David Pearce (philosopher)

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David Pearce
David Pearce - Transhumanist Philosopher.jpg
Born United Kingdom
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic
Main interests
Ethics (Negative Utilitarianism)
Philosophy of mind
Notable ideas
Zero Ontology[2]

David Pearce is a British philosopher.[3] He promotes the idea that there exists a strong ethical imperative for humans to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life. His book-length internet manifesto The Hedonistic Imperative[4] outlines how technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, pharmacology, and neurosurgery could potentially converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience among human and non-human animals, replacing suffering with gradients of well-being, a project he refers to as "paradise engineering".[5] A transhumanist and a vegan,[6] Pearce believes that humans have a responsibility not only to avoid cruelty to animals within human society but also to redesign the global ecosystem so that animals do not suffer in the wild.[7]

Pearce co-founded Humanity+, then known as the World Transhumanist Association, and is a prominent figure in the transhumanism movement, inspiring a strain of transhumanism based on paradise engineering and ending suffering.[8][9][10]

The Hedonistic Imperative[edit]

Pearce is primarily known as the author of The Hedonistic Imperative, a 1995 book-length manifesto in which he theorises how to "eradicate suffering in all sentient life" through paradise engineering.[11] In Pearce's view, suffering is not necessary for humans and only exists because humanity evolved through methods that emphasised survival, rather than happiness.[12] He writes that mental suffering will someday be seen as a relic of the past, just as physical suffering during surgery was effectively eliminated with the advent of anaesthesia.[13]

In his work, Pearce outlines how drugs and technologies, including genetic engineering and nanotechnology, could enable the end of suffering in all sentient life.[14] In the short term, Pearce argues, well-being can be helped by designer drugs, especially since safer mood-brighteners are becoming more readily available.[15] In the long-term, however, suffering could be abolished by genetic engineering through biotechnology.[9]


In 1998, Pearce co-founded Humanity+, the international transhumanism association, with fellow philosopher Nick Bostrom, now the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University.[16] The association, then known as the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), is a nonprofit organisation that advocates transhumanism – an international cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.[17]

Pearce's ideas have inspired a strain of transhumanism based on paradise engineering[9] Pearce is vegan, and the increasing number of vegans and vegetarians in the transhumanism movement has been attributed to his influence.[18]

Pearce has suggested that we might eventually "reprogram predators" to limit predation, reducing the suffering of prey animals.[19][20] Pearce argues that fertility regulation could maintain herbivore populations at sustainable levels, and this would be "a more civilised and compassionate policy option than famine, predation and disease."[21]

Negative Utilitarianism[edit]

Pearce defends a version of negative utilitarianism:

Ethical negative-utilitarianism is a value-system which challenges the moral symmetry of pleasure and pain. It doesn't question the value of enhancing the happiness of the already happy. Yet it attaches value in a distinctively moral sense of the term only to actions which tend to minimise or eliminate suffering. [...] [negative utilitarianism stems from] a deep sense of compassion at the sheer scale and intensity of suffering in the world. No amount of happiness or fun enjoyed by some organisms can notionally justify the indescribable horrors of Auschwitz. Nor can it outweigh the sporadic frightfulness of pain and despair that occurs every second of every day.[22]

Therefore, abolishing suffering should be humanity's highest priority according to Pearce. Pearce believes the only realistic way to do this is "[...] to use biotechnology to eradicate aversive experience in all sentient life. Life-long happiness can be genetically pre-programmed. In the post-Darwinian Era, applied nanotechnology will extend hedonic engineering to all life-forms on the planet."[22][23]

BLTC Research[edit]

Pearce runs a web-hosting company[14] and owns BLTC Research, a series of websites based in Kemptown, Brighton, UK, originally set up by Pearce in 1995 when he published The Hedonistic Imperative. According to the BLTC Research mission statement, the organisation publishes online texts in support of paradise engineering and abolishing sentient suffering for future generations.[24][25][26]

Essays and articles on the BLTC network of websites feature information on many areas of science, including pharmacology, biopsychiatry, and quantum mechanics.[27][28] The websites promote the end of suffering and "high-tech anti-ageing,"[7] among other topics, and have been cited in books written on a variety of subjects, ranging from addiction to ageing.[7][27][29][30][31] The BLTC websites also feature biographies and information about people throughout history, including European physician Arnaldus de Villa Nova, Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo and Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, which have also been published as sources on these individuals in a variety of books by authors including Dava Sobel.[30][32][33]

