According to the “deprivation approach,” a person’s death is bad for her to the extent that it deprives her of goods. This approach faces the Lucretian problem that prenatal non-existence deprives us of goods just as much as death does, but does not seem bad at all. The two most prominent responses to this challenge—one of which is provided by Frederik Kaufman (inspired by Thomas Nagel) and the other by Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer—claim that prenatal non-existence is relevantly (...) different from death. This paper criticizes these responses. (shrink)
In a recent article, I criticized Anthony L. Brueckner and John Martin Fischer’s influential argument—appealing to the rationality of our asymmetric attitudes towards past and future pleasures—against the Lucretian claim that death and prenatal non-existence are relevantly similar. Brueckner and Fischer have replied, however, that my critique involves an unjustified shift in temporal perspectives. In this paper, I respond to this charge and also argue that even if it were correct, it would fail to defend Brueckner and Fischer’s proposal against (...) my critique. (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)
According to the standard version of the counterfactual comparative account of harm, an event is overall harmful for an individual if and only if she would have been on balance better off if it had not occurred. This view faces the “preemption problem.” In the recent literature, there are various ingenious attempts to deal with this problem, some of which involve slight additions to, or modifications of, the counterfactual comparative account. We argue, however, that none of these attempts work, and (...) that the preemption problem continues to haunt the counterfactual comparative account. (shrink)
In this article I discuss the question of whether a person’s existence can be better (or worse) for him than his non-existence. Recently, Nils Holtug and Melinda A. Roberts have defended an affirmative answer. These defenses, I shall argue, do not succeed. In different ways, Holtug and Roberts have got the metaphysics and axiology wrong. However, I also argue that a person’s existence can after all be better (or worse) for him than his non-existence, though for reasons other than those (...) provided by Holtug and Roberts. (shrink)
A pure time preference is a preference for something to occur at one point in time rather than another, merely because of when it occurs in time. Such preferences are widely regarded as paradigm examples of irrational preferences. However, Rosemary Lowry and Martin Peterson have recently argued that, for instance, a pure time preference to go to the opera tonight rather than next month may be rationally permissible, even if the amounts of intrinsic value realized in both cases are identical. (...) In this reply, we argue that Lowry and Peterson's argument is unsuccessful. (shrink)
Derek Parfit famously defends a number of surprising views about "fission." One is that, in such a scenario, it is indeterminate whether I have survived or not. Another is that the fission case shows that it does not matter, in itself, whether I survive or not. Most critics of the first view contend that fission makes me cease to exist. Most opponents of the second view contend that fission does not preserve everything that matters in ordinary survival. In this paper (...) I shall provide a critique that does not rely on either of these contentions. There are other, interrelated reasons to reject Parfit's defense of the two theses. In particular, the availability of the following view creates trouble for Parfit: I determinately survive fission, but it is indeterminate which fission product I am. (shrink)
Abstract: The symmetry argument is an objection to the 'deprivation approach'– the account of badness favored by nearly all philosophers who take death to be bad for the one who dies. Frederik Kaufman's recent response to the symmetry argument is a development of Thomas Nagel's suggestion that we could not have come into existence substantially earlier than we in fact did. In this paper, I aim to show that Kaufman's suggestion fails. I also consider several possible modifications of his theory, (...) and argue that they are unsuccessful as well. (shrink)
In his recent book, Death and the Afterlife, Samuel Scheffler argues that it matters greatly to us that there be other human beings long after our own deaths. In support of this “Afterlife Thesis,” as I call it, he provides a thought experiment—the “doomsday scenario”—in which we learn that, although we ourselves will live a normal life span, 30 days after our death the earth will be completely destroyed. In this paper I question this “doomsday scenario” support for Scheffler’s Afterlife (...) Thesis. In particular, I suggest that Scheffler has underestimated the importance of a good ending. (shrink)
John Martin Fischer and Anthony L. Brueckner have argued that a person’s death is, in many cases, bad for him, whereas a person’s prenatal non-existence is not bad for him. Their suggestion relies on the idea that death deprives the person of pleasant experiences that it is rational for him to care about, whereas prenatal non-existence only deprives him of pleasant experiences that it is not rational for him to care about. In two recent articles in The Journal of Ethics, (...) I have objected that it is irrelevant what it is in fact rational for the person to care about. Fischer and Brueckner have replied to my critique. In this paper I respond to their latest pair of replies. (shrink)
Chris Heathwood has recently put forward a novel and ingenious argument against the view that intrinsic value is analyzable in terms of fitting attitudes. According to Heathwood, this view holds water only if the related but distinct concept of welfare—intrinsic value for a person —can be analyzed in terms of fitting attitudes too. Moreover, he argues against such an analysis of welfare by appealing to the rationality of our bias towards the future. In this paper, I argue that so long (...) as we keep the tenses and the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction right, the fitting-attitudes analysis of welfare can be shown to survive Heathwood’s criticism. (shrink)
Many philosophers maintain that artworks, such as statues, are constituted by other material objects, such as lumps of marble. I give an argument against this view, an argument which appeals to mereological simples.
