Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry

Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry

Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry

Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry


"Is a longer life a good in itself? Christine Overall carefully explores the philosophical tradition and current arguments to conclude that living a longer life is better. For those who believe that philosophy should concern real issues of everyday life that genuinely matter to our ability to live well, this book is essential."--Joan Tronto, author of "Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care

"This terrific book should be read by anybody who wants to think clearly about aging, death, or longevity. It takes on the widespread opposition to systematic social attention to prolonging healthy life, laying bare some of its unsavory underpinnings (ageism, sexism, etc.). It also encourages us to think creatively about what longer life could offer us and humanity as a whole."--Laura Purdy, author of "Reproducing Persons "

"Christine Overall provides a precise, no-nonsense approach to questions of aging and death. Her analyses sparkle with clarity as she dismantles the arguments for a'duty to die'; and her moral commitments give rise to workable, urgent social policies. Death is accepted as the termination of life; but not as its focus or meaning: in the end, this is a book that does not fetishize death; it celebrates life!"--Grace M. Jantzen, author of "Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion"


Death twitches my ear. “Live, ” he says. “I am coming. ”

Virgil, Minor Poems, quoted in Bartlett 1968, 119

In its entry on the subject “death” The Oxford Companion to Philosophy states, “Apart from trying to avoid it for as long as possible the philosopher has two main problems about death: What is it? And why does it matter?” (Honderich 1995, 177). But this claim begs the question of why the philosopher—or anyone else, for that matter—should attempt to avoid death for as long as possible. Whether we should try to prolong our lives and postpone our deaths for as long we can is a genuine, difficult, and significant question. This book inquires into that issue, which goes to the heart of speculation about why we (ought to) value our lives and what gives human existence meaning.

Philosophers have not all agreed about whether it is beneficial to think about one's own impending mortality, the condition of being subject to death. As Mary Mothersill (1999, 10) points out (with only a little exaggeration), philosophical opinion appears to be divided between those who think that such contemplations will induce a requisite and laudable . . .

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