Transhumanism is already the dominant ideology. Information processing drops intent to optimize transmission rates. The ability to store, analyze, send & receive this disembodied data continues to increase as we burn more hydrocarbons. Despite all this work, no digitization perfectly reflects the experience of a human, of their tone, emotion, breathing, beauty. Decisions are made against averages of data, seven degrees of freedom away from the people they affect–and yet the transhumanists cry out for more! More algorithms! More data! Compute harder and faster and we’ll fly from this prison of flesh and bone. Transhumanism is present! Mothers put their sons on testosterone blockers to curry social favor with images on their screen, phantasms of people–all around this exit from the body seems to accelerate…
The goal of tradhumanism is to rectify technology with eternity. Humankind is an eternal creature if and only if technology is harnessed for the flourishing of man. Cheap oil is not eternal, but trees are eternal. Plastic is eternal to our detriment. The rhizome is eternal. With love and care we are eternal, and with love and care our technology may become eternal.
Let us set our sights as tradhumanists on the founding of an Eternal City. For this unit to propagate forever, it must continually rejuvenate itself. The only way this may happen is if the value of rejuvenation is shared by the members of the city. Let us then differentiate the values of tradhumanism from transhumanism along four lines: telos, embodiment, virtue, and beauty.
An efficient cause is what brings something into being or alters it in some way. This is to be distinguished from a final cause, which is the end, goal, or outcome toward which something is directed or points. For example, an acorn “points to” or is “directed toward” becoming an oak. That an efficient cause A reliably produces a particular effect or range of effects B, rather than C, or D, or no effect at all, is intelligible only if generating B is the final cause of A. Final causality is also known as “teleology” (from the Greek telos or “end”). 1
The shape of the ear is directed towards the experience of sound for a listener. The goal of the heart beating is to circulate blood and resources so that the whole might persist. The feet move the body, the hands grasp and turn and twist. Nowhere is the existence of teleology more apparent than in ourselves, we overflow with it! Not only our parts have intent and direction, we as a whole act towards some ends and not others.
With this idea of directedness in our mind, we must examine machine. A characteristic of an artifact is that it has its end imposed on it. A hammer is used towards our end of building. The human-hammer cannot be evolved outside of humans!2 The transhumanist would have you believe that all is machine, but clearly a machine is an artifact in the same vein as a hammer. A machine does not have a living inherent end to it. Rather, its direction–or equivalently, its form–can only be understood in the context of a human operating it.
Stick an acorn and a computer in the ground. One hundred years later you’ll get hundreds of acorns and a rust bucket. The acorn and the soil and the sun and oceans and wind and so forth all participate to recreate the acorn–it is a living substance. The computer, on the other hand, is an artifact. It can not reproduce its own form. Instead, humans have to craft the world into the form of a machine.
Telos forces us to accept that man is not reducible to machine. We have inherent ends that are not in machines. It further suggests that man is not reducible to symbols, another human-created tool. It is we who imbibe symbols with meaning. A symbol processing machine may be said to operate correctly only if there is a human there to observe and interpret the output symbols after feeding it with input symbols.
When the transhumanist suggests that we evolve into machine, she asks us to become like silicon–without life! We must resist calls that would strip us of our sacred élan vital at all costs. What the transhumanist believes to be paradise is only a broken lonely suicide.
Now, accepting telos naturally leads one to the following question: if I have some direction towards me and you have some sort of direction to you… if we tried to sum that all up, where would that point? I certainly suggest you ponder this question.
Let us then differentiate tradhumanism from transhumanism by accepting teleology. To help discover towards what ends we as humans point towards, a good source of clues is the human body.
What is the body to a transhumanist? Let us spend some time understanding their viewpoint. In the transhumanist’s estimation our bodies are fundamentally isomorphic to Turing machines. Our mind runs on the computational substrate that is the brain without being uniquely tied to it, in the same manner that software to hardware. As such, the transhumanist holds that the “algorithms” that make up human life may be simulated or replicated and that as such we may upload our consciousness into a machine, or otherwise have it be overtaken by machine. In this view our bodies are a mere contingency to our consciousness.
