Sunday, October 14, 2007

Human Exceptionalism

Human Exceptionalism is the belief that humans, above everything else, have special rights, special statuses, and unique capacities that justify human exceptionalist practices and ideologies. We can also call this human racism. Not everyone is in favor of human enhancement technology and the prospect of greater-than-human intelligence. Nor is everyone ready for this paradigm shift. Not everyone is in favor of extending personhood outside the human sphere. Or willing to allow non-exceptionalist status to human populations, for this would entail a kind of non-human status to humans. "Human status" here is synonymous with exceptionalism. We can see that by paradigmatic posturing that not everyone is willing to allow post-human paradigms to enter into consciousness. These 'human exceptionalists', a group that includes anti-transhumanist Wesley Smith, argue that being human is what matters, and that to give equal moral currency to non-humans is, to beg the question of human dignity and worth, a strict violation of human dignity and worth.

The opposing viewpoint to this is that of Non-Anthropocentric Personhood -- the notion that non-humans, be they animals, robots, or uploaded minds, have the potential for personhood status, and by consequence, are worthy of moral consideration. The heart of this notion of human exceptionalism is what drives the unethical treatment of non-humans, the consumption of non-humans, and the enslavement of non-humans. By becoming a vegetarian for ethical reasons or by embracing the ideas of transhumanism, one is acknowledging the dangers and provincialities of human exceptionalism. One is thereby acknowledging the multiple realizability of consciousness and the moral imperatives that follow. This is what mind functionalism ultimately converges upon: a non-anthropocentric vision of personhood and a detailed explanation for consciousness and its emergence in systems that do not share the exact chemical and biological makeup of human consciousness. Exceptionalists would have us think there is an ethical makeup to the human mind, which restricts the domain of personhood -- whereas if we deny this ethical makeup, we expand the domain of personhood at no ethical cost to "human dignity" whatsoever.

1 comment:

Don said...

You and I seem to share some ideas and outlooks (on markets, etc.). I have to concede that I am not as well-schooled in Leftism as you seem to be with your allusions to Marx and Heidigger, etc. Please pay me a visit and tell me what you think.