Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov (Russian: Никола́й Фёдорович Фёдоров; surname also Anglicized as "Fedorov") (June 9, 1827–December 28, 1903) was a Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher, who was part of the Russian cosmism movement and a precursor of transhumanism. Fyodorov advocated radical life extension, physical immortality and even resurrection of the dead, using scientific methods.
Fyodorov's parents were the Rurikid knyaz Pavel Ivanovich Gagarin and Elisaveta Ivanova, a woman of lower-class nobility. He studied at the Richelieu Lyceum in Odessa. From 1854 to 1868, he served as a teacher in various small Russian towns. In 1878, he joined the Rumyantsev Museum staff as a librarian. Fyodorov opposed the idea of property on books and ideas and never published a line during his lifetime. His selected articles were printed posthumously under the title Philosophy of the Common Task (also known as Philosophy of Physical Resurrection).
Fyodorov was a futurist, who theorized about the eventual perfection of the human race and society (i.e., utopia), including radical ideas like immortality, revival of the dead, space and ocean colonization. His writings heavily influenced mystic Peter Uspensky and early rocket pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
Mankind’s Common Cause
Fedorov argued that the evolutionary process was directed towards increased intelligence and its role in the development of life. The Man is the pinnacle of evolution, as well as its creator and director. He must direct it where his reason and morality dictate. Fedorov noted that mortality is the most striking indicator of yet imperfect, contradictory nature of Man and the deep reason for most evil and nihilism in man and mankind. Fedorov argued that the struggle against death can become the deepest and the most natural cause uniting all people of Earth, regardless of their nationality, race, citizenship or wealth (he called this the Common Cause).
Fedorov thought that death and afterdeath existence should become the subject of comprehensive scientific enquiry. Achieving immortality and revival is the highest goal of science. And this knowledge must leave the laboratories and become the common property of all: "Everyone must be learning and everything be the subject of knowledge and action".
Two reasons for death
The human life, emphasized Fedorov, dies out for two reasons. First is internal: the material organization of human, his functionality is incapable of infinite self-renewal. To overcome this, psychophysiological regulation of the human organism is needed. The second reason is the spontaneous nature of the external environment, its destructive character that must be overcome with regulation of nature. Regulation of nature, “introducing will and reason into nature” includes, according to Fedorov, prevention of natural disasters, control of the Earth climate, fight against viruses and epidemics, mastery of solar power, space exploration and unlimited creative work there.
Immortality for all
Achieving immortality and revival of all people who ever lived are two inseparable goals, according to Fedorov. Immortality is impossible, both ethically and physically, without revival. We can’t concede that our ancestors, who gave us life and culture, are left to die, that our relatives and friends die. Achieving immortality for living individuals and future generations is only a partial victory over death, only the first stage. The full victory will be achieved only when everyone is returned to a transformed immortal life.
Restoring life and making it infinite
Fedorov tried to outline specific directors for scientific research for possibility of restoring life and making it infinite. His first project is connected with collecting and synthesizing decayed remains of dead based on "knowledge and control over all atoms and molecules of the world". This idea of Fedorov is related to the modern practice of cloning. The second approach described by Fedorov is genetic-hereditary. The revival could be done successively in the ancestral line: sons and daughters restore their fathers and mothers, they in turn restore their parents and so on. This means restoring the ancestors using the hereditary information that they passed on to their children. Using this genetic approach it is only possible to create a genetic twin of the dead person (the problem of identity in cloning). It is necessary to give back the revived person his old mind, his personality. Fedorov speculates about the idea of “radial images” that may contain the personalities of the people and survive after death. Nevertheless, Fedorov noted that even if the soul is destroyed after the death, the man will learn to restore it whole by mastering the forces of decay and fragmentation.
Transformation of past physical forms
The revival of people who lived in the past is not a recreation of their past physical form — it was imperfect, parasitic, centered on mortal existence. The idea is to transform it into self-creating, mind-controlled form, capable of infinite renewal, which is immortal. Those who haven’t died will go through the same transformation. The man will have to become a creator and organizer of his organism (“our body will be our business”). In the past the development of civilization happened by increasing human power using external tools and machines — the human body remained imperfect.
Fedorov points out that we need to breach the gap between the power of technology and weakness of the human physical form. The transition is overdue from purely technical development, a “prosthetic” civilization, to organic progress, when not just external tools, artificial implements, but the organisms themselves are improved, so that, for example, a man can fly, see far and deep, travel through space, live in any environment. Man must become capable of “organodevelopment” that so far only nature was capable of. Fedorov talks about supremacy of mind, “giving, developing organs for itself” and anticipates V. Vernadsky’s idea of autotrophic man. He argues that a man must become an autotrophic, self-feeding creature, acquire a new mode of energy exchange with the environment that will not end.
Fedorov repeatedly said that only broad scientific studies of aging, death, after death condition, only the science that strives to achieve a transformed immortal life, can really uncover the means to overcome death.
Fedorov's criticism of philosophers: How unnatural it is to ask, ‘Why does that which exist, exist?' and yet how completely natural it is to ask, ‘Why do the living die?‘
- Nikolai Berdyaev, The Religion of Resusciative Resurrection. "The Philosophy of the Common Task of N. F. Fedorov.
- Nader Elhefnawy, 'Nikolai Fedorov and the Dawn of the Posthuman', in The Future Fire 9 (2007).
- Ludmila Koehler, N.F. Fedorov: the Philosophy of Action Institute for the Human Sciences, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, 1979. AlibrisID: 8714504160
- History of Russian Philosophy «История российской Философии» (1951) by N. O. Lossky. Publisher: Allen & Unwin, London ASIN: B000H45QTY International Universities Press Inc NY, NY ISBN-13: 978-0823680740 sponsored by Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
- Ed Tandy, N.F. Fedorov, Russian Come-Upist, Venturist Voice, Summer 1986.
- G. M. Young, Nikolai F. Fedorov: An Introduction Nordland Publishing Co., Belmont, MA, USA, 1979.
- Taras Zakydalsky Ph.D. thesis, N. F. Fyodorov's Philosophy of Physical Resurrection Bryn Mawr, 1976, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.