1. What does Samuel Scheffler ask us to reflect on, and what is his implicit view of Woody Allen's immortality joke?
2. What does Scheffler consider the primary condition or prerequisite for having a life? (Or, what must we do in order to live?)
3. Scheffler says confidence in a natural, collective afterlife is a condition of what?
4. How does he think most of us would respond to the 30-day doomsday scenario? What projects and activities seem least likely to be affected?
5. What's the purpose of traditions?
6. How does Scheffler think the world would react to the Children of Men infertility scenario?
- Do you aspire to immortality in any form? Do you find Woody Allen's joke funny? Why (not)?
- Do you agree that "valuing things... makes sense only against a background of temporal scarcity"? Either way, should we not just resent or regret death but fear it? Should we, for Epicurean reasons, try hard not to? Or, for eastern-philosophical reasons, not try?
- Make a short list of things that matter to you, along with a brief hypothetical post-mortem status update. Do you care? Does it matter? Can you say why? [Baseball, for instance, baseball matters to me. If I live to just age 101, I'll miss the World Series of 2059 when (hypothetically) the Cardinals might beat the Red Sox in seven games. I care, it matters. Why shouldn't it?]
- What do you think of John Dewey's epitaph?
Dewey’s epitaph, on the UVM campus in Burlington, Vermont:
Class of '79
“The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving, transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received, that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it.”
A Common Faith, conclusion
- Do you agree with Dr. Flicker? Or with Bertrand Russell, that nobody really worries much about what's going to happen in the distant future?
- Do you have a bucket list? If you complete it and then encounter the doomsday or infertility scenario, will your reaction be different than it would have been otherwise?