Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nihil Humanum

From now on, I think I'm just going to cannibalize various emails I've sent, and present them as non sequitur blog posts. To that end, here's something I wrote in response to being presented with a link to an article attempting to work out the juristic puzzles raised by the prospect of an extraterrestrial encounter. The article was ridiculous, heavy on Agamben and Schmitt, that kind of thing.

What would we do in the event of extraterrestrial contact? Not so much jurisprudentially, but culturally, politically, and even militarily?

I consider myself relatively broad-minded, but to be honest, I can't help but regard the prospect of extraterrestrial contact with some trepidation as a kind of "existential threat." It seems to me that everything human would diminish overnight and be drained of its significance. Every cathedral would sink ten feet into the ground. What are Proust and Plato next to the unimaginable crystal-palaces of Alpha Centauri and the endless slug-swamps of Betelgeuse-Prime?

Terence's epigram, that he regards nothing that is human devoid of interest, would be turned on its head -- nothing human would be interesting precisely because it's only human. The moment of our initiation into the wider cosmos would mark the extinction of our own.

Also, here's another question: what if aliens arrived, and they were Mormon? How insane would that be? Would we all convert?

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