chapter  29
11 Pages

Kierkegaard and the Desirability of Immortality

WithAdam Buben

Kierkegaard has a lot to offer when it comes to the question of the desirability of immortality. In addition to his more explicit discussions of immortality, Kierkegaard’s writings provide a variety of other resources to those interested in debating the merits of living forever. These interested parties have mostly been found amongst secular analytic philosophers over the last few decades, but despite his somewhat different pedigree, there has been a growing number of attempts to insert Kierkegaard into these debates. It turns out that his views on not only immortality, but also on boredom and what makes life of any length worth living are especially helpful in combatting pessimists like Bernard Williams, who argues that an immortal of consistent character would necessarily become profoundly bored (and it would not even take very long for it to happen). From the famous early crop rotation analogy to various later claims about perpetual progress and the cultivation of responsible selfhood, Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms appear to be friends of immortality. However, Kierkegaard’s full potential for contribution on this topic has not always been properly understood. On the analytic side of things, it was John Martin Fischer’s attention that was the catalyst for Kierkegaard’s involvement in this debate, and more recently, continental philosophers like Iain Thomson and Mark Wrathall have offered increasingly nuanced analyses of what Kierkegaard is up to. Considering all of this (and other recent work) together in one place will allow a more accurate and consistent picture of his views to emerge. Even if Kierkegaard, who does not take up the question of the desirability of immortality in precisely the same sense as Williams, comes down on neither side of the debate unequivocally, it is clear that he leans more in one direction than the other.