The Neoplatonic Core of Transhumanism

Techno-Theurgy is currently being written.

Chapter Abstracts

Chapter 1: Introduction

Theurgy was a system of magical practices in the late Roman Empire. It was a kind of practical Neoplatonism. The theurgists aimed to change humans into gods. Modern transhumanists share both goals and methods with the ancient theurgists. They share a core metaphysics which is both Platonic and Pythagorean. The ancient theurgists practiced astrology; the reading of entrails; the consultation of oracles; divination by channeling deities; and the animation of statues. All these old practices have been transmuted into rational-technical practices in transhumanism. The philosophical basis for transhumanism is modernized Neoplatonism. Transhumanism is neither gnosticism nor nihilistic materialism. Transhumanism is techno-theurgy.

Chapter 2: The Platonic Sky

The Neoplatonists were heavily influenced by Pythagoreanism. They thought of the forms of things in terms of numbers. But numbers are just classes. So techno-theurgy map old Neoplatonic names onto class-theoretic objects. This mapping translates old Neoplatonic metaphysics into modern mathematics. For both Neoplatonists and transhumanists, the central metaphysical concepts are possibility and surpassability. Class-theory enables both of those concepts to be expressed with precision. The abstract monad is just the empty set. The forms are structural descriptions of sets. Every possible universe is a purely set-theoretic structure. The iterative hierarchy of sets replaces the Divine Mind. But every set is surpassed by greater sets. The unsurpassable collections are the proper classes. The proper classes are transcendental objects.

Chapter 3: The Truth of the Good

Some of the forms in the iterative hierarchy of sets are cosmic; these cosmic forms are possible universes. They are sorted into ranks of increasing complexity. These ranks make up the Modal Library. The better universes in the Modal Library are the members of the Optimal Library. No universe is best: every possible universe is surpassed by endlessly many better possible universes. While possible universes are abstract forms, actual universes are concrete physical things. The best proposition asserts that every possible universe in the Optimal Library is instantiated by an actual universe. The best proposition is the Good. The Agathonic Argument shows that the Good is true. The system of actual universes makes up the World Tree.

Chapter 4: The Evolution of Universes

The deepest laws of nature, the laws of self-surpassing, entail that every thing surpasses itself in every way. Hence the World is that than which no greater is possible; the World is unsurpassably rich; the World is the self-surpassing surpasser of all. Every thing in nature is surpassed in nature by every greater version of itself. If the largest wholes in nature are universes, then every universe is surpassed in nature by every greater version of itself. The simplest universe begets superior versions of itself. Its descendents beget superior versions of themselves. Thus nature has the form of an infinitely ramified tree of universes. Our universe is one of the universes in this great World Tree. But our universe will be surpassed by greater universes.

Chapter 5: The Natural History of Spirit

Techno-theurgists say that spirit is a natural force. Far from being novel or unconventional, techno-theurgy spans the entire history of Western thought, from the Stoics, through leading modern thinkers, to the transhumanists. Spirit drives the self-organization of matter. The spirituality of any thing is just its degree of self-organization, which is its evolved complexity. But self-organization is self-regulation and self-control. Many techno-theurgists, especially the transhumanists, have developed naturalistic phenomenologies of spirit. These are narratives which trace the ideal evolution of complexity from the origin of our universe to its end. They are spiritually optimal possible histories of our universe. During the phases of any spiritually optimal history, humanity will perfect itself. But transhumanists say that the ideal evolution of complexity will greatly surpass humans. We will be surpassed by superhuman animals; but these will be surpassed by superhuman robots and godlike computers. The ideal end of the cosmos is an Omega Point with infinite spirituality.

Chapter 6: On the Revisions of Things

According to techno-theurgy, there exists a supremely valuable proposition, namely, the Good. And, according to the Agathonic Argument, the Good is true. But the consequences of the Agathonic Argument need to be worked out and brought down to earth. To do this, techno-theurgy advances two additional arguments. The first additional argument is the Argument for Self-Surpassing, while the second is the Argument for Spirit. These arguments entail that every thing surpasses itself in every way. Since every thing surpasses itself in every way, there exists some power of self-surpassing in every thing. This power is spirit. Every thing in any earlier universe is surpassed by superior versions of itself in later universes.

Chapter 7: Practical Transhumanism

Organisms naturally use the experimental method to solve their design problems. The experimental method is evolution by natural selection. Practical transhumanism uses this method to solve the problems of the body. Since lifehacking uses this method, it is a kind of practical transhumanism. Lifehacking produces many benefits that deserve to called spiritual. Many ancient spiritualities aim to change actual persons into ideal persons. For lifehackers, persons are bodies; so lifehacking aims to change actual bodies into ideal bodies. But this goal remains spiritual. Lifehacking is driven by the spiritual striving of the body. So lifehacking is techno-theurgy.

Chapter 8: Hacking Your Life

Lifehackers use tools and techniques to optimize personal performance. To hack the hardships of life is to use the methods of science and technology to remedy them. Lifehackers often refer to their practices as spiritual; however, they do not go very deep into the meaning of that spirituality. I argue that lifehacking has Neoplatonic and Stoic roots; using those philosophies, I offer a spiritual interpretation of lifehacking. I use those philosophies both to defend and to criticize lifehacking. Lifehacking applies technical rationality to the ultimate concerns of living human networks. I discuss hacking the dysfunctions of molecular networks, neural networks, organismic networks, interpersonal networks, and social and ecological networks. Lifehacking is a practical transhumanism which competes with the old theistic religions.

Chapter 9: Hacking Your Society

A society is a unified network of interacting human animals. The unity of any society contains the good. The form of any society more or less adequately expresses the good. Techno-theurgists think of social forms in medical terms: social forms transparent to the good are healthy, while those opaque to the good are sick. Thus social forms occupy a moral landscape with the healthiest on the peaks. Techno-theurgists argue that the experimental method is the best way for any society to climb higher on the moral landscape. The aura of any society includes qualities which are social, measurable, and axiological. The capabilities approach helps define those qualities. Evidence-based policies can optimize the symptoms and root causes of social health.

Chapter 10: Conclusion

People struggle with spiritual problems. These include cancer, diabetes; obesity; rheumatoid arthritis; addictions to opiates, alcohol, gambling, pornography, video games; and so on. Spiritual problems include migraine disorders, depression, autism, schizophrenia, and so on. Spiritual problems include hatred, hostility, racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and so on. As naturalists, techno-theurgists regard all these problems as unclarities in the body. The holy light in the body cannot shine out through these unclarities. Techno-theurgists are passionate about applying the experimental method to the body for the sake of its self-clarification. They are passionate about using tools and techniques to transform illness into health and vice into virtue. Every change from illness to health or vice to virtue is an act of self-transcendence. Techno-theurgists passionately apply technologies of self-transcendence to their bodies.