On the Wisdom of Repugnance
As always, faithfully transcribing and contextualizing the July 20, 2007 Future Salon, the ever salient and perspicacious Anne Corwin conveys:<blockquote>The “wisdom of repugnance” argument was also invoked … in the context of suggesting that visceral reactions sometimes do lead to preferential moral positions. After all, quite a few things that did not used to be considered “repugnant” now certainly are; examples given were slavery, mass murder of indigenous peoples, non-universal suffrage, and homophobia. All these things are now fairly widely condemned, when they used to be accepted as a matter of course. Applying the “wisdom of repugnance” to the subject of longevity, de Grey asks whether age-related death might perhaps become repugnant at some point.</blockquote>While in his role as spokesperson he must take the more conservative tact of “asking” whether this might some day be the case. We lowly foot soldiers in the cause for Rational Longevity are a bit freer to assert that this absolutely MUST become the case, before any appreciable progress will be made. After all, death by aging already is repugnant to anyone who has given the matter even a few moments of lucent, cogent consideration. Key words: lucid, cogent.
Another brilliant Buffy-inspired observation made during the salon:<blockquote>When even death cannot be relied upon as either certain or final, a person is thrust into a position of having to engage in some of the most difficult philosophical explorations known to humanity.</blockquote>In any of the ten dimensional other potential universes, could there be a more pragmatic and species self-affirming endeavor? Methinks not. Okay, yeah, so ten dimensions is a LOT of freakin’ possibilities, but I’m not trying to be literal, I’m overstating a point for emphasis. Namely, it strikes me as a symptom of species-wide low self-esteem to NOT find age-related death repugnant. Do we really think so little of ourselves as to not find ourselves unworthy of preservation? If so, I surely wasted way too much cash on what I otherwise thought was some of the best damned cognitive-behavioral technology developed, to date. I guess I could sue for a refund to pay for my coffin if I ever found myself that upset over it, right?
But wait, there’s more!<blockquote>Elderly people are not simply spirited away on an angel-drawn pillow surrounded by loving friends and family when they die – rather, they usually experience immune collapse, cancer, heart failure, atherosclerosis, strokes, pneumonia, or any number of other undeniable nasties. It isn’t the “being old” part of being old that ought to be medicalized – it’s the “being so sick that all your organs shut down and you die” part. If we wouldn’t want this to happen to a younger person, then we shouldn’t tolerate it when it happens to older people either – unless we are prepared to assert that a person’s life stops being valuable once they reach a certain “expiration date”. And that assertion is something I would find tremendously repugnant.</blockquote>
Finally, in a very respectful response to those less excited about superlongevity, A. Friend replied:<blockquote>I can see how someone who is terrified of death might advocate obsessively or compulsively for life extension, but suppose that someone is motivated more by love of life than by fear of death; if such a person is familiar with death, might we also suppose that such a person has at least some spiritual maturity?</blockquote>