What’s the Latest Development?
Whether or not you will continue to exist as a conscious being after your corporal death, the presumed existence of terrestrial life after your passing is largely what gives life meaning, says New York University philosophy professor Samuel Scheffler. “Consider a hypothetical scenario. Suppose you knew that although you yourself would live a long life and die peacefully in your sleep, the earth and all its inhabitants would be destroyed 30 days after your death in a collision with a giant asteroid. How would this knowledge affect you?” Scheffler suggests that many of our activities, from cancer research to engineering projects, would grind to a halt.
What’s the Big Idea?
Scheffler believes our dependence on literal life-after-death is so unexamined that it greatly diminishes people’s supposedly egoistic obsessions. “Even the egotistic tycoon who is devoted to his own glory might discover that his ambitions seemed pointless if humanity’s disappearance was imminent. Although some people can afford not to depend on the kindness of strangers, virtually everyone depends on the future existence of strangers.” So beyond a generic and token commitment to our descendants, we should recognize their wellbeing as a primary motivation for accomplishing goals.
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