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Open Lifespan and (not) knowing our age in Rawls’ Original Position

Slides of talk given by Attila Csordas on 2019/05/30 at a bioethics seminar at Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana

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Open Lifespan and (not) knowing our age in Rawls’ Original Position

  1. 1. Open Lifespan and (not) knowing our age in Rawls’ Original Position Attila Csordas Cambridge, UK
  2. 2. The puzzle of aging mass-spec based proteomics bioinformatics business mitochondrial biology stem cell research 14 year old Attila decides this problem gives meaning to his life -> rational life plan 2 reasons philosophy of longevity Open Lifespan activism in longevity community science personal narrative technology politics
  3. 3. Hallmarks of aging, Cell, 2013 PMID: 23746838 ‘An average 16–20% of life is now spent in late- life morbidity’ ~ Decades of late-life is now spent fighting age-associated diseases, compromising human life. healthspan/lifespan treatments/interventions under way we genuinely don’t know how far we’re going to push lifespan
  4. 4. Dominant binary and misplaced thinking on human longevity mortal beings can die finiteness closed lifespan immortals death defying infinity living forever perpetual most plants most animals humans God gods humans in thought experiments? sub specie aeternitatis a philosophical bias natural and social sciences
  5. 5. Open Lifespan: indefinite mortal beings can die limited lifespan immortals death defying infinity living forever perpetual plants animalshumans God gods mortal but not essentially bounded lifespan finiteness infinity ‘indefiniteness’ still mortal ‘indefinity’ open-endedness
  6. 6. Open Lifespan project
  7. 7. Open Lifespan, Open Life, Open Healthspan Here we consider Open Life as a possible world (or society to be closer to the lingo of political theory), where people can choose Open Lifespan, an open-ended, indefinitely long healthy lifespan. Open Lifespan is achieved via Open Healthspan Technologies developed and accessible enough that all people can choose to go through continuous interventions to counteract the biological aging process and have a fixed, small but nonzero mortality rate due to external causes of death.
  8. 8. Open Life should be the central possible world and default anthropology in moral and political philosophy
  9. 9. Open Life Actual World Less Probable Worlds Highly Probable Worlds Limiting Possible Worlds current thinking
  10. 10. Open Life Actual World Less Probable Worlds Limiting Possible Worlds Highly Probable Worlds Increasing Life Expectancy Closed Lifespan Breaking Maximum Closed Lifespan Barrier Open Lifespan Open Lifespan thinking
  11. 11. Rawls and knowing our chronological age behind the veil of ignorance one argument to show that assuming Open Lifespan instead of Closed Lifespan is a better assumption
  12. 12. Veil of ignorance in original position is a model of equality 1. rational life plan to pursue the conception of the good and primary goods enable this plan, social and natural ones but individuals don’t know their particular conception of the good ‘individual’s set of coherent, systematic purposes and intentions for his life’ Nozick, p577 Phil Explanations 2. don’t know their share of distribution of primary goods 3. Rawls admits that they must have adequate level of health and intelligence to pursue rational life plan
  13. 13. Background assumptions Knowing our age or not: Rawls does not mention chronological age explicitly, assumption is that for his argumentation which aims for simplicity age is not needed so it is behind the veil of ignorance. Closed Lifespan: capped maximum lifespan and current life- expectancy with well-known health trajectories Persons with biological bodies: Although the ‘thick veil of ignorance’ abstracts away from most characteristics of people to focus on impartiality, it cannot be as thick as to abstract away from biological bodies as carriers of those persons
  14. 14. Strategy: dilemma First branch of the dilemma: People know their chronological age explicitly, assuming closed lifespan, people in late life would be well aware of the frequent occurrence of age-associated diseases and functional decline -> compromised life plan, compromised impartiality due to health care requirement prioritisation
  15. 15. Strategy: dilemma Second branch of the dilemma: People don’t know their chronological age -> We don’t know at which point we are in our own life trajectory -> we cannot assess whether our life is going according to our life plan. We don’t need to know our particular rational life plan but we need to know at which point we are at in executing our life plan to be able to see whether we align to this life plan or to be able to see whether we need to amend our life plan. Knowing our own age serves as a basic reference point in the execution of our life plan. Knowing our own age is therefore instrumental in us being rational being in the Rawlsian sense so we need to know our age in the original position (+-n years if we consider life stages, life periods or life sequences instead of instants and particular ages) in order to fulfil the rationality criterion.
  16. 16. Bring in Open Lifespan let’s assume that the original position is a possible world where Open Lifespan is accessible for all who are choosing it. Open Lifespan based on open healthspan equalises (or neutralises) all adult chronological ages with respect to probability of potential health status by keeping age- associated functional decline and increasing mortality continuously at bay. So mortality rate is practically the same for all adult chronological ages.
  17. 17. Resolving dilemma with Open Lifespan Knowing our chronological age under Open Lifespan won’t compromise our impartiality in the ‘health care’ sense On the other hand, this does not lead to complete age- ignorance, and we know just enough about our age (or life stage, period) to use it in the execution of our life plan to maintain its instrumental role in pursuing our conception of good.
  18. 18. Conclusion Theoretical Conclusion: The Open Lifespan assumption saves Rawls’ crucial justice as fairness argumentation. This is a theoretical conclusion, dealing with the inner things of philosophy. Practical/normative Conclusion: Open Lifespan leads to a more just society than Closed Lifespan as justice as fairness has a bigger chance to succeed in a society where age cannot be used as a ground for discrimination. Open Lifespan should be a central possible world in philosophy to have a dynamic, flexible and still realistic and extensible anthropology, ethics and political philosophy.
  19. 19. Discussion, Questions Rawlsian framework ignores humans as biological beings, largely ignored health and totally ignored aging and this resulted in a political philosophy blind and insensitive towards biology and conceptualising health issues Rawlsian framework is bad at temporalising, dynamising a just society Rawls tries to keep inequalities at bay by distancing ourselves from our social status and natural contigencies but biological aging is not a contigency in this respect as genetic lottery is. When we were born is contingent but the trajectory from that point on is not contigent. Equality of opportunity should be provided accross all life stages and Open Lifespan fits the bill. Rational life plan is entirely possible with indefinite lifespan Thanks!