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“BECAUSE WE ARE ALONE…” ARGUMENTS FOR HUMANS AS THE UNIVERSE’S ONLY INTELLIGENT LIFE FORM FROM ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS TO TODAY’S SCIENTISTS

Packer, Joseph (2012) “BECAUSE WE ARE ALONE…” ARGUMENTS FOR HUMANS AS THE UNIVERSE’S ONLY INTELLIGENT LIFE FORM FROM ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS TO TODAY’S SCIENTISTS. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

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Abstract

Does alien life exist? This perennial question has driven some of humanity’s oldest scientific debates, going back to the ancient Greeks. My work investigates the way individuals have rhetorically deployed speculations about the impossibility of extraterrestrial life to advance other values and beliefs. Specifically, my research traces the unity-of-the-world cosmology or “unity,” for short, meaning the belief that humans are the only intelligent life form in the universe, in contrast to the “plurality-of worlds” one, or “plurality,” which holds open the possibility of multiple intelligent life forms. The unity rhetorical cosmology connects the absence of alien life with the idea of human value and transcendental, absolute ethics. Because “we” are alone, “we” are special, the thinking goes.
My dissertation traces the way cosmology serves as an argument in religious, political, and philosophical debates. Specifically, it examines the way that individuals have used claims of the absence of alien life to justify moral absolutism, teleology, and anthropocentrism, from Plato to the present day. The dissertation examines major historical figures as case studies including: Plato, Aquinas, William Whewell, and Alfred Russel Wallace. I draw on Kenneth Burke, Roland Barthes, and rhetoric-of-science literature (as well as many other sources) in order to unveil the hidden rhetorical meaning of a cosmology.


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Details

Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Published
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Packer, Josephjcp38@pitt.eduJCP38
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairZboray, Ronald J.zboray@pitt.eduZBORAY
Committee MemberMalin, Brentbmalin@pitt.eduBMALIN
Committee MemberWarnick, Barbarabwarnick@pitt.edu BWARNICK
Committee MemberSmith, Philippsmith@pitt.eduPSMITH
Date: 2 July 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 31 October 2011
Approval Date: 2 July 2012
Submission Date: 9 April 2012
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 286
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cosmology; Rhetoric; Aquinas; Plato; William Whewell; Rhetoric of Science, Unity, Plurality of Worlds
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2012 20:30
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2017 05:15
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/11871

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  • “BECAUSE WE ARE ALONE…” ARGUMENTS FOR HUMANS AS THE UNIVERSE’S ONLY INTELLIGENT LIFE FORM FROM ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS TO TODAY’S SCIENTISTS. (deposited 02 Jul 2012 20:30) [Currently Displayed]

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