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经济学人:追求永生是如何影响文明

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Immortality

永生
For ever and ever
追求永生
Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilisation.
《永生:对长命百岁的追求及这是如何影响文明》

IMMORTALITY is an age-old obsession. Plenty of literature deals with the subject, from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamish to the poems of Homer and the writings of the Old Testament. The quest to live for ever has motivated medieval alchemists, modern techno-Utopians and mystics through the centuries.

永生是人们亘古不变的追求。不论是苏美尔人的《《吉尔迦美什史诗》,还是荷马的诗歌,亦或是《旧约》,大量的文学作品都以此为主题。历经了数个世纪,人们都追求着永生,这种观点激励着中世纪炼金术士,现代的技术乌托邦主义者,神秘主义者。

In his survey of the subject, Stephen Cave, a British philosopher, argues that man’s various tales of immortality can be boiled down into four basic “narratives”. The first is the simplest, in theory at least: do what the medieval alchemists never managed and discover an elixir to simply avoid dying. The second concerns resurrection, or coming back to life after dying, a belief found in all three of the Abrahamic religions. The idea of an immaterial soul that can persist through death dates back, in a formal form, at least to Plato, and forms Mr Cave’s third narrative. His fourth narrative deals with immortality through achievement, by becoming so famous that one’s name lives on through the ages.

英国哲学家史蒂芬?凯夫在他对这一问题的调查中指出,关于永生的各种传说都可以归为四类“说法”。第一种在理论上至少是最简单的:完成中世纪炼金术士的遗愿,即发明一种长生不老药;第二种是复活,即死而复生,这种信仰普遍存在于三个亚拉伯罕宗教(基督教、犹太教和伊斯兰教)中;第三种是人们认为无形的灵魂能够穿越死亡,这种理念的正式形态,至少可以追溯回柏拉图时代。第四种是通过取得成就获得永生,即让自己名垂千古。

For the aspiring undying, Mr Cave unfortunately concludes that immortality is a mirage. But his demolition project is fascinating in its own right. The section on the soul is an able attack on the related doctrines of “vitalism”, the soul and mind-body dualism—the intuitive and still widely held body of ideas that hold that living creatures are animated by some sort of supernatural spark, and that an individual’s personality or consciousness can survive death. The chapters on resurrection will interest Christians, as Mr Cave examines how the literal recreation, by God, of dead people’s bodies remains the doctrine of most branches of Christianity. The idea of one’s soul, as opposed to one’s body, ending up in heaven or hell is a subsequent embellishment.

对向往长生不老的人而言遗憾的是,凯夫做出了一个结论:永生是种幻想。不过就事论事,他对此的解析的确很吸引人。调查中,关于灵魂的部分对与之相关的“生机论”教义做了有力的攻击,即灵魂与身心二元论——这是一种非常直接,且许多人都相信的思想,他们认为某种超自然的力量赋予了生物生命,一个人的人格及意识能够超越死亡而存在。基督徒会对凯夫探讨复活的章节感兴趣,因为他探讨了上帝重造已死者的肉体这一点是怎样一直做为各基督教派的教义保留下来的。人们认为,一个人的灵魂,不同于其躯体,它终会上天堂或是下地狱,则是在该思想(上帝可以重造肉体)之后才发展出来的一种修饰。

If anything, readers might want more of Mr Cave’s crisp conversational prose. There could be more on living longer; Mr Cave barely has time to give even the briefest overview of the emerging science of life extension, which has allowed researchers to lengthen the lifespans of mice by a third or more in the lab.

如果凯夫与其他调查有和不同的话,那便是读者也许想读到更多他的干净利索的对话式散文。有关延长寿命的章节可以再长一些,但凯夫几乎没时间对当今研究长寿的科学做一个最简洁的概述。这种科学使得科研者们将实验室里小白鼠的寿命延长了三分之一或更多。

There are a few quibbles. Mr Cave’s repeated claim that the quest for immortality drives every human activity feels overdone. Others might dispute his definition of immortality itself. Mr Cave’s chief argument against the desirability of living for ever (even assuming it is possible) is the familiar one of boredom. As the uncountable billions of years tick away, the argument runs, even the most vivacious will come to realise that they have done everything there is to do, hundreds of times. With yet more billions of years looming ahead they will be struck down with a debilitating ennui.

不过,凯夫的调查还是存在小瑕疵。他一直宣称,对永生的追求主导了人类所有活动,这未免让人觉得有些夸大。他对于永生自身的定义还存在争议。对于长生的好处(姑且认为这是可能的),凯夫最主要的辩驳观点是人们非常熟悉的:厌烦。该论点认为:随着数十亿年逐渐过去,即使是最有活力的人/永生者也会慢慢意识到自己已经做完了所有可做的事,而且每一件都做了不下数百次了。未来还有数十亿年要面对,这些永生者将会感到一种压倒一切的无聊感。

That argument only applies if these notional immortals are also invincible, and therefore impervious to accident. But that is an odd definition, and not one that crops up very often, especially in scientific research into ageing. The holy grail there is simply to arrest the ageing process. Indeed, Mr Cave quotes an actuary who has estimated that the average “medical immortal” would persist for around 6,000 years before dying in a plane accident or a car crash or the like. And besides, boredom seems to be a non-problem: after all, if an immortal does ever get truly bored of his vastly extended life, there would be nothing to prevent him from ending it.

只有在这些所谓的永生者也是所向无敌,因此不受任何事故伤害时,上述论点才能成立。不过这是个奇怪的定义,并非时不时冒出来的,尤其是在研究衰老的科研中。圣杯只是为了阻止衰老。的确,凯夫引用了一位精算师的话,据那位精算师估计,一个“医学上永生”的人平均大约可以活6000年,不过最终他会死于坠机,撞车等事故。另外,这种厌烦似乎不是问题:别忘了,若一个获得永生的人实在厌烦了自己没完没了的生命,什么也阻止不了他将其结束。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
obsession [əb'seʃən]

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n. 困扰,沉迷,着魔,妄想

联想记忆
fascinating ['fæsineitiŋ]

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adj. 迷人的

联想记忆
extended [iks'tendid]

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adj. 延续的,广大的,扩大范围的 动词extend的

 
quest [kwest]

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n. 探索,寻求
v. 寻找,搜索

 
related [ri'leitid]

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adj. 相关的,有亲属关系的

 
avoid [ə'vɔid]

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vt. 避免,逃避

联想记忆
claim [kleim]

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n. 要求,要求权;主张,断言,声称;要求物

 
medieval [medi'i:vəl]

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adj. 中世纪的

联想记忆
achievement [ə'tʃi:vmənt]

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n. 成就,成绩,完成,达到

 
emerging [i'mə:dʒ]

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vi. 浮现,(由某种状态)脱出,(事实)显现出来

 


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