The ET and Predator schools of thought – Georgios Ardavanis (Ph.D.)

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One of the round-table discussions in academic and non-academic meetings is whether we are alone in the universe. According to modern astronomy, there are a hundred billion galaxies, each containing around a hundred billion stars. Thus, one could imagine many different kinds of life in this vast and incredible universe.

If someone looks to popular culture and not to our fantasies about extra-terrestrial life, you can identify two main philosophies of such existence. I call them the ET and Predator schools of thought.

The ET school of thought accepts that the aliens are morally advanced beings with human-like consciousness and moral awareness, evolved to a greater degree. Filmographies like ET, the Contact, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind represent this school of thought. Such filmography suggests that consciousness is not a fluke but instead that nature somehow points towards it – therefore, it will arise not just on Earth but on other planets too. So, perhaps ancient philosopher Heraclitus was right, and his “Logos,” the universal law of consciousness, might be universal, connecting not just human beings on planet Earth but all beings in the entire cosmos under one moral law. In that case, there might be an intergalactic parliament of cosmopolitans, each representing their planet and agreeing to a common moral law.

The Predator’s school of thought suggests that another life in the cosmos has arisen according to the same Darwinian law of “survival of the fittest” as exists here on planet Earth. Darwin’s theory of evolution must hold not just for Earth but the entire cosmos. This approach raises the uncomfortable possibility that other life forms in space may lack human consciousness and moral awareness while being even more advanced killers. Of course, these advanced killers might one day visit Earth and colonize us, perhaps use us for food or as beasts’ burden, as we have used other species. Filmographies like Aliens, Predator, Starship Troopers, and The Matrix represent this view of life.

On a last note, the ancient Greek philosophers haven’t often considered the possibility of extra-terrestrial life or its implications for philosophy in their theories. Why?

Maybe because the Greek philosophers defined consciousness only in its highest-know manifestation, as the ability to reflect on the universe and our thinking and meaning through “language.” But then, by that definition, only humans seem to possess consciousness. Thus, that could be used as a justification to treat all nonhumans as disposable matter – and hardly any Greek philosophers showed concern for animal welfare (except for Plutarch, a vegetarian, who suggested animals possess consciousness) and, therefore, in an extension, of that logic pattern the Greek philosophers did not show any concern to the extra-terrestrial life.


Georgios Ardavanis – 04/05/2023

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