IdeaFestival 2014 #2: Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, Stephen Cave 2012

Stephen Cave

Session: Immortality
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
(Kentucky Center)

Dr Stephen Cave is a philosopher, writer and critic. He has worked both as an academic, studying and teaching philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and as a diplomat, negotiating international treaties on behalf of the British Government.

His first book, Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization is an inquiry into humanity’s resistance to the inevitability of death, moving across time and history’s major civilizations and religions to explore just what drives this instinct — and what that means for our future. Immortality was released in 2012 in English and other languages to wide international acclaim.

Stephen also writes essays, features and reviews on a wide range of philosophical and scientific subjects, from human nature to robot warriors and animal rights. He writes regularly for the Financial Times, and has also written for the New York Times, the Guardian, Wired and others. He has appeared on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, Deutschlandradio Kultur, Österreichischer Rundfunk and elsewhere.

Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. (Susan Ertz)

Terror management theory proposes that the function of culture/civilization is to manage the terror that results from the awareness of death.

4 ‘immortality narratives:’

  1. staying alive / elixir
  2. resurrection
  3. soul
  4. legacy

Comment: The function of philosophy is learning how to die. In the Anthropocene, learning how to die means learning how to live. Learning how to live in the Anthropocene means learning how to build resilience.

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