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Immortality Reader’s Guide

By Stephen Cave

Immortality by Stephen Cave


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Would you want to live forever? Do you think a never-ending life would lose its meaning? Or be boring?

2. Cave mentions the psychological experiments that show how all worldviews help us to deal with the fear of death (ʻTerror Management Theoryʼ). Do you think this is true? Does it fit with your experience?

3. Cave argues that there are four paths to immortality. Do you recognise them in our contemporary culture? Are you on any of them?

4. The first ʻimmortality narrativeʼ that Cave discusses is simply Staying Alive. Do you think science and technology will ever enable us to stay alive forever?

5. If science and technology could allow us to stay alive forever, do you think they should? What ethical considerations do you see on either side of the argument?

6. The second immortality narrative Cave introduces is Resurrection. If God or some omnipotent future scientists could reanimate a corpse—or re-create someone—would it really be the same person as the one who died?

7. Caveʼs third immortality narrative is the Soul. Do you think we have one? What do you make of the evidence from neuroscience that suggests the human mind and personality are dependent on the brain?

8. The fourth immortality narrative is Legacy. Do you hope to leave one? Would you sacrifice your life for eternal fame as Achilles did? Do you believe you can live on as part of your nation, gene pool, or of Gaia—the sum total of life on Earth?

9. How plausible do you find the ʻWisdom narrativeʼ that Cave sketches in chapter ten? Do you think we can accept the fact of mortality?

10. Do you agree with the ʻthree virtuesʼ that Cave argues could help us to cope with mortality? Do you have other suggestions?

11. Are you afraid of death? Why, or why not?

12. In what way has this book changed your beliefs about life and death?

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