The Abolitionist Project
Some Definitions

Abolitionism: In bioethics, abolitionism refers to the belief that all forms of suffering should be abolished. In abolitionist literature, the typical assumption is that all forms of suffering alludes to involuntary suffering. Where the genetically preprogrammed well-being of "designer babies" is envisaged, the issue of consent does not arise in this form.

Technologies proposed for implementing the abolitionist project range from "wireheading" to clinical pharmacology to genetic engineering on a global scale - involving ecosystem redesign, depot-contraception, nanorobots, rewriting the vertebrate genome, and use of the computational resources of posthuman civilisation to manage whole ecosystems.

A commitment to the abolition of suffering is implicit in classical utilitarianism. The "greatest happiness principle" states that actions are right only insofar as they tend to produce the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for the largest number of sentient beings. The greatest happiness principle was first explicitly formulated by the English philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). However, the first scientifically literate blueprint for a cruelty-free world in humans is (arguably) found in Lewis Mancini's "Riley-Day Syndrome, Brain Stimulation and the Genetic Engineering of a World Without Pain" Medical Hypotheses (1990) 31. 201-207. See here for the full text.

Utilitarian philosopher David Pearce has argued extensively for the abolitionist project in e.g. The Hedonistic Imperative (1995) and The Abolitionist Project (2007).

Most Buddhists, especially in the Mahayana tradition, are abolitionists. Gautama Siddharta ("Buddha") (trad. c.563 BC - c.483 BC) reputedly said: "I teach only two things; the cause of suffering, and how to end suffering." Buddhist techniques to overcome suffering do not traditionally rely on science; and consequently have limited efficacy. But as noted by the Dalai Lama at the Society for Neuroscience Congress in November 2005: "If it was possible to become free of negative emotions by a riskless implementation of an electrode - without impairing intelligence and the critical mind - I would be the first patient."

All negative utilitarians are abolitionists, but not all abolitionists are even utilitarians. A number of contemporary organizations are committed to an abolitionist agenda (e.g. BLTC Research and The World Transhumanist Association (WTA), aka Humanity Plus).





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