“As for you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Make merry day and night.
Of each day make a feast of rejoicing.
Day and night dance and play!
Let your garments be sparkling fresh,
Your head be washed; bathe in water.
Pay heed to a little one that holds on to your hand,
Let a spouse delight in your bosom.
These things are alone the concern of men.”
Siduri the Barmaid to Gilgamesh.
Which may represent the first recorded advocacy of a hedonistic philosophy.
The Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet X
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure and happiness are the primary or most important intrinsic goods and the proper aim of human life. A hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain), but when having finally gained that pleasure, either through intrinsic or extrinsic goods, happiness remains stationary.
Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them. It is also the idea that every person’s pleasure should far surpass their amount of pain. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by Aristippus of Cyrene, a student of Socrates. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.
Hedonism is a sub-philosophy of utilitarianism, which says to act in a way that maximizes utility. Hedonists equate pleasure with utility and believe that pleasure is the master of all humankind, and acts as the ultimate life goal. Hedonists believe that there are only two motivators of human action, pleasure and pain, and that decisions should only be made that further our pleasurable experiences and minimize or completely eliminate our painful ones.
David Pearce is co-founder of Humanity, formerly the World Transhumanist Association, and a prominent figure within the transhumanism movement.
Based in Brighton, England, Pearce maintains a series of websites devoted to transhumanist topics and what he calls the “hedonistic imperative”, a moral obligation to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life. His book-length internet manifesto, The Hedonistic Imperative(1995), outlines how pharmacology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and neurosurgery could converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience from human and non-human life, replacing suffering with “gradients of bliss”. Pearce calls this the “abolitionist project”.
A vegan, Pearce argues that humans have a responsibility not only to avoid cruelty to animal within human society but also to redesign the global ecosystem so that animals do not suffer in the wild.
Hedonistic Transhumanism Manifesto
This manifesto outlines a strategy to eradicate suffering in all sentient life. The abolitionist project is ambitious, implausible, but technically feasible. It is defended here on ethical utilitarian grounds. Genetic engineering and nanotechnology allow Homo sapiens to discard the legacy-wetware of our evolutionary past. Our post-human successors will rewrite the vertebrate genome, redesign the global ecosystem, and abolish suffering throughout the living world.
Why does suffering exist? The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved only because they served the inclusive fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. Their ugliness can be replaced by a new motivational system based entirely on gradients of well-being. Life-long happiness of an intensity now physiologically unimaginable can become the heritable norm of mental health. A sketch is offered of when, and why, this major evolutionary transition in the history of life is likely to occur. Possible objections, both practical and moral, are raised and then rebutted.
Contemporary images of opiate-addled junkies, and the lever-pressing frenzies of intra-cranially self-stimulating rats, are deceptive. Such stereotypes stigmatize, and falsely discredit, the only remedy for the world’s horrors and everyday discontents that is biologically realistic. For it is misleading to contrast social and intellectual development with perpetual happiness. There need be no such trade-off. Thus states of “dopamine-overdrive” can actually enhance exploratory and goal-directed activity. Hyper-dopaminergic states can also increase the range and diversity of actions an organism finds rewarding. Our descendants may live in a civilization of serenely well-motivated “high-achievers”, animated by gradients of bliss. Their productivity may far eclipse our own.
Two hundred years ago, before the development of potent synthetic pain-killers or surgical anesthetics, the notion that “physical” pain could be banished from most people’s lives would have seemed no less bizarre. Most of us in the developed world now take its daily absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as “mental” pain, too, could one day be superseded is equally counter-intuitive. The technical option of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of political policy and ethical choice.
Pearce’s ideas inspired an abolitionist school of transhumanism, or “hedonistic transhumanism”, based on his idea of “paradise engineering” and his argument that the abolition of suffering—which he calls the “abolitionist project”—is a moral imperative.
Transhumanism(abbreviated as H+ orh+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology.
Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human as well as ethical limitations of using such technologies. The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings.
The contemporary meaning of the term “transhumanism” was foreshadowed by one of the first professors of futurology, FM-2030, who taught “new concepts of the human” at The New School in the 1960s, when he began to identify people who adopt technologies, lifestyles and worldviews “transitional” to posthumanity as “transhuman”. The assertion would lay the intellectual groundwork for the British philosopher Max More to begin articulating the principles of transhumanism as a futurist philosophy in 1990 and organizing in California an intelligentsia that has since grown into the worldwide transhumanist movement.
