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人类的灭绝会是个悲剧吗?

更新时间:2019/1/17 23:03:58 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?
人类的灭绝会是个悲剧吗?

There are stirrings of discussion these days in philosophical circles about the prospect of human extinction. This should not be surprising, given the increasingly threatening predations of climate change. In reflecting on this question, I want to suggest an answer to a single question, one that hardly covers the whole philosophical territory but is an important aspect of it. Would human extinction be a tragedy?

哲学界近年来开始就人类灭绝的前景展开热烈讨论。鉴于气候变化的侵袭构成越来越大的威胁,这应该是不足为奇的。在思考这个问题时,我想就一个单一的问题做出回答,这个问题谈不上涵盖整个哲学领域,但却是其中的一个重要方面。那就是:人类的灭绝会是个悲剧吗?

To get a bead on this question, let me distinguish it from a couple of other related questions. I’m not asking whether the experience of humans coming to an end would be a bad thing. (In these pages, Samuel Scheffler has given us an important reason to think that it would be.) I am also not asking whether human beings as a species deserve to die out. That is an important question, but would involve different considerations. Those questions, and others like them, need to be addressed if we are to come to a full moral assessment of the prospect of our demise. Yet what I am asking here is simply whether it would be a tragedy if the planet no longer contained human beings. And the answer I am going to give might seem puzzling at first. I want to suggest, at least tentatively, both that it would be a tragedy and that it might just be a good thing.

为了探寻这个问题,让我将它与其他几个相关问题区分开来。我不是在问人类走向终结的历程是否是一件坏事。(在这些页面中,塞缪尔·舍夫勒[Samuel Scheffler]已经给了我们一个重要的理由,认为它会是一件坏事。)我也不会问作为一个物种,人类是否死有余辜。这是一个重要的问题,但会涉及不同的考虑因素。如果我们要对灭亡的前景进行全面的道德评估,就需要解决这些以及其他类似的问题。然而,我在这里要问的只是,如果这个星球不再有人类,那是否将是一场悲剧。我要给出的答案最初可能看起来令人费解。我想提出,至少是暂时提出,人类灭绝既将是一个悲剧,又可能只是一件好事。

To make that claim less puzzling, let me say a word about tragedy. In theater, the tragic character is often someone who commits a wrong, usually a significant one, but with whom we feel sympathy in their descent. Here Sophocles’s Oedipus, Shakespeare’s Lear, and Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman might stand as examples. In this case, the tragic character is humanity. It is humanity that is committing a wrong, a wrong whose elimination would likely require the elimination of the species, but with whom we might be sympathetic nonetheless for reasons I discuss in a moment.

为了让这个说法不那么令人费解,让我来谈谈悲剧。在戏剧中,悲剧人物经常是做错事的人,往往是非常严重的错事,但他们的堕落会使我们感到同情。索福克勒斯的俄狄浦斯,莎士比亚的李尔和阿瑟·米勒的威利·洛曼,可以算是这一类的例子。在这种情况下,悲剧人物是人性。是人性犯下错误,消灭这个错误可能需要消灭整个物种,尽管如此,我们可能还是会同情他们,其原因我在后面会谈及。

To make that case, let me start with a claim that I think will be at once depressing and, upon reflection, uncontroversial. Human beings are destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth and causing unimaginable suffering to many of the animals that inhabit it. This is happening through at least three means. First, human contribution to climate change is devastating ecosystems, as the recent article on Yellowstone Park in The Times exemplifies. Second, increasing human population is encroaching on ecosystems that would otherwise be intact. Third, factory farming fosters the creation of millions upon millions of animals for whom it offers nothing but suffering and misery before slaughtering them in often barbaric ways. There is no reason to think that those practices are going to diminish any time soon. Quite the opposite.

为了证明这一点,容我先提出一个观点,我认为这个观点将是令人沮丧的,但细想下来,又会觉得并没有什么争议性。人类正在破坏地球可居住的大部分地区,并给居住在那里的许多动物造成难以想象的痛苦。这至少通过三种方式实现。首先,人类对气候变化的影响给生态系统带去了灾难,正如时报最近一篇关于黄石公园的文章就是明证。第二,不断增长的人口正在侵蚀原本完整的生态系统。第三,工厂化养殖培育了数以百万计的动物,这个过程给它们带来的只有痛苦和悲惨,之后再以通常非常野蛮的方式屠宰它们。没有理由认为这些做法会在短期内减少。事实恰恰相反。

Humanity, then, is the source of devastation of the lives of conscious animals on a scale that is difficult to comprehend.

