Meaning, equality and overpopulation
: Assessing three worries about ageing enhancement

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The idea of life extension through bio-medical intervention in the ageing process (ageing enhancement) provokes excitement and concern in equal measure, both among the public and in academic discussion. This thesis addresses three common concerns that arise in discussions of ageing enhancement. The first is the worry that either the pursuit or experience of ageing enhancement will undermine various resources that are necessary to giving our lives value or meaning. The second worry is that such interventions violate requirements of egalitarian justice; the primary way of expressing this concern notes that ageing enhancement is by definition aimed at benefiting the elderly, and argues that egalitarian considerations demand either that we direct such resources at the young, or place significant restrictions on access to medical treatments for elderly people. Finally, the third worry is that successful ageing enhancement will cause unacceptable overpopulation, because the associated increases in the number of people, and their associated consumption, cannot be permissibly ameliorated by other policies. The conclusion from proponents of these concerns is that the state should not support research into or implementation of ageing enhancement, and perhaps should place restrictions on ageing enhancement should it become available.
The thesis places these concerns in a broader philosophical context to specify their strongest form, and to consider responses to those strongest versions. It also relates the three worries to practical considerations of feasibility; it is not enough for proponents to outline an ethically acceptable mechanism for meeting the three worries if these mechanisms are unlikely to emerge. I argue that although none of the three worries rules out ageing enhancement in principle, the latter two are sufficiently well grounded in their strongest versions, to place ethical constraints on permissible ways of engaging in ageing enhancement.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorDavid Galloway (Supervisor) & Matteo Mameli (Supervisor)

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