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Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization
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Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  47 reviews
A fascinating work of popular philosophy and history that both enlightens and entertains, Stephen Cave’s Immortality investigates 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 very preoccupation with defying mortality that drives civilization.

Central to this book is the metapho
ebook, 336 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Crown (first published January 1st 2012)
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Stephen Cave Hi Armand. An ebook is available from Random House, the US publishers. If you go here
and near the top right…more
Hi Armand. An ebook is available from Random House, the US publishers. If you go here
and near the top right click eBook.
Best, Stephen(less)
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Stephen Cave
Jan 22, 2013 Stephen Cave rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Well, I like it. Okay, I'm biased.
Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization by Stephen Cave

" Immortality" is the fascinating and thought-provoking book about life, death and civilization. It's about humankind's quest by one or a combination of four paths that promise immortality and whether any of these paths can deliver on that promise. Finally, with the newfound wisdom it's about following a philosophy of life that provides us with a meaningful existence. Stephen Cave holds a Ph.D. in philosophy fro
It is nature, after all, that decrees that we must die—that causes our joints to seize up, our skin to wrinkle and cancer to strike. In order to live forever, we must, like the gods, rise above these natural limits. This therefore is the grand project of science, its answer to the Mortality Paradox: death and disease might be what nature intends for us, but we can master nature and thwart her plans. The founding fathers of the scientific method were quite explicit about this. René Descartes, for ...more
Finally, someone has put in context my existential angst (which I have written about on my blog).

Beyond that, Stephen Cave has provided hope to those of us who simply cannot buy into any of what he calls the four "immortality narratives:" staying alive, resurrection, soul, and legacy.

The book leads the reader on a fascinating journey through the history of philosophical thought as it relates to death and our quest for immortality. Cave uses stories--mostly of history and mythology--to bring his
Clark Hays
Spoiler alert: We're all gonna die.

It's a given. There's an expiration date stamped in barely legible ink somewhere on our persons. Even though we can’t see it, we can feel it. We know it’s there. And yet as a species, we humans go to great lengths to convince ourselves it doesn’t apply. The tension that exists between the reality of this and the mental contortions we go through to create imaginary escape routes to avoid acceptance, according to author Stephen Cave, is the engine that powers ci
May 20, 2012 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosophers, history buffs,
Immortality: Just imagine if nobody died...

From the preface: "This is a book about life, death and civilization."

For those who think that this is a boring treatise on any or all of the three topics listed above, they might be surprised to see how insightful British philosopher and author Stephen Cave's Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization actually is, as from the very beginning we get pulled right into it.

Again from the preface, which is entitled 'A Beautiful Wom
This was an easy read but well-thought-out look into what the fear of dying prompts us to do. The author does a good job at categorizing the various ways people try to stave off death, return from it, or survive it in another form. Each approach has its appeal but also a significant Achilles's heel. We are left at the end with an approach that accommodates the fear of death and the difficulty in believing we actually will totally die. Did I learn anything staggeringly new? No, but this book is a ...more
Roger K.
This book is not a must-read, yet is a solid introduction to thinking about what it really means to want to live forever. Cave's theme is explicitly stated in the title, and he marshals a fair amount of evidence in support of it.

Cave outlines four approaches to "living forever" - not dying, resurrection, the ongoing soul, and legacy (my terms, not necessarily Cave's). He examines the history and current state of the art around each idea.

He eventually comes to the conclusion that none of the pat
Sean Goh
5 stars for the amount that it made me think.
TED talk based on this book here:

The basic premise is that the will to project ourselves into the future indefinitely is the foundation of human achievement, the wellspring of civilisation. All animals seek to preserve and reproduce themselves, but only humans want to do so forever. This is achieved through four main narratives.

1. Living Forever
2. Resurrection
3. Soul
4. Legacy

Our evolved mind allows us to know
This one was a really tricky one. Authors argumentation was often interesting and to the point. I liked the fact that author also provided his versions of arguments and did not copy it from the debates he was mentioning. His explanations were clear and to the point. The problems started however at the late parts of the book when author started to promote his own theories. There he often fall prey to the "sour grapes" like explanations (like: it is not worth to live forever because its boring/tir ...more
Wide scope, difficult subject matter, and proper treatment. The author has a Ph.D in philosophy from Cambridge, and his work ethic in research shows. He examines four popular myths of immortality (not dying, resurrection, the existence of a soul, legacy through works or children) and dissects each in a respectful but logical way, against a thorough background of sociology, history of religion, and philosophy. Each chapter is better than the one before, leading to an exciting conclusion. The last ...more
May 20, 2014 Cyndie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cyndie by: Goodreads
Shelves: non-fiction
Has the desire to live forever created human civilization? The definition has to be cast broadly, but Stephen Cave makes his case. "Staying Alive" and leaving our "Legacy" (our children) certainly fuel most of our actions as humans including creating social groups, and in theory, through evolution, these two things determine all that we do.

I remain unconvinced whether art and religion are a side effect of our evolution or truly an effect of the "Mortality Paradox" a psychological imperative Mr.
Baal Of
Interesting book in which the author handily address the claims and ideas behind the various immortality narratives, as he calls them. He is at his best when taking on these claims directly, and showing where they fail. For example, when talking about how theologians tie themselves in knots attempting to describe heaven, as the possible locations for such a place get pushed further and further out of possibility, capped off with a quote from motherfucker Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, ...more
Mike Smith
Philosopher Steven Cave argues that humans have invented 4 "immortality narratives" to resolve what he calls the Mortality Paradox. The paradox is that we, as intelligent beings, know that we will die, but we cannot imagine what it's like to actually be dead. We therefore try to find ways to become immortal and so avoid the unimaginable state of death. Cave argues that attempts to become immortal have driven the development of all human cultures.