因此,对于有意识的动物来说,人类是毁灭之源,其规模之大令人难以理解。

To be sure, nature itself is hardly a Valhalla of peace and harmony. Animals kill other animals regularly, often in ways that we (although not they) would consider cruel. But there is no other creature in nature whose predatory behavior is remotely as deep or as widespread as the behavior we display toward what the philosopher Christine Korsgaard aptly calls “our fellow creatures” in a sensitive book of the same name.

当然,自然本身并不是和平与和谐的瓦尔哈拉神殿。动物杀死其他动物的方式在我们看来也往往非常残忍(尽管在它们看来并不残忍)。但在自然界中,没有任何一种生物的掠食行为比我们更深入、更广泛;而掠食的对象,正如哲学家克里斯汀·科斯加德(Christine Korsgaard)在其细腻的著作中恰如其分地说到的,是“我们的生物同胞”,他的书正是以此为名。

If this were all to the story there would be no tragedy. The elimination of the human species would be a good thing, full stop. But there is more to the story. Human beings bring things to the planet that other animals cannot. For example, we bring an advanced level of reason that can experience wonder at the world in a way that is foreign to most if not all other animals. We create art of various kinds: literature, music and painting among them. We engage in sciences that seek to understand the universe and our place in it. Were our species to go extinct, all of that would be lost.

如果这就是故事的全部,那就不是悲剧了。人类物种的灭绝会是一件好事,仅此而已。但是这个故事还有更多内容。人类给地球带来了其他动物无法带来的东西。比如,我们带来了一种高级的理性,它能以一种对大多数动物(就算不是所有动物)来说是陌生的方式体验世界的奇妙。我们创作各种各样的艺术:文学、音乐和绘画。我们从事科学研究,试图了解宇宙和我们在其中的位置。如果我们的物种灭绝了,所有这些都会消失。

Now there might be those on the more jaded side who would argue that if we went extinct there would be no loss, because there would be no one for whom it would be a loss not to have access to those things. I think this objection misunderstands our relation to these practices. We appreciate and often participate in such practices because we believe they are good to be involved in, because we find them to be worthwhile. It is the goodness of the practices and the experiences that draw us. Therefore, it would be a loss to the world if those practices and experiences ceased to exist.

那么,可能会有一些对此不以为然的人觉得,如果我们走向灭绝,不会有任何损失,因为届时谁也不会因为无法获取到这些东西而感到是种损失。我认为这种反对意见误解了我们与这些实践的关系。我们很欣赏并经常参与这样的实践,因为我们相信参与其中是很好的,因为我们认为它们是值得参与的。吸引我们的是实践和体验的好处。因此,如果这些实践和体验不复存在,这对世界将是一种损失。

One could press the objection here by saying that it would only be a loss from a human viewpoint, and that that viewpoint would no longer exist if we went extinct. This is true. But this entire set of reflections is taking place from a human viewpoint. We cannot ask the questions we are asking here without situating them within the human practice of philosophy. Even to ask the question of whether it would be a tragedy if humans were to disappear from the face of the planet requires a normative framework that is restricted to human beings.

人们可以在这里提出反对意见,说这只会是人类角度上的损失,如果我们灭绝,这种观点将不复存在。这是事实。但是这一整套思考都是从人类的角度出发的。我们不能在没有将它们置于人类哲学实践中的情况下提出我们在这里问的问题。即使从这个星球的角度提出如果人类消失,这是否将是一个悲剧的问题,也需要一个仅限于人类的规范框架。

Let’s turn, then, and take the question from the other side, the side of those who think that human extinction would be both a tragedy and overall a bad thing. Doesn’t the existence of those practices outweigh the harm we bring to the environment and the animals within it? Don’t they justify the continued existence of our species, even granting the suffering we bring to so many nonhuman lives?

那么,让我们站在另一边来看这个问题,即认为人类灭绝是悲剧,同时总体而言也是一件坏事。难道这些实践的存在,不是比我们给环境和里面的动物带来的伤害更重要吗?难道这些不足以支撑我们物种继续存在的合理性,甚至成为我们给许多非人类生命带去的苦难的理由吗?

To address that question, let us ask another one. How many human lives would it be worth sacrificing to preserve the existence of Shakespeare’s works? If we were required to engage in human sacrifice in order to save his works from eradication, how many humans would be too many? For my own part, I think the answer is one. One human life would be too many (or, to prevent quibbling, one innocent human life), at least to my mind. Whatever the number, though, it is going to be quite low.