There is also an emphasis on those aspects of nature which are predictable and controllable in the way the behavior of a machine (ideally) is. This entails a focus on the quantifiable aspects of nature (which are more susceptible of strict prediction and control), and thus on a mathematical description of physical systems as paradigmatic of scientific rigor. 3
The tradhumanist does not deny the utility of the machine metaphor. We may discover incredible things through the formalization and systematization of the body. What we deny is the idea that living organisms are reducible to these machinic descriptions. There is something about being alive that is transcendental! Certainly inside of this transcendental experience I am able to speak in this formalized, symbolic manner, but it is only in that we both share alike bodies and alike experiences that shared symbols may come to exist. Within our bodies we find a great store of knowledge.
[Tacit knowledge is the idea that] the explicit content of all our cognitive and perceptual states presupposes a body of inexplicit knowledge, where this knowledge is fundamentally a matter of knowing how to interact with the world, rather than a matter of knowing that such-and-such propositions are true. It is knowledge essentially embedded in bodily capacities. 4
Our rational facilities can only be made sense of when we recognize them as taking place in union with our bodies. If we attempt to wrest our intellect from the body it will fall through our fingers like sand. Transhumanism is simply incorrect when it asserts that we may upload our minds into a machine. There exist no computational symbols inherent in the body itself, even if a human overlaying the metaphor of a computer on it yields insight into humans. Fundamentally cognition is not operations on disembodied computational symbols. Rather, cognition is more appropriately modeled as embodied and situated action.
By using the term embodied we mean to highlight two points: first, that cognition depends upon the kinds of experience that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities, and second, that these individual sensorimotor capacities are themselves embedded in a more encompassing biological, psychological, and cultural context. By using the term action we mean to emphasize that sensory and motor processes, perception and action, are fundamentally inseparable in lived cognition. 5
The tradhumanist holds that we are embodied and that each of our bodies has a unique history. We may distinguish between two types of history: that which actually happened and that which is said about what happened. Once again we find something transcendental here: that which actually happened cannot ever truly be compressed into speech or any other symbolic representation. At the same time our only knowledge of history is what has been written and preserved. We are ever in the process of re-inventing history through texts and texts of texts!
Within this history certain structures will ever re-arise and be re-created: traditions. The transhumanist has no use for this deep time! History is regarded as something we are eager to get away from. Statues have no meaning here, the Singularity is coming! The Singularity is coming! The transhumanist is dominated by an orgiastic expectation of desire that is only ever in the future. The tradhumanist connects the future to the past through his considered actions.
So far we have a telos and a narrative history. How can we write our narrative future to achieve telos? Virtue has the answer.
We live out our lives, both individual and in our relationships with each other, in the light of certain conceptions of a possible shared future, a future in which certain possibilities beckon us forward and others repel us, some seem already foreclosed and others perhaps inevitable. 6
What future does the transhumanist wish for? There are two dominant strains of thought. The first count among their membership those who desire to be free from work, free from body, free from family, free from nation, and otherwise free from responsibility. The second to pure energy expenditure, a rapturous exponential acceleration into the void while Burial blares in the background. These options repel me–I desire a beautiful future!
It is not enough that I should state a desire. What are the ethics (so-called) of today but pure statements of desire? The transhumanist elite cries out for gay multicultural space automated luxury communism–“If only the Godpilled peasantry of the heartland voted in my own interests!” Her emancipatory desires do not come to pass solely due to the failure of others, never because she herself is at fault. How could she be, having so dutifully amplified the marginalized voices that suited her best?
The tradhumanist wishes for beauty and flourishing, but recognizes that this only comes through continual action. It is only through labor that he may rightfully say he lives his full telos.
Within that teleological scheme there is a fundamental contrast between man-as-he-happens-to-be and man-as-he-could-be-if-he-realized-his-essential-nature. Ethics is the science which is to enable men to understand how they make the transition from the former state to the latter. 7
To be fully in possession of a virtue is to be habitual. For those who practice the virtue of honesty truth-telling is reflexive. Rather than conspire to say what is most pleasing to the interlocutor, the honest man is forthright without thought. He chooses to be virtuous and speak truly, the idea of being dishonest disgusts him.
We become builders by building, and we become harpists by playing the harp. Similarly, then, we become just by doing just actions, temperate by doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions. 8
Clearly society is at its best when all its members practice honesty. If not, we run the risk of being overrun with those who cheat for gain, poisoning the well of commons. So too with courage, temperance, generosity, magnificence, magnanimity, ambition, wit, friendliness, modesty, and righteous indignation. If members of a society do not practice these virtues, they soon find themselves Living In A Society.
