Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Can the World's Oldest Person Die?

According to ABC News (here), the world's oldest person has died. The tense of this assertion strikes me as philosophically problematic. It's certainly possible that the person who was the world's oldest has died. But the person who is the world's oldest (assuming we really can identify who that might be) cannot die. That person can certainly die, but upon their death they cannot be said to be the world's oldest person. In other words, the world's oldest person can never die because there is always, at every moment, a world's oldest person. Like monarchical succession and the law of property ownership, the category of "world's oldest person" abhors a gap in occupancy.

The point I'm making is, of course, trivial. But, hey, you can't expect deep philosophical insights from the departure lounge waiting on a delayed aircraft.

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