The right to life after death

Dialogue 46 (3):531-551 (2007)
Abstract
Imagining a future world in which people no longer die provides a helplul tool for understanding our present ethical views. It becomes evident that the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, and courage are options for reasonable people rather than rational requirements. On the assumption that the medical means to immortality are not universally available, even justice becomes detached from theories that tie the supposed virtue to the protection of human rights. Several stratagems are available for defending a categorical right to life under these circumstances, but none is compelling. Justice and human rights should therefore be understood as social conventions whose stability depends upon rejecting a tyranny of the immortals in favour of cultural traditions that connect rights and liberties with the means for their enjoyment.Imaginer un monde dans lequel plus personne ne mourrait peut s’avérer utile afin de comprendre l’éthique contemporaine. Il devient alors évident que les vertus cardinales que sont la réflexion, la tempérance et le courage concernent des gens raisonnables et ne sont pas des exigences de la raison. Si on suppose que les ressources médicales de l’immortalité ne sont pas disponibles pour tous, même la justice devient indépendante des théories qui relient cette hypothétique vertu à la protection des droits de l’homme. Plusieurs stratégies s’offrent à nous afin de défendre un droit catégorique de vivre selon ces conditions, mais aucune n’est imparable. La justice et les droits de l’homme devraient en ce cas être envisagés comme des conventions sociales dont la stabilité dépend du rejet de la tyrannie des immortels en faveur des traditions culturelles qui relient droits et libertés aux moyens d’en profiter
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