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Does it change anything if human life is finished?

+4 votes
Suppose you had completely infallible knowledge that atmospheric conditions would within, say, 300 years, completely eradicate all possible food sources for humans and so cause the extinction of our species -- that this will happen as a consequence of chemical processes already at work, and it will happen in essentially the same way even if tomorrow every single factory and workshop closes its doors, every metal thing is dismantled and its parts gently placed back in the earth, every scrap of plastic carefully fished out of the ocean, every captive creature let loose, and so on. Absolutely nothing can, according to this prophecy, change the fact of certain species extinction. Would, or should that knowledge change your ambitions and priorities? I mean that to be a way of asking: would you then decide that the hope of social emancipation was beside the point and turn to something else? Religion or something. Or would (should) you think that makes the anarchist project no less/all the more urgent?
asked Jan 31 by asker (8,200 points)
my ambitions and priorities mostly consist of enjoying life, staying as healthy as i can, having a few deep relationships, defying and eluding and breaking down authority when and where i can, and using creativity....

so, i would answer "no"....and i already think at least a very large portion of human life will come to an end at some point within the next century....

and i have nearly no hope of "social emancipation" within my lifetime anyway... :)

as far as the health and stability of the earth/land/animals/water/air goes....i try not to pollute/destroy/damage it because doing so makes me feel sick and sad, not because it gives me any hope for some sort of mass reversal of what humans have done so far (and continue to do).
@ba this is a better answer than mine and you make it a comment? freaky
i don't know about better....but i guess i sometimes feel uncomfortable providing an "answer"....more like i try to share my experiences and thoughts about how i live or want to live or relate, and i don't know if that answers anything for anyone...i like the ongoing conversation, and if i can give or receive a little inspiration or commiseration along the way, all the better... :)
fwiw, i sometimes don't feel committed to something i'm saying in a way that the answer function implies, and, as you say ba@, conversation.

but it can be nice for folks who are looking for answers (from the splash page, for example) to know that someone has responded with something answer-like, that only shows up in the answer boxes. so, there's a little encouragement to Answer, at least sometimes.
well, I guess I can appreciate how a perspective that just refuses from the outset all ambitions beyond the self would make this problem, uh, ... simpler.
dot, thanks.

asker, what do you mean by refusing "ambitions beyond the self"?

because as i see it...

deep relationships....beyond self

caring for the earth/plants/creatures/air/water....beyond self

breaking down authority....beyond self

looking to give and receive inspiration/commiseration....beyond self

using creativity....beyond self

even staying healthy goes beyond myself as it involves my relationship with the earth/plants/animals (not to mention with other people spending life outdoors)

from my perspective, everything extends beyond myself, and everything contains myself. i can't remove myself from my observations, feelings, thoughts, or desires, or experiences....nor can i isolate myself from everything that surrounds, mixes with, bumps into, or occasionally collides with me....

so any "ambitions" i have always extend beyond me in some way, just perhaps not the way you would like.

and, yes, my perspective does seem to make your "problem" rather "simple" to me, albeit quite often very difficult when living it (most people have difficulty accepting i have no grand plan). that's probably why i didn't answer and commented instead.
that's a fair response. what I should have said rather than "beyond self" is something like "historical," or "socially emancipatory"-- the exercise of freedom at the level of the species.
i think if you had, i probably wouldn't have replied....i have a lot of trouble with what i think of as abstract labels.
:-) I think in this case it strikes us as abstract because it is far from realization.
not the case for me.
I'm not sure I'm following?
i mean that i don't call something "abstract" because of the "thing" not "being realized"...i say abstract to indicate something (a label, a word, a phrase) that i can't sense (whether via five, six, or thirteen of them).
"the exercise of freedom at the level of the species"

i have absolutely no idea what that means. could you elaborate a bit to describe what you mean by "freedom at the level of the species"?
oh, yeah, sure, I basically just mean this: in in my understanding, freedom is teleological positing, it's when you use abstractions to reason about what goal you want to pursue.

