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Old 12-13-2017   #1
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Ananthropocentric Purposivism

I thought I'd share this book with folks here. It's a detailed argument for the thesis that there is a cosmic purpose grounded in some Absolute being like the God of classical metaphysics but that humanity doesn't matter for that cosmic purpose. I wouldn't accept such a stark thesis but it makes a refreshing alternative to the binary claims of either the cosmos being created for humanity (or more charitably moral agents) or it being malignantly useless.



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Old 12-13-2017   #2
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

The binary claims are not that binary anyway:
On the human scale/ from the human viewpoint - which is still the one we have to deal with, our striving for transcendence through technology notwithstanding- humanity is bound not to matter for the cosmic purpose, even within a religious framework; it may be stated in the quran that god created man for a reason, but this is his reason, not ours; the relationship is one of dependence, but that dependence is not mutual. To humanity itself, our existence for all intents and purposes is insignificant.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
-Shaykh Ibn Al 'Arabi
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Old 12-14-2017   #3
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

And therefore, from a human perspective, the universe, in which we are but faceless, replaceable cogs in some unfathomable machinery, whose suffering and sorrow count for nothing and are doomed to endure through endless cycles until this "higher purpose" is satisfied...

Yes, it is indeed malignantly useless.

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Old 12-14-2017   #4
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

We need more anti-humanist mysticism.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 12-14-2017   #5
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
We need more anti-humanist mysticism.
I don't think Mulgan intends Ananthropocentric Purposivism as anti-humanistic per sey (he does after all intend it to ground a system of positive ethics). From reviews he seems to be saying that human life does have intrinsic value but that this value is not the be all and end all of the universe.

I don't endorse this philosophy but am interested in it from a quasi-ecological perspective.

Quote Originally Posted by cannibal cop View Post
And therefore, from a human perspective, the universe, in which we are but faceless, replaceable cogs in some unfathomable machinery, whose suffering and sorrow count for nothing and are doomed to endure through endless cycles until this "higher purpose" is satisfied...

Yes, it is indeed malignantly useless.
You’re confusing the purpose for which something exists (or was brought into being) with the use one may put a thing too. Considered in itself (according to Mulgan) the cosmos has a purpose but it’s purpose is not to contribute to humanity’s flourishing (although incidentally it does) to which the necessary force/principle/being is indifferent.

If purpose is considered from a purely external perspective then the question of whether or not the cosmos has a purpose is entirely relative to one's interests. If one wants unicorns then presumably it's doing very badly if one wants hydrogen atoms then its very successful.
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Old 12-14-2017   #6
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

I'm not confusing anything. This is very similar to my own perspective. I'm simply saying this purpose is "useless" in the sense that it is at least as irrelevant to our concerns as intelligent suffering beings as we are irrelevant to itself.

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Old 12-14-2017   #7
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

Quote Originally Posted by cannibal cop View Post
I'm not confusing anything. This is very similar to my own perspective. I'm simply saying this purpose is "useless" in the sense that it is at least as irrelevant to our concerns as intelligent suffering beings as we are irrelevant to itself.
You mean something like it is not sufficient to furnish an objective existential meaning then?

(I don't think Mulgan would agree here - he spends the latter half of the book trying to argue from Ananthropocentric Purposivism to what he calls Normative Ananthropocentric Purposivism -but I'm not interested in defending his view as much as clarifying and contrasting it)
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Old 12-14-2017   #8
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

It may have meaning, but I don't think life lacks for meaning.

It's the matter of our suffering that concerns me more. I don't think any purpose justifies that. That may be irrelevant to it, but it's central to us, often to the point that whether or not there's a purpose being served by it ceases to matter.

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Old 12-14-2017   #9
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

In the same way that a human body contains some tricky intangible parts (musical preferences) and some heavy tangible ones (large intestines), the universe contains:

1. Large, simple, meaningless processes (stars, black holes, gamma ray bursts).

2. Small, complex, meaning-rich processes (Cardi B, Kylie Jenner, Bono).

The microcosm contains the macrocosm, etc. Small complex object-processes like Cardi B and Kylie Jenner are the arbiters of significance for the entire universe. Since we are not aware of any other meaning-generating processes other than ourselves (Fermi paradox), it makes sense that our dominion extends across the entire universe, and we also have the freedom to assign purpose and meaning to any phenomena we observe (naming galaxies and random stars, for example). The only things that could disrupt or alter this situation:

1. The arrival of meaning and opinions from elsewhere in the universe, i.e. a spaceship bearing "hell controversial opinions from Proxima Centauri."

2. Random ontological intrusions of meaning, such as Thor manifesting and dropping controversial opinions.

Whether non-human biological object-processes such as lemurs and anthrax have opinions and meaning or not has yet to be established, but it seems unlikely, or at the very least, every time someone claims they do, it is in fact "random human's interpretation/attribution of non-human meaning/agency/interests" rather than "actual assertion by non-human biological processes of non-human meaning/agency/interests."

Note that resolution of the Fermi paradox would not necessarily alter the above situation, since what we're really saying when we talk about "extraterrestrial life" is that we're looking for "comprehensible motives" or meaning in something we'd recognize as life. The alternatives seem to be either:

A) Impossible to perceive, so can't be discussed.

B) Not clearly recognizable as life (i.e. some random dark matter computer thing simulating an entire universe with insane complexity for no 'reason' that makes sense to us).

C) Essentially, the equivalent of "the paranormal" or just insanity/schizophrenia: all copper in the universe, for example, is a sentient organism that is, from its point of view, "interacting" with us in a highly mannered and ironic way for reasons of its own that we can't understand.
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Old 12-14-2017   #10
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Re: Ananthropocentric Purposivism

Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
We need more anti-humanist mysticism.
We need more of an understanding that mysticism is anti-humanist by definition, to put an end to all co-opting of arguably the hardest core of all religions by the kind of soft feel-good marketable fashion trend mysticism with all the rites and faith taken out.

"What can a thing do with a thing, when it is a thing?"
-Shaykh Ibn Al 'Arabi
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