How Bad Is Death?
Bradley (Ben)
Source: Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Mar., 2007), pp. 111-127
Paper - Abstract

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Author's Introduction

  1. A popular view about why death is bad for the one who dies is that death deprives its subject of the good things in life. This is the 'deprivation account' of the evil of death. The deprivation account might be considered the 'received view' concerning the evil of death. But the deprivation account entails that there need be no relationship between the disvalue of someone's death and the quality of the life that preceded it.
  2. It is often thought that a person's death is less tragic, or less bad, if she has lived a good life or accomplished great things. In "McMahan (Jeff) - The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life", Jeff McMahan argues that a deprivation account should discount the evil of death, and other misfortunes of deprivation, for previous gains in life.
  3. In what follows, I defend a version of the deprivation account against McMahan's argument. I argue that McMahan's attempt to adjust the disvalue of a death in light of the quality of the life that preceded it leads to unacceptable results.
  4. I show that we can make sense of intuitions that pull us towards McMahan's view by noticing that the truth of an attribution of badness to a death depends in part on conversational context.


Makropulos Case1 (Footnote 13).

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