Well-Being and Death addresses philosophical questions about death and the good life: what makes a life go well? Is death bad for the one who dies? How is this possible if we go out of existence when we die? Is it worse to die as an infant or as a young adult? Is it bad for animals and fetuses to die? Can the dead be harmed? Is there any way to make death less bad for us? Ben Bradley defends the (...) following views: pleasure, rather than achievement or the satisfaction of desire, is what makes life go well; death is generally bad for its victim, in virtue of depriving the victim of more of a good life; death is bad for its victim at times after death, in particular at all those times at which the victim would have been living well; death is worse the earlier it occurs, and hence it is worse to die as an infant than as an adult; death is usually bad for animals and fetuses, in just the same way it is bad for adult humans; things that happen after someone has died cannot harm that person; the only sensible way to make death less bad is to live so long that no more good life is possible. (shrink)
The move to satisficing has been thought to help consequentialists avoid the problem of demandingness. But this is a mistake. In this article I formulate several versions of satisficing consequentialism. I show that every version is unacceptable, because every version permits agents to bring about a submaximal outcome in order to prevent a better outcome from obtaining. Some satisficers try to avoid this problem by incorporating a notion of personal sacrifice into the view. I show that these attempts are unsuccessful. (...) I conclude that, if satisficing consequentialism is to remain a position worth considering, satisficers must show (i) that the move to satisficing is necessary to solve some problem, whether it be the demandingness problem or some other problem, and (ii) that there is a version of the view that does not permit the gratuitous prevention of goodness. (shrink)
Epicurus seems to have thought that death is not bad for the one who dies, since its badness cannot be located in time. I show that Epicurus’ argument presupposes Presentism, and I argue that death is bad for its victim at all and only those times when the person would have been living a life worth living had she not died when she did. I argue that my account is superior to competing accounts given by Thomas Nagel, Fred Feldman and (...) Neil Feit. (shrink)
We argue that desire is an attitude that relates a person not to one proposition but rather to two, the first of which we call the object of the desire and the second of which we call the condition of the desire. This view of desire is initially motivated by puzzles about conditional desires. It is not at all obvious how best to draw the distinction between conditional and unconditional desires. In this paper we examine extant attempts to analyse conditional (...) desire. From the failures of those attempts, we draw a moral that leads us to the correct account of conditional desires. We then extend the account of conditional desires to an account of all desires. We attempt to explain the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic desire in light of our account of desire. We show how to use our account to solve Wollheim’s paradox of democracy and to save modus ponens. Finally, we extend the account of desire to related phenomena, such as conditional promises, intentions, and commands. (shrink)
Recent literature on intrinsic value contains a number of disputes about the nature of the concept. On the one hand, there are those who think states of affairs, such as states of pleasure or desire satisfaction, are the bearers of intrinsic value (“Mooreans”); on the other hand, there are those who think concrete objects, like people, are intrinsically valuable (“Kantians”). The contention of this paper is that there is not a single concept of intrinsic value about which Mooreans and Kantians (...) have disagreed, but rather two distinct concepts. I state a number of principles about intrinsic value that have typically (though not universally) been held by Mooreans, all of which are typically denied by Kantians. I show that there are distinct theoretical roles for a concept of intrinsic value to play in a moral framework. When we notice these distinct theoretical roles, we should realize that there is room for two distinct concepts of intrinsic value within a single moral framework: one that accords with some or all of the Moorean principles, and one that does not. (shrink)
Death has long been a pre-occupation of philosophers, and this is especially so today. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death collects 21 newly commissioned essays that cover current philosophical thinking of death-related topics across the entire range of the discipline. These include metaphysical topics--such as the nature of death, the possibility of an afterlife, the nature of persons, and how our thinking about time affects what we think about death--as well as axiological topics, such as whether death is bad (...) for its victim, what makes it bad to die, what attitude it is fitting to take towards death, the possibility of posthumous harm, and the desirability of immortality. The contributors also explore the views of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Epicurus on topics related to the philosophy of death, and questions in normative ethics, such as what makes killing wrong when it is wrong, and whether it is wrong to kill fetuses, non-human animals, combatants in war, and convicted murderers. With chapters written by a wide range of experts in metaphysics, ethics, and conceptual analysis, and designed to give the reader a comprehensive view of recent developments in the philosophical study of death, this Handbook will appeal to a broad audience in philosophy, particularly in ethics and metaphysics. (shrink)
Accoding to G.E. Moore, something''s intrinsic valuedepends solely on its intrinsic nature. Recently Thomas Hurka andShelly Kagan have argued, contra Moore, that something''s intrinsic valuemay depend on its extrinsic properties. Call this view the ConditionalView of intrinsic value. In this paper I demonstrate how a Mooreancan account for purported counterexamples given by Hurka and Kagan. I thenargue that certain organic unities pose difficulties for the ConditionalView.
Many of us feel existential terror when contemplating our future nonexistence. I examine several attempts to rationally justify existential terror. The most promising of these appeals to the effects of future nonexistence on the meaningfulness of our lives. I argue that even this justification fails, and therefore existential terror is irrational.
