Bernard Williams' Paper The Makropulos Case

1995 Words8 Pages
In his paper “The Makropulos case: reflections on the tedium of immortality” Bernard Williams asserts his central claim that when immortality is feasible it is intolerable; further, it is reasonable to regard death as an evil. He argues his position by utilization of The Makropulos case, or the case of E.M. This character and circumstance is derived from a play by Karel Capek. E.M. is a woman of three hundred and forty two years. She has survived so long due to an immortality draught concocted by her father, a physician, long before the play’s action. E.M. explains her problem with immortality is that her unending life has become incredibly dull, her emotions have become cold and indifferent. She feels that in the end, everything…show more content…
What Lucretius’ claims boil down to is that it does not matter the length of life or when dying occurs, death is never bad. The deprivation account of death can illustrate the opposing view, which death is bad if the person who is to die loses out on the “good” things in life. This idea of deprivation brings us back to E.M. and her long life of boredom. Williams uses the term categorical desires to describe those accomplishments in life that one typically strives for, usually through inherently motivating factors. This is contrasted by contingent desires, those ephemeral or fleeting desires that are sought to achieve immediate gratification. One reason E.M. may have been entirely dissatisfied with her only three hundred and forty two years life (short lived when discussing immortality) could be that she subconsciously decided she no longer held desires that life could provide. Death was not “bad” for her because she had already accomplished all she had wanted to, and had no more desires to fulfill that death would interrupt. If anything, this confirms that death is relatively good if one has run out of entertaining prospects in their life. The inverse is true as well under the deprivation account: that death is bad if one is still in the process of achieving desires. Pushing the idea further, it does appear that immortality is a positive thing when an

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