The immortality narrative he calls "Staying Alive"
One's own death is a terrible topic to contemplate. It's an eventuality and certainty that we all know is unavoidable but for the betterment of our own lives we think of it as little as possible. Hopes are hung on the prospects for shades of immortality if not the miracle outright thanks to our present rate of scientific advancement.

While it may some day be possible to greatly extend human lifespans if not eliminate natural death completely there are a vast number of implications on our lives an
The case for and against immortality in its various forms (resurrection of the body, an immortal soul, living forever by overcoming the causes of death, and living on via one's offspring or one's cultural achievements) is examined through the lens of science, philosophy, art, and culture. Cave writes for the layperson in a conversational tone and presents his arguments clearly and definitively.

There is not much that is really new in this book, but it is a great synthesis of ancient and modern th
I would have to characterize the majority of this book as the juvenile philosophical ravings of an apparent atheist, intent upon elevating the limited physical perceptions of modern humanity into universal truths. This author seems caught in the same quagmire that binds many atheists: that being an inability to understand that the five human senses are capable of perceiving only a minute portion of all that is. Hence, confining ones religious sensibilities to only what has been revealed by scien ...more
A philosophical discussion, and dissection, of one of our uniquely human traits: self-awareness of our own mortality. Dr. Cave is as logical as one can be when taking on inherently non-scientific subjects such as faith and belief. His conversational approach to writing, as well as the use of popular historical stories, makes this somewhat heady, philosophical book very approachable and easy to understand. His conclusions can seem uncomplete at times, especially regarding humankind's inner connec ...more
It is a well-rounded exploration and analysis of the definitiveness of mortality and the concept of immortality, as they become manifest in their relationship with narratives, science, religions etc. My one problem with the book was that though the "mortality paradox" is plausible and comprehensible, I'm not sure about what comes with the second stage. Human beings indeed cannot conceive of their own non-existence but I need a more convincing argument regarding that direct link between inconceiv ...more
Pieter Pompies
Very enjoyable read on an uncomfortable topic. Not often that you get "page-turners" in non-fiction, - and especially so in philosophy. This book succeeds in being exactly that. This is due to the fact that it is targeted at the non-philosopher and at anyone who seriously contemplates the big questions in life. I especially appreciated how the author highlighted the conceptual problems of digital immortality. This could become a very sensitive moral and ethical issue in the future.
A highly recom
A well researched and very readable book. It takes the reader on a carefully planned journey through man's quest for immortality; the style is approachable, with enjoyable touches of humour, tongue in cheek and crisply dry at times. I particularly liked the summary approach to historical detail.

I felt that Cave really needed to have discussed his ideas with a section of the population of maturer years. I found his basic premise, that humankind is terrified of death, rather too sweeping. A cleare
Certainly an interesting discussion of death and the consequences of our fear of death. I particularly could relate to the argument that we don't need religion and an afterlife to act morally toward our fact, of our worst actions are the direct result of our beliefs in such institutions.
Nancy Butts
Book by non-practicing philosopher (Cambridge PhD) about why immortality is an illusion fostered by our awareness of mortality and our fear of death. He examines and dismantles four "paths" or narratives about immortality: prolonging life indefinitely, physical resurrection, eternal soul, and leaving a legacy. He opts instead for what he calls the fifth or wisdom narrative, which consists of three things: connecting to something larger than oneself, enjoying the moment, and gratitude. To me, thi ...more
Thought provoking, stimulating and, if you watch the author give a talk on TED about his subject, this gives a weighty background to the summary of ideas he presents at that conference - which was what inspired me to buy this book.
D.C. Lozar
A very well written argument for why we seek to leave parts of ourselves behind and how it has shaped history – also a wonderful perspective on Alexander the Great and several other key characters in history – wonderful book overall.
"We must find a way of appreciating the present while acknowledging that the stream of moments might extend some way yet. This is a balance. We could put it like this: live so you will have no regrets if you die tomorrow but also no regrets if you don't." -And to think that this book was an impulse buy. Feels like I've struck gold after going through the first few pages. Brilliant book.
Angus Macphee
Some interesting thoughts but really the author is just going through each immortality narrative and tearing it apart in accordance to modern knowledge and thinking. Very rarely are specific studies referenced and most of the book doesn't talk about much about how civilization is pushed forward by a search for immortality, just that there is no such thing as immortality. Chapter after chapter is spent just debunking the immortality myth.
I don't buy into some of the arguments against the four immortality narratives used by Cave, but the overall theme resonated with me, and I agree with Cave's conclusions. This is probably the best book against the supernatural, far outshining any writing of the current batch of professional atheists.

Although I recommend this book to my believing friends as a valuable exercise in understanding the constructs of the afterlife.
Still reading this book. Interesting. Author divides up the quest for immortality into sections to help organize thoughts. Alas, somehow the writing and analysis is a bit too glib for me. Writing style too pedantic. I wanted more in depth links between the desire for living forever and civilizations as a whole, not just the kings, queens, pharaohs, priests, and conquerors. I wanted more about how common people view immortality.
Graham Mumm
A step by step walk through the primary driver of the human civilization--The quest for immortality. Truly insightful and nothing like I've ever read before, combining ancient history, religion, philosophy, and modern science for an ultimate understanding of our human nature and what it really means to become immoral.

I don't say this often, but this is a must-read for, well, everyone.
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Stephen writes on a wide range of philosophical, ethical and scientific subjects, including for the Financial Times, New York Times, Wired and others. His first book Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization was published in spring 2012 and described by The Economist as "fascinating" and the New Scientist as "a must read" and a "best book of 2012".
Stephen earned a PhD i
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“We are therefore blessed with powerful minds yet at the same time cursed, not only to die, but to know that we must.” 0 likes
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