Essays on Infinite Lifespans
PROJECTS, RELATIONSHIPS, COMMITMENTS
A better reply to Lucretrius than that given by Nagel or
Kaufman is the following, based broadly upon the views of
Williams (p8587) and (particularly) Martha Nussbaum
(318320), [1;6] even though neither would actually favor
human immortality. The gist of the reply is this: Once we are
born and begin to become part of a society, we soon have good
reasons for preferring to stay alive, reasons that are forward-
looking, so there is no symmetry with our the past before we
were conceived or born.
I might, for example, wish to complete a novel or a work
of philosophy that I am writing. I might be obsessed with
the fluctuating fortunes of a favorite athlete or sports team.
I might be involved in an interesting and charming flirtation,
or perhaps an ever-deepening love affair, and there might be
various people who are dependent on me, emotionally or
In short, I might have a multitude of projects (some deeply
serious, some less so), relationships (likewise), commitments,
and interests that I can imagine extending and changing into
the indefinite future. All of these are attachments to life, and
almost everybody forms them. Even Epicurus died with a
request to a friend to take care of the children of Metrodorus!
(p151)  He was not entirely indifferent to what would
happen after his death. Indeed, none of us could be indiffer-
ent to our own prospective deaths, what might follow them,
and what they would prevent, while simultaneously retaining
Nor would we be better off without such attachments to
life. Lucretius is doubtless correct that foolish obsessions can
distort our lives and lead to unhappiness (p151153).  Yet,
our forward-looking projects, relationships and commitments
are an important part of what is valuable in our experience.