Addresses a common criticism of Williams' so-called "Necessary Boredom Thesis," arguing that the criticism misconstrues the kind of boredom that Williams is worried about. Then offers an independent reason to worry about the Necessary Boredom Thesis, given the relevant construal of boredom. Finally, develops a weaker version of Williams' worries about choosing to live an immortal existence, arguing that immortality threatens to undermine our ability to stand for the things in our lives.
Although I reject his argument, I defend Bernard Williams’s claim that we would lose reason to go on if we were to live forever. Through a consideration of Borges’s story "The Immortal," I argue that immortality would be motivationally devastating, since our decisions would carry little weight, our achievements would be hollow victories of mere diligence, and the prospect of eternal frustration would haunt our every effort. An immortal life for those of limited ability will inevitably result in endless (...) frustration, since the number of significant projects that one is capable of completing is finite, but the span of time is infinite. (shrink)
Immortality—living forever and avoiding death—seems to many to be desirable. But is it? It has been argued that an immortal life would fairly soon become boring, trivial, and meaningless, and is not at all the sort of thing that any of us should want. Yet boredom and triviality presuppose our having powerful memories and imaginations, and an inability either to shake off the past or to free ourselves of weighty visions of the future. Suppose, though, that our capacities here (...) are limited, so that our temporal reach is fairly significantly constrained. Then, I argue, these alleged problems with immortality will recede. Moreover, similar limitations might help us in the actual world, where life is short. If we cannot see clearly to its end points, both ahead and behind, life will seem longer. (shrink)
In this paper, we aim to clarify and evaluate the contention that immortality would be necessarily boring . It will emerge that, just as there are various importantly different kinds of immortality, there are various distinct kinds of boredom. To evaluate the Necessary Boredom Thesis, we need to specify the kind of immortality and the kind of boredom. We argue against the thesis, on various specifications of “immortality” and “boredom.”.
The paper discusses Bernard Williams’ argument that immortality is rationally undesirable because it leads to insufferable boredom. We first spell out Williams’ argument in the form of a dilemma. We then show that the first horn of this dilemma, namely Williams’ requirement of the constancy of character of the immortal, is defensible. We next argue against a recent attempt that accepts the dilemma, but rejects the conclusion Williams draws from it. From these we conclude that blocking the second horn (...) of the dilemma is the best way to respond to Williams. Our objection contends that Williams overlooks a basic feature of human existence, namely curiosity, and that his negative evaluation of an eternal life is therefore unconvincing. (shrink)
Williams’s famous argument against immortality rests on the idea that immortality cannot be desirable, at least for human beings, and his contention has spawned a cottage industry of responses. As I will intend to show, the arguments over his view rest on both a difference of temperament and a difference in the sense of desire being used. The former concerns a difference in whether one takes a forward-looking or a backward-looking perspective on personal identity; the latter a distinction (...) between our normal desire to continue living and the kind of desire implied in desiring immortality. Showing that there is some sense of identity and desire that support Williams’s conclusion goes some way toward providing support for his argument, if not a full-fledged defense of it. (shrink)
Responding to a well-known essay by Bernard Williams, philosophers have engaged in what I call “the Makropulos debate,” a debate over whether immortality—“living forever”—would be desirable for beings like us. Lacking a firm conceptual grounding in the religious contexts from which terms such as “immortality” and “eternal life” gain much of their sense, the debate has consisted chiefly in a battle of speculative fantasies. Having presented my four main reasons for this assessment, I examine an alternative and neglected (...) conception, the idea of eternal life as a present possession, derived in large part from Johannine Christianity. Without claiming to argue for the truth of this conception, I present its investigation as exemplifying a conceptually fruitful direction of inquiry into immortality or eternal life, one which takes seriously the religious and ethical surroundings of these concepts. (shrink)
Through the examination of the lives of several immortal beings, this paper defends a version of Moritz Schlick’s claim that the meaning of life is play. More precisely: a person’s life has meaning to the extent it there are things in it that the person values intrinsically rather than merely instrumentally and above a certain threshold of intensity. This is a subjectivist account of meaning in life. I defend subjectivism about meaning in life from common objections by understanding statements about (...) life’s meaning in quasi-realist terms. (shrink)
In this paper we address Bernard Williams' argument for the undesirability of immortality. Williams argues that unavoidable and pervasive boredom would characterise the immortal life of an individual with unchanging categorical desires. We resist this conclusion on the basis of the distinction between habitual and situational boredom and a psychologically realistic account of significant factors in the formation of boredom. We conclude that Williams has offered no persuasive argument for the necessity of boredom in the immortal life. 1.