This paper examines the implications of the context-sensitivity of counterfactuals for the correctness of emotions and attitudes towards death. I argue that the correctness of an attitude such as fear must be explained by appeal to its causal relations to certain preferences.
Sometimes people desire that their lives go badly, take pleasure in their lives going badly, or believe that their lives are going badly. As a result, some popular theories of welfare are paradoxical. I show that no attempt to defend those theories from the paradox fully succeeds.
Virtue consequentialism has been held by many prominent philosophers, but has never been properly formulated. I criticize Julia Driver's formulation of virtue consequentialism and offer an alternative. I maintain that according to the best version of virtue consequentialism, attributions of virtue are really disguised comparisons between two character traits, and the consequences of a trait in non-actual circumstances may affect its actual status as a virtue or vice. Such a view best enables the consequentialist to account for moral luck, unexemplified (...) virtues, and virtues and vices involving the prevention of goodness and badness. (shrink)
At what stage of life is death worst for its victim? I hold that, typically, death is worse the earlier it occurs. Others, including Jeff McMahan and Christopher Belshaw, have argued that it is worst to die in early adulthood. In this paper I show that McMahan and Belshaw are wrong; I show that views that entail that Student’s death is worse face fatal objections. I focus in particular on McMahan’s time-relative interest account (TRIA) of the badness of death. Manuscript (...) in progress. (shrink)
It is often said that while we have a strong reason not to create someone who will be badly off, we have no strong reason for creating someone who will be well off. In this paper I argue that this asymmetry is incompatible with a plausible principle of independence of irrelevant alternatives, and that a more general asymmetry between harming and benefiting is difficult to defend. I then argue that, contrary to what many have claimed, it is possible to harm (...) or benefit someone by bringing her into existence. (shrink)
A popular view about why death is bad for the one who dies is that death deprives its subject of the good things in life. This is the “deprivation account” of the evil of death. There is another view about death that seems incompatible with the deprivation account: the view that a person’s death is less bad if she has lived a good life. In The Ethics of Killing, Jeff McMahan argues that a deprivation account should discount the evil of (...) death for previous gains in life. I argue against discounting evils, and show how a version of the deprivation view can accommodate McMahan’s examples. (shrink)
I argue against several extant views (Rolston, etc) about the value of endangered species. I argue that the best way to defend a non-anthropocentric view about the value of endangered species is to appeal to the intrinsic value of biological diversity.
Suppose you find yourself in a situation in which you can either save both A and B or save only C. A, B and C are relevantly similar – all are strangers to you, none is more deserving of life than any other, none is responsible for being in a life-threatening situation, and so on. John Taurek argued that when deciding what to do in such a situation, you should flip a coin, thereby giving each of A, B and C (...) a 50% chance of survival . Only by doing this can we treat each person with the appropriate degree of respect. Taurek seemed to be employing the “Equal Greatest Chance” principle , according to which, when deciding whom to save, one must give each person the greatest possible chance of survival consistent with everyone else having the same chance. An obvious alternative is the “Save the Greater Number” principle . I describe an example that shows that EGC is false. I show that the example also demonstrates the falsity of other related views, including Jens Timmermann’s “Individualist Lottery Principle.” I conclude that SGN is true. And I extend the argument to other kinds of cases, showing that which person should be saved may depend on whether some additional well-being may be gained for someone in the process. (shrink)
Recent Darwin scholarship has provided grounds for recognising the Origin as a literary as well as a scientific achievement. While Darwin was an acute observer, a gifted experimentalist and indefatigable theorist, this essay argues that it was also crucial to his impact that the Origin transcended the putative divide between the scientific and the literary. Analysis of Darwin’s development as a writer between his journal-keeping on HMS Beagle and his construction of the Origin argues the latter draws on the pattern (...) of the Romantic or Kantian sublime. The Origin repeatedly uses strategies which challenge the natural-theological appeal to the imagination in conceiving nature. Darwin’s sublime coaches the Origin’s readers into a position from which to envision nature that reduces and contains its otherwise overwhelming complexity. As such, it was Darwin’s literary achievement that enabled him to fashion a new ‘habit of looking at things in a given way’ that is the centrepiece of the scientific revolution bearing his name. (shrink)
Recent Darwin scholarship has provided grounds for recognising the Origin as a literary as well as a scientific achievement. While Darwin was an acute observer, a gifted experimentalist and indefatigable theorist, this essay argues that it was also crucial to his impact that the Origin transcended the putative divide between the scientific and the literary. Analysis of Darwin's development as a writer between his journal-keeping on HMS Beagle and his construction of the Origin argues the latter draws on the pattern (...) of the Romantic or Kantian sublime. The Origin repeatedly uses strategies which challenge the natural-theological appeal to the imagination in conceiving nature. Darwin's sublime coaches the Origin's readers into a position from which to envision nature that reduces and contains its otherwise overwhelming complexity. As such, it was Darwin's literary achievement that enabled him to fashion a new 'habit of looking at things in a given way' that is the centrepiece of the scientific revolution bearing his name. (shrink)
