The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

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Philosophy Now
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The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Post by Philosophy Now »

Nick Bostrom tells us a philosophical parable about death.

http://philosophynow.org/issues/89/The_ ... gon-Tyrant
RickLewis
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Re: The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Post by RickLewis »

Is he dead right or dead wrong? :)

Mary Midgley thinks the latter, and has an article also in our current issue explaining why:

http://philosophynow.org/issues/89/Deat ... man_Animal

Midgley's article starts with a quote by Steve Jobs:
"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things all fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is important… No-one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No-one has ever escaped it. And that’s as it should be, because death is very likely the best invention of life. It is life’s change-agent."
(Steve Jobs, commencement address at Stanford University, 2005)
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Skinhead
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Re: The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Post by Skinhead »

Nick Bostrom's parable is a good foil for Mary Midgley's sensible discussion of the issues. Another problem with immortality is that the first people to get it would be the dictators and oligarchs of the world. Imagine what the world would be like if Mugabe, Asad etc lived forever! Even apart from cases like that, leaders and ruling cliques like the old USSR's gerontocracy do get very ossified in their ways.
chaz wyman
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Re: The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Post by chaz wyman »

Skinhead wrote:Nick Bostrom's parable is a good foil for Mary Midgley's sensible discussion of the issues. Another problem with immortality is that the first people to get it would be the dictators and oligarchs of the world. Imagine what the world would be like if Mugabe, Asad etc lived forever! Even apart from cases like that, leaders and ruling cliques like the old USSR's gerontocracy do get very ossified in their ways.
No one is saying that immortality is possible in the sense of never being able to die.
In any event a short life is no bar for long lived and inflexible dictatorships and political systems. The Catholic church was unchallenged for a thousand years and presided over a time of zero scientific and political progress.
marjoramblues
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Re: The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Post by marjoramblues »

I admit to not having read much of Mary Midgley; but now I can see why she was the first recipient of PN's annual Award for Contributions in the Fight Against Stupidity. Many Congratulations and Thanks for an excellent article questioning the 'new immortalists' movement.

Bostrom's argument represents aging or human senescence as an evil (the dragon-tyrant) to be conquered or 'got rid of' for compelling moral reasons. This is not about extending life-span per se but the human health-span.
So, continuing vitality would only be granted to those already fortunate enough to be healthy (and probably wealthy).

8 specific lessons are outlined, all of which can usefully be discussed. For example, I take exception to no 6:
'...the central fact is the dragon is bad. This is also the truth about human senescence'.
OK, getting old might not be much fun, can be 'bad' in the sense of pain/terminal illness; however this is different from a moral 'bad'.

Mary Midgley quite rightly questions the immortalists' perspective of aging/dying as a bad habit in need of a cure. It's a life pattern. Aging is a natural process, not a mythical animal to be feared.

When I was reading the fable, I couldn't help but think of the Dragon-Tyrant as a Big Fat Cat of Capitalism devouring pension funds - and creaming off in a slow kill.
The end insight : 'I believe we have some reorganizing to do!' then deadly apt.
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Resha Caner
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Re: The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Post by Resha Caner »

I guess the whole article seemed like a straw man to me. In what sense is someone choosing who lives and who dies? And I don't think people are passively laying down as in the story.

The whole thing reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the Princess Bride. With regard to entering the Fire Swamp, Buttercup says, "We'll never survive," to which Wesley replies, "Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has." Well, think what you want, take all the scientific opinion polls that you want, the evidence favors Buttercup.
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Re: The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Post by chaz wyman »

Resha Caner wrote:I guess the whole article seemed like a straw man to me. In what sense is someone choosing who lives and who dies? And I don't think people are passively laying down as in the story.

The whole thing reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the Princess Bride. With regard to entering the Fire Swamp, Buttercup says, "We'll never survive," to which Wesley replies, "Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has." Well, think what you want, take all the scientific opinion polls that you want, the evidence favors Buttercup.
I agree - the author is tilting at Windmills.
Death is unlike the dragon in too many ways for the parable to be meaningful.
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