Essays on Infinite Lifespans
to get close to that limit if we find ourselves living healthy
lives without pain or anxiety. Much of our striving for more
than that seems futile, or even counterproductive. Still, I will
argue that there is more to a good life than the Epicureans
articulated in their philosophy. That something more is
what makes it undesirable to die.
DEATH AS A DEPRIVATION OF ADDITIONAL LIFE
We could reject the Epicurean account very quickly if we
insisted that being alive, as such, is a good thing, and saw
death as a misfortune simply because it deprives us of addi-
tional life. That, however, creates more problems, since the
concept of deprivation is not straightforward. It appears to
include the idea of being denied something that it was pos-
sible to have. However, in what sense is it possible for a person
to have a longer life than (speaking without tense for the
moment) she actually does have? That question raises intrac-
table issues about determinism, fate, and free will, issues that
it seems better to avoid if we are to make any progress.
To avoid them, I want to focus more closely on the concept
of fearing death. There is a relationship between fearing some
kind of future event and acting to avoid or resist it. For exam-
ple, we try to avoid disease by inoculations, healthy diet, good
hygiene, etc. Similarly, we may avoid violence by fleeing it, or
we may use force to resist. Even if the Universe is determinis-
tic, our own actions to avoid or resist such things must surely
form part of the chain of deterministic causes. If so, actions
such as fleeing or opposing violence are rational.
Thus, whether or not determinism (or fate) prevails in the
Universe, there are many actions that we can take to avoid or
resist events that would otherwise be the death of us. If addi-
tional life is a good thing, it is rational to take such actions.