Longevity and the Good Life by Anthony Farrant (auth.)

By Anthony Farrant (auth.)

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Yet, Williams claims that there are some desires, categorical desires, which are not contingent upon our existence. He uses the example of a forward-looking rational suicide who ponders what possibilities lay before him or her and considers whether they want to actualise them. If the rational suicide decides to actualise a possibility, they do so because of a categorical desire (pp. 85–6). It is the suicide’s desire to fulfil the possibility that propels them into the future; the desire to fulfil this possibility provides the suicide with a reason for living, at least for the duration of the fulfilment of the desire, and this desire is not conditional on their existence.

It is because of the normal life span that Shakespeare’s death is not a greater misfortune than Proust’s. As a reasonable expectation for people, it will play a central role in assessing that Keats’s and Joe’s deaths are greater misfortunes than Tolstoy’s. Furthermore, because it is part of the background context, it The Misfortune of Death 39 will not vary between the actual world and the nearest possible world. What makes Joe’s death a greater misfortune than Tolstoy’s, despite the fact Tolstoy may be deprived of more of the goods of life, is the fact that Joe has not experienced as much of the fulfilment of his categorical desires as Tolstoy has of his.

These elements shape and are shaped by our activities and attachments, which provides life with its distinctive pattern. We are, however, not pure psychologies: we are embodied beings. Our bodies shape and contextualise the possibilities that are open to us, as a species and as individuals. They are our mode of existing in the world; it is through our bodies that we interact with the world, and with other people. Indeed, many of the constitutive elements of psychological continuity, particularly memories, are dependent upon our physical perspective on the world.

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