This article contributes to the ongoing debate initiated by Bernard Williams’ claim that, due to the non-contingent finitude of the categorical desires that give meaning to our lives, an immortal life would necessarily become intolerably boring. Jeremy Wisnewski has argued that even if immortality involves periods in which our categorical desires have been exhausted, this need not divest life of meaning since some categorical desires are revivable. I argue that careful reflection upon the thought-experiments adduced by Wisnewski reveals that (...) they do not substantiate his proposal, and hence that a plausible reason for rejecting Williams’ position has not been provided. (shrink)
Much of the literature on the desirability of immortality (inspired by B. Williams) has considered whether the goods of mortal life would be exhausted in an immortal life (whether, i.e., immortality would necessarily end in tedium). However, there has been very little discussion of whether the bads of mortal life would also be exhausted in an immortal life, and more generally, how good immortal life would be on balance, particularly in comparison to a mortal life. Here I argue (...) that there are compelling reasons to favor a mortal over an immortal life because a mortal life offers a higher ceiling for well-being and assigns our agency a greater role in how our lives turn out. (shrink)
Recent research in the cognitive science of religion suggests that humans intuitively believe that others survive death. In response to this finding, three cognitive theories have been offered to explain this: the simulation constraint theory (Bering, 2002); the imaginative obstacle theory (Nichols, 2007); and terror management theory (Pyszczynski, Rothschild, & Abdollahi, 2008). First, I provide a critical analysis of each of these theories. Second, I argue that these theories, while perhaps explaining why one would believe in his own personal (...) class='Hi'>immortality, leave an explanatory gap in that they do not explain why one would intuitively attribute survival of death to others. To fill in the gap, I offer a cognitive theory based on offline social reasoning and social embodiment which provides for the belief in an eternal social realm in which the deceased survive?the afterlife. (shrink)
A great philosopher will change the way you think about your life. For most of human history, religion provided a clear explanation of life and death. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries new ideas -- from psychiatry to evolution to Communist -- seemed to suggest that our fate was now in our own hands. We would ourselves become God. This is the theme of a remarkable new book by one of the world's greatest lving philosophers. It is (...) a brilliant and frightening look at the problems and opportunities of a world coming to grips with humankind's now solitary, unaided place in the universe. Gray takes two major examples: the belief that the science-backed Communism of the new USSR could reshape the planet, and the belief among a group of Edwardian intellectuals -- popularized through mediums and automatic writing -- that there was a non-religious form of life after death. Gray presents an extraordinary cast of philosophers, journalists, politicians, charlatans and mass murderers, all of whom felt driven by a specifically scientific and modern world view. He raises a host of fascinating questions about what it means to be human. The implications of Gray's book will haunt its readers for the rest of their lives. (shrink)
This paper offers new arguments to reject the alleged dream of immortality. In order to do this, I firstly introduce an amendment to Michael Hauskeller’s approach of the “immortalist fallacy”. I argue that the conclusion “we do not want to live forever” does not follow from the premise “we do not want to die”. Next, I propose the philosophical turn from “normally” to “under these circumstances” to resolve this logical error. Then, I review strong philosophical critiques of this transhumanist (...) purpose of immortality in the literature. There are two key questions related to the possibility of fulfilling this goal: the hard problem of consciousness and the personal identity dilemma. Finally, I defend a specific type of indefinite life and justify that it is more desirable than our current limited life. (shrink)
This article reflects upon the debate, initiated by Bernard Williams in 1973, concerning the desirability of immortality, where the latter expression is taken to mean endless bodily life as a human or humanoid being. Williams contends that it cannot be desirable; others have disputed this contention. I discuss a recent response from Timothy Chappell and attempt to pinpoint the central disagreement between Chappell and Williams. I propose that neither side in the debate has firm grounds for its claims, and (...) then proceed to consider four reasons for suspecting that the whole debate has yet to be placed on a conceptually coherent footing. (shrink)
Might we be parts of a divine mind? Could anything like an afterlife make sense? Starting with a Platonic answer to why the world exists, _Immortality Defended_ suggests we could well be immortal in all of three separate ways. Tackles the fundamental questions posed by our very existence, among them, "why does the cosmos exist?", "is there a divine mind or God?", and "in what sense might we have afterlives?" Defends a belief in immortality, without the need for a (...) religious affiliation or rejection of modern science Explores the ideas of "Einsteinian immortality", the divine afterlife, and the theory of an infinite and divine mind Draws from the work of a wide-range of philosophers, from ancient Greece to the present day, and incorporates up-to-date scientific findings Written in a thought-provoking and engaging manner, accessible to anyone intrigued by the wonder of our being. (shrink)
Many religious thinkers hold the immortality requirement, the view that immortality of some kind is necessary for life to have meaning. After clarifying the nature of the immortality requirement, this essay examines three central arguments for it. The article establishes that existing versions of these arguments fail to entail the immortality requirement. The essay then reconstructs the arguments, and it shows that once they do plausibly support the immortality requirement, they equally support the God-centred requirement, (...) the view that God's existence is a necessary condition for life to be meaningful. The paper concludes by explaining why we should expect any argument for the immortality requirement also to constitute an argument for the God-centred requirement. (shrink)
This book is the first attempt to think philosophically about the comic phenomenon in literature, art, and life. Working across a substantial collection of comic works author Agnes Heller makes seminal observations on the comic in the work of both classical and contemporary figures. Whether she's discussing Shakespeare, Kafka, Rabelais, or the paintings of Brueghel and Daumier Heller's Immortal Comedy makes a characteristic contribution to modern thought across the humanities.