Influenced by seminal works of science fiction, the transhumanist vision of a transformed future humanity has attracted many supporters and detractors from a wide range of perspectives, including philosophy and religion. Transhumanism has been characterized by one critic, Francis Fukuyama, as among the “world’s most dangerous ideas”, to which Ronald Bailey has countered that it is rather the “movement that epitomizes the most daring, courageous, imaginative and idealistic aspirations of humanity”
Here are three scenarios in ascending order of sociological plausibility:
b) Utopian designer drugs
c) genetic engineering and – what I want to focus on – the impending reproductive revolution of designer babies
a) Recall wireheading is direct stimulation of the pleasure centres of the brain via implanted electrodes. Intracranial self-stimulation shows no physiological or subjective tolerance i.e. it’s just as rewarding after two days as it is after two minutes. Wireheading doesn’t harm others; it has a small ecological footprint; it banishes psychological and physical pain; and arguably it’s a lot less offensive to human dignity than having sex. Admittedly, lifelong wireheading sounds an appealing prospect only to a handful of severe depressives. But what are the technical arguments against its adoption?
Well, wireheading is not an evolutionary stable solution: there would be selection pressure against its widespread adoption. Wireheading doesn’t promote nurturing behavior: wireheads, whether human or non-human, don’t want to raise baby wireheads. Uniform, indiscriminate bliss in the guise of wireheading or its equivalents would effectively bring the human experiment to an end, at least if it were adopted globally. Direct neurostimulation of the reward centers destroys informational sensitivity to environmental stimuli. So assuming we want to be smart – and become smarter – we have a choice. Intelligent agents can have a motivational structure based on gradients of ill-being, characteristic of some lifelong depressives today. Or intelligent agents can have our current typical mixture of pleasures and pains. Or alternatively, we could have an informational economy of mind based entirely on [adaptive] gradients of cerebral bliss – which I’m going to argue for.
Actually, this dismissal of wireheading may be too quick. In the far future, one can’t rule out offloading everything unpleasant or mundane onto inorganic supercomputers, prostheses and robots while we enjoy uniform orgasmic bliss. Or maybe not orgasmic bliss, possibly some other family of ideal states that simply couldn’t be improved upon. But that’s speculative. Whatever our ultimate destination, it would be more prudent, I think, to aim for both super happiness and super intelligence – at least until we understand the full implications of what we are doing. There isn’t a moral urgency to maximizing super happiness in the same way as there is to abolishing suffering.
[It’s worth noting that the offloading option assumes that inorganic computers, prostheses and robots don’t – or at least needn’t – experience subjective phenomenal pain even if their functional architecture allows them to avoid and respond to noxious stimuli. This absence of inorganic suffering is relatively uncontroversial with existing computers – switching off one’s PC doesn’t have ethical implications, and a silicon robot can be programmed to avoid corrosive acids without experiencing agony if it’s damaged. It’s debatable whether any computational system with a classical von Neumann architecture will ever be interestingly conscious. I’m skeptical; but either way, it doesn’t affect the offloading option, unless one argues that the subjective texture of suffering is functionally essential to any system capable of avoiding harmful stimuli.]
b) The second technical option for eradicating suffering is futuristic designer drugs. In an era of mature post-genomic medicine, will it be possible rationally to design truly ideal pleasure-drugs that deliver lifelong, high-functioning well-being without unacceptable side-effects? “Ideal pleasure drugs” here is just a piece of shorthand. Such drugs can in principle embrace cerebral, empathetic, aesthetic and perhaps spiritual well-being – and not just hedonistic pleasure in the usual one-dimensional and amoral sense.
We’re not talking here about recreational euphoriants, which simply activate the negative feedback mechanisms of the brain; nor the shallow, opiated contentment of a Brave New World; nor drugs that induce euphoric mania, with its uncontrolled excitement, loss of critical insight, grandiosity and flight of ideas. Can we develop true wonder drugs that deliver sublime well-being on a sustainable basis, re calibrating the hedonic treadmill to ensure a high quality of life for everyone?
A lot of people recoil from the word “drugs” – which is understandable given today’s noxious street drugs and their uninspiring medical counterparts. Yet even academics and intellectuals in our society typically take the prototypical dumb drug, ethyl alcohol. If it’s socially acceptable to take a drug that makes you temporarily happy and stupid, then why not rationally design drugs to make people perpetually happier and smarter? Presumably, in order to limit abuse-potential, one would want any ideal pleasure drug to be akin – in one limited but important sense – to nicotine, where the smoker’s brain finely calibrates its optimal level: there is no uncontrolled dose-escalation.
