Pugmire lectures on importance of mortality

Pugmire lectured on mortality in the time of the supermouse, a genetically-modified mouse with an extended lifespan. Tim Nagle-McNaughton
Pugmire lectured on mortality in the time of the supermouse, a genetically-modified mouse with an extended lifespan. Tim Nagle-McNaughton

On Thursday in Schapiro Hall, the College’s philosophy department hosted David Pugmire, professor of philosophy at the University of Southampton in England. He delivered a lecture and conducted a question and answer session.

Pugmire, whose brother attended the College, studies the philosophy of emotions, but he delivered his lecture on his view of mortality in response to the development of the supermouse.

In 2007, the supermouse was developed in the United States. This mouse has a modification in a single gene for metabolism with effects that increase its life span. The modification increases the capacity for the organism to convert sugar to energy without the use of lactic acid. This mouse can keep its original body weight while eating twice as much food and can bare a litter at three years of age, the equivalent of a human bearing offspring at the age of 80. This discovery is seen as a step in the direction of achieving immortality. While many people look at this as a positive concept, Pugmire questions, “Should we rejoice in the supermouse?”

Pugmire defines and views death as the extinction of the cell, thus viewing immortality as something that evades death. He talked about human perceptions of death as something that hangs over us, like a “shadow of tragedy” that if eliminated would provide relief to much of the population. In his lecture he challenged this view. He called for the consideration of how the passage of time affects the human experience. If humans are mortal, Pugmire stated, “We can have special and pivotal moments that shape life as a whole and acquire meaning.”

“Our kind of life is life that is affected by being destined to end,” Pugmire said. He explained that because a mortal lifetime has a time constraint, it is possible to have experiences that stand out from others; however, when life can continue infinitely, there is a constant search for a replacement form of previous experiences. Pugmire believes that by achieving immortality, humans would sacrifice one of the most important aspects of life: the self. In a finite lifetime, humans can discover and achieve the self that defines them; yet, in an infinite lifetime, they have an unending amount of time to create several different selves, and therefore to not establish an identity. “Finite life precipitates identity and this power of mortality can matter more to people than they realize,” Pugmire said.

Pugmire believes this concept is the backbone to the problem of boredom that is frequently equated with immortality. If everything that is meaningful and sensible to a person happens early on in their infinite life, they may become bored of living and searching for a fulfillment similar to the one they have already received. He briefly addressed the idea that it’s possible for an interest of life to grow, not fade, yet argued that this is unlikely.

Pugmire concluded with an analysis of what our attitude toward death should be. “There would me more of life, but not more to it. One could almost say that death puts life into living.” He believes that there should be an awareness of death, but not a focus on it, stating that the prospect of death can energize the life one has. To tie together his argument, he finished with a quotation and analogy of death to the sun. Pugmire stated, “We can’t stare directly at the sun because it blinds us to the world we have while day lasts.”

Comments (2)

  1. I don’t know if the writer of this article realizes, that most people seem to think that there is some form of live after we are dead here on this planet. The place were this takes place is sometimes called heaven.
    I think it would make more sense to not grow old an be dead. This is how i see it.

    Homo Immortalis Omnipotent
    Living in “Infinite Space-Time”! No more “human created secondhand God’s”!

    The function assigned to GOD is now available through understanding
    the Universe we are part of. We will be the Engineers of our own body chemistry, in the Infinity of Space-Time we can live forever.

    Biotechnology will control the “aging process” (we don’t wear out, but are DNA programmed to age), and “involuntary death” will not exist any more.

    Science, Gene Engineering, Nano Technology, Epigenesis, Astrophysics
    etc. and Extra Terrestrial Migration will allow for “Goal Oriented Evolution”, leading to HOMO IMMORTALIS OMNIPOTENT.

    The fact that you are reading this is a good sign.

    Many people know that we all have to die, so anything that may undermine that believe will be avoided.

    If this would be information confirming that there is life after death, which is something many of us deem possible, we would be more inclined to believe it. The reason is, that once we have formed a believe and have been influenced accordingly, we are more reluctant to reevaluate our acceptance of it.

    Since I grew up in a katholik environment I was sure that by following the rules, I would go to heaven and presumable not be dead.

    I am now over seventy years old and have lived and loved on five Continents. With the information and experiences I have been exposed to, I have come to the conclusion, that science will make it possible that we can keep on living here, instead of dying and going to heaven.

    You may be inclined to believe in some form of life in heaven, because that is the opinion of confirmed authorities. I can assure you, that looking for information based on up to date science, leading to youthfulness and the avoidance of death, will not do any harm, but may give you more time to do so.

    You probably ask, what is this about?

    It is like a quantum leap. A move to a new state of being. In the material world it would be like the jump from the atom to a mineral. Or from a multicellular organism to a cerebral animal. Or from a culture that depends on an “idealized self projected image (God)”, to provide protection and escape from annihilation , to a society that uses science and technology to solve the problems of sickness and death.

    The tools that propelled us from primates to “Homo sapiens sapiens”, will now be developed, so we will evolve to Homo Immortalis Omnipotent.

    Of course there will be opposition from institutions that now have the monopoly on “Life after death”. They should not worry, because our need for entertainment will always exist. Even sincere moral and religious disapproval should not divert us from taking this next step in evolution.

    Just like the hydrogen atom did not know that it would become the planet we now live on, even though it already contained the basic code leading to the status quo. We will realize that the abilities that we have assigned to our God’s, are now for us to acquire.

    The only limit is our imagination! Freedom from death now!

  2. One could, of course, respond to the premise of Mr. Schickentanz’s post by noting Marx’s observation that “religion is the opiate of the masses” … given the paucity of any scientific or empirical evidence supporting a concept such as “heaven”, or even “God.”

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