The Worst Time to Die
Bradley (Ben)
Source: Ethics 118 (January 2008): 291–314
Paper - Abstract

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Author's Introduction

  1. At what stage of life is it worst for someone to die? Here are two fictional examples to help frame the question.
    • Baby — A three-week-old baby, Baby, dies in an accident. Had Baby not died then, he would have enjoyed a happy childhood and adolescence, gone to college, entered a PhD program in philosophy, become a professional philosopher, and lived an enjoyable life until dying at age eighty.
    • Student — A twenty-three-year-old philosophy graduate student, Student, dies in an accident after a happy childhood and adolescence. Had Student not died then, he would have become a professional philosopher and lived an enjoyable life until dying at age eighty.
    Which victim’s death is worse for him?
  2. In what follows, I defend a simple view that entails that death is typically worse for its victim the earlier it occurs and, thus, that Baby’s death is worse than Student’s. Jeff McMahan, Chris Belshaw, and David DeGrazia have argued that Student’s death is worse for him; I show that their views face serious problems.
  3. I focus in particular on McMahan’s “Time-Relative Interest Account” of the evil of death, according to which the magnitude of the harm of death is determined in part by facts about psychological connectedness1.


Originally a draft "Egoistic Concern, Narrative Unity, and the Worst Time to Die", end Aug 2004

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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