A War on Ontological Diminution

Russell Blackford is one of the few philosopher bioethicists I have time for - in a way it's rather sad that talented people of good sense stand out as exceptions in this field. In a piece at the new Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, he argues that the fight to cure aging is really just a narrow way of looking at a war on ontological diminution:

The idea of a "war on ... er ... ontological diminution" does not sound as resonant as a "war on death" itself, but it may be more to the point in current debates about the prospect of life extension. I have borrowed the phrase "ontological diminution" from Carl Elliott's book Better than Well, where Elliott attributes it to David Gems (apparently in conversation).

Elliott describes the problem as "a flattening of the conditions that sustain our existence" as we grow older. As he puts it, "our senses dim, our minds get slower, our sexual desire diminishes, and our bodies lose their physical capacities."


I've come to believe that those of us who favour life extension technology should be more modest in our claims and campaigns. We should not be emphasising the benefits of immortality so much as those of simply living longer, better, healthier (all comparative words) lives.

His view makes an interesting counterpoint to my thoughts on the necessity for a suitable outrageous extreme.


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