Philosophical Models of Immortality in Science Fiction

(transl. Sylwia Wilczewska, Marcin Iwanicki)

  • John Martin Fischer University of California, Riverside
  • Ruth Curl University of California, Riverside
Keywords: immortality; philosophical models of immortality; science fiction


Science fiction is often described as a literary genre well suited to philosophical speculation. SF and philosophy share a common interest in the question of immortality, and comparisons and contrasts can be made regarding their respective treatments of the theme. We propose here a sketch of a taxonomy of different models or pictures of immortality offered by philosophers and SF writers. After noting important difference in these models, we suggest that some problems and concerns expressed by philosophers and SF writers alike are the result of conflating different models. It is our hope that these comparisons provide a preliminary sense of the way SF can be said to function as philosophical discourse.


Bear, Greg. Blood Music. New York: Ace Books, 1986 [pol. Pieśń krwi, przeł. Krzysztof Sokołowski. Warszawa: Alfa, 1992].

Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End. New York: Ballantine Books, 1980.

Fischer, John Martin (red.). The Metaphysics of Death. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.

Gernsback, Hugo. Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660. New York: Frederick Fell, 1950.

Heinlein, Robert A. Methuselah’s Children. New York: Signet Books, 1958 [skrót: MC].

Horwich, Paul. Asymmetries in Time. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987.

Parfit, Derek. Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984 [pol. Racje i osoby, przeł. Witold Maria Hensel i Michał Warchala. Warszawa: PWN, 2013].

Rucker, Rudy. Software. New York: Ace Books, 1982.

Williams, Bernard. The Makropulos Case: Reflections of the Tedium of Immortality, 82–100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973 [pol. „Sprawa Makropulos: refleksje nad nudą nieśmiertelności”, przeł. Tomasz Duliński, w: Bernard Williams, Ile wolności powinna mieć wolna wola? i inne eseje z filozofii moralnej, przeł. Tadeusz Baszniak, Tomasz Duliński, Michał Szczubiałka, 65–87. Warszawa: Fundacja Aletheia, 1999].