Epicurus and the Evil of Death
Feldman (Fred)
Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 8
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract1

  1. In Part II, I turn to questions about the value of death.
  2. The central ethical problem, as I see it, is whether death is bad for the one who dies. Will my death be a misfortune for me?
  3. Epicurus and Lucretius presented a famous argument designed to show that since I will not exist after death, and will not then suffer any pain, my death cannot be bad for me. In Chapter 8, I explain and criticize the Epicurean argument.
  4. I defend a version of the "deprivation approach" – death is bad for those who die because it deprives them of the goods they would have enjoyed if they had continued to live.

Analysis2

Epicurus and the Evil of Death [127]
Epicurus’s Argument Against the Evil of Death [128] - Epicurus against the evil of death – 1
  1. Each person stops existing at the moment of death
  2. If (1), then no one feels any pain while dead
  3. If no one feels pain while dead, then being dead is not a painful experience
  4. If not being dead is not a painful experience, then being dead is not bad for the one who is dead
  5. THEREFORE, being dead is not bad for the one who is dead

Difficulties for the First Version of the Argument [133]
A New Version of the Argument [135]
Epicurus against the evil of death – 2
  1. Each person stops existing at the moment of death
  2. If (1), then no one feels any pain while dead
  3. If no one feels pain while dead, then death does not lead to anything intrinsically bad for the one who dies
  4. If death does not lead to anything intrinsically bad for the one who dies, then death is not extrinsically bad for the one who is dead [based on CP]
  5. THEREFORE, death is not extrinsically bad for the one who is dead

The Fallacy in the New Version [137] Examples:
  1. eg1. Young man goes to college A instead of college B. He enjoys his time there, but because A offers no Philosophy courses, he "goes to his grave" without discovering the life of Philosophy which would have been of greater enjoyment to him than the life he ended up living.
  2. eg1. Girl is born in country A, whose culture teaches that women can be homemakers but not poets. She goes to her grave satisfied with her life as a homemaker, but she was (unbeknownst to her) a natural poet and would have enjoyed that life much more.
  3. What these examples show:
    "Some things are bad for us even though they are not themselves painful experiences, and they do not lead to any painful experiences."

How Death Can Be Bad for the One Who Dies [138]
  1. There is some connection between extrinsic and intrinsic value but it is not CP. It is rather this:
    EI: Something is extrinsically bad for a person if and only if he or she would have been intrinsically better off if it had not taken place.
  2. [My comment: this is not enough to work for the examples eg1 and eg2: you need a context of reference. Because, we can easily imagine the Young Man not going to college A – because he gets kidnapped and tortured for years instead! If that is his alternative, then going to college A is not extrinsically bad. So EI should say something like "if a preferred alternative had happened (or perhaps, "the most likely alternative").]
  3. eg3. Boy undergoing minor surgery dies (painlessly) under anesthesia
    This person’s death is extrinsically bad for him even though it is not itself a painful experience.
  4. The evil of death is a matter of deprivation; it is bad for a person when it deprives him or her of intrinsic value; if he or she would have been better off if it had not happened. [139]

Points of clarification [140-142]
  1. Death is not always bad for the one who dies:
    The badness of a given death depends on what would have taken place if that death had not happened. If great suffering would have happened, then the death might be preferable (thus euthanasia could be permissible).
  2. Defeating Epicurus does not show that one should fear death:
    Since fearing death makes life less pleasant "I would recommend, then, that if possible, you stop fearing death."
  3. Death is bad but not painful:
    "I agree with Epicurus that the dead suffer no pain. Being dead is not painful … Nevertheless, in my view, death may be bad for the one who dies."
  4. Where Epicurus is right: it is wrong to fear death on the grounds that it is painful.
  5. Where Epicurus is wrong: fear of death can have a rational basis, because death is bad for one.

Comment:

Epicurus



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".


Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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