Immortality Book Summary - Immortality Book explained in key points

Immortality summary

Stephen Cave

The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization

3.5 (16 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

Immortality by Stephen Cave explores the four different ways humans have been pursuing immortality since the beginning of civilization, through religion, science, creative legacy, and myth. It enlightens readers on the different aspects of human concepts of life everlasting.

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    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    The knowledge of our own death is what separates us from all other life-forms.

    Do you ever lie in bed contemplating your death – the moment the Grim Reaper finally knocks at your door? We know that it will come one day, yet we still hope it never will. Why is it that we suffer from these kinds of thoughts?

    For starters, like all other living things, humans are “survival machines”; our ultimate aim is to stay alive at all costs. This struggle for survival is carried out through the evolutionary process of adaptation and reproduction: the individuals with the fittest genes are most likely to reproduce, thus extending its likeness into the future through its posterity.  

    What makes humans unique, however, is that we struggle to survive with the full knowledge that we will nonetheless die one day. This desire to survive and knowledge of our own demise leads to something called the mortality paradox.

    On the one hand, surrounded by deaths of animals and other people, we know very well that we’re going to die at some point. On the other, we can’t actually imagine the experience of death, i.e., we cannot conceive non-existence.

    Just try it: imagine your own death. What do you see? A tombstone? A funeral? You may think that you are imagining death, but in fact you aren’t. Being dead means that there is no you to consciously contemplate these situations; we have no way to experience or even imagine what it’s like to not exist.

    Hence the paradox: our perception of death is both inevitable (as we all will die) and impossible (since we cannot imagine the experience of death).

    So what do we do when faced with this paradox? Our desire to survive and our inability to comprehend what it is like to not exist makes us look for ways to cheat death altogether, i.e., strive for immortality. The following blinks will explain how we go about this.

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    What is Immortality about?

    Immortality explores humanity’s drive to live forever and the constructive and destructive forces that accompany it. The book elaborates on the various ways that we try to achieve eternal life, and ultimately offers us some advice on how to cope with our mortality.

    Immortality Review

    Immortality (2012) is a captivating exploration of the human desire for eternal life and the various means we pursue to achieve it. Here's why this thought-provoking book is definitely worth reading:

    • It delves into historical, philosophical, and scientific perspectives, providing a well-rounded analysis of immortality throughout the ages.
    • Through compelling storytelling and insightful research, the book challenges our beliefs and prompts us to contemplate the nature of life and death.
    • With its engaging narrative style and thought-provoking questions, it seamlessly blends intellectual rigor with accessible explanations, making it anything but boring.

    Best quote from Immortality

    Life is a constant war we are doomed to lose.

    —Stephen Cave
    example alt text

    Who should read Immortality?

    • Anyone interested in the question of the meaning of life (and death)
    • Anyone who wants to know about what drives our civilization’s development
    • Anyone who laments their the short time they have left to spend on Earth

    About the Author

    Stephen Cave holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, and worked as a diplomat before beginning his career in writing. He writes regularly for the Financial Times and has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian, Wired and other publications.

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    Immortality FAQs 

    What is the main message of Immortality?

    Immortality explores the human desire for eternal life and the philosophical implications of our mortality.

    How long does it take to read Immortality?

    Reading time for Immortality varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Immortality a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Immortality is a thought-provoking read that challenges our beliefs about life and death.

    Who is the author of Immortality?

    The author of Immortality is Stephen Cave.