In this post, I will make a two-fold argument for the moral good of cryonics. In the first part of this post, I will apply J. David Velleman’s arguments on personhood and the Kantian framework which he employs to make a self-regarding case in favor of cryonics via extension of personhood. In the second part of this post, I will take what is established through the first part of this post to make an others-regarding case in favor of, at the very least, the moral supererogation of cryonics.
Self-Regarding for Cryonics
J. David Velleman employs a Kantian argument against the negation of personhood in his article against euthanasia, “Beyond Price,” by arguing that one’s personhood is the only thing which can assign value in the world. One’s personhood assigns the value of happiness to one’s life, so to escape one’s life in favor of happiness (or to escape unhappiness) is to undermine the very internal value, one’s personhood, which allows one to even assign that value. Velleman gives the example of the money grubber. In sum, Velleman believes:
Here escapist suicide impinges on the relevant concerns in the irrational manner that I described at the outset. What makes happiness important to our good, rather than a mere object of desire, is that we not only desire it but care about that desire as giving our lives the sort of coherence and unity that allow for the fullest realization of our autonomy, which is worth caring about, in turn, out of self-love. Even if suicide promotes our happiness, it does so by destroying that whose value is registered in self-love and whose perpetuation self-love naturally leads us to care about. Suicide therefore thwarts the concern out of which happiness is worth wanting in the way that entrenches it in our good. Self-interested suicide is therefore irrational.
I am most interested in this underlying system which Velleman uses, combined with the practical recommendation which he gives at the end of the paper. This recommendation, that one can always realign one’s projects, as driven by one’s autonomous and rational nature, blows a major punch to opponents of cryonics who believe that one may not be happy when one is unfrozen. Even if one were unhappy, then one could realign one’s projects and would make this not an irrational choice to make.
Even further, though, I argue that if we can establish a system of cryonics which is considered reliable, such as a system which is as reliable as current life-extension techniques which medicine has developed, then we have a Kantian moral obligation unto ourselves to choose cryonics. In such a scenario, not choosing cryonics is, as was said in the cryonics piece, “giving up hope” in life. We, then, are essentially choosing natural euthanasia by choosing not to continue our personhoods for whatever sake we choose that (e.g., religion, hedonism, projects). We, then, can apply the argument from Velleman’s “Beyond Price,” to this natural euthanasia. It is, then, wrong to not choose cryonics (if we decide that letting oneself die is the same as killing oneself) because it would be choosing some value which is assigned by one’s autonomous rational nature to be higher than that nature, which, as a Kantian like Velleman would argue, is a contradiction.
Other-Regarding for Cryonics
If we accept the argument which I have laid forth in the preceding paragraphs, we can then extrapolate the following argument. People ought to choose to extend their personhoods through cryonics because failing to do so is to choose to undermine one’s own personhood. As Hanson notes in “Get Froze
,” cryonics may seem a bit expensive at first, if even at $300 a year (which would leave it to the middle class, at best). However, as more people sign up for cryonics programs, market forces would drive the price down to make it more affordable for other people. This is a common occurrence in consumer markets, as we see new technology drastically drop in price as the demand increases and the supply equilibrates to the new demand and technology then improves. I then argue that people ought to sign up for cryonics programs out of an others-regarding moral obligation, or, at the very least, that it is morally good to sign up for a cryonics program out of an others-regarding framework because for each additional person that signs up for the program, it’s another person who then adds to the possibility that the price would drop.
We, then, can see how signing up for a cryonics program would be considered a morally good action. If we consider the extension of personhood a good thing, then making it easier to extend personhood for all people ought to also be considered a good thing. We then can help others by also carrying out our self-regarding moral good of signing up for cryonics.
This would, of course, have to take backseat to stronger charitable obligations we may have. Saving a drowning child from a pond is, of course, a stronger obligation than to extend the personhood of the already-having-lived. If, though, we can fulfill our stronger and more direct obligations to those in the world before carrying out our other-regarding obligation for cryonics, then we can move onto other-regarding obligations as found in cryonics.