要解决这个问题,让我们再问一个问题。为了保护莎士比亚的作品值得去牺牲多少生命?如果我们被要求用人类的牺牲来拯救他的作品免于绝迹,那么多少人算是太多?就我个人而言,我认为答案是一个。至少在我看来,一个人的生命就是太多(或者,为了防止挑刺,一个无辜人类的生命)。但不管是几个,终归是个很小的数字。

Or suppose a terrorist planted a bomb in the Louvre and the first responders had to choose between saving several people in the museum and saving the art. How many of us would seriously consider saving the art?

或者假设一名恐怖分子在卢浮宫埋下了一枚炸弹,第一批救援人员不得不在拯救博物馆中的几个人和拯救艺术品之间作出选择。我们中有多少人会认真考虑拯救艺术品?

So, then, how much suffering and death of nonhuman life would we be willing to countenance to save Shakespeare, our sciences and so forth? Unless we believe there is such a profound moral gap between the status of human and nonhuman animals, whatever reasonable answer we come up with will be well surpassed by the harm and suffering we inflict upon animals. There is just too much torment wreaked upon too many animals and too certain a prospect that this is going to continue and probably increase; it would overwhelm anything we might place on the other side of the ledger. Moreover, those among us who believe that there is such a gap should perhaps become more familiar with the richness of lives of many of our conscious fellow creatures. Our own science is revealing that richness to us, ironically giving us a reason to eliminate it along with our own continued existence.

那么,为了拯救莎士比亚、拯救科学等等,我们愿意承受多少非人类生命的痛苦与死亡呢?除非我们相信人类和非人类动物的地位之间存在着如此深刻的道德差距,否则,我们不管提出怎样合理的答案,都将远远不及我们给动物带来的伤害和痛楚。我们在太多的动物身上造成了太多的痛苦,而且非常确定的是,这种情况仍将持续下去,甚至可能会加剧;它会压倒我们可能放于善恶簿另一侧的任何东西。此外,我们当中那些相信存在这种道德差距的人,或许会更熟悉我们许多存在意识的生物同胞的生命之丰富。我们自己的科学向我们揭示了这种丰富性,具有讽刺意味的是,它又给了我们一个理由,让我们在继续生存的同时消除这种丰富性。

One might ask here whether, given this view, it would also be a good thing for those of us who are currently here to end our lives in order to prevent further animal suffering. Although I do not have a final answer to this question, we should recognize that the case of future humans is very different from the case of currently existing humans. To demand of currently existing humans that they should end their lives would introduce significant suffering among those who have much to lose by dying. In contrast, preventing future humans from existing does not introduce such suffering, since those human beings will not exist and therefore not have lives to sacrifice. The two situations, then, are not analogous.

有人可能会问,鉴于这种观点,对我们这些目前走到这一步的人来说,为了防止动物遭受进一步的痛苦而结束自己的生命是否是一件好事。虽然我对这个问题没有终极答案,我们应该认识到,未来人类与当下人类的情况是截然不同的。要求目前的人类结束生命,会给那些因死亡而失去很多的人带来巨大的痛苦。相反,阻止未来人类的存在并不会造成这样的痛苦,因为这些人类将不存在,也就无谓牺牲生命。因此,这两种情况并不具有可比性。

It may well be, then, that the extinction of humanity would make the world better off and yet would be a tragedy. I don’t want to say this for sure, since the issue is quite complex. But it certainly seems a live possibility, and that by itself disturbs me.

那么,人类的灭绝很可能会使世界变得更美好,但也会成为一出悲剧。我不想这么言之凿凿,因为这个问题太过复杂。但这似乎是一种可能发生的事情,而这本身就令我感到不安了。

There is one more tragic aspect to all of this. In many dramatic tragedies, the suffering of the protagonist is brought about through his or her own actions. It is Oedipus’s killing of his father that starts the train of events that leads to his tragic realization; and it is Lear’s highhandedness toward his daughter Cordelia that leads to his demise. It may also turn out that it is through our own actions that we human beings bring about our extinction, or at least something near it, contributing through our practices to our own tragic end.

所有这一切,还有一个悲剧性的方面。在许多悲剧中,主人公的痛苦是通过自己的行为引起的。正是俄狄浦斯弑父引发了一系列的事件,从而导致他的悲剧;李尔对女儿考狄利娅的专横导致了他自己的死亡。现在看来,人类的灭绝,或者至少是接近灭绝,也可能是由于我们自己的行为,我们的所作所为给自己带来悲剧结局。

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