The human good proves to be activity of the soul in accord with virtue. 9
I should be clear that I am not making a claim that I own full virtue. Rather, I am interested in virtue ethics in order to become less prideful, less lazy, less sinful and otherwise a better person. I tell you of virtue ethics as a record–here is what I am attempting! It is not that I contain goodness and virtue, it is that I work to obtain it. The results will speak for themselves.
Contrast this with the dominant mode of ethics where special knowledge of goodness manifests itself in select few based on their adjectives. We should not then be surprised that we see people switching to higher rarities of identity. Those are the good ones!
Virtue of character is a mean between two vices, once of excess and one of deficiency, it aims at the intermediate condition in feelings and actions. That is why it is also hard work to be excellent. For in each case it is hard work to find the intermediate; for instance, not everyone, but only one who knows, finds the midpoint in a circle. So also getting angry, or giving and spending money, is easy and everyone can do it; but doing it to the right person, in the right amount, at the right time, for the right and, an in the right way is no longer easy, nor can everyone do it. Hence doing these things well is rare, praiseworthy, and fine. 10
What future does the tradhumanist wish for? It is not a single place, a stopping point, a singularity, no! My God, look at everything around you! Nothing holds, this will all fall apart! It is only through the continual practice of virtuous labor that eternity may come to be. Tradition is not a mere revival of the past, it is the eternal practice of the just and the right. What we wish for is the ability to continually construct a virtuous society.
We may rate the virtuousness of a society on its beauty.
This is not a painting.
A painting is a physical artifact. To experience a painting is to be in the same room with it, to examine it closely and from afar, to appreciate its texture and color and context. This image on your screen is a simulacra–it compresses the beauty of a painting, defiles the experience in its pantomime of the real.
Appearances are not the passively received “impressions” of the empiricist myth, but the products of a profound interaction between subject and object, by which we impose form and order on the input received through our senses. 11
Of course, there is an even higher order of beauty than the interaction between subject and object: that between subject and subject. Even the emotions evoked by the highest art pale in comparison to the laughter, love, and sorrow that others bring. For that reason I will assert that the highest beauty of all is the flourishing of one’s self along with one’s fellow man, what the Greeks called eudemonia.
We always choose eudemonia because of itself, never because of something else. Honor, pleasure, understanding, and every virtue we certainly choose because of themselves, since we would choose them even if it had no further result; but we also choose them for the sake of happiness, supposing that through them we shall be happy. 12
One may only assess another’s flourishing when one stands face-to-face, I-to-I, subject to subject! The transhumanist technology of today mediates this interaction to our extreme detriment. How many have been misled by filters and social media hear-says? Worse: how many have been led into propagating just these same lies? We are constantly called to construct digital appearances that are more perfect than our analog selves. On Twitter we are always socially just or fully based. Transhumanism arrived with the iPhone! We all left our bodies to become façades of ourselves–and see how people get flimsier by the day.
Environmental degradation comes in just the same way that moral degradation comes, through representing people and places in impersonal ways, as objects to be used rather than as subjects to be respected. The sense of beauty puts a brake upon destruction, by representing its object as irreplaceable. 13
When we stand and look one another in the eye, we cannot choose to be someone else. The movement of our bodies, how our faces react and what we say, these are ours and ours alone. Tradhumanist technology must facilitate, enable, and enhance these relationships rather than overwrite them. We must use tools to build beautiful parks, buildings, cities, vistas, in order to have beautiful people. The only way tradhumanist engineers are allowed to judge things is through experiencing them! Yes, collect metrics to justify your intuition–but it is only by operating a machine I-to-it that one may understand how well it behaves. Its quantities are digital constructions and will faithfully lie to you.
Thus tradhumanists begin in a locale. They face the people around them and ask: how may you flourish? As always the customers will have impossible requirements–the engineers will have to figure out how to make it work! At each step we must walk among our locale’s people and judge how our machines operate. When we see children playing and laughing, the elderly comfortable and dispensing wisdom, when our flowers blossom and the birds chirp at sunset then we know we have done our jobs as engineers justly, and we flourish ourselves.
