David Pearce (philosopher)

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David Pearce
David Pearce (transhumanist), September 2013.jpg
ResidenceBrighton, England[1]
Known forThe Hedonist Imperative (1995), paradise engineering
WebsiteThe Hedonistic Imperative
BLTC Research

David Pearce is the British co-founder of Humanity+, formerly the World Transhumanist Association, and a prominent figure within the transhumanism movement.[2]

Pearce argues that there is a strong ethical imperative, which he calls the "hedonistic imperative", to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life.[3][4][5] His book-length internet manifesto, The Hedonistic Imperative (1995),[6] outlines how technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, pharmacology and neurosurgery could converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience among human and non-human animals, replacing suffering with "gradients of bliss", a project he calls "paradise engineering".[7]:16[8]

A vegan, Pearce argues 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.[9]

The Hedonistic Imperative

Pearce's The Hedonistic Imperative (1995) promotes the "abolition of suffering in all sentient life" through what he calls "paradise engineering".[10] In his view, suffering plays no necessary role for humans.[11] He 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. ... It 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.[12]

Therefore, he argues, abolishing suffering is humanity's highest priority.[12] Outlining how drugs and technologies, including genetic engineering and nanotechnology, could enable the end of suffering in all sentient life,[13][14] he believes that "over the next thousand years or so, the biological substrates of suffering will be eradicated completely."[15] Mental suffering will be a relic of the past, just as physical suffering during surgery was eliminated with the advent of anaesthesia.[3][16] "Our descendants will be animated by gradients of genetically preprogrammed bliss orders of magnitude richer than anything physiologically accessible today."[17]


Pearce set up BLTC Research, a network of websites, in 1995; BLTC initially stood for Better Living Through Chemistry.[18] The websites publish texts about paradise engineering, pharmacology, biopsychiatry and quantum mechanics.[19][20][21]

In 1998 he co-founded the World Transhumanist Association, known from 2008 as Humanity+, with Nick Bostrom, now the director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford.[7] The organization advocates for the development of technologies to eliminate ageing and enhance human intellectual, physical and psychological capabilities.[22] Pearce's ideas have inspired a strain of transhumanism based on paradise engineering.[4][7]:16

Pearce is a vegan; the increasing number of vegans and vegetarians in the transhumanism movement has been attributed in part to his influence.[23] He has argued in favour of a "cross-species global analogue of the welfare state",[24] suggesting that humanity might eventually "reprogram predators" to limit predation, reducing the suffering of prey animals.[9][25] Fertility regulation could maintain herbivore populations at sustainable levels, he argues, "a more civilised and compassionate policy option than famine, predation and disease."[26]

Affiliations and appearances

Pearce is a fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies,[27] and sits on the futurist advisory board of the Lifeboat Foundation.[28] Until 2013 he was on the editorial advisory board of Medical Hypotheses.[29] He has been interviewed by Vanity Fair (Germany) and on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze, among others.[30][31]


  1. ^ "David Pearce", about.me.
  2. ^ Brey, Philip; Søraker, Johnny Hartz (2009). "Philosophy of Computing and Information Technology", in Anthonie Meijers (ed.). Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences. Elsevier, 1389.
  3. ^ a b Power, Katherine (2006). "The End of Suffering". Philosophy Now.
  4. ^ a b "What currents are there within transhumanism?", Transhumanist FAQ 3.0, Humanity+
  5. ^ Hauskeller, Michael (January 2010). "Nietzsche, the Overhuman and the Posthuman: A Reply to Stefan Sorgner". Journal of Evolution and Technology. 21(1), 5–8.
  6. ^ Pearce, David (1995). The Hedonistic Imperative. hedweb.com.
  7. ^ a b c Bostrom, Nick (April 2005). "A history of transhumanist thought" (PDF). Journal of Evolution and Technology. 14 (1).:15
  8. ^ Vlahos, James (31 July 2005). "Will Drugs Make Us Smarter and Happier?". Popular Science.
  9. ^ a b Pearce, David (2009). "Reprogramming Predators", hedweb.com.
  10. ^ "August 27, 2008 Episode". The Future and You. 27 August 2008.
  11. ^ Colson, Charles W. (2004). Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy. InterVarsity. 167. ISBN 0830827838.
  12. ^ a b Pearce, David (1995). "Negative Utilitarianism: Why Be Negative?" The Hedonistic Imperative, hedweb.com, ch. 2.
  13. ^ Thompson, Damian (15 November 2013). "Hangovers and the abolition of suffering". The Daily Telegraph.
  14. ^ "David Pearce", Lifeboat Foundation.
  15. ^ Pearce, David (1995). "Introduction", The Hedonistic Imperative, hedweb.com.
  16. ^ Pearce, David (2007). "Utopian Surgery: Early Arguments Against Anesthesia in Surgery, Dentistry, and Childbirth". Lifeboat Foundation.
  17. ^ Pearce, David (June 2012). "Is Humanity Accelerating Towards Apocalypse? Or Utopia?", Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
  18. ^ Pearce, David (2014). "Better Living Through Chemistry", YouTube (directed by Adam Ford).
  19. ^ "Mission Statement" and BLTC Research library, BLTC Research.
  20. ^ DeMars, William Emile (2005). NGOs and Transnational Networks: Wild Cards in World Politics. Pluto Press. 171. ISBN 074531905X.
  21. ^ Cass, Hyla (2002). Natural Highs: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind-body Techniques to Help You Feel Good All the Time. Penguin. 323. ISBN 1583331336.
  22. ^ "What is transhumanism?". Transhumanist FAQ 3.0, Humanity+.
  23. ^ Fairlie, Simon (2010). Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Chelsea Green Publishing. 230–231. ISBN 1603583254.
  24. ^ Kent, James (16 September 2009). "The Genomic Bodhisattva". H+ Magazine.
  25. ^ Verchot, Manon (30 September 2014). "Meet the people who want to turn predators into vegans". TreeHugger.
  26. ^ Dvorsky, George (30 July 2014). "The Radical Plan To Phase Out Earth's Predatory Species". io9.
  27. ^ "David Pearce". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
  28. ^ Advisory boards, Lifeboat Foundation.
  29. ^ "Medical Hypotheses Editorial Advisory Board, 2013". Medial Hypotheses. Archived from the original on 26 June 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  30. ^ Niermann, Ingo (5 April 2007). "Mehr Rausch für alle". Vanity Fair.
  31. ^ "The pursuit of happiness". The Moral Maze. BBC Radio 4. 7 August 2013. from 00:11:13. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)

External links