J. Hughes has another one of his excellent posts up from his “Problems of Transhumanism” series. As usual he does a great job giving the discussion context and summarizing the variety of the Enlightenment mind:
In fact, Enlightenment philosophers were intensely conflicted about the virtues of powerful monarchies and technocratic elites versus popular democracy. Some believed an absolute state was the best form of governance. Thomas Hobbes argued that political absolutism was necessary to prevent the war of “all against all.” Voltaire said that he “would rather obey one lion, than 200 rats of [his own] species.”
Other Enlightenment thinkers argued against absolutism and the divine right of kings, but held out for the desirability of “enlightened despots” who had political legitimacy because they were pursuing their people’s interests. Free peoples, as individuals and democracies, often do not choose the ends that are in their best interests. As Spinoza said, “the masses can no more be freed from their superstition than from their fears…they are not guided by reason” (Spinoza, 1670: 56). The benevolent rationale for authoritarianism has always been that rulers and their advisors understand the needs of the people better than the people do themselves.
Hughes goes on from a great historical summary to a survey of the various strains of political belief within the futurist, transhumanist, and technoprogressive communities. The comments are as enlightening and entertaining as the article itself. Read it.
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