Immortality The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization

ISBN-10: 0307884910

ISBN-13: 9780307884916

Edition: 2011

Authors: Stephen Cave

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A fascinating work of history and popular philosophy that both enlightens and entertains, Stephen Cave’sImmortalityinvestigates whether it just might be possible to live forever and whether we should want to. But it also makes a powerful argument, which is that it’s our verypreoccupationwith defying mortality that drives civilization.            Central to this book is the metaphor of a mountaintop where one can find the Immortals. Since the dawn of humanity, everyone—whether they know it or not—has been trying to climb that mountain. But there are only four paths up its treacherous slope, and there have onlyeverbeen four paths. Throughout history, people have wagered everything on their choice of the correct path, and fought wars against those who’ve chosen differently.            WhileImmortalitytakes the reader on an eye-opening journey from the beginnings of civilization to the present day, the structure is not chronological. Rather it is path-driven. As each path is revealed to us, a historical figure serves as our guide. And it is through these diverse individuals—Nefertiti, a Pharaoh’s wife who marshaled the resources of Egypt to make herself immortal; Linus Pauling, who pinned his hopes for infinite longevity on the promise of vitamins; Mary Shelley, whose novelFrankensteinanticipated the science of reanimation; and Alexander the Great, whose unparalleled conquests were an attempt to outdo the gods—that we come to understand how much of civilization owes itself to our deep need to see our essence endure.           In drawing back the curtain on what compels humans to “keep on keeping on,” Cave engages the reader in a number of mind-bending thought experiments. He teases out the implications of each immortality gambit, asking, for example, how long a person would live if theydidmanage to acquire a perfectly disease-free body. Or what would happen if a super-being tried to round up the atomic constituents of all who’ve died in order to resurrect them. Or what our loved ones would really be doing in heaven if itdoesexist. Or what part of us actuallylivesin a work of art, and how long that work of art can survive.            Toward the book’s end, we’re confronted with a series of brain-rattling questions: What would happen if tomorrow humanity discovered that there is no life but this one? Would people continue to care about their favorite sports team, please their boss, vie for the title of Year’s Best Salesman?Would three-hundred-year projects still get started? If the four paths up the Mount of the Immortals lead nowhere—if there is no getting up to the summit—is therestillreason to live? And can civilization survive?           Immortalityis a deeply satisfying book, as optimistic about the human condition as it is insightful about the true arc of history.
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Book details

List price: $29.95
Copyright year: 2011
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 4/3/2012
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 336
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.75" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.188
Language: English

A Beautiful Woman Has Come
The Four Paths to Immortality
Staying Alive
Magic Barriers
Civilization and the Elixir of Life
The Vitamin Cure
Science Versus the Reaper
ST. Pauls and the Cannibals
The Rise of Resurrection
Frankenstein Redux
The Modern Reanimators
Beatrice's Smile
What Happens in Paradise
The Lost Soul
Reincarnation and the Evidence of Science
Look on My Works, Ye Mighty
Everlasting Fame
The Immortal Seed
Genes, Gaia and the Things in Between
He Who Saw The Deep
Wisdom and Mortality
Notes and Further Reading
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