There are of course all kinds of pitfalls to drug-based solutions. Technically, I think these pitfalls can be overcome, though I won’t try to show this here. But there is a deeper issue. If there weren’t something fundamentally wrong – or at least fundamentally inadequate – with our existing natural state of consciousness bequeathed by evolution, then we wouldn’t be so keen to change it. Even when it’s not unpleasant, everyday consciousness is mediocre compared to what we call peak experiences. Ordinary everyday consciousness was presumably adaptive in the sense it helped our genes leave more copies of themselves on the African Savannah; but why keep it as our default-state indefinitely? Why not change human nature by literally repairing our genetic code?
Again, this dismissal of pharmacological solutions may be too quick. Arguably, Utopian designer drugs may always be useful for the fine-grained and readily reversible control of consciousness; and I think designer drugs will be an indispensable tool to explore the disparate varieties of conscious mind. But wouldn’t it be better if we were all born with a genetic predisposition to psychological super-health rather than needing chronic self-medication? Does even the most ardent abolitionist propose to give cocktails of drugs to all children from birth; and then to take such drug cocktails for the rest of our lives?
c) So thirdly, there are genetic solutions, embracing both somatic and germ line therapy.
By way of context, today there is a minority of people who are always depressed or dysthymic, albeit to varying degrees. Studies with mono- and dizygotic twins confirm there is a high degree of genetic loading for depression. Conversely, there are some people who are temperamentally optimistic. Beyond the optimists, there is a very small minority of people who are what psychiatrists call hyperthymic. Hyperthymic people aren’t manic or bipolar; but by contemporary standards, they are always exceedingly happy, albeit sometimes happier than others. Hyperthymic people respond “appropriately” and adaptively to their environment. Indeed they are characteristically energetic, productive and creative. Even when they are blissful, they aren’t “blissed out”.
Now what if, as a whole civilization, we were to opt to become genetically hyperthymic – to adopt a motivational system driven entirely by adaptive gradients of well-being? More radically, as the genetic basis of hedonic tone is understood, might we opt to add multiple extra copies of hyperthymia-promoting genes/allelic combinations and their regulatory promoters – not abolishing homeostasis and the hedonic treadmill but shifting our hedonic set-point to a vastly higher level?
Three points here:First, this genetic re-calibration might seem to be endorsing another kind of uniformity; but it’s worth recalling that happier people – and especially hyperdopaminergic people – are typically responsive to a broader range of potentially rewarding stimuli than depressives: they engage in more exploratory behavior. This makes getting stuck in a sub-optimal rut less likely, both for the enhanced individual and posthuman society as a whole.
Secondly, universal hyperthymia might sound like a gigantic experiment; and in a sense of course it is. But all sexual reproduction is an experiment. We play genetic roulette, shuffling our genes and then throwing the genetic dice. Most of us flinch at the word “eugenics”; but that’s what we’re effectively practicing, crudely and incompetently, when we choose our prospective mates. The difference is that within the next few decades, prospective parents will be able to act progressively more rationally and responsibly in their reproductive decisions. Pre-implantation genetic screening is going to become routine; artificial wombs will release us from the constraints of the human birth-canal; and a revolution in reproductive medicine will begin to replace the old Darwinian lottery. The question is not whether a reproductive revolution is coming, but rather what kinds of being – and what kinds of consciousness – do we want to create?
Thirdly, isn’t this reproductive revolution going to be the prerogative of rich elites in the West? Probably not for long. Compare the brief lag between the introduction of, say, mobile phones and their world-wide adoption with the 50 year time-lag between the introduction and world-wide adoption of radio; and the 20 year lag between the introduction and world-wide penetration of television. The time-lag between the initial introduction and global acceptance of new technologies is shrinking rapidly. So of course is the price.
Anyway, one of the advantages of genetically re-calibrating the hedonic treadmill rather than abolishing it altogether, at least for the foreseeable future, is that the functional analogues of pain, anxiety, guilt and even depression can be preserved without their nasty raw feels as we understand them today. We can retain the functional analogues of discontent – arguably the motor of progress – and retain the discernment and critical insight lacking in the euphorically manic. Even if hedonic tone is massively enhanced, and even if our reward centers are physically and functionally amplified, then it’s still possible in principle to conserve much of our existing preference architecture. If you prefer Mozart to Beethoven, or philosophy to pushpin, then you can still retain this preference ranking even if your hedonic tone is hugely enriched.