In this article we aim to distinguish between the transhuman and posthuman condition, according to their anthropological, ontological, and ethical natures. We will show that the current historical moment can be considered the beginning of a transhuman civilisation, given that the characteristics of the transhuman are already present in today’s human being. We will show that a series of decisive limitations for belonging to the human condition are in the process of being transcended due to acquisition of attributes of divinity (...) that human beings do not currently possess: omnipotence, omnipresence , ex nihilo creation – starting from the divine creative ideation – and immortality. Humans are increasingly taking on the attributes of divinity in the process of human enhancements. We will discuss the ways in which technology allows the human to overcome these limitations, elevating humans past their current condition, in a process in which they gain technological transcendence. Excepting immortality, all other limitations, once exceeded, generate a transhuman condition. Immortality generates a posthuman condition, since it can only be obtained by modifying the human ontological status from that of a biological being to that of a resident being in informatics networks. In order to clarify this process, we will discuss the concepts of everlastingness and artificial life prolongation. (shrink)
Time may be infinite in both directions. If it is, then, if persons could live at most once in all of time, the probability that you would be alive now would be zero. But if persons can live more than once, the probability that you would be alive now would be nonzero. Since you are alive now, with certainty, either the past is finite, or persons can live more than once.
Transhumanism has a great deal in common with religion as traditionally conceived. James J. Hughes claims that "a variety of metaphysics appear to be compatible with one form of transhumanism or the other, from various Abrahamic views of the soul to Buddho-Hindu ideas of reincarnation to animist ideas."1 Most notably, the range of technologically optimistic views held by transhumanists shares with many religions a longing for transcendence of our presently frail and limited situation. In contrast to the doctrines of many (...) traditional religions, however, transhumanist salvation will come not with the aid of divine intervention, but solely from our own ingenuity (or at least from the ingenuity of beings that result... (shrink)
Recent work in developmental psychology indicates that children naturally think that psychological states continue after death. One important candidate explanation for why this belief is natural appeals to the idea that we believe in immortality because we can't imagine our own nonexistence. This paper explores this old idea. To begin, I present a qualified statement of the thesis that we can't imagine our own nonexistence. I argue that the most prominent explanation for this obstacle, Freud's, is problematic. I go (...) on to describe some central features of contemporary cognitive accounts of the imagination, and I argue that these accounts provide an independently motivated explanation for the imaginative obstacle. While the imaginative obstacle does not dictate a belief in immortality, it does, I maintain, facilitate such a belief. (shrink)
To the extent that the performance of embodied and situated cognitive agents is predicated on fore- thought;such agents must remember; and learn from; the past to predict the future. In complex; non-stationaryenvironments; such learning is facilitated by an intrinsic motivation to seek novelty. A significant part of anagent’s identity is thus constituted by its remembered distilled cumulative life experience; which the agent isdriven to constantly expand. The combination of the drive to novelty with practical limits on memorycapacity posits a problem. (...) On the one hand; because novelty seekers are unhappy when bored; merelyreliving past positive experiences soon loses its appeal: happiness can only be attained sporadically; via anopen-ended pursuit of new experience. On the other hand; because the experiencer’s memory is finite;longevity and continued novelty; taken together; imply eventual loss of at least some of the stored content;and with it a disruption of the constructed identity. In this essay; I examine the biobehavioral and cognitive-computational circumstances that give rise to this problem and explore its implications for the humancondition. (shrink)
Abstract In a well-known paper, Bernard Williams argues that an immortal life would not be worth living, for it would necessarily become boring. I examine the implications for the boredom thesis of three human traits that have received insufficient attention in the literature on Williams? paper. First, human memory decays, so humans would be entertained and driven by things that they experienced long before but had forgotten. Second, even if memory does not decay to the extent necessary to ward off (...) boredom, once-satisfied desires often return after a sufficient period of time. Eternity would always contain sufficient time for our desires to rejuvenate. Third, even if too many of our desires were satisfied but not yet rejuvenated, we can expect that human ingenuity would continue to invent new pursuits, pastimes, careers, and ways of life that would prevent us from becoming bored as we moved from one to another. Finally, I consider and respond to several objections, including the claims that as much variety as I propose to be put into an eternal life is inconsistent with having one character throughout one?s life and that the sort of character change and memory decay I postulate is inconsistent with personal identity. (shrink)
