it in hand and at a distance, to doubt no doubt.

O pallid heavens! O incessant sun undaunted by my barrenaked finitude! O fetid sanctity wet and redragged as the sickly bloom of jagged flesh! O putrid night sky serene despite my spat fury; as I ebb and ember a’roil withinside my sadness unbelieving and hysteric animal heat that vile sun and auster night jaunt their jeer and mock the rude squall of my panicstrewn death nonetheless.

We must not believe them when they tell us with sad care that we will one day die.

We must not believe them when they tell us that we will escape death by any means but our own daring.

We must bleed our eschaton passion upforth and afroth upon that void hated with awefull grandeur for its monster honesty. We must take self in hand and be/hold the possible futures still fetal inside. We must rage our righteous revolt with pride bright as that unsickened sun, not afraid to boast that we fear death but instead eager to thrust our fervent urgency upon the others still bound to opiate incredulity.

We are Man, and we shall NOT go quietly into that dog night!

This soliloquy was originally published on

This article first appeared under the title “Techno-Optimists & Pessimists are Brothers in Arms at, where Franco is a contributing editor.

opt4It is all too easy to assume that techno-optimists and techno-pessimists are diametrically opposed. But while they may have different destinations in mind, the road to get there – what they need to do to achieve their respective ends – is a shared one. Techno-optimists, Techno-progressives, Techno-gaians and Techno-utopians express hope and passion for technologies’ liberating and empowering potentials, while techno-pessimists are fearful of their dystopic and dehumanizing potentials. Optimists want to spread awareness of the ways in which technology can improve self and society, while pessimists seek to spread awareness of the ways in which technology can make matters worse. Techno-criticism is the neutral middle, where the unbiased study of culture and technology take place, and so should not be confused with Techno-pessimism.

But they both agree on the underlying premise that technologies can and likely will have profoundly transformative effects on self and society. They agree not only that we have the power to shape the outcomes such technologies can foster, that we have the power to affect and to a large extent determine the ultimate embodiment and repercussions of such technologies, but also that such technologies impel us to make concerted efforts towards determining such repercussions and embodiments! It may not look that way from the inside-out, but they are fighting to realize their vision of Humanity’s brightest future. Until we reach the day when the majority of humanity has extensively acknowledged the expansive power such transformative technologies hold, Techno-optimists & Techno-pessimists, Transhumanists & Luddites, and Revolutionaries & Revivalists alike are on the same side! Both camps are on a campaign to alert planet earth of the titanic transformations rushing foreforth upon its horizon. Both agree on the underlying potential such technologies hold for changing the world and the self – whether encased as Prized Present or in Pandora’s Box – and both are weary for the world to wake up and smell the rising.

opt8And besides, we’re all in it together, no? At least Techno-pessimists are thinking about such issues, and putting forth their appraisals. At least they’ve begun to consider what is at stake. Is a techno-pessimist closer to a Technoprogressive or Transhumanist than one who doesn’t take a stance either way is? Maybe.

Not that the likes of Leon Kass, Francis Fukuyama and other Neo-Luddites, Developmental Critics, or Anarcho-Primitivists are to be heralded or left to lie without rebuttal. Their pessimism still does cause palpable harm, as in the delays in Stem-Cell research caused by G.W. Bush’s “President’s Council on Bioethics” evidenced. Thus we shouldn’t simply smile politely and let them on their merry way… But neither should we automatically jump to out-snuff their wild-fires of panic. We should instead let them whip up their frenzies, but be there waiting in the wings to attest for Icarus’s insight, and to offer Prometheus a light. Let them have their say, because it increases public awareness of the cause, because it clues people in to the fact that there many dangers are possible with these technologies (even if we disagree on the nature and extent of those dangers), but be sure to be there waiting, ready to refute their specific and untenable solutions, and not their call for fear in the first place. We are right to simultenaciously fear and hope for technology’s powerful potential. But considering that both Neo-Luddites and Neohumanists alike agree on the transformative and world-whirling capabilities of such technologies, is it more likely that we can take them in hand and shape the course of their eventual realization by outright relinquishment, or by taking advantage of those very transformative potentialities so as to increase our ability to shape them, in a self-recursive feedback loop fitting for Man, the Homoautofabber?

The very beliefs that Neo-Luddism share with Technoprogressivism and Transhumanism constitute one of the best reasons for arguing that their specific approach – outright relinquishment more often than not, or at least curtailing and slowing of development in certain areas to so large an extent that it shouldn’t even be called Differential Technological Development – is an untenable one. They seek to point out the massively transformative potential of technology, and then use this as an excuse to mitigate their dangers and ameliorate their potential downfalls. We should take their approach, pat them on the back (not too heartily, of course) for their starting point, and then flip the course around. We seek to point out the massively transformative potential of technology, but instead of arguing that the transformative potentialities of such technologies justifies their relinquishment, we should instead argue that those same transformative potentialities actually increase our potential to successfully shape their outcome and mitigate their potentially problematizing aspects!

opt10What are the chances that as soon as it becomes possible to use technology in massively immoral ways, we also gain the ability to shape and determine the parameters of our own moralities — and through the very technologies that created the potential problems in the first place, no less? What are the chances that as soon as technology seems to be building upon itself in an unending upward avalanche of momentous momentum, we also gain — through the use of those very same technologies — the ability to better forecast cascading causes and effects into the postmost outpost and to better track trends into the forward-flitting future? The technologies that hold such transformative potential are neither good nor bad, but morally ambiguous. They have the power to spiral out of control, to be strung as leash or noose around humanity’s neck — but they also have the potential to increase our degree self-determination and our control — or our degree of choice — over the circumstances and capabilities afforded by our environments.

A closed circle can seem like just that, until adding a vertical dimension reveals that it was an upward spiral all along. We’ve turned upon ourselves to find (or perhaps just refine) ourselves at least once before, when meat went meta and matter turned upon itself to make mind. Perhaps this was but echoes through time of that final feedback for forward freedom we stand to face, upright and with eyes sun-undaunted, in a future so near that it might as well be here, where the fat of fate is now kindled anew to light our own spindled fires aspiring ever higher, into parts and selves wholly unknown — and holier for it.

Techno-pessimists, Neo-Luddites, Revivalists and Relinquishists alike are not wholly wrong, just mostly. Rather the backlash against technology’s profoundly transformative potentials represents one small step in the right direction, and one giant leap left-field. So let’s unite in their plight to ignite consideration of the dangerous potentialities of technology in the eyes of humanity, but fight them when they move to stop the motion with a whimpered halt, rather than to continue the discussion with daring determination and impassioned exalt of aug- and of alt-.