More Puzzles About the Evil of Death
Feldman (Fred)
Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 9
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsColour-ConventionsDisclaimer

Author’s Abstract1

  1. Chapter 9, "More Puzzles about the Evil of Death," contains a discussion of four philosophical puzzles that confront the defender of the deprivation approach.
  2. One of the most interesting of these is a puzzle presented by Lucretius. If early death is bad for us because it deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had died later, then "late birth" must be equally bad for us, since it deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had been born earlier. Yet we do not lament the fact that we were born so late. Why is this?


The Puzzles [143]
  1. Puzzle 1: How can being dead be a misfortune for a person if she doesn’t exist during the time when it takes place?
  2. Puzzle 2: How can you compare the benefits a person receives if he lives to those he would receive if he dies, when a dead person can’t have any benefits?
  3. Puzzle 3: When is death supposed to be a misfortune? It can’t be after one is dead (or if it is, one certainly doesn’t care).
  4. Puzzle 4: If early death is bad because we are denied goods we would have had, then why isn’t late birth just as bad for us?

Axiological Preliminaries [146]
  1. Introducing the concept of the intrinsic value for a person of a life. It is the objective value (not the subjective – so someone can be wrong about how they value their life – pessimists value it too low, optimists too high) to him (not to anybody else – so he can be Robinson Crusoe his whole life and never have any effect, or even Hitler, and still have a positive value) of the life.
  2. If (like Epicurus) we assume hedonism, then the value is worked out by adding up all the pleasures of life and subtracting the pains.
  3. (It’s worth pretending to be a hedonist even if we’re not, just to tackle Epicurus on his own terms. Feldman wants to show that even if we grant Epicurus his main assumptions [hedonism, the termination thesis] it doesn’t follow that "death is nothing to us".)

Things that are Bad for People [148]
  1. Feldman aims to show that one’s death is bad for one. To show this, we first need to know what it is for anything to be bad for one.
  2. Distinguish intrinsically bad from extrinsically bad. Intrinsically only happens (on the hedonistic view) when we suffer pain. We can work out the extrinsic bad (on the assumption of EI [138] by subtracting the extrinsic good of one alternative from the other and the difference is the extrinsic bad of the lower alternative (because you could have done better by taking the better alternative). That is:
  3. D: The extrinsic value for S of P = the difference between the intrinsic value for S of the life S would lead if P is true and the intrinsic value for S of the life S would lead if P is false.
  4. Example: Dolores going to Bolivia. [149].

The Evil of Death [150]
Some Proposed Answers [152]
  1. Puzzle 1: "A state of affairs can be extrinsically bad for a person whether it occurs before he exists, while he exists, or after he exists." Example of father losing job and being forced to move before I was conceived – this was bad for me even though I wasn’t around. This is simply because of D: my life with move is worth less than life without move.
  2. Puzzle 2: Death is not the comparison: we are comparing two lives – a long one and a short one. The short one (with the early death) has less value than the long one, so by D, death is an extrinsic bad.
  3. Puzzle 3: An early death is a misfortune eternally, not just after her death. The comparison made by D is from a God’s eye view: it is always true that the shorter life produces less value than the longer one.
  4. Puzzle 4: Not a good answer.

Conclusions [156]

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)

© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Sept 2020. Please address any comments on this page to File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page