Would personal immortality have any value for one so endowed? An affirmative answer would seem so obvious to some that they might be tempted to go so far as to claim that immortality is a condition of life's having any value at all. The claim that immortality is a necessary condition for the meaningfulness of life seems untenable. What, however, of the claim that immortality is a sufficient condition for the meaningfulness of life? Though some might (...) hold this to be the characteristic religious view, this is certainly disputable. Thus McTaggart reminds us, for instance, that ‘Buddhism... holds immortality to be the natural state of man, from which only the most perfect can escape.’ I want to argue that we can imagine variants of personal immortality which would not be valuable and hence immortality in itself cannot be a sufficient condition for value. What is required for the meaningfulness of life is that life exhibit certain valuable qualities. But then the endless exhibition of these qualities is not only unnecessary for the meaningfulness of life, but the endlessness of a life can even devalue those qualities that would make valuable a single, bounded life. (shrink)
Plausible assumptions from Cosmology and Statistical Mechanics entail that it is overwhelmingly likely that there will be exact duplicates of us in the distant future long after our deaths. Call such persons “Boltzmann duplicates,” after the great pioneer of Statistical Mechanics. In this paper, I argue that if survival of death is possible at all, then we almost surely will survive our deaths because there almost surely will be Boltzmann duplicates of us in the distant future that stand in appropriate (...) relations to us to guarantee our survival. (shrink)
Joan Copjec has shown that modernity is privy to a notion of immortality all its own – one that differs fundamentally from any counterpart entertained in Greek antiquity or the Christian Middle Ages. She points to Blumenberg and Lefort as thinkers who have construed this concept in its modern guise in different ways, and ultimately opts for Lefort's paradoxical understanding of immortality as the ‘transcending of time, within time' before elaborating on a corresponding notion in Lacan's work. It (...) can be shown that Nietzsche, too, provides a distinctly modern conception of ‘immortality', articulated in relation to his notions of affirmation, singularity and eternal recurrence. In brief, this amounts to his claim that, to affirm even one single part or event in one's life entails affirming it in its entirety, and, in so doing – given the interconnectedness of events – affirming all that has ever existed. Moreover, once anything has existed, it is in a certain sense, for Nietzsche, necessary despite its temporal singularity. Therefore, to be able to rise to the task of affirming certain actions or experiences in one's own life, bestows on it not merely this kind of necessary singularity, but what he thought of as ‘eternal recurrence' – the (ethical) affirmation of the desire to embrace one's own, and together with it, all of existence ‘eternally', over and over. This, it is argued, may be understood as Nietzsche's distinctive contribution to a specifically modern notion of immortality: the ability of an individual to live in such a way that his or her singular ‘place' in society is ensured, necessarily there, even after his or her death. South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 26 (1) 2007: pp. 70-84. (shrink)
From Thomas Hobbes to Steven Pinker, it is often remarked that cultures of honor are destabilizing and especially dangerous to liberal institutions. This essay sharpens that criticism into two objections: one saying honor cultures encourage tyranny, and another accusing them of undermining rule of law. Since these concerns manifest differently in established as opposed to fledgling liberal democracies, I appeal to Western and African examples both to motivate and allay these worries. I contend that a culture of civic honor is (...) perfectly capable of offering those with soaring ambitions all the civic distinction they could hope for—including civic immortality—without tempting them to seize undemocratic levels of power. And as for rule of law and public order, an “irrationally” defiant response to the indignity of state-sanctioned oppression has often animated citizens to resist illiberal regimes despite great peril. Thus, cultures of civic honor are not only compatible with, but sometimes necessary to, founding and maintaining liberal institutions. (shrink)
The paper deals with the "deuteros plous", literally ‘the second voyage’, proverbially ‘the next best way’, discussed in Plato’s "Phaedo", the key passage being Phd. 99e4–100a3. The second voyage refers to what Plato’s Socrates calls his “flight into the logoi”. Elaborating on the subject, the author first (I) provides a non-standard interpretation of the passage in question, and then (II) outlines the philosophical problem that it seems to imply, and, finally, (III) tries to apply this philosophical problem to the "ultimate (...) final proof" of immortality and to draw an analogy with the ontological argument for the existence of God, as proposed by Descartes in his 5th "Meditation". The main points are as follows: (a) the “flight into the logoi” can have two different interpretations, a common one and an astonishing one, and (b) there is a structural analogy between Descartes’s ontological argument for the existence of God in his 5th "Meditation" and the "ultimate final proof" for the immortality of the soul in the "Phaedo". (shrink)
L'A. esamina in particolare il Commento grande al De anima. In primo luogo evidenzia l'insegnamento averroista in relazione al tema dell'intelletto e dell'individuo, in secondo luogo esamina alcune proposizioni relative all'immortalità dell'anima individuale, ma sottolinea la difficoltà di conciliare tali affermazioni di Averroè con la dottrina dell'intelletto. L'ultima parte dello studio propone un esame critico del recente studio di O.N. Mohammed, Averroes, Aristotle, and the Qur'an on Immortality «International Philosophical Quarterly» 33 37-55.
