Makropoulos case

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Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (1929—2003) philosopher


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A case highlighted by Williams in Problems of the Self (1973). In the story by Karel Capek (1890–1938), made into an opera by Janáček, Elina Makropoulos, alias Emilia Marty, alias Ellian MacGregor has imbibed an elixir of life. At the time of the play she has been 42 years old for three hundred years, and life has become entirely meaningless. Williams uses the example to suggest that eternal life is not at all desirable, and that we are fortunate in having the opportunity to die. However, Makropoulos is an immortal living an otherwise normal life amongst mortals, and it takes more profound imaginings to recognize that heaven itself would be insupportable. The case was made by Julian Barnes, History of the World in 101/2 Chapters (1989). See also eternity.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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