Skeptics and Stoics share the bill in CoPhi today. In Atheism, critics offer their critiques of Samuel Scheffler’s “collective afterlife.” And in Bioethics we transition from Alastair Campbell’s last chapter, on justice, to Michael Sandel’s first in his Case Against Perfection, on the ethics of enhancement.
It’s a confluence of themes in light of which it seems relevant to note Nelson Mandela’s birthday. The struggle for justice never ends, but its greatest champions persevere. They insist that justice for all must be sought here and now, however many decades and generations it takes to expose and discredit the agents of injustice on earth. It is not to be permanently postponed or reassigned to another world, and it is not to be exchanged for the enhancement of the relative few.
The ultimate bioethical issue, as Campbell and the Royal Society conclude, is simply global survival.
Over the next 30-40 years [we face] the opportunity to move towards a sustainable economy and a better world for the majority of humanity, or alternatively the risk of social, economic, and environmental failure and catastrophes on a scale never imagined.
So there it is, a version of doomsday only slightly less terminally foreboding than the one Scheffler’s had us playing with. Perfection is not on the table, but collective progress had better be.
The good news, as Susan Wolf says, is that doomsday is still only a scenario. Having turned this chilling thought experiment over in mind we’re soberly brought back to “the meaning and value of the activities that would truly have been rendered pointless by imminent extinction.” Time, though scarce, is not yet gone. “Now, once again, we have a reason to cure cancer, to find more sustainable energy sources,” to give a thought to posterity as thought has been given to us.
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