Fear of Death as the Foundation of Modern Political Philosophy and Its Overcoming by Transhumanism
Keywords:fear, death, transhumanism, Hobbes, Machiavelli, modern political philosophy
Fear, which has always been one of the most powerful of human passions, has grown in importance during modernity. First with Machiavelli and later especially with Hobbes, fear has become one of the foundational ideas of modern political philosophy. If fear, especially fear of death, does indeed occupy a central place in the foundation of modern politics, then it is necessary to study carefully the implications and consequences of the transhumanist attempt to overcome death. Among the main aspirations of transhumanism is the search for almost infinite longevity and, eventually, the total abolition of aging. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the specific role that fear of death has played in modern political philosophy to understand the possible effects that an eventual overcoming of death would have, albeit partial, as wanted by transhumanists. While the possibility of achieving immortality seems unlikely, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t study what’s behind this transhumanist aspiration. In this way, transhumanism seems the final consequence of modern development, since it’s in continuity with the modern attempt to respond to the fear of death, but it does so by trying an ultimate solution to it through the elimination of death, at least by sickness and old age. In this paper, we will review the role of fear of death in the founding of modern political philosophy by Machiavelli and Hobbes, and then we will analyse the transhumanist attempt to overcome death as a consequence of this fear and its possible political effects.
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