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Death and Value Reignition: Lucky in the Chance to Die
AuthorAnderson, Christopher C.
AdvisorWilliams, Christopher T
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In this thesis I examine life-extension and embodied immortality and ask whether these are intrinsically problematic or undesirable. I examine the history of the concept of immortality and find that the usage of the term has nearly always referred to extended but mortal lifespans. I observe that modern commentators have conflated the concepts "mortal" and "immortal" and with deleterious effect on the scholarship. I examine Bernard Williams' claim that extended lifespans are destined to crash into permanent boredom and find that while this crash is probably inevitable, recovery is always possible in finite lifespans. I do, however, think that a eudaimonic life requires mortality. An immortal lifespan, that is, one in which death is impossible, would irreversibly crash and burn in just the way Williams thinks merely super-centenarian lifespans must. Death gives us a sense that time is running out, and this sense is one a mortal creature can capitalize on to reignite his categorical desires when they burn out. An immortal being does not have this resource. Furthermore, embodied immortality necessarily entails invincibility, and this cuts off a significant range of ethical interests that are deeply woven into the human being. A genuinely immortal life eventually reduces to an interactive video game that will become predictable, boring and valueless. My conclusions are supplemented by an extensive analysis of the Karel Čapek play The Makropulos Case.