Eternalism and death's badness syracuse university


Suppose that at the moment of death, a person goes out of existence.1 This has been thought to pose a problem for the idea that death is bad for its victim. But what exactly is the problem? Harry Silverstein says the problem stems from the truth of the “Values Connect with Feelings” thesis (VCF), according to which it must be possible for someone to have feelings about a thing in order for that thing to be bad for that person (2000, 122). But in order for a person to have feelings about a thing, the person and the thing must coexist in some way. Thus Silverstein feels compelled to endorse a metaphysical view he calls “four-dimensionalism,” but which I prefer to call “eternalism”: the view that purely past and purely future objects and events exist.2 I agree with Silverstein that the badness of death entails eternalism. But the reason is different. Eternalism must be true in order for there to be a time at which death is bad for its victim. Death is bad for its victim at all those times when the victim is worse off for having died: namely, the times when he would have been living a good life had that death not occurred.3 Silverstein rejects this view; he thinks there is something wrong with the very question of when death is bad for its victim. In what follows I argue that Silverstein has not shown the relevance of eternalism to VCF or the badness of death, and I defend my view about the time of death’s badness against Silverstein’s arguments.



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Ben Bradley
Syracuse University

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