With the help of medicine and technology we are living longer than ever before. As human life spans have increased, the moral and political issues surrounding longevity have become more complex. Should we desire to live as long as possible? What are the social ramifications of longer lives? How does a longer life span change the way we think about the value of our lives and about death and dying? Christine Overall offers a clear and intelligent discussion of the philosophical and cultural issues surrounding this difficult and often emotionally charged issue. Her book is unique in its comprehensive presentation and evaluation of the arguments—both ancient and contemporary—for and against prolonging life. It also proposes a progressive social policy for responding to dramatic increases in life expectancy.
Writing from a feminist perspective, Overall highlights the ways that our biases about race, class, and gender have affected our views of elderly people and longevity, and her policy recommendations represent an effort to overcome these biases. She also covers the arguments surrounding the question of the "duty to die" and includes a provocative discussion of immortality. After judiciously weighing the benefits and the risks of prolonging human life, Overall persuasively concludes that the length of life does matter and that its duration can make a difference to the quality and value of our lives. Her book will be an essential guide as we consider our social responsibilities, the meaning of human life, and the prospects of living longer.
Christine Overall is Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She is author of Thinking Like a Woman: Personal Life and Political Ideas (2001), A Feminist I: Reflections from Academia (1998), and Human Reproduction: Principles, Practices, Policies (1993), among other books.
"Is a longer life a good in itself? Christine Overall carefully explores the philosophical tradition and current arguments to conclude that living a longer life is better. For those who believe that philosophy should concern real issues of everyday life that genuinely matter to our ability to live well, this book is essential."—Joan Tronto, author of Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care
"This terrific book should be read by anybody who wants to think clearly about aging, death, or longevity. It takes on the widespread opposition to systematic social attention to prolonging healthy life, laying bare some of its unsavory underpinnings (ageism, sexism, etc.). It also encourages us to think creatively about what longer life could offer us and humanity as a whole."—Laura Purdy, author of Reproducing Persons
"Christine Overall provides a precise, no-nonsense approach to questions of aging and death. Her analyses sparkle with clarity as she dismantles the arguments for a 'duty to die'; and her moral commitments give rise to workable, urgent social policies. Death is accepted as the termination of life; but not as its focus or meaning: in the end, this is a book that does not fetishize death; it celebrates life!"—Grace M. Jantzen, author of Becoming Divine: Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion
Canadian Philosophical Association Book Award, Canadian Philosophical Association