The asymmetry of early death and late birth

Philosophical Studies 71 (3):327-331 (1993)
In a previous paper, we argued that death's badness consists in the deprivation of pleasurable experiences which one would have had, had one died later rather than at the time of one's actual death. Thus, we argued that death can be a bad thing for the individual who dies, even if it is an experiential blank. But there is a pressing objection to this view, for if the view is correct, then it seems that it should also be the case that it is a bad thing for a person that he is born when he actually is born, rather than earlier. That is, if the deprivation account is the correct account of death's badness, then it appears that one should have symmetric attitudes to prenatal and posthumous nonexistence. But clearly we do not in general have symmetric attitudes toward the period before our birth and the period after our death; in general, we do not think of our late births as a bad thing, but we can indeed consider our early deaths as bad for us. Thus, it appears that there is a problem for the deprivation account of death's badness.
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DOI 10.1007/BF00989732
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