An Exophilsophical Exploration of Alien Existence
Modern UFO discourse is mired in ideological belief systems, pseudo-science, and occasional bouts of tomfoolery. By bringing philosophy and critical theory to the Ufological table, we can begin to critically explore and deconstruct the discourse itself to reason out where these ideas come from, and where the debate is going. This philosophical approach to the UFO discourse is known as exophilosophy. This ‘rogue’ subsection of philosophy is strange, but definitely established in many philosophical works spanning millennia.
In 1078 CE, St. Anselm of Canterbury postulated a philosophical proof for the existence of God. Known as the “Ontological argument,” Anselm stated that because God is perfect and "that than which nothing greater can be thought," he must exist. Before unpacking Anselm’s argument, we need to establish that the vast majority of philosophy done on the subject of extraterrestrials, ultra-terrestrials, aliens, or non-human intelligences stems from established philosophical proofs concerning God. It is arguable that God and an advanced non-human species are basically similar. Whether this non-human intelligence is physical as you and I are physical, or more mystical and spiritual, it ultimately does not matter. Not only has God shown himself to be both physical and spiritual, it is really the idea of superiority we are after.
Both God and a non-human intelligence would be superior to humans. More importantly, both are essentially not human and not from Earth. Using the philosophy of a long dead monk, if we can prove that God exists, doesn’t it stand to reason we can also prove that a non-human intelligence also exists?
Anselm’s Ontological argument is pretty basic, but I’ll simplify it even further:
Basically, if God is perfect, He must exist because it is illogical for a being to be both perfect and non-existent. Using this argument, we can draw a similar conclusion in regards to the question of an extraterrestrial being. While an extraterrestrial (or some other non-human intelligence) is most likely not divinely perfect, it is easy to argue that they are definitely more advanced than humans are. If extraterrestrials are in fact superior, and we humans have conceived of them in our flawed state, would they not exist? If extraterrestrials do not exist in reality, then they would not be superior to you and I.
Convinced? You shouldn’t be. Anselm’s argument, and the ET question, is basically smoke and mirrors. However, it does generate an interesting idea in how humans not only perceive ET but also how humans perceive themselves.
Immanuel Kant takes aim at Anselm’s argument and posits that just because one can conceive of something in the mind, it is not necessarily true that the something actually exists in reality. Kant uses the example of a triangle. If a triangle exists, it must have three sides. This essential fact of a triangle does not automatically mean that the triangle exists in reality.
Anselm tries to make an a priori claim in regards to God. God’s superiority and perfection stems from the definition of Him. The problem is that God is undefinable in positive terms. The fundamental issue in Anselm’s proof is that God is ultimately unknowable. It is impossible to know anything about God, and the vast majority of philosophy, scripture, theory, and religious doctrine focuses on what God is not. We do not know what God is, we only know what he is not; He’s not human for example.
The existence of ET suffers a similar fate. The UFO narrative seems to assume that the non-human intelligences that are interacting with humans are essentially superior. They have space ships which can travel between stars, they can communicate telepathically, they can bend and adjust the laws of physics, and they can even ride the wave of consciousness itself by channeling themselves through Paul Anka’s brother.
The problem is that, much like God, extraterrestrials can only be defined by what they are not. We cannot make an a priori claim about them. We only know what they are not. In simple terms, they are “alien.” Where are they from? The only answer we can arrive at is that they are not from Earth. What are they? The only answer we have is that they are not human. What do they think? What do they feel? What language do they speak? All of the answers can only establish what they are not; they are not you and I. How then do we make the claim that this non-human intelligence is superior to us if all we truly know is that they are not human?
Superiority, therefore, does not come from godliness or from simply being an extraterrestrial. It is not the case that ET is superior, knowing that is fundamentally impossible. We arrive then at only one possibility. Being inferior is fundamental to humanity itself. If humanity is the weakest, simplest, and most deficient intelligent species, it then stands to reason that any non-human intelligence would be superior to humans.
We arrive at the joining of Anselm’s Ontological argument and the ET superiority question. Superiority is not tantamount to existence. Furthermore, we cannot truly establish superiority of that non human intelligence because we cannot know that intelligence in any positive terms; all we know is what it isn’t. Human.
What is ultimately raised in this exophilsophical exercise is that humans who make claims to ‘know’ what these extraterrestrial beings are, do so from an inferior place. This is tantamount to a dog claiming to know the humanity of its owner. The dog may ‘know’ that it is a dog; it certainly does not know that its owner is human. Many people who engage in UFO discourse claim to know the various species, agendas and motives of the non-human intelligences. Much like Anselm, it is all smoke and mirrors stemming from poor understanding and inferior ‘philosophy.’ It’s just a bunch of dogs howling away thinking they are something greater.