Many philosophers endorse the view that global or “narrative” features of a life at least partly determine its value. For instance, a life in which the subject redeems her past failures and sacrifices with later successes is thought to be better, ceteris paribus, than one in which her later successes are unrelated to her previous failures. In this paper I distinguish some views about narrative value, including Fischer’s views about the importance of free will for narrative value, and raise a (...) number of problems for the idea of narrative value. (shrink)
The idea that infant participation in research is achievable by researchers ‘voicing’ infants’ experiences and ‘perspectives’ is a central feature of current moves towards participatory research. In this article we offer an alternative. Specifically, we suggest a different point of reference than infants’ own experiences and ‘perspectives’; namely, the encounter between researcher and infant as it unfolds in practice. Drawing from a large-scale study of infants in family day care, and Merleau-Ponty’s notions of écart and reversibility, we articulate the possibility (...) that infants’ participation in research encounters may be felt by researchers in the ways that infants evoke embodied responses. Drawing on Dillon’s ethics of particularity, which builds upon écart and reversibility, we discuss the idea that researchers’ embodied responses to infants provoke possibilities for ethical reflection, which can afford new ways of ‘going on’. We propose that space may be created for infants to influence ECEC practice when researchers attend to their own embodied responses to infants during the research encounter; and to the factors that may diminish infants’ capacities to affect such responses. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the metaphysical view referred to by Harry Silverstein as “four-dimensionalism,” but referred to in this chapter as “eternalism.” In contrast to presentism, eternalism posits that purely past and purely future objects and events exist. If a person goes out of existence at the moment of death, the problem arises as to how death is bad for its victim. According to Silverstein, this problem arises from the truth of the “Values Connect with Feelings” thesis, 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. The badness of death may entail eternalism, but it is for an entirely different reason. Eternalism must be true in order for there to be a time at which death is bad for its victim. These two conflicting views are discussed in this chapter. (shrink)
Fischer on death and unexperienced evils Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9667-0 Authors Ben Bradley, Philosophy Department, Syracuse University, 541 Hall of Languages, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
In the 1940s, the ‘modern synthesis’ of Darwinism and genetics cast genetic mutation and recombination as the source of variability from which environmental events naturally select the fittest, such ‘natural selection’ constituting the cause of evolution. Recent biology increasingly challenges this view by casting genes as followers and awarding the leading role in the genesis of adaptations to the agency and plasticity of developing phenotypes—making natural selection a consequence of other causal processes. Both views of natural selection claim to capture (...) the core of Darwin’s arguments in On the Origin of Species. Today, historians largely concur with the MS’s reading of Origin as a book aimed to prove natural selection the cause of adaptive change. This paper finds the evidence for that conclusion wanting. I undertake to examine the context and meaning of all Darwin’s known uses of the phrase vera causa, documenting in particular Darwin’s resistance to the pressure to prove natural selection a vera causa in letters written early in 1860. His resistance underlines the logical dependence of natural selection, an unobservable phenomenon, on the causal processes producing the observable events captured by the laws of inheritance, variation, and the struggle for existence, established in Chapters 1–3 of Origin. (shrink)
The concept of well-being plays a central role in moral and political theory. Policies and actions are justified or criticized on the grounds that they make people better or worse off. But is there really such a thing as well-being, and if so, what is it? Is it pleasure, desire-satisfaction, knowledge, virtue, achievement, some combination of these, or something else entirely? How can we measure well-being, amongst individuals and society? And how can we use it to make moral judgements about (...) people, policies and institutions? In this entertaining and accessible new book, Ben Bradley guides readers through the various philosophical theories of well-being, such as hedonism, perfectionism and pluralism, showing the benefits and drawbacks of each theory. He explores the role of well-being in moral and political theory, and the limitations of welfare-based approaches to ethics such as utilitarianism and welfare egalitarianism. Finally, he introduces puzzles about well-being that arise in moral and prudential deliberations about procreation and death. Well-Being is an ideal introduction to these topics for those with no philosophical background, or for philosophers looking for an overview of current thinking about the subject. (shrink)
The concept of intrinsic value is central to ethical theory, yet in recent years high-quality book-length treatments of the subject have been scarce. This makes the arrival of Zimmerman’s book quite welcome. Zimmerman takes up several of the themes Moore was concerned with in Principia Ethica, but often reaches different conclusions; for example, Zimmerman argues that intrinsic goodness can be analyzed, and rejects Moore’s principle of organic unities. The book is rich with arguments, and I can mention only a few (...) of them in this space. (shrink)
In Goodness and Justice, Joseph Mendola defends three related views in normative ethics: a novel form of consequentialism, a Bentham-style hedonism about “basic” value, and a maximin principle about the value of a world. In defending these views he draws on his views in metaethics, action theory, and the philosophy of mind. It is an ambitious and wide-ranging book. I begin with a quick explanation of Mendola’s views, and then raise some problems.
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. (shrink)