Now personally, I think it would be better if our preference architecture were radically changed, and we pursued [please pardon the jargon] a “re-encephalisation of emotion”. Evolution via natural selection has left us strongly predisposed to form all manner of dysfunctional preferences that harm both ourselves and others for the benefit of our genes. Recall Genghis Khan: “The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”
Now I’m told academia isn’t quite that bad, but even university life has its forms of urbane savagery – its competitive status-seeking and alpha-male dominance rituals: a zero-sum game with many losers. Too many of our preferences reflect nasty behaviors and states of mind that were genetically adaptive in the ancestral environment. Instead, wouldn’t it be better if we rewrote our own corrupt code? I’ve focused here on genetically enhancing hedonic tone. Yet mastery of the biology of emotion means that we’ll be able, for instance, to enlarge our capacity for empathy, functionally amplifying mirror neurons and engineering a sustained increase in oxytocin-release to promote trust and sociability. Likewise, we can identify the molecular signatures of, say, spirituality, our aesthetic sense, or our sense of humor – and modulate and “over-express” their psychological machinery too. From an information-theoretic perspective, what is critical to an adaptive, flexible, intelligent response to the world is not our absolute point on a hedonic scale but that we are informationally sensitive to differences. Indeed information theorists sometimes simply define information as a “difference that makes a difference”.
However, to stress again, this re-encephalisation of emotion is optional. It’s technically feasible to engineer the well-being of all sentience and retain most but not all of our existing preference architecture. The three technical options for abolishing suffering presented here – wireheading, designer drugs and genetic engineering – aren’t mutually exclusive. Are they exhaustive? I don’t know of any other viable options. Some transhumanists believe we could one day all be scanned, digitized and uploaded into inorganic computers and reprogrammed. Well, perhaps, I’m skeptical; but in any case, this proposal doesn’t solve the suffering of existing organic life unless we embrace so-called destructive uploading – a holocaust option I’m not even going to consider here.
2: WHY IT SHOULD HAPPEN
Assume that within the next few centuries we will acquire these Godlike powers over our emotions. Assume, too, that the signalling function of unpleasant experience can be replaced – either through the re-calibration argued for here, or through the offloading of everything unpleasant or routine to inorganic prostheses, bionic implants or inorganic computers – or perhaps through outright elimination in the case of something like jealousy. Why should we all be abolitionists?
If one is a classical utilitarian, then the abolitionist project follows: it’s Bentham plus biotechnology. One doesn’t have to be a classical utilitarian to endorse the abolition of suffering; but all classical utilitarians should embrace the abolitionist project. Bentham championed social and legislative reform, which is great as far as it goes; but he was working before the era of biotechnology and genetic medicine.
If one is a scientifically enlightened Buddhist, then the abolitionist project follows too. Buddhists, uniquely among the world’s religions, focus on the primacy of suffering in the living world. Buddhists may think that the Noble Eight fold Path offers a surer route to Nirvana than genetic engineering; but it’s hard for a Buddhist to argue in principle against biotech if it works. Buddhists focus on relieving suffering via the extinction of desire; yet it’s worth noting this extinction is technically optional, and might arguably lead to a stagnant society. Instead it’s possible both to abolish suffering and continue to have all manner of desires.
Persuading followers of Islam and the Judaeo-Christian tradition is more of a challenge. But believers claim – despite anomalies in the empirical evidence – that Allah/God is infinitely compassionate and merciful. So if mere mortals can envisage the well-being of all sentience, it would seem blasphemous to claim that God is more limited in the scope of His benevolence.
Most contemporary philosophers aren’t classical utilitarians or Buddhists or theists. Why should, say, an ethical pluralist take the abolitionist project seriously?
Here I want to take as my text Shakespeare’s
“For there was never yet philosopher That could endure the toothache patiently.
[Much Ado About Nothing, Scene Five, Act One (Leonato speaking)]
When one is gripped by excruciating physical pain, one is always shocked at just how frightful it can be.
It’s tempting to suppose that purely “psychological” pain – loneliness, rejection, existential angst, grief, anxiety, depression – can’t be as atrocious as extreme physical pain; yet the reason over 800,000 people in the world take their own lives every year is mainly psychological distress. It’s not that other things – great art, friendship, social justice, a sense of humor, cultivating excellence of character, academic scholarship, etc – aren’t valuable; but rather when intense physical or psychological distress intrudes – either in one’s own life or that of a loved one – we recognize that this intense pain has immediate priority and urgency. If you are in agony after catching your hand in the door, then you’d give short shrift to someone who urged you to remember the finer things in life. If you’re distraught after an unhappy love affair, then you don’t want to be tactlessly reminded it’s a beautiful day outside.
OK, while it lasts, extreme pain or psychological distress has an urgency and priority that overrides the rest of one’s life projects; but so what? When the misery passes, why not just get on with one’s life as before?
