Does the Anthropocene Require Us to be Saints?

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The question of the moral demands that humans, posthumans, and nonhumans in the Anthropocene put up on persons now living generally takes the form of supererogatory demands—that is, moral obligations with a perfectionist structure leading to obligations “above and beyond the call of duty” and extreme individual and collective sacrifice. David Roden construes this by deontology; Toby Ord, following Derek Parfit, by consequentualism. Such obligations are akin to the martyrdom of saints: but must our expectations of the Anthropocene necessarily lead to this kind of moral obligation? Can it be mitigated and how? Meta-ethically, it is a highly externalist form of motivation with no concurrent rewards. In this respect, the inquiry is to be pursued through understanding how to align horizons of experience and of expectation. Normatively, it very much concerns how we define and regard persons—present and future, human and non-human, organic or artificial, conscious or not, intelligent or otherwise—since personhood and moral obligation are deeply connected concepts. In my conference paper I want to open and provoke discussion of the current and possible views of the supererogatory moral obligations in and toward the Anthropocene.
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Archival date: 2021-07-09
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