I stand corrected: Death is already included in the full life-coherence principle!

Prof Jeff Noonan Philosophy for Workers Spring 2010


“The good life for human beings must be a life that is realizable on earth—it must be a good that accords with our finite, embodied nature. Thus the good for human beings, Noonan concluded, is the free-realization of our defining life-capacities, within the limits that nature and a finite lifespan impose. His current research continues to develop the implications of this materialist ethics. His current book project is examining the existential dimensions of human finitude, defending the life value of human limitations against a naive and potentially destructive technotopianism.”

The Life-Value of Death : Mortality, Finitude, and Meaningful Lives

Jeff Noonan

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.3, No.1 (January 2013):1-23


In his seminal reflection on the badness of death, Nagel links it to the permanent loss “of whatever good there is in living.” I will argue, following McMurtry, that “whatever good there is in living” is defined by the life-value of resources, institutions, experiences, and activities. Enjoyed expressions of the human capacities to experience the world, to form relationships, and to act as creative agents are (with important qualifications) intrinsically life-valuable, the reason why anyone would desire to go on living indefinitely. As Nagel argues, “the fact that we will eventually die in a few score years cannot by itself imply that it would not be good to live longer. If there is no limit to the amount of life that it would be good to have, then it may be that a bad end is in store for all of us.” In this paper I want to question whether in fact there is no limit to the amount of life it would be good to have. My general conclusion will be that it is not the case that the eternal or even indefinite prolongation of any particular individual life necessarily increases life-value. Were death thus somehow removed as an inescapable limiting frame on human life, overall reductions of life-value would be the consequence. Individual and collective life would lose those forms of moral and material life-value that form the bases of life’s being meaningful and purposive.

[PDF] [Repository] Open Access


Materialist Ethics and Life-Value (McGill-Queen’s Studies in the History of Ideas) 

Publication Date: February 2, 2012


“Current patterns of global economic activity are not only unsustainable, but unethical – this claim is central to Materialist Ethics and Life-Value. Grounding the definition of ethical value in the natural and social requirements of life-support and life-development shared by all human beings, Jeff Noonan provides a new way of understanding the universal conception of “the good life.”

Noonan argues that the true crisis affecting the world today is not sluggish rates of economic growth but the model of measuring economic and social health in terms of money-value. In response, he develops an alternative understanding of good societies where the breadth and depth of life-activity and enjoyment are dependent on dominant institutions. The more social institutions satisfy the necessary requirements of human life, the more they empower each person to develop and enjoy the capacities that make human life valuable and meaningful.

A well-reasoned synthesis of traditional philosophical concerns and contemporary critiques of global capitalism, this book is a forward-looking treatise that defends political struggle and reconsiders what is most important for a happy life.”

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