Well, natural science aspires to “a view from nowhere”, a notional God’s-eye view. Physics tells us that no here-and-now is privileged over any other; all are equally real. Science and technology are shortly going to give us Godlike powers over the entire living world to match this Godlike perspective. I argue that so long as there is any sentient being who is undergoing suffering similar to our distress, that suffering should be tackled with the same priority and urgency as if it were one’s own pain or the pain of a loved one. With power comes complicity. Godlike powers carry godlike responsibilities. Thus the existence of suffering 200 years ago, for instance, may indeed have been terrible; but it’s not clear that such suffering can sensibly be called “immoral” – because there wasn’t much that could be done about it. But thanks to biotechnology, now there is – or shortly will be. Over the next few centuries, suffering of any kind is going to become optional.
If you’re not a classical ethical utilitarian, the advantage of re-calibrating the hedonic treadmill rather than simply seeking to maximize super-happiness is that you are retaining at least a recognizable descendant of our existing preference architecture. Re-calibration of the hedonic treadmill can be made consistent with your existing value scheme. Hence even the ill-named “preference utilitarian” can be accommodated. Indeed control over the emotions means that you can pursue your existing life projects more effectively.
And what about the alleged character-building function of suffering? “That which does not crush me makes me stronger”, said Nietzsche. This worry seems misplaced. Other things being equal, enhancing hedonic tone strengthens motivation – it makes us psychologically more robust. By contrast, prolonged low mood leads to a syndrome of learned helplessness and behavioral despair.
I haven’t explicitly addressed the value nihilist – the subjectivist or ethical skeptic who says all values are simply matters of opinion, and that one can’t logically derive an “ought” from an “is”.
Well, let’s say I find myself in agony because my hand is on a hot stove. That agony is intrinsically motivating, even if my conviction that I ought to withdraw my hand doesn’t follow the formal canons of logical inference.
If one takes the scientific world-picture seriously, then there is nothing ontologically special or privileged about here-and-now or me – the egocentric illusion is a trick of perspective engineered by selfish DNA.
Purtroppo la traduzione non è buona mentre questo scritto andrebbe letto alla perfezione è dibattuto punto per punto.
Mi interessa molto l’evoluzione della percezione del dolore non più come conquista ma quasi un arretramento se ho ben capito.
Così come l’edonismo paragonato alla fruizione di beni economici e dunque correlato al consumismo.
Sì, purtroppo la traduzione di questo testo deve essere fatta da una persona non solo familiare con la lingua, ma con i concetti che il filosofo David Pearce espone.
Temo che l’edonismo abbia una cattiva reputazione tra la maggior parte delle persone, perché al suo centro cerca una vita di piacere e evita la sofferenza, ma David Pearce enfasi è nell’abolizione della sofferenza attraverso i nostri progressi in scienze come la farmacologia, la neurochirurgia e la genetica.
Molti temi di etica e sconvolgere il flusso naturale del processo evolutivo naturale sarebbero necessari per ottenere un concorso, sulla sua proposta rivoluzionaria.
Non sono favorevole, o contro questa proposta, semplicemente presentare la sua proposta, come ha spiegato, per cui tutti devono trarre le sue conclusioni.
Grazie per il vostro interesse sherazade. 🙂
My pleasure. I read this article with interest my difficulties are in the details.
If you make a Google search for David Pearce in Italian, you could access more information about it, dear Scherazade: Progetto Utopia David Pearce. 🙂
Tks a lot.
Fascinating essay. The trajectory of the human experience has been toward the reduction (and, arguably the eventual elimination) of human suffering. We see that progress accelerating now and the technological challenges seem more attainable all the time. CRISPR technology, for example, will facilitate genetic engineering in amazing ways. How soon will death and suffering be only voluntary? It’s mind boggling to consider.
If these advances not only eliminate pain and maximize pleasure, then they should be embraced by deontologists as well as utilitarians. Because along with pain and suffering, we should be able to eliminate the immorality and undesirable behavior that deontologists stand against.
As you say, it may be a harder sell to those who hold to Divine Command ethics, but in the Christian tradition, for example, there is the belief that humanity’s ultimate destiny is a place without suffering and death. Frank Tipler has imagined that a post-human supercomputer (“Omega”) could even “resurrect” humans, by creating computer simulations of them. Even if classical religious ethics survive, objections based on it may be overcome as well.
Thanks again for this fascinating and thought-provoking post!
Well yes, since I read David Pearce some years ago I was very intrigued by his thoughts, and I offer his opinions, with no thoughts of my own, since the post would have been too long, however like many other persons I wonder at the feasibility of such enterprise, when so much it’s involved.
I myself if a sympathizer of Science, I am a little of an skeptic, not about it’s immediate efficacy, and wonderful results, but about the long side effects it may produce.. ?
