In order to seek, effectively and efficiently, to answer our two interrelated Big Questions, The Enhancing Life Project is designed with respect to the following research questions, hypotheses, and project procedure. The hypotheses aim to answer the research questions and the project procedure structures the experimental activities undertaken to test those hypotheses. All of these matters are then elaborated in more detail throughout this Project Description.
1. Research Questions:
1. What are the forms of life in which the enhancement of life takes place?
2. What are the key aspirations, forces, and values that propel the enhancing of life?
3. What is the conceptual and empirical place of “the future” in enhancing life?
4. What types of “counter-worlds” challenge life in order to be enhanced?
5. What are the implied models of change in human attempts to enhance life?
6. What are the “spiritual laws” that religious, cultural, and social resources use in order to imagine, plan, measure, and assess the enhancement of life?
7. What are the various agents (persons, institutions, etc.) who facilitate the enhancing of life?
8. How do the various forms of life in which the enhancement of life takes place interact with each other?
9. To what extent is enhancing life connected to seemingly counterintuitive or even paradoxical laws, such as enhancing this life by enhancing a “counter-worldly” life, or by giving away life to enhance life?
10. What are our cultural, social, and religious resources to measure and assess the enhancement of life?
2. Hypotheses For Answering Research Questions:
Hypothesis 1: In order to enhance life, the forms of life can be understood in terms of the basic needs and correlate goods required for a species and/or community to attain an enhancement of flourishing.
Explanation: In order to imagine, plan, measure, and assess the enhancement of life we need a richly textured, “thick” understanding of life that transcends classical academic boundaries and reductionist approaches. Per definition, a reality without needs is neither living nor is it able to be enhanced in any way. The first hypothesis thereby proposes that attention to species’ and communities’ needs (natural, social, cultural, and religious) and the goods that fulfill these needs is a multi-dimensional and disciplined means to understand life in its many forms.
Hypothesis 2: In order to examine the human drive to enhance life, one must explore the key values, that is, what are held as important and worth pursuing as reasons for action, by investigating scientific, social, and cultural legacies of thought.
Explanation: The human desire for enhancing life takes many forms and encompasses many dimensions of personal and social life (i.e. law, politics, technology, communication, and religious practice) and yet these aspirations are deeply shaped by larger visions of life reaching out to spiritual realities. These spiritual realities, in turn, move human beings and leave an imprint on human imagination, thereby planning, orienting, and assessing the enhancement of life. The second hypothesis thus proposes that attention to the interrelation of visions of life, such as religious and cultural beliefs, is crucial in order to understand the values that provide the reasons for enhancing life, human and non-human.
Hypothesis 3: Just as the enhancement of life entails the claim that a reality without needs is not living, so too a reality without a drive to a future that does not in some way value enhancement is not living and cannot be enhanced. In order to enhance life, one must explore the interconnections between conceptions of an open and not utterly determined future and forms of hope. We call these futures “counter-worlds” and we seek their spiritual laws.
Explanation: In the face of spiritual realities for enhancing life we need to reckon with seemingly counterintuitive or even paradoxical beliefs that reveal the undergirding spiritual laws that enhance life: i.e. laws such as 1) that enhanced life requires conceptions of a counter-world, 2) that life can be enhanced by giving life away in hope for the future, or 3) that one dimension of life can be enhanced by focusing on another dimension.
Hypothesis 4: In order to articulate and to explore the spiritual laws that govern the enhancement of life, laws that are related to but more elusive than natural laws, one must examine religious and cultural resources from multiple perspectives and in light of the three prior hypotheses.
Explanation: This Project explores religious, cultural, and social resources used in order to imagine, plan, measure, and assess the enhancement of life. Yet it does so not only for the sake of discerning their historical or social meaning, but also with an eye to the spiritual laws they encode or presuppose and which govern the actual enhancement of life in all of its dimensions.
3. Project Procedure:
In order to answer our Big Questions by means of the Research Questions and their correlate experimental Hypotheses, the Project Procedure seeks to establish a new form of research community that draws together two paradigms of scholarly work and also the new disciplinary outlook of Enhancing Life Studies. Given this ambitious task, we need to create a framework of research characterized by disciplinary depth and the interconnection of knowledge.
We will realize the objective of producing high-profile research projects by scholars of different disciplines by linking two paradigms of scholarly work: 1) The residency seminars will allow for in-depth exchange and collaboration by means of multiyear projects (similar to Institutes for Advanced Studies) and 2) at the same time, the residency seminars will foster the intellectual focus of a shared concern (similar to single theme conferences). In addition, 3) the innovative structure of residency seminars will bring into conversation outstanding advanced career scholars and excellent early career scholars who, as the future leaders in their field, will shape academic inquiry into enhancing life.
We will now elaborate our proposal in greater detail and with reference to relevant resources. A fuller set of resources can be found in the Bibliography.