Agency, Scarcity, and Mortality

The Journal of Ethics 19 (3-4):349-378 (2015)
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It is often argued, most recently by Samuel Scheffler, that we should reconcile with our mortality as constitutive of our existence: as essential to its temporal structure, to the nature of deliberation, and to our basic motivations and values. Against this reconciliatory strategy, I argue that there is a kind of immortal existence that is coherently conceivable and potentially desirable. First, I argue against the claim that our existence has a temporal structure with a trajectory that necessarily culminates in an ending. This claim is based on two false assumptions: that a life as a whole calls for narrative structure, and that narratives necessarily require closure as temporal endings. Second, I reject the proposal that temporal finitude is constitutive of the basic elements of diachronic agency, including the nature of deliberation and of our values. I argue that only finitude as scarcity of opportunities is constitutive of these elements. Additionally, scarcity might be present in an endless existence. Therefore, it is not incoherent to conceive of a recognizable and potentially desirable immortality that grounds the core features of diachronic agency. Thus, against the reconciliatory strategy, I conclude that we might never fully reconcile with mortality. Although we might embrace our inescapable mortality as essential to a fuller range of features of our existence, we can still justifiably regret our missing on an immortal existence.
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