On the Challenges of Longevity:
Problems of Death Deferment
by Nicholas Rescher
Spinoza had it that "the free man thinks of nothing less than death, and his
wisdom is a meditation not upon death but upon life." But this is neither
entirely correct nor yet altogether plausible. For life stands coordinate with
death, and there is reason to think that death makes an essential contribution to
the quality of life.
It is instructive in this regard to consider the consequences not of the radical
supposition of an abolition of death, but even only the milder supposition of its
mere postponement. Thus the situation to be deliberated here will be predicated
at the assumption that λ, the average life span of people, is to be doubled from
its current American level of around 80 years to the far more generous level of
around 160. In classical antiquity, old and elderly people were a rarity to be seen;
nowadays, they are not uncommon; but in our assumptive new order, they will
be the norm. What changes would this portend for people and for society?