Would You Want to Live Forever?

Week of: 
January 20, 2004
What is it: 

Pick your favorite age. You are healthy, career thriving, family intact (at least pretend!). Would you like to live forever at that age, in that health, with those friends and family members also living forever with you? Immortality, on earth? How about an extra fifty or one hundred years or two hundred beyond your present life expectancy?

  • Yes! Think of all I could get done!
  • No. I would be bored!
  • Yes, I could sit on the beach, and be in no hurry to do anything.
  • No, life gets its meaning from having a shape, and things without boundaries have no shape.

Would an immortal human life be incredibly boring or is a good human life so good it's worth living to eternity?

Listening Notes: 

Why do we want to avoid death? Life is a good thing, and more of a good thing is good, so we should want to live forever. Should life have a shape or is it enough to be pleasurable? John introduces John Fischer, professor at the University of California at Riverside. Fischer thinks that immortality would not result in unending boredom or pain. Does the finiteness of life make it more enjoyable? Fischer thinks that death is not the only thing that can give a shape to life. Would immortality entail lots of bad things happening to you?

Would a life devoid of suffering be good? Is the point of life to prepare us for death? Is your life less meaningful if you've lived a shorter time? Fischer points out that we use the phrase “meaning of life” in many different ways. Can we conceive of circumstances in which it would be desirable to be immortal? Is life intrinsically good? Fischer distinguishes between good for the individual and good for the community.

Is there anything that would be worth doing forever? Many people try to think of one particular activity, but Fischer thinks that certain mixtures of activities would be worth doing forever. Is the Groundhog Day model of immortality desirable?

  • Amy Standen the Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 05:04): Amy Standen interviews Dr. Phillip Miller and Bill Hurlbut about issues of aging and longevity.
  • Ian Shoales the Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 36:00): Ian Shoales give a rapid biography of the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
  • Conundrum (Seek to 47:15): Lisa from the Bay Area asks whether she should lie to allow her children to go to a good daycare. Is it prudent? Is it moral?

John M. Fischer, Professor of Philosophy, University of California Riverside

Related Resources: 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:


  • Milan Kundera's novel about life and death, Immortality  



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