Affiliations and appearances[edit]

Pearce is co-editor of Singularity Hypotheses (Springer, 2012), is a fellow with the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies,[34] and was, until 2012, a member of the editorial review board of Medical Hypotheses.[35]

He has been a speaker at many conferences, including 'Humanity+ @San Francisco', Effective Altruism Global, and 'Science, Technology & the Future' in Australia. David has also given talks at the University of Oxford, Lund University, Harvard University, and Stanford University. His work has been covered by Vanity Fair,[36] The Economist,[37] H+ Magazine,[5] BBC Radio,[38] and The Daily Telegraph.[39]


  1. ^ "The Abolitionist Project". Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  2. ^ "The Zero Ontology - David Pearce on Why Anything Exists". Retrieved 27 January 2016. 
  3. ^ Vlahos, James (31 July 2005). "Will Drugs Make Us Smarter and Happier?". Popular Science. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Hedonistic Imperative". 
  5. ^ a b "The Genomic Bodhisattva". H+ Magazine. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "Criação animal intensiva. Um outro Holocausto?". Revista do Instituto Humanitas Unisinos. 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c Holford, Patrick (2012). The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing: How to Live Longer, Look Younger and Feel Great. Hachette Digital. ISBN 0748130780. 
  8. ^ Meijers, Anthonie W.M. (2009). Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences. Elsevier. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Humanity+ Transhumanist FAQ
  10. ^ "David Pearce takes the meat out of meatspace". The New Atlantis. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "The Future and You: August 27, 2008 Episode". 
  12. ^ Colson, Charles W. (2004). Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy. InterVarsity. p. 167. ISBN 0830827838. 
  13. ^ "The End of Suffering". Philosophy Now Magazine. 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Lifeboat Foundation Bios: David Pearce
  15. ^ Humanity+ Transhumanism Resources
  16. ^ "Humanity+ FAQ #45". 
  17. ^ Bostrom, Nick (2005). "A history of transhumanist thought" (PDF). Journal of Evolution and Technology. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Fairlie, Simon (2010). Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Chelsea Green Publishing. pp. 230–1. ISBN 1603583254. 
  19. ^ Pearce, David (2009). "Reprogramming Predators". Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  20. ^ Verchot, Manon (30 Sep 2014). "Meet the people who want to turn predators into vegans". TreeHugger. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  21. ^ Dvorsky, George (30 Jul 2014). "The Radical Plan To Phase Out Earth's Predatory Species". io9. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  22. ^ a b "Negative Utilitarianism: Why Be Negative?". Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  23. ^ "The Abolitionist Project". Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  24. ^ "BLTC Research Mission Statement". 
  25. ^ "Paradise Engineering : The BLTC Library". 
  26. ^ DeMars, William Emile (2005). NGOs and Transnational Networks: Wild Cards in World Politics. Pluto Press. pp. 188, 222, 244. ISBN 074531905X. 
  27. ^ a b Cass, Hyla (2002). Natural Highs: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind-body Techniques to Help You Feel Good All the Time. Penguin. p. 323. ISBN 1583331336. 
  28. ^ Seife, Charles (2007). Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes. Penguin. ISBN 1101201274. 
  29. ^ Stanton, Maureen (2011). Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: An Insider's Look at the World of Flea Markets, Antiques, and Collecting. Penguin. p. Notes. ISBN 1101516054. 
  30. ^ a b Rasmussen, Nicolas, On speed : the many lives of amphetamine, New York University Press, (New York), 2008, Chapter 8, notes.
  31. ^ Shanty, Frank (2011). The Nexus: International Terrorism and Drug Trafficking from Afghanistan. ABC-CLIO. p. 253. ISBN 0313385211. 
  32. ^ Bradley, James T. (2013). Brutes Or Angels: Human Possibility in the Age of Biotechnology. University of Alabama Press. p. 324. ISBN 0817317880. 
  33. ^ Sobel, Dava (2011). A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos. Bloomsbury. p. Notes on the Quotations. ISBN 0802778933. 
  34. ^ "David Pearce Bio". 
  35. ^ "2013 Archive of Medical Hypotheses Advisory Board". Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. 
  36. ^ "Mehr Rausch für alle". Vanity Fair. 5 April 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  37. ^ "I get a kick out of you". The Economist. 12 February 2004. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  38. ^ "The pursuit of happiness". BBC Radio 4. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  39. ^ "Hangovers and the abolition of suffering". The Telegraph. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 

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