David acknowledge already some problems, like a small finite World with limited resources, for a growing population, where obviously reproductive rights would be a key issue for the project. Another would be the unknown biological, psychological, and ecological problems that may arise by a simple men made alteration to what has been so far a fragile balance from our ecological environment, and the disappearance at an alarming rate of so many species, who took millions of years to take place, even if in advanced nations, there’s an effort, to bring back nature back, not every part of the World enjoy such conservation efforts, with new inventions like plastic, Pesticides, Radiation, Nuclear waste, bacterial resistance to antibiotics,and all type of Chemical pollutants, ice caps melting, just to cite a few examples, where new discoveries in Science, don’t necessary warranty a World free of problems, and a rosy future for Mankind.
To achieve a project of such magnitude, as Project Utopia, it may take more time, and more troubles to solve, than we may imagine, in a World still fractured, and divided by nations states, at opposite sides on many issues, not to talk about public opinion.
Thank you for your comment it’s always appreciated. 🙂
This was a tough one for me to read, admittedly. It’s not for lack of quality writing as you always provide that. But it’s the subject matter that troubles me. We’re talking about using technology to improve parts of our minds and create the “better” next generation. But it really is so God-like that it scares me. I prefer to put my faith in Him. I know this isn’t a view everyone agrees with but manipulating minds isn’t something I condone. Intriguing post though!
I kind of chuckle, when I read your comment, and remember I was as alarmed as you are, seven years ago, or more, my memory isn’t clear as the first time I read David Pearce’s ‘The Hedonistic Imperative’.
I immediately thought of writing a rebuttal to it, but through the years I come to understand, that if it ever that come in to be, it will not be as dramatic, or absolute as a science fiction movie, where things are by the fact, the future already, with our social-moral mentality, still anchored in the past. A lot of hurdles of many kinds, from Pearce’s ideas would have to be sorted out, before his Utopia could be achieved, if you read my response to the previous comment you may understand my position.
If you want to be really scared all you got to do is go to Issac Arthur videos on Youtube, who cram so much information into his videos, that speak sort like a robot!
Although there’s an inevitability of using technology already conceived like the Atomic energy, changes in Neuroscience, and pharmacological drugs, are in a great state of development, not because they are trying to advance Pearce’s Hedonistic Imperative, but to resolve our common problems of victims of sickness, like cancer and other numerous maladies, one field come to mind, prosthesis for amputees, or the devices for the blind, with time it will be almost inevitable that advances in genetics, and neuroscience to be extended to other fields, like the treatment of depression, schizophrenia, aging, etc.
These no doubt would spill into what today it’s just science fiction scenarios, but as I commented above, there is so many issues with the use of new technologies, who like drugs not only have beneficent effects, but also a long list of contraindications, and not desired secondary effects, unlikely to be approved and pass to the consumer, without assessing it’s harmful effects, that lot of people suffer, and die now days of such effects, it’s a warning sign that just like today we have a prerogative of not using them if we think it could be harmful to us.
Hopefully a more technologically advanced society, may mean also an advance on moral, and ethical behaviors.
Thank you Christy for your comment! 🙂
Thank you for the thorough and understanding comment back in return. Your respectful tone is one I appreciate. Yes, hopefully technological improvements go hand in hand with morality. Wishing you a great rest of your day/night 🙂
The World it’s always changing, and yet some say the more it changes the more it remain the same, there is truth to both. Something I have learnt through life it’s to be skeptical of many things, specially those that would demand the cooperation, and agreement from many people, if a few people can’t do a project by themselves, will be very unlikely many more would do it, because the more people involved, the more difference of opinions, about the subject, and therefore the inevitable disagreements, and consequent splits, it’s just Human nature at work.
So a World without suffering still remain as a bold proposition, yet Utopian in nature, will see. 🙂
Fascinating read. What’s interesting to me is that while we seek an end to pain and suffering, we also seem intent on killing each other (through various means) and destroying the planet. Humans make no sense.
I guess we are an odd sort, and we all play our own tune. The important thing it’s to be playing the right tune, the one that leads to peace, understanding, and harmony..
Thank you for your comment. 🙂
Your comment above is one that i find great personal agreement with! 🙂
A very thought-provoking post and one i could write a very long response to but i suspect you might have already considered (and either accepted or rejected) them 😉 So repeating them would be largely pointless for both of us.
One comment i would make regarding the idea of eliminating suffering however, is the idea that as ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ what will she make come rushing into our lives to replace the large place suffering has played in our human development?.
In a closed environment such as our planet (assuming there is no extra-terrestrial aspect to ourselves or humanity as a whole – a big assumption) we can never eliminate an entire half of a spectrum such as the pleasure-pain spectrum (it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain!)
If we eliminate the negative we find that we then have just moved the zero balance point closer to the maximum pleasure possibility and what was previously neither pleasure nor pain is now the new ‘pain’ – meaning, where we would have previously considered ourselves to be feeling neither pleasure nor pain we now consider to be the maximum pain we can feel and identify with that.
