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Cosmological Ethics and Immortality

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The Beginning and the End

Part of the book series: The Frontiers Collection ((FRONTCOLL))

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Most ethical principles, religious or not, are based on wisdom acquired over a few millennia. This may seem a long time, but even millennia are insignificant in a cosmological perspective. The field of evolutionary ethics makes a big leap by embracing evolutionary time scales (millions of years). Can we continue to extend our ethical reflections, principles, and theories up to the 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution? What is the ultimate good in the universe? Evolutionary ethics concludes that survival is the most important value. But survival of what, and for how long? How can we aim for infinite survival, that is, for immortality? We first outline thermodynamic values, which are truly universal because they depend only on the concept of energy. We criticize the naturalistic fallacy and then, inspired by Aristotle’s theory of moral virtues, we outline evolutionary trade-offs (egoismaltruism, stabilityadaptability, specialistgeneralist, explorationexploitation, competitioncooperation, and r-K selection) and hence a theory of evolutionary virtues. However, evolutionary values are insufficient for ethical purposes, since they give insights into how to adapt to any circumstance, for any purpose. To remedy this limitation, we outline developmental values for individuals (e.g. cognitive and moral development); developmental values for societies (e.g. increased rationality and decreased violence). Thermodynamic, evolutionary, and developmental values promise to be robust ethical principles, because they have been proven through the wisdom of billions of years of cosmic evolution. As an application, we examine the age-old will to immortality and propose a voyage to five kinds of immortality: spiritual, individual, creative, evolutionary, and cosmological. We conclude that the ultimate good is the infinite continuation of the evolutionary process.

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  1. 1.

    Again, this is a pun in French: “L’infini” means “the infinite”, but sounds like “L’un fini”, which literally means “The one finishes”; while “et l’autre continue” means “and the other continues”. So, we could translate (losing the word game with infinity): “While one finishes, the other continues”.

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Correspondence to Clément Vidal .

Open Questions

Open Questions

Let us mention a few lines of open questions.

  • Developmental psychology could be enriched applying the insights of Turchin’s metasystem transition to individuals, in order to construct a theory of “self metasystem transitions” (see Stewart 2001 for a starting point).

  • The evolutionary ethics based on virtuous trade-offs can be further developed in detail and compared to Aristotle’s virtue ethics. The six trade-off dimensions might be reduced to few more fundamental ones.

  • Are there stages of immortality, as there are stages of morality (Kohlberg 1981) or stages of faith (Fowler 1981)? There is already quite some work on the development of conceptions of death in a child. We conjecture that different hopes and narratives of immortality will be hold at different stages of psychological development.

  • Immense work remains to be done to build our cosmic culture. More work in this area is needed if we want to foster personal development to much higher levels and develop sustainable societies in the very long term.

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Vidal, C. (2014). Cosmological Ethics and Immortality. In: The Beginning and the End. The Frontiers Collection. Springer, Cham.

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