Pre-Vital and Post-Mortem Non-Existence
Kaufman (Frederik)
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, 36.1, January 1999, pp. 1-19
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. Assuming that death is the permanent extinction of conscious personal existence, you probably think that your death would be a bad thing. But Epicurus argues that this position is absurd, because nothing bad can happen to you if you do not exist.
  2. The natural response to Epicurus is that death can be bad because it deprives you of the time you would have enjoyed had you not died. However, the "deprivation response" to Epicurus leads to a problem: if death is bad because it deprives, then so is birth, for you were similarly deprived of the time before you were born by being born when you were. This is Lucretius' so-called "symmetry argument."
  3. The thesis of the paper is that on a proper understanding of what it is to be you, you could not have come into existence earlier than you did, whereas you may go out of existence later than you will, thus breaking the alleged symmetry between prevital and postmodern times.
  4. The paper argues against the prevailing response to Lucretius' symmetry argument put forward by Derek Parfit1 and others, defending instead a version of Thomas Nagel's response proposed in "Nagel (Thomas) - Death".

  1. Epicurus's Challenge and the Deprivation Response;
  2. A Problem With the Deprivation Account;
  3. A Bigger Problem for the Deprivation Account;
  4. Why Parfit2's Answer to Lucretius is Inadequate;
  5. Attitude is Not the Issue Anyway;
  6. The Answer to Lucretius

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