I have discussed on various occasions the possibility of human immortality with people. Most of the time people thought it would be a bad idea without giving specific reasons but relying on their feelings.

Are there logical (in whatever ethical system) reasons to be opposed to immortality? (Meaning humans would be worse off as a whole than before the invention.)

The only thing that comes to my mind is things wouldn't change, but the good thing about living things is that they can change without dying.

Especially I don't see how in any theoretical case immortality could be bad. Let's imaging a good life where you die. An immortal life can be exactly like that life you imagined, perfect and then you die. So the option of immortality seems to me to be no hindrance and always a good option. My question boils down to: Why would people be opposed to a mere option of immortality? How could a voluntary option of any kind be a bad thing?

  • There will be no enough place on Earth. Sep 28, 2018 at 10:03
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  • Strange, most times people only answered me that they themselves would not like to be immorral in their current bodies. Not the idea of immortality itself was bad.
    – rus9384
    Sep 28, 2018 at 11:03
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    Plus the universe is reeeeealy big
    – Hakaishin
    Sep 28, 2018 at 12:42
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    I dont see how thought experiments are irrelevant. I dont understand your comment in general
    – Hakaishin
    Sep 28, 2018 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


One argument is that an immortal life will necessarily become oppressively boring. Living forever, you'll eventually exhaust your interests and run out of enjoyable activities. Bernard Williams makes this argument in this 1973 paper.

One criticism of this argument (e.g., by Fischer here) is that it's not necessary for an immortal life to become boring. Some pleasures, for instance, will remain pleasurable even if you repeat them to no end, at least given sufficiently long intervals in between. Or new activities might be created at a sufficiently high rate so as to keep you occupied forever.

I vaguely remember another argument along the lines that without the prospect of death you wouldn't have an incentive to accomplish anything in life, but I can't recall where that's from, and I don't find it particularly convincing (at least in this crude version).

Also, here are a couple of lectures by Shelly Kagan on the subject from his Yale course on death: Part 1, Part 2.

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    "Or new activities might be created at a sufficiently high rate so as to keep you occupied forever." And they already are.
    – rus9384
    Sep 28, 2018 at 15:30
  • Interesting resources I definitely have to have a look at those links.
    – Hakaishin
    Sep 28, 2018 at 16:26
  • Is there part 3 of his lecture on this topic? I can't find it.
    – Hakaishin
    Sep 28, 2018 at 17:39
  • @Hakaishin I think that’s it. These are part of a 20+ lecture course on death.
    – E...
    Sep 28, 2018 at 17:52

Voluntary options do not necessarily feel completely voluntary. If someone was given a yes/no question, that person might think that "no" would be suicide, and there are people who don't want to commit suicide. Someone might think that by selecting "no" they'd be letting friends or family down, and feel compelled to answer "yes".

If it's a one-time choice, someone might worry that they'd select immortality and regret it later. The Universe is set to become awfully boring in ten or twenty trillion years, and there's other ways life can become permanently depressing.

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