Scott Campbell has recently defended the psychological approach to personal identity over time by arguing that a person is literally a series of mental events. Rejecting four-dimensionalism about the persistence of physical objects, Campbell regards constitutionalism as the main rival version of the psychological approach. He argues that his "series view" has two clear advantages over constitutionalism: it avoids the "two thinkers" objection and it allows a person to change bodies. In addition, Campbell suggests a reply to the objection, often (...) raised against views such as his, that thoughts must be distinct from their thinker. In this paper, I argue that Campbell's responses to the "two thinkers" and the "thoughts/thinker" objections are unsuccessful. Furthermore, his reply to the latter leads to four-dimensionalism of the kind he wanted to avoid – and this view too allows a person to change bodies. Moreover, I argue that it speaks against the series view that generalised versions of it fare much more poorly than do generalised versions of constitutionalism and four-dimensionalism. (shrink)
The so-called 'Extreme Claim' asserts that reductionism about personal identity leaves each of us with no reason to be specially concerned about his or her own future. Both advocates and opponents of the Extreme Claim, whether of a reductionist or non-reductionist stripe, accept that similar problems do not arise for non-reductionism. In this paper I challenge this widely held assumption.
In a recent article, Joyce L. Jenkins challenges the common belief that desire satisfactionists are committed to the view that a person's welfare can be affected by posthumous events. Jenkins argues that desire satisfactionists can and should say that posthumous events only play an epistemic role: though such events cannot harm me, they can reveal that I have already been harmed by something else. In this response, however, we show that Jenkins's approach collapses into the view she aims to avoid.
If a person’s death is bad for him for the reason that he would have otherwise been intrinsically better off, as the Deprivation Approach says, does it not follow that his prenatal nonexistence is bad for him as well? Recently, it has been suggested that the “A-theory” of time can be used to support a negative answer to this question. In this paper, I raise some problems for this approach.
Most versions of the psychological-continuity approach to personal identity (PCA) contain a 'non-branching' requirement. Recently, Robert Francescotti has argued that while such versions of PCA handle Parfit's standard fission case well, they deliver the wrong result in the case of an intact human brain. To solve this problem, he says, PCA-adherents need to add a clause that runs contrary to the spirit of their theory. In this response, I argue that Francescotti's counterexample fails. As a result, the revision he suggests (...) is not needed. (shrink)
Rebecca Roache’s recent critique of David Lewis’s cohabitation view assumes that a person cannot be properly concerned about something that rules out that she ever exists. In this brief response, I argue against this assumption.
In defense of the Deprivation Approach to the badness of death against the Lucretian objection that death is relevantly similar to prenatal nonexistence, John Martin Fischer and Anthony L. Brueckner have suggested that whereas death deprives us of things that it is rational for us to care about, prenatal nonexistence does not. I have argued that this suggestion, even if correct, does not make for a successful defense of the Deprivation Approach against the Lucretian objection. My criticism involved a thought (...) experiment in which a person avoids being tortured. Recently, Taylor Cyr has defended Fischer and Brueckner’s approach, arguing that my thought experiment is incoherent. In this response, I question both the truth and relevance of Cyr’s incoherence claim. (shrink)