1st Edition

Human Extinction A History of the Science and Ethics of Annihilation

By Émile P. Torres Copyright 2024
    542 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume traces the origins and evolution of the idea of human extinction, from the ancient Presocratics through contemporary work on "existential risks."

    Many leading intellectuals agree that the risk of human extinction this century may be higher than at any point in our 300,000-year history as a species. This book provides insight on the key questions that inform this discussion, including when humans began to worry about their own extinction and how the debate has changed over time. It establishes a new theoretical foundation for thinking about the ethics of our extinction, arguing that extinction would be very bad under most circumstances, although the outcome might be, on balance, good. Throughout the book, graphs, tables, and images further illustrate how human choices and attitudes about extinction have evolved in Western history. In its thorough examination of humanity’s past, this book also provides a starting point for understanding our future.

    Although accessible enough to be read by undergraduates, Human Extinction contains new and thought-provoking research that will benefit even established academic philosophers and historians.

    1. An Apocalypse Without Kingdom  Part 1: Existential Moods  2. Beginnings of "The End"  3. ‘Till Entropy Death Do Us Part  4. The Invention of Omnicide  5. Nature Wants to Kill Us  6. The Perfection of Evil  Part 2: Existential Ethics  7. What Is Human Extinction?  8. Early Ruminations  9. Ethical Innovations of the Postwar Era  10. Astronomical Value and the Harm of Existence  11. Recent Developments  12. Looking Forward to the Future


    Émile P. Torres is a philosopher whose research focuses on existential threats to civilization and humanity. They have published widely in the popular press and scholarly journals, with articles appearing in the Washington Post, Aeon, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Metaphilosophy, Inquiry, Erkenntnis, and Futures.

    In this fascinating book, Émile Torres surveys the surprisingly rich history of apocalyptic thought in earlier centuries; this forms the backdrop to a comprehensive survey and critique of modern discourses on this compelling issue which confronts us—and does so with ever-increasing urgency. The book is fascinating, thought-provoking, and deserving of wide readership.

    Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and author of Our Final Hour

    Torres uncovers and analyzes, in novel ways, remarkable developments in philosophy and science, new thinking that undermines everything preceding. We have hardly begun to grasp the meaning of this upheaval in how people perceive humanity’s future. Torres’s engagingly written book, admirably thorough, is a good start for facing our awesome responsibilities.

    Spencer Weart, former director of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics and author of Nuclear Fear: A History of Images and The Discovery of Global Warming