On being a person through time: the value of life extension and the ethics of aging intervention
In context of the possibility of aging interventions leading to significant or radical extensions in human lifespan, this thesis seeks primarily to address the question of the value of life’s continuance to persons, as the most fundamental motivating factor behind the project specifically to extend life beyond the classic endogenous maximum span. In so doing, its chief focus will therefore be upon the nature of persons themselves, especially in terms of the structure of personhood as a category of being. Much of the investigation will therefore be of an ontological nature, with the nature of value itself, and the relation of value both to persons in particular, and living organisms and the natural realm in general, being a critical theme. The consideration of the latter cases is necessitated by the requirement to analyse the structure of persons in whole, and especially because the primary positive thesis is that persons are processes which are motivated at base by a conative driver which itself is constitutive of their being at all. The analysis of the nature and function of this primary driver of persons as processes, in context of its relation to their secondary instrumental valuation of themselves, which lies at the core of the thesis will generate the conclusion that life’s continuance constitutes an inalienable value to persons that is profound to the degree that it obtains irrespective even of their own evaluative judgements. This analysis suggests a grounding in the question of the manner in which persons arise from the category of other living organisms in general, and the manner in which these arise from the background matter in the universe. The latter will be analysed and the nature of the conative driver will be asserted to be a physical principle which is a defining condition of living organisms in general. Additionally, the analysis of the category of the natural will constitute a critical theme for other reasons, which involve the reliance by certain commentators in the discourse concerning the ethics of aging intervention and life extension upon assertions as to naturalness, and the ethics of human alteration of or interference with the natural, the sacred, the normal, and the given. These latter will be argued to constitute a cluster concept, which will be analysed and demonstrated largely to be lacking in soundness, validity and real cohesion. Further, common ethical arguments against the wisdom of radical life extension in the personal case will be analysed, and mostly found wanting. The core thesis represents a re-evaluation of the classic liberal concept of persons as selfconscious, autonomous, rational valuing agents. This classic analysis will be shown to be faulty in certain key respects, and a correction will be proposed along the lines mentioned above. The fact that these faulty aspects of the classic liberal position constitute key points of attack for conservative personhood theorists, and that the correction offered by the revised liberal version generates a picture of the stability of the value of persons to themselves (and therefore generally) that at least matches that of the various conservative positions (considered to be their main strength by their proponents), largely neutralises such critiques, as well as removes a key rationale for those opting for the conservative positions in their rejection of the general subjectivist liberal picture of personhood. The conservative conception of value in general, and the value of life and persons in particular is critiqued and found wanting. Aside from being commonly based upon a false conception of naturalness, in which supernatural entities, substances or beings are considered to operate, a significant aspect of the failure of this conservative picture arises from the false conception of persons as substantial in nature, or as substances. Accordingly, a critique of the concept of substance in universal ontology is conducted in the first section of the thesis, which will attempt to demonstrate the ontological primacy of process over substance.