1st Edition

Existentialism and the Desirability of Immortality

By Adam Buben Copyright 2022
    196 Pages
    by Routledge

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    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.

    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
    Socrates’ Ambivalence
    Pascal’s Wager
    Kant’s Postulates
    Schopenhauer’s Pessimism

    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
    Inhuman Resources
    Facing Death

    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
    Lingering Ambiguities

    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