If this locale does not exist then it must be built.
The Eternal City
Under the spell of powerful optical illusions we have become accustomed to viewing man as a grain of sand next to his machines and apparatuses. But the apparatuses are, and always will be, no more than a stage set for a low-grade imagination. As man has constructed them, so he can break them down or integrate them into new orders of meaning. The chains of technology can be broken–and it is the individual that has this power. 14
Where do we find ourselves, as bodies? When we look around, we find we are situated inside different types of institutions: companies, schools, places of worship, cities and states, and so forth. Each of these things are organizations of people. These institutions have on one hand physical boundaries defined by their buildings and other human-made artifacts. On the other, our institutions have mental boundaries in how they include one group of people and while excluding others, praising some types of behaviors and shunning others.
How fares the boundaries of our present institutions? We are asked that each institution be active in including populations traditionally outside their boundaries. A new boundary is drawn: those who believe their institutions are fine as-is thank you and those who want to usher them in. Currently the dominant voice tells us that the widening of these boundaries is a moral imperative–this judgement only further driving wedges between people. All around us our boundaries are in flux, and our bodies with it…
When we agree on a boundary, that boundary is stable. If we largely agree on a shared ethical vision then we place largely stable boundaries on what is done and not done. When my neighbors agree that we should see children laughing together playing in the fields instead of being holed up getting psyop’d by YouTube, then run they shall, free of the mind warping quagmire of Spiderman Elsa videos. Our shared moral values enable a bond of trust, organ-izing a new body.
What size should this body be? Too large a body and the value system will shift too much between organs, making keeping the body whole impossible. It is exactly this situation that we find ourselves in today, having linked the coasts together through communications networks into a giant mimetic amoeba that tears at itself. Too small a body and it will lack the requisite variety to be robust to changes in the environment. Goldilocks finds the size of a city to be juuuust right.
A well-managed city contains in itself the ingredients to maintain itself. At our barest we need shelter and food to survive. A city that contains at least these resources necessary to sustain the whole can be considered a self-contained, self-propagating unit–an organism. This organism has a natural telos: to contribute to the flourishing of the humans that constitute it. This is the only sensible reason to bond together. If this bond made someone’s life worse, they should rightfully exit from it. The only way the whole may be said to flourish is if its members all flourish together.
That this telos exists means we may judge the flourishing of others and their contributions to the whole. In other words, we may be judges of virtue. The virtuous are easily marked by their own flourishing, which is confirmed when standing subject-to-subject. These men and women are to be learned from: they should be the mimetic avatars of a city. When one is present with someone who is flourishing there can be no doubt of its truth. The internet enables a rotten simulacra of good, where values claimed to be good are preached without an experiential reference point for how well these values work in practice.
Bodies only persist through performing labor–and even that task is ultimately doomed to failure. We cannot escape this body-that-dies. It is in tradition that we find the possibility for eternity. To our children we not only pass our genes, but our behavior and knowledge of the world. When we pass on behavior and knowledge that is righteous, our ancestors prosper and pass on the same. There will be no recurrence of this body that we inhabit. What we can pass on is a bit of our spirit, that animating force that was before us and will continue to be forever.
Myth is not prehistory; it is timeless reality, which repeats itself in history. 15
Today tradition seems weak: its narratives are re-written and its monuments removed. Fear not! This has happened before, will happen again! Those who feel the circular flow of tradition have no fear of the present! We know that the suppression of the heroic spirit of man ultimately only vitalizes it, causes it to shine brighter and brighter until it cleanses the rot in its righteous fury.
The promise of the Eternal City is beauty recurring forever. When the City does not stand, it will be the tradhumanists who bring it back into being.
Aristotle’s Revenge 34-36↩
Of course, other organisms will may well evolve implements for applying force of a morphology appropriate to the wielding organism.↩
Aristotle’s Revenge 44↩
Aristotle’s Revenge 95-96↩
The Embodied Mind 173↩
After Virtue 215↩
After Virtue 52↩
Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Ch. 2↩
Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Ch. 7↩
Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Ch. 9↩
The Soul of the World 136↩
Nicomachean Ethics Book 1, Ch. 7↩
The Soul of the World 139↩
The Forest Passage 61↩
The Forest Passage 63↩