Eliminating pain by artificial means is like trying to reduce poverty by giving the poor a million dollars! What you are actually doing is making millionaires into the poor, not the rich and not ultimately improving their lot in life.
That is not to say that there is not some merit to the idea of trying to help people (or ourselves) when they/we suffer, of course.
A final thought: the great failing we humans have is in trying to provide solutions to the problems we see when we do not understand enough about how the world, and ourselves in it, actually work and completely relate to the other. Any such planned ‘solution’ invariably creates more problems than they solve – or makes room for larger ones to grow that would not otherwise have occurred ‘natually’. Occasionally, the best course of human action is inaction – when you are in a hole it is best to stop digging (further down).
Blessings and wisdom to you.
Well, we live in a Universe ruled by duality, the whole idea of eliminating opposites it’s some sort of oxymoron, at least on the material plane, even joy, and suffering are somehow subjective to the extent two different individuals may experience the same pain, or suffering in a different way, the whole idea of Spirituality hinges on the concept of a subjective self that we bring into a state of equanimity, the dictionary provides this definition:
Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
“she accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity”
So the state of happiness and joy, despite real physical pain are part of that duality, hey, you got a headache you are free to take an analgesic, or not, so there is a whole pharmacopoeia we now have resource to, however we know the contraindications, and secondary effects these drugs carry with them.
As much good intentions, David Pearce’s Hedonistic Imperative may have there’s a lot of idealism on it, and the great difficulty of dealing with that duality backlash, some could said that the whole reason of the Universe in manifesting as dualistic in Nature, has a Wisdom purpose.
Personally do not believe this project can take off at a state policy level, in any near future, as it is there is a big fight to accept the free consumption of drugs for recreational purposes.
But there is no doubt in my mind science may yet achieve some great victories in that field, as to how wise will be the use, and implementation of such science advances, it will be always debatable, just as the combustion engine it’s a major pollutant, and the source of many environmental problems, despite some of its great benefits, Nuclear energy= radioactive waste material, but someone can add: Hey but what about Solar energy? And you can retort: And what about the batteries pollution?
As long as we live in a Universe ruled by duality we seem condemned to opposites, there’s only freedom on the subjective.
Thank you for you interest. 🙂
And thank you for your wisdom and for restoring a little of my faith in the nature of the human being. I NEED to be reminded that there are people of intelligence greater than mine out there which is not what i see on TV/internet or hear on radio all that much these days! 😉
Thank you for your praise and comment, there’s also another consideration, our technological, scientific culture it’s relatively new, not since the industrial revolution we had to deal with the effects from our use of technology, save the discovery of fire, the slash and burn agriculture, and the domestication of cattle, and other animals, consequently we still are not very wise in the use of such technology, our lot as Human beings it’s to learn through trial, and error. 🙂
Grote maar interessante tekst om te lezen met veel mystieke kantjes
Thank you, we appreciate your comment, as well as your great skills as a photographer. 🙂
Thank you for another insightful essay. I’ve known for quite a while that we are headed in this direction and fast. Utopia or not, it gives me the creeps. I’m with Nietszche.
I do not believe in a systematic State sponsored approach as David Pearce’s Hedonistic Imperative may suggest, but the use of technology, and pharmaceuticals discoveries, well, already we are riddled by them, with no ideological underpinnings, but the desire of people to experience them, be these an existential phenomena, or an escapism from consensual reality, I guess that would be determined by people’s personal intentions, but as a State sponsored policies…well that’s a far fetching scenario, taking in account how difficult it’s to achieve agreement, in small, and petty political policies, imagine now something as encompassing, and revolutionary as Pearce’s Utopia project, I am kind of an skeptic that we will see in any near future anything of the sort.
Thank you for your comment! 🙂
You raise many thought-provoking themes, and I love the punchy images you add to your texts.
I’m not anti science, but Utopian ideals tend to trouble me in their god-like attempt to outdo random evolution. What about the 99% of unconscious information that went into our making. The collective unconscious psyche has hardly been explored. I resonate with G Jung’s ideas.
Transhumanism brings Goethe’s Zauberlehring (The Magicians Apprentice) to mind. My attempted translation of the poem appears somewhere under the ‘Goethe’ tag on my blog. https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/tag/goethe/
Well, if you read my answer to the other comments, you will find I am a sort of skeptic about David Pearce’s Hedonistic Imperative, no doubt new technologies, and advance in the fields like pharmaceuticals, medicine, neuroscience, genetics, and many other sciences would bring a change to Mankind, as to what extent?
