Whose Survival? A Critical Engagement with the Notion of Existential Risk

Philip Højme

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/SetF.2019.016


This paper provides a critique of Bostrom’s concern with existential risks, a critique which relies on Adorno and Horkheimer’s interpretation of the Enlightenment. Their interpretation is used to elicit the inner contradictions of transhumanist thought and to show the invalid premises on which it is based. By first outlining Bostrom’s position this paper argues that transhumanism reverts to myth in its attempt to surpass the human condition. Bostrom’s argument is based on three pillars, Maxipok, Parfitian population ethics and a universal notion of general human values. By attempting to transcend the human condition, to achieve post-humanity, transhumanism reverts to myth. Thus, the aim of this paper is to provide a critical examination of transhumanism which elicits its tacit contradictions. It will also be argued that transhumanism’s focus on a universal, all-encompassing, notion of humanity (Earth-originating intelligent life) neglects any concern with actual lived lives. This absence is problematic because it clearly shows that there is a discrepancy, between transhumanism’s claimed concern for all of humanity and the practical implications of proposing a universal notion of humanity. This paper will conclude, that transhumanism’s lack of concern with actual lives is due to its universal and totalising gestures. Gestures which allow for universal claims such as general values or Earth-originating intelligent life.


critical theory; enlightenment; future; humanity; transhumanism; utopia.

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