This study focuses on the ancient commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo by Olympiodorus and Damascius and aims to present the relevance of their challenging and valuable readings of the dialogue to Neoplatonic ethics.
In this paper I explore in a preliminary way the interconnections among narrative explanation, narrative value, free will, an immortality. I build on the fascinating an suggestive work of David Velleman. I offer the hypothesis that our acting freely is what gives our lives a distinctive kind of value - narrative value. Free Will, then, is connected to the capacity to lead a meaningful life in a quite specific way: it is the ingredient which, when aded to others, enows (...) us with a meaning over an above the cumulative value erived from ading together levels of momentary welfare. In acting freely, we are writing a sentence in the story of our lives, and the value of acting freely is thus a species of the value of artistic creativity or self-expression (understood appropriately). Finally, I contend that the fact that our lives are stories need not entail that they have endings, or that immortality would necessarily be unimaginable or essentially different from ordinary, finite human life. Yes, a certain sort of narrative understanding of our lives as a whole would be impossible in the context of immortality; but much of what we care about, and value, in our stories might remain. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the thought of Descartes and Spinoza regarding the immortality of the soul. I conclude that Descartes’s argument(s) for the immortality of the soul—or at least the argument(s) that one can construct based on Descartes’s texts—are disappointing, and that Spinoza’s thought on the soul and its relation to the body leaves little room for the traditional doctrine of personal immortality.
It is practically an article of faith in psychology that in order to do empirical research one must first operationally define one's variables. However, the 'operational attitude', first advocated by the physicist Percy Bridgman in the 1920s, has since been rejected by virtually every serious philosopher of science as unworkable. Furthermore. 'operationism' -- as developed by psychologists in the 1930s and 1940s -- was based on a misunderstanding of Bridgman's intent from the outset. Nevertheless, contemporary textbooks continue to extol the (...) virtues of operational definitions and today's psychology students are still required to learn the strategy. This paper discusses the historical background of operationism, its transmission from physics to psychology and the reasons for its continued tenacity in the face of repeated refutations and Bridgman's own repudiation in the 1950s. (shrink)
This article begins with the question: What is it to live? It is argued that, from a Spinozistic perspective, to live is not an either/or kind of matter. Rather, it is something that inevitably comes in degrees. The idea is that through good education and proper training a person can learn to increase his or her degree of existence by acquiring more adequate ideas. This gradual qualitative enhancement of existence is an operationalization of Spinoza's quest for immortality of the (...) mind. While Spinoza's idea of immortality differs from the traditional Christian account of the immortality of the soul in some key respects, it nevertheless concerns a form of immortality of the mind albeit grasped from a strictly naturalistic standpoint. And as such it is clear that we are faced with not only a philosophical and metaphysical problem of some magnitude but that we have come up against an educational problem that is rarely addressed. The educational problem, emanating from this, concerns the tension between Spinoza's necessitarianism and the overall goal of education. Why educate people at all if their lives are already predetermined? In addressing these problems, this article marks an attempt to present a pedagogization of the degrees of existence in Spinoza. To this end, it is argued that the imitation of affects is key to understanding Spinoza in an educational setting and; that teaching, in a Spinozistic context, involves the act of offering the right amount of resistance. (shrink)
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