How do we face human extinction?
A deadly pandemic has thrown this question into sharp focus
In case you haven’t had enough doom recently, this week’s long read pick comes from The Point, where Agnes Callard considers the philosophical challenges of imagining the end of humanity.
Between new tech-driven threats, climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and other nameless future threats, “We may not have arrived at the end,” she says, “but we have certainly arrived at the thought of it.” Eventually, she points out, one way or another, the human species will stop existing:
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How are we not to collapse into despair if we cannot imagine even a human legacy continuing, via our descendants or those of our friends? Philosophers, artists and humanists, she argues, should set down the dream of making ‘advances’ as scientists do and engage instead with the question of meaning:
As we grapple worldwide to cope with a deadly pandemic, Callard suggests that while scientists and engineers seek to defer our inevitable end for as long as possible, it is the job of humanists to face that end without abandoning all capacity to find value in life, or courage to face its loss:
This is completely ridiculous. This is not a serious disease. If the mortality is over 2%, I’d be shocked. What we do have is a problem of perspective – we are over-reacting massively to a serious but not world-ending disease.
This essay by Catherine Ingram is a humbling read on extinction realities and how we can come to terms with them if indeed they are realities for us.
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