“Review of Gilbert Meilaender’s Should We Live Forever? The Ethical Ambiguities of Aging” by Jenny Hoffman

Jenny Hoffman
Jenny Hoffman

Jenny Hoffman is associate managing editor at Eerdmans. She here shares her thoughts on Gilbert Meilaender’s Should We Live Forever?

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Most of us are grateful for the good gift that is our life. We enjoy our lives, for the most part, and we want them to continue. However natural death may be, most of us aren’t exactly looking forward to its approach. So we’re grateful for the scientific and medical advances that have increased the average life span.

For some people, these advances aren’t enough. They want human beings to be able to live significantly longer and stay healthy and active longer. And their goal is understandable. It’s natural to want to postpone death and extend life. After all, life is a pretty good gift, and we don’t want it to end.

But others are going farther yet. They want to extend human life indefinitely. They’re aiming at immortality.

In his new book, Should We Live Forever? Gilbert Meilaender addresses the ethics of the life-extension project. In his usual clear and careful style, he examines some of the life-extension ideas out there and the philosophies behind them. He affirms the desire for life, but he also points out serious concerns with the desire to live forever:

Should We Live Forever?
Should We Live Forever?
  • What does extending human life do to our ability to appreciate life as something with stages, with a beginning, middle, and end?
  • If human beings could live indefinitely, what effect would this have on how generations relate to each other?
  • How does the life-extension project arise out of the old understanding of the soul as good and the body as evil?
  • How does the attempt to live forever relate to how we understand ourselves in relation to God (“I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death . . .”)?

This is a book that acknowledges the tension between wanting more life and accepting that a good life will include a decline and end. It’s a book that addresses not just living longer, but flourishing as human beings. Readers will find this book a thoughtful, careful study of the ethical issues surrounding aging and the desire to postpone death.

Click to order Gilbert Meilaender’s Should We Live Forever? The Ethical Ambiguities of Aging.