Today I read the paper, "Immortality, Human Nature, the Value of Life and the Value of Life Extension" by Steven Horrobin, in Bioethics vol.20,no.6, 2006, pp.279-292. Horrobin discusses whether the future life extension technology is morally acceptable. The conservatives tend to deny extreme life extension because it is against human nature and the will of God (Christian God). The liberals are not so clear about such technology. Some are hesitant but others are in favor of it. Leon Kass discussed it in his Beyond Therapy (2003). In his book he rejected the optimistic view about extreme life extension, and persuaded us to taste the meaning of life within one's limited life span.
This is a very interesting topic because it makes us think deeply about philosophy of life questions, such as what is the meaning of life, what is the goal of life, what is life without regret, and so on. These are just the questions I have been tackling in the field of "life studies" or "philosophy of life".
Horrobin, too, tries to give an answer to this difficult question. He criticizes the conservative view, and defends the liberal view, especially the view of life based on the "personhood argument." He expands the standard personhood argument to include one's wishes, hopes, emotions, etc. as necessary elements of the concept of "person." Then he states as follows:
In this way, it would appear that there can be no arbitrary upper limit on the good of the extension of life to a person. (p.291)
And he stresses that a person always desires to continue to be a person.
We cannot effectively will ourselves not to be a person, since that will itself requires us to be a person. Try to imagine a person setting a particular date beyond which she will be free of all desires. Such a picture strikes one as absurd. (p.291)
His conclusion is:
So it does not seem reasonable that a person may even set a limit to the good of their own future extension in time. So long as we are persons, therefore, life extension will be a value without limitation. (pp.291-292)
Well, his argument is really interesting, but I don't think his argument is successful. It is logically possible for a person to desire not to be a person, and it is also possible for a person to desire to set a limit beyond which she will be free of all desires. In ancient Japan, some Buddhist monks tried to reduce their desires to reach the state of enlightenment (satori) by giving up eating food under the ground, and finally died and became mummies (sokushin butsu). They were believed to get into the state of enlightment, and highly respected. Weren't these monks persons when they decided?
My point is that a person can desire to leave the desire to live longer, and this is just what modern people forget in our materialistic society. I am not Christian, or Buddhist, or conservative, but I think like this. What do you think?
PS: Some staff members of the Center for Genetics and Society have establied their blog, Biopolitical Times. Why don't you visit and check out?
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