It seems to me that in capitalism individuals can do this in a very very constrained way, but it is certainly not possible for humanity to reason about its collective life on earth and decide what goals should be set for that life. Those decisions are made by, well, capital itself.

In my view, the goal of social emancipation is (or should I say, "was"?) to make this possible. I don't say anything about what that would be "like" except that it means human affairs would not be heteronomously determined by either capital or nature.
asker, if you've thought about your question and have some ideas of what you would do (or think) differently if you had the knowledge you described....i'd like to hear how you would change (or not).

"freedom is teleological positing, it's when you use abstractions to reason about what goal you want to pursue. "

interesting definition of "freedom". to use abstractions to reason about what goal you want to pursue. i must admit that does not clarify for me what you mean by freedom, particularly in the context above in which you used it. but i don't know that it matters.

if i knew for a fact that human life would cease to exist in 300 years, it would make literally no difference to my life, desires, priorities, etc. i might feel a touch disappointed that i won't be around to witness whatever ends this failed experiment. i would not suddenly change my lifestyle, or start voting, or devote myself to the future of humanity.

on the other hand, if i knew for a fact that human life would cease to exist in 1 year, i suspect i might have some ideas about things i'd like to do differently.

I very often imagine that I have that knowledge even though no one could have it for a certainty. But I don't have any defensible answer. I just end up doing what most people understandably do: things that seem meaningful in the context of my immediate surroundings and finite life, like read poems and try to be nice to my partner and so on.
i didn't want you to feel like you had to defend anything....i just felt interested in your thoughts about your question....i assumed you had used it as a thought experiment and had some ideas in mind of what you would do differently.
"things that seem meaningful in the context of their immediate surroundings and finite life"

right on, that is how i want to live every moment! and i personally believe that if everyone did that quite a bit more, this world would look very different.

thinking about the future - beyond the very immediate future - is something i have always been largely incapable of. it has not even been a conscious choice on my part, although when i read "be here now" (by ram dass) back in the 70s (my teens), it was maybe the most profound thought i had ever come across. of course, i was tripping my ass off on acid at the time, so there is that too...
i overall don't care about "the human species" or "the environment", i feel like the things being asked here are way too abstract. Catastrophic scenarios are kind of fun to think about but can't really even be thought about until they happen. I'm definetly interested in witnessing any changes that may occur from climate change etc.

A lot of the time i still find myself thinking about starting "that cabin in the woods" but overall i don't feel like i have enough of a reason to do it.

1 Answer

+2 votes
no.  I do not identify with the idea of a species outside of specific biological conversations.  there is no such thing as humanity and as such they can all go to hell.

on another note I know full well that I am going to die and yet I still take an interest in my life, the same interest I would take if death was uncertain.  if I did believe in humanity I imagine I could say a similar thing about 'social progress' or whatever it is humanists are into these days.
answered Jan 31 by shin (2,170 points)
Sure, I mean, you can answer this whole problem by deciding you don't care about teleological purpose in any way -- that seems like a kind of defeat to me.
not looking for something that cannot be found seems to me less like a defeat and more like a means of limiting stress.

to state that not finding teleological purpose is defeat is to presuppose its existence, i.e that it exists and both can and should be found.  i have very little use for the word should anymore.

could you give me an example of a teleological purpose you think we have established?  because i dont think there are any.
I mean, I think that much history happens under different kinds of compulsion but pretty good examples of people deciding on a purpose for their life might be early orders of monks drawing up documents to describe the form of life they aspire to -- or, I don't know, the German peasants' war which intended to establish a kingdom of heaven on earth.
i dont think that they would satisfy aristotles notion of a final cause. final causes are supposed to be intrinsic to objects, not human goals applied to objects.  and all objects are supposed to have them.

and i dont even necessarily believe that 'objects' discretely exist.
no, you're right, I wanted that as a shorthand, but it's true, Aristotle isn't trying to explain human activity when he defines the four causes.