That it’s open to speculative debates, and uncertain futuristic scenarios, I will not go there, but I am sure it will take long debates, and reaching some sort of ethical legislation at National governments level, that would be hard to discard in an age like ours where regulations, and does, and don’ts , are a barrier to what can be accomplish, despite our capacity, and ability to revolutionize science, and technologies, in other words, just because we can, doesn’t mean it will be done.
I also like Carl G. Jung, you can check my post :
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Thank you! 🙂
A great read.
I’m all for a world where suffering is no longer. My guidance, The Collective Consciousness, tell me it will take a further 3 centuries before we have overcome the negatives of our present. However, it will come quite quickly during the last of the 3; still be a minor problem during the second, with the 1st century maintaining a high degree of violence in all forms; though in a downward curve.
Although the technological advancements in all areas will and are generating a lessening of suffering in many of its forms, it will be man’s thought processes that will generate the gradual development toward progress due to his circumnavigation of his innate negativity, which is the cause of suffering. Once free of negativity man’s options and choices grow exponentially. I know, from my own experience, it becomes almost impossible to focus upon anything other than positive outcomes; even though the getting there may be difficult.
I appreciate I’ve oversimplified a rather involved condition. Really enjoyed the comments!
Such great enterprise, as David Pearce’s ‘The Hedonistic Imperative’, no doubt will take time, and an Age of Peace, a golden age, prophesied, by many, may take place on Earth, overcoming ignorance, hate, and all sort of prejudices, and vices, the negativity you mention, surely will be the task at hand to eliminate suffering.
Carolyn, thank you for your caring words, we appreciate them. 🙂
And I yours… 🙂
Reblogged this on ReBirth: The Pursuit of Porsha.
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A disturbing article. The elimination of pain — physical or psychological — has great appeal, as does the idea that mankind will somehow become godlike through technology. There are, however, enormous flaws in this approach.
First, pleasure is not the highest good. God is the highest good. Those who seek pleasure as their goal settle for a materialistic view of life. The Greek philosophers saw beyond that.
Second, pain is not always evil or pointless. In the medical context, pain can signal the existence of a problem. In the social context, it may be overshadowed by the good accomplished. Some die for principle, faith, or country. Some willingly give their lives for others. Millions more live sacrificial lives. Think of the First Responders on 9/11, or the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save his comrades. Think of the single mother working 3 jobs for the sake of her children. These are heroes. Their hardship and pain are profoundly meaningful.
Third, the term “ethical hedonism” is an oxymoron. Pleasure by its nature focuses on self. Ethics by contrast impose limits. The rights of one human being necessarily impinge on those of another. Child molesters derive pleasure from molesting children, causing those children the gravest of harm. Does pleasure justify that harm? Surely not. No matter how laudable, veganism does nothing to protect those children.
Fourth, no matter how sophisticated future machinery or medication may be, it will be operated by flawed and sinful human beings. Genetic modification will not eliminate evil, since evil is not genetic. It is the result of choice.
Thank you a thought-provoking post!
Well, as I mentioned on a lot of my responses to the comments, I am just presenting David Pearce’s ideas without any comments, or critic from my own, due that it will make the post, already long, just too long, but if you read my responses to the comments, they can give you a better idea of my position on the issue.
However in brief I can tell you that David Pearce’s project it’s nothing new, in fact it is over twenty years old, and that in the sphere of ideas it’s as old as a twenty year old leftover in your fridge very unlikely, you or anybody else may see fit for consumption!
Not that I am not for a more kinder, gentler, and in general nicer world, where peace, love, justice, and happiness may be possible in a more general sense than today, I am quite a cynic when it come to institutionalize ideas, we are in fact considering publishing in a future post, Eric Voegelin’s famous command to both Christians and modern Gnostics alike was, “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!” Humanity must not try to play God by forcing the end times or by seeking utopia on earth. It will only lead, he warned, as in the Tower of Babel parable in the Bible, to political disorder and senseless human suffering.
Of course he said that after Hitler’s idea of a thousand year Reich, and Stalin’s gulags communist paradise. David Pearce’s Hedonism Imperative, it’s just an idea no better than Plato’s Republic, now it’s 2377 years, or more old, and never put into practice, and the cause Plato almost faced death, but instead he was sold into slavery, in Sicily!
So do not believe David Pearce’s ideas to be any imminent danger, or to be a new crusade of sorts for the masses, at States level, when in reality few people even know about it.
Thank you for your nice comment. 🙂
Not something I embrace, but something I am truly fascinated with.
Thank you for your comment, by the way I sympathize with anyone who means well, its just too Utopian, already old, and has not generated any serious interest, and wouldn’t get taken seriously by governments in a lifetime.