Bioethics Blogs

Live Long & Prosper is the New “Good”

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

One of my family’s Thanksgiving traditions is one common to many, that we go around the table and name something for which we are thankful. This week my list includes several things relevant to bioethics:

For most Americans though, they are often thankful for things that make them happy such as their family and their health. A few months ago, I attended a talk by Tod Chambers, PhD. at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine on how health has become the goal of life. Chambers spoke about health as the new good, the reason for which we act. According to Aristotle, the good was the aim of all action, sufficient in itself. For Aristotle, that was eudaimonia (often translated semi-correctly as “happiness”), or living the fully satisfying contemplative life. Chambers said that today, it’s health, especially as viewed as longevity.

Healthy then means living longer, unassisted, with no physical or mental problems, and with a positive attitude. You can be an Olympic athlete but if you are not an optimist, then you aren’t healthy.

Most days, newspapers publish/post articles on living longer. In August, the New York Times interviewed a “longevity expert” who gave his tips for living longer. This might be a new mental attitude, more exercise, a different diet, or even that consuming your favorite food (dark chocolate, coffee) is good for you. And by good for you, the articles mean, “help you live longer, healthier.” Government studies even show that being in your prime earning years (50s) during a recession reduces your longevity.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.