HOW PHILOSOPHY MIGHT SAVE US ALL
In the event that hostile aliens planned to eradicate life from the planet, the situation would begin to look grim immediately. There are few things that I could say as an astronaut to a more intelligent species that might persuade them to spare our lives, allowing us to continue living. I would have to assume they would want to kill us for one of two reasons: they want to harvest our planet for resources, or our actions have deemed us unworthy of life. Because I cannot use philosophy to argue against the harvesting of needed resources, I would choose to employ the ideals of John Locke in order to convince the aliens that hope is not lost for the human race.
It is true that many humans act in cruel and undesirable ways. Many of these actions make us want to exterminate each other so it is easy to see why other races may want to do the job. However, there are philosophers such as John Locke who might argue that not all hope is lost for humans. Locke had many philosophical ideals about human nature and the world in general, but the particular one I would find most useful for this argument known as tabula rasa, known in Latin as “blank slate.” Philosophers have used the phrase as early as Aristotle, however Locke was the first to characterize it to the human mind. Locke inferred that tabula rasa meant that a child’s mind, a baby’s mind, was a blank slate. Typically, especially for his time, individuals thought that newborn babies had an innate sense of who they were based on their hierarchy. In nonprofessional terms, if a child were born into wealth, they would grow up with attitude of the wealthy and no proper idea of how to act differently. The same could be said for a child born into poverty. Locke, tabula rasa freed people from this archaic idea. Tabula rasa meant there is nothing keeping a blank slate, or a newborn baby’s brain, from developing naturally, allowing the individual to grow into a rational, normal, and kind adult. Locke acknowledged that some individuals possess a stronger proclivity toward certain aptitudes but all maintain the same ability to become autonomous individuals.
That being said, assuming the aliens want to destroy all life on the planet due to our actions, John Lockes’ ideals behind tabula rasa would save us for numerous reasons. For instance, the alien race might think we are doomed as a species because, overall, we are cruel and disdainful. However, tabula rasa states that every newborn child’s brain is a blank slate, free from the shackles that it is born into. This does not only mean the hierarchal status that child is born into, but the race. The baby does not have to grow to act as its brethren, but can grow to be kinder and more decent than other humans have been. Tabula rasa also suggests that there would also be numerous people like this already living on the planet, acting decently and doing good for others because they were not impacted by the actions of others as they grew. Their minds, a blank slate at birth, remained unaffected, and they grew to be kind and caring individuals. These people would be exterminated in the mass murder the aliens were planning if they chose to destroy all life on the planet.
Unfortunately, there are flaws the aliens may find in my argument. For example, they will obviously notice that the misdeeds of humans outweigh the good deeds tenfold and easily deduce that this must mean there are more bad people than good. They may then surmise that, for the good of galactic peace, the decent people will have to die in order to serve a greater purpose, which would be extinguishing the evil on the planet. They may also weigh the good people versus the bad people in regards to how much tabula rasa really matters to earth’s future. According to Locke, tabula rasa is an inarguable part of human nature; we are all born with clean, blank minds and are free to grow into autonomous human beings who act kindly and rationally. The aliens may wonder, then, why more of us have not already. They may begin to believe that if we are able to think independently and essentially decide for ourselves how we are to conduct our actions, that those who are acting out of line may be even more worthy of punishment because they have decided to act in that manner. If they decide that tabula rasa has not mattered in the past, they may decide it is likely to also not matter in the future and eradicate all life on earth anyway. My only basis of argument then would be to meticulously pick out and destroy the bad people, only leaving the good people, in hopes that they will leave a good impression on future generations. This could effectively reshape how humans conduct themselves.
In sum, arguing with aliens against destroying the earth would be no easy task. John Locke’s ideals behind tabula rasa brought up excellent points. We are all blank slates in the beginning. As such, we are able to grow independently and think for ourselves. Therefore, we are capable of being rational, kind individuals, separate from our cruel counterparts. While this may make a compelling argument to some, the aliens may not see it this way; they may attack the argument from many different angles. The bad people outweigh the good people on earth and it may be in their best interests to destroy us anyway. They may also believe that tabula rasa may not be effective to human nature because, if it were, there would be good in our world than there already is. This would also cause them to destroy us. At best, if this were to happen, I could only hope to convince the alien race to exterminate the evil people, leaving the good ones in order to see if tabula rasa works under the best of circumstances. This is, of course, unless they are coming to harvest resources, in which case there is little philosophy could do to save us.