This book looks to existential thinkers for reasons to hope immortal life could be worth living. It injects new arguments and insights into the debate about the desirability of immortality, and tackles related issues such as boredom, personal identity, technological progress, and the meaning of life.
Immortality, in some form or another, is a common topic throughout the history of philosophy, but many thinkers who consider its possibility (or necessity) give little attention to the question of whether it would be worthwhile. Recent work on the topic has been dominated by transhumanists in pursuit of radical life extension, and philosophers from the analytic tradition who argue about the dangers of immortality. This book makes the case that continental thinkers—including Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Miguel de Unamuno, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir—have much to offer the debate on immortality. For most of these figures, it seems possible that an unending life would not preclude the preservation of personal identity or the sorts of dangers and deadlines required to maintain something like ordinary human values and fend off boredom. The author draws connections between these so-called "existentialists" and demonstrates how they contribute to an overarching argument about the desirability of immortality.
Existentialism and the Desirability of Immortality will be of interest to researchers and advanced students working on the philosophy of death and the history of existentialism.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Hope of Meaningful Immortality
The Meaning of "Meaning"
The Current State of the Immortality Debate
The Meaninglessness of Mortal Life
Hope for Meaning
Existentialism, Death, and Meaningful Life
1. Early Arguments About the Desirability of Immortality
2. Kierkegaard on Repeatable Pleasures, Perpetual Projects, and Risk
Boredom and Identity
The Importance of Repetition
Meaning Beyond Rotation
Immortality as a Thought Experiment
Risk and Value
3. The Dark Side of Desire: Nietzsche, Immortality, and the Roots of Transhumanism
The Transhumanist Agenda and the Desirability of Immortality
Nietzsche on Life-Affirmation, Novelty, and Immortality
Eternal Recurrence and Immortality
Not Quite a Curmudgeon or a Transhumanist
4. Unamuno on Having the Strength to Long for Personal Immortality
What We Really Want
Death and Injustice
Running Afoul of Nietzsche
Giving Up on Oneself
5. Heidegger on Finitude and Value
The Higher Bar: God-like Immortality
Stages, Risk, and Urgency
Immortality and Inhumanity
6. Immortality Online: Reasons to Be Wary
What Gets Left Behind
An Imagined but Not So Far-Fetched Scenario
Duties to the Dead
7. Sartre and the Importance of Always Having an Exit
Death and the Indeterminacy of Meaning
The Finitude of Immortal Life
"Hell Is Other People" and the Dangers of Necessary Immortality
Indefinite Life-Extension and Suicide
8. Camus and the Absurdist Case for Immortality
Meaninglessness and Absurdity
Two Types of Suicide
Freedom and Revolt
Imagining Sisyphus Happy
9. Grander Ambitions, Rekindled Interests, and Limited Memory in Beauvoir
Beauvoir Contra Sartre
A Curmudgeonly Tale?
Resources for Immortality Enthusiasts
Conclusion: Disappointment and Death
Adam Buben is a Universitair Docent 1 in Philosophy at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He is the co-editor, with Eleanor Helms and Patrick Stokes, of The Kierkegaardian Mind (Routledge, 2019).
"This book is clear, careful, and sometimes personal and especially poignant. It is essential reading for scholars interested in death and immortality, and it is accessible enough to use in undergraduate teaching. Buben is well-versed in the analytic philosophical literature on death and immortality as well as in the existentialist tradition, and his writing is accessible even for readers without a background in continental philosophy. I highly recommend this book."
Taylor Cyr, Samford University, USA