A new paper on the topic of extinction.
There are two stand-out works, to my mind, on the philosophical implications of human extinction: Jimmy Lenman’s “On Becoming Extinct”, and Samuel Scheffler’s book, Death and the Afterlife. Both suggest a broadly partial account of the value of human existence: the reason many of us find the prospect of extinction alarming is because it would jeopardize our projects – our goals and aspirations that transcend our particular lives, and require future generations to carry on, in order for our current endeavours to have meaning. This is a reason that would have less force for earlier generations.
In this paper, I accept the Scheffler/Lenman type of position as a starting premiss, and go on to argue that if the species lasts long enough, we can be confident that eventually we will reach a period when – due to thermodynamic constraints – the universe will become increasingly uninhabitable. Eventually, this will entail a tragic conflict between moral imperatives: the partial reasons that the final generation has to keep the species going, versus impartial reasons to spare future generations miserable lives. Deliberate extinction of the species would be the morally heroic option, if such a scenario were to occur.
Image credit @eduardodugois