Late Birth, Early Death, and the Problem of Lucretian Symmetry

Social Theory and Practice 37 (1):113-127 (2011)
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Lucretius famously argued that if we think death is bad because it deprives us of time we could have had by living longer than we do, then when we are born must be bad too, since we could have been born earlier than we were, and so be deprived of that time as well. John Martin Fischer thinks Lucretius’s symmetry argument fails because we have a bias toward the future. I argue that Fischer’s approach does not answer Lucretius. In contrast to Fischer, I think that we can show an objective difference between the time before our birth and the time after our death, which means that we are justified in adopting different attitudes towards them. I revise a point made by Thomas Nagel that while we might live longer than we do, we cannot exist earlier than we did and remain the same people throughout.



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Frederik Kaufman
Ithaca College

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Death: The asymmetry mystery.Alan H. Goldman - 2023 - Bioethics 37 (8):798-805.

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