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Truly Human EnhancementA Philosophical Defense of Limits$
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Nicholas Agar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262026635

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262026635.001.0001

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Should We Enhance Our Cognitive Powers to Better Understand the Universe and Our Place in It?

Should We Enhance Our Cognitive Powers to Better Understand the Universe and Our Place in It?

Chapter:
(p.81) 5 Should We Enhance Our Cognitive Powers to Better Understand the Universe and Our Place in It?
Source:
Truly Human Enhancement
Author(s):

Nicholas Agar

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262026635.003.0005

This chapter addresses the value we place on improving our capacity to do science by enhancing our cognitive powers. I appeal to the concept of a scientific idealization to challenge the value of radical cognitive enhancement to our ability to explain the universe. Idealization is an indispensible feature of science – human scientists idealize and so will radically cognitively enhanced scientists. But their idealizations will differ. Unenhanced human science is adapted to unenhanced human cognitive capacities. It lacks idealizations that exceed human cognitive limitations. Unenhanced scientists are right to place greater value on explanations that make use of idealizations adapted to their cognitive limitations than they do on new explanations presented in terms of idealizations adapted to radically enhanced intellects. These explanations connect with a particular scientific narrative (or a particular collection of scientific narratives) about the universe and our place in it. When scientists accept that their theories should appeal to idealizations constrained by the limits of human intellects they are not thereby required to accept a limit on what can be explained. There are good grounds to believe that idealizations tailored to the limits of human minds need leave no aspect of the universe and our place in it beyond explanation by humans.

Keywords:   Scientific idealization, Laplace’s demon, Aristotelian idealizations, Galilean idealizations, Theory of everything

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