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Unamuno on making oneself indispensable and having the strength to long for immortality

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion pp 1-16; doi:10.1007/s11153-021-09794-y

Abstract: Unamuno believes that longing for immortality is what motivates nearly all of human behavior. Unfortunately, in a world in which many people despair of ever achieving true personal immortality, we increasingly turn to what he calls mere “shadows of immortality” for comforting ideas about how our names, energy, or basic material substance will carry on in our absence. Unamuno advocates fighting against such despair, staying out of the shadows, and longing for personal immortality even when it seems impossible. Unamuno’s approach to this issue resembles, in a few significant ways, Kierkegaard’s struggle for the cultivation of subjective selfhood. At the same time, it also runs afoul of Nietzsche’s derisive claims about immortality-seekers. Whereas Nietzsche sees longing for immortality as a sign of being too weak to make the most of mortal life, the more Kierkegaardian Unamuno counters that it is a sign of strong appreciation for life to demand, without surrender, that there be more of it. Given the proper understanding of Nietzsche’s claims about the eternal recurrence, I think he and Unamuno might not be quite as far apart as it initially seems. However, exploring the latter’s critique of the former suggests an intriguing way of seeing the contemporary analytic debate about the desirability of immortality. Building on Unamuno’s position, one could argue that pessimism about the value of immortality is actually indicative of a flawed character and an impoverished relationship with life.
Keywords: Nietzsche / Williams / Kierkegaard / Meaning / Self

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