1st Edition

Should You Choose to Live Forever? A Debate

By Stephen Cave, John Martin Fischer Copyright 2024
    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    224 Pages
    by Routledge

    In this book, Stephen Cave and John Martin Fischer debate whether or not we should choose to live forever. This ancient question is as topical as ever: while billions of people believe they will live forever in an otherworldly realm, billions of dollars are currently being poured into anti-ageing research in the hope that we will be able to radically extend our lives on earth. But are we wise to wish for immortality? What would it mean for each of us as individuals, for society, and for the planet?

    In this lively and accessible debate, the authors introduce the main arguments for and against living forever, along with some new ones. They draw on examples from myth and literature as well as new thought experiments in order to bring the arguments to life. Cave contends that the aspiring immortalist is stuck on the horns of a series of dilemmas, such as boredom and meaninglessness, or overpopulation and social injustice. Fischer argues that there is a vision of radically longer lives that is both recognizably human and desirable. This book offers both students and experienced philosophers a provocative new guide to a topic of perennial importance.

    Key Features:

    • Gives a comprehensive overview of the main arguments for and against living forever
    • Uses lively examples from myth, literature, and novel thought experiments
    • Highly accessible—avoiding jargon and assuming no prior knowledge—without sacrificing intellectual rigour
    • Includes helpful pedagogical features, including chapter summaries, an annotated reading list, a glossary, and clear examples

    Foreword by Lord Martin Rees

    Part I: Opening Statements

    1. Why You Should Not Choose to Live Forever
    Stephen Cave

    2. Why You Should Choose to Live Forever
    John Martin Fischer

    Part II: First Round of Replies

    3. Reply to John Martin Fischer
    Stephen Cave

    4. Reply to Stephen Cave
    John Martin Fischer

    Part III: Second Round of Replies

    5. Reply to John Martin Fischer's Reply
    Stephen Cave

    6. Reply to Stephen Cave's Second Essay
    John Martin Fischer


    Stephen Cave is the Director of the Institute for Technology and Humanity at the University of Cambridge, UK. His other books include Immortality (Crown, 2012), AI Narratives (with Sarah Dillon and Kanta Dihal, Oxford UP, 2020), and Imagining AI (with Kanta Dihal, Oxford UP, 2023). He also advises governments around the world on the ethics of technology and has served as a British diplomat.

    John Martin Fischer is a Distinguished Professor in Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, and in 2017 he was appointed a University Professor in the University of California, one of twenty-two in the ten-campus system, and the only philosopher. He has published widely on the topics of this debate, including: The Metaphysics of Death (Stanford UP, 1993), Our Stories: Essays on Life, Death, and Free Will (Oxford UP, 2009), and Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life (Oxford UP, 2019). From 2012 to 2015, he was the Project Leader of The Immortality Project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

    Lord Martin Rees is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist. He is the fifteenth Astronomer Royal, appointed in 1995, and was Master of Trinity College at Cambridge University, from 2004 to 2012, and President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.

    “Scientists may eventually be able to extend some people’s lives for many hundreds or even thousands of years. This book is a friendly argument between two eminent philosophers about whether this would be good or bad for those people. Even if none of us now will be fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be around to experience radical life extension, we can still benefit enormously from this debate’s illuminating exchanges, conducted with wit and verve, about death, the meaning and value of life, the nature of well-being, the metaphysics of personal identity, and many other fascinating and fundamentally important topics.” -- Jeff McMahan, University of Oxford

    "This book will reward anyone interested in the question of whether there's reason to live forever. And let's be honest, that's all of us. Cave and Fischer offer up a timely debate on a timeless issue." -- Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin, Sam Houston State University