Life Extension and Mental Ageing

Philosophical Papers 41 (3):455-477 (2012)


Abstract Objections to life extension often focus on its effects for individual well-being. Prominent amongst these concerns is the possibility that life extending technologies will extend lifespan without preventing the ageing of the mind. Writers on the subject express the fear that life extending drugs will keep us physically youthful whilst our minds decay, succumbing to dementia, boredom, and loneliness. Generally these fears remain speculative, in part due to the absence of genuine life extending technologies. In this paper, however, I examine the implications of an existing life extension technology. Caloric restriction (CR) and drugs that mimic its effects, such as rapamycin, metformin and resveratrol have been shown to increase average and maximum lifespan in a wide variety of organisms, and seem likely to do so in humans. Moreover, some CR mimetic drugs (CRMs) are already widely used. This means that they present a pressing test case for fears about mental ageing in an extended life. Misgivings about mental ageing can be divided into biomedical factors such as the likelihood of brain ageing, and psychological factors such as loss of meaning and boredom. I argue that studies of CR suggest that brain ageing will be beneficially slowed. However, it is less clear that deleterious aspects of psychological ageing can be similarly retarded. I argue that this reduces the desirability of life extension unless major social changes can be made

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Christopher Wareham
University of Witwatersrand

References found in this work

Problems of the Self.Bernard A. O. Williams - 1973 - Cambridge University Press.
Is Living Longer Living Better?Larry S. Temkin - 2008 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (3):193-210.
Is the Immortal Life Worth Living?J. Jeremy Wisnewski - 2005 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 58 (1):27 - 36.

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Citations of this work

Between Hoping to Die and Longing to Live Longer.Christopher S. Wareham - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-20.
Genome Editing for Longer Lives: The Problem of Loneliness.C. S. Wareham - 2020 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 17 (2):309-314.
Substantial Life Extension and the Fair Distribution of Healthspans.Christopher S. Wareham - 2016 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 41 (5):521-539.
Slowed Ageing, Welfare, and Population Problems.Christopher Wareham - 2015 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 36 (5):321-340.

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