my immortality poll & paper

I tweeted this recently:

Philosophy poll: T/F – Death is a necessary condition for the meaningfulness of life; immortality is incompatible with meaningfulness.

Here are the totally unrepresentative results:

False – 6

True – 3

(assuming that this response counts as a “true”)

For whatever it’s worth, my vote is “false.” Assuming that the meaningfulness of one’s life has to do with the creation & execution of a life plan, and assuming that meaningfulness comes in degrees, I argued in a recent paper (contra Bernard Williams’ in The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality) that whether or not immortality is compatible with meaningfulness is entirely contingent upon the properties of particular individuals. Some people would do better to have infinitely long lives, as it would give them opportunity to plan and pursue more of their goals, with more success. Some people would do worse to have infinitely long lives, if they are motivated to achieve only in the context of a short life, and would become bored and detached after long enough. I have no idea of what percentage of people would fall into each camp. The important thing is that there is nothing necessarily bad about human immortality. Also, it isn’t literally impossible to have reason to want to be immortal, if immortality may allow for increasing the meaningfulness of one’s life.

One Comment

  • Hahaha sorry for being so vague in my answer. I should have just said “false”.

    What I meant was that our whole concept of meaningfulness has developed with the (always true) assumption that in the end we’re going to die. So our existing concept of a meaningful life relies entirely on the fact that there’s an end in sight.

    I think if that we were to suddenly become immortal there would be a rough transition but eventually we would find meaning in the new mode.

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