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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


The list below shows Durham University research staff who are members of IMEMS. Click the member's name to see a more detailed biography and department.

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Publication details for Professor Geoffrey Scarre

Scarre, Geoffrey (2016). The aging of people and of things. In The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Aging. Scarre, Geoffrey London: Palgrave Macmillan. 87-100.

Author(s) from Durham


This chapter explores some of the similarities and differences between the ageing of people and of other things, in particular the artefacts that we create to serve our ends. When we describe people as ‘ageing’, we usually mean that they have arrived at a senior stage of life, often with the added implication that their health or capacities are declining. Many artefacts, too, possess something analogous to a life cycle, and the terms in which we describe their ageing typically refer to their gradual loss of functionality. Yet, the value retained by old people and old things is significantly affected by the fact that the former but not the latter are ends in themselves; therefore, only objects can wholly lose their worth and become disposable. Where old artefacts continue to be valued, or acquire the honourable status of ‘antiques’, this is commonly on account of the intimate reminders they provide us of now-deceased people.