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Meaning in Life and the Knowledge of Death

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The Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Conference 2021

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This conference will explore the relation between our mortality (and the knowledge thereof) and our experience of meaningfulness (and meaninglessness), with particular focus on the question whether death undercuts meaning in life, as some life extensionists proclaim, or whether, on the contrary, meaning depends on our mortality.

Philosophical questions arising from our global community’s growing involvement in the human enhancement project have concentrated mainly on the question whether human enhancement in general, as well as particular suggested changes in the human condition (such as the retardation and possible reversal of ageing processes), are a) desirable or undesirable, and b) ethically permissible or impermissible. Yet changes of the human condition can only ever be seen as enhancements with respect to certain purposes that have to be assumed as worth pursuing. However, there is no agreement about which purposes are ultimately worth pursuing. The main difference between those that are generally in favour of human enhancement and those who adopt a more sceptical stance is that they have different views about what matters in life. Thus the whole human enhancement debate is, in its core, a debate about meaningfulness, and the questions that are being asked about the desirability and permissibility of certain forms of suggested enhancement cannot really be answered before the more general question about what gives meaning to our life has been answered in a satisfactory way.

The conference aims to increase our understanding of a) what meaning in life is: how it is to be understood, what its constituents are, and how it can be properly distinguished from other features that are commonly thought to be required for a good life, such as happiness, b) in what way, if any, mortality can be said to be detrimental to a life’s meaningfulness and what follows from this for the desirability of radical life extension and other (limit-removing) alterations of the present human condition, and c) in what way, if any, death and mortality can be said to be requisites or at least constituents of a meaningful life.

The conference will run from 13 - 15 July, 2021

2:00pm - 6:00pm on all three days.

Places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Please visit our conference page for further details.

This event will take place online. A zoom link will be circulated shortly before the event.

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