Immortal Life Might End Up Meaningless, but What If Mortal Life Already Is?

Author: Adam Buben (Leiden University, Assist. Prof.)

“While there’s life, there is hope.”—Stephen Hawking

For several decades now, a debate has raged amongst philosophers of death as to whether or not an immortal life would be worth living. Although this is hardly a new conundrum, the recent debate has been inflamed by the growth of science fiction and fantasy literature (which is almost always suspicious of the prospects of living forever), as well as intensifying real-world speculation about relatively near future technological advances that promise to radically alter the human life span. Of course, extending human lives, even indefinitely, doesn’t exactly get us to true immortality, but since many sorts of extension (e.g. by eliminating disease) might not seem obviously problematic, philosophers tend to concern themselves with more difficult, and extreme, scenarios. Thus, the hypothetical choice that is usually under consideration is between something like our current form of mortal existence, and genuinely everlasting life. It turns out that each option comes with serious perils that must be weighed before indulging in magical elixir or new technology.

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