Thursday, July 2, 2009

Life is short

It is a truism that life is short. But this truism is in tension with the very plausible claim that life-long commitments are hard. So which should go?

Or can it be, perhaps, that life-long commitments are hard—for those who have not existentially appropriated the shortness of life? If so, then we would have the following prediction: In societies where individuals are socially isolated from the fact of death, well-kept life-long commitments are more rare (either because life-long commitments are more rare, or because they are kept less well). I suppose this is one of those predictions that it would be really hard to make sufficiently precise to check.


David said...

I don't think there need be a tension between the two claims. What's hard about a life-long commitment might be that once you make it, you can't change your mind, even though there may be temptation to do so. To assume a tension appears to depend on taking what's hard about a life-long commitment to be that it lasts a long time,where this is in tension with realizing that life is short.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think length is a part of it, though. That's why people think that a life-long commitment is, typically, harder than a year-long commitment.

It could also be that the timescales for commitments differ from timescales for life length. Thus, maybe, what counts as long for a commitment counts as short for a life. A life of three minutes is a very short life, but to hold one's breath for three minutes is exceedingly short.

But my intuition is that commitments and living life are on roughly the same time-scale: what is short for the one isn't too long for the other. I have no clearly worked out argument here.