Bernard Williams, "The Makropulos case: reflections on the tedium of immortality" Without death it would seem life would not have meaning.
Bernard Williams argued that if humans were immortal, we would quickly become bored with our existence and feel no reason to want eternal life. Therefore, it is assumed that most people would not want to be immortal. Williams says we do not wish to be immortal for the following reasons, a) in order to live a meaningful life one must have categorical desires that one wants to satisfy.
b) eternal life is meaningless because death gives meaning to life, although not in the sense that fear of death gives meaning, and c) life would be meaningless without the ability to preserve a sense of self over time.
Without these factors listed above, the purpose of life would come into question. In order to want to be immortal we need to have meaning within our lives, without meaning there is no drive to exist. Just as Williams concludes that if we were truly immortal, we would end up bored with our existence. Therefore, if Williams is correct, immortality would truly be the greatest tedium.
At the beginning of Williams's paper, he introduces Elina's story, a story that Williams uses to argue about the tedium of immortality. Williams argued that if we were given the option to be truly immortal like Elina, then similar to her we would end up bored and mentally exhausted of our own existence. Williams claims that an immortal existence would truly be a meaningless one if we were to remain at a certain age for 300 years within the same state of being, where we would eventually lose sight of any categorical desires. For it was said, to live a life that is worthwhile is to have two types of desires. Categorical desires which are desires that organize one's goals and ambitions and contingent desires, which satisfy our immediate/ necessary desires which satisfy our needs and wants. Williams's argument would then follow that in order to have a meaningful life, one needs to have categorical desires. He makes it clear that contingent desires will not leave us fully satisfied due to the fact that they are short-lived desires and we would become desperately bored as Elina had become. So, therefore if one lived forever one would eventually as well become tired of their categorical desires, once satisfied, and literally become bored to death. Williams also brings up the idea that there can be unconditional categorical desires that are not conditional to being alive such as the idea of choosing an undesirable event rather than wanting to die, proving there are some desires that make people want to live. Therefore, Williams claims that it is not the conditional of being alive but actually, the desire whether or not to live. So Williams concludes that in order for humanity to survive, the motivation to survive needs to be greater than any other reason to do so. If we were immortal, we would eventually lack desires and ambitio...