Accounting for Asymmetry?
Kamm (F.M.)
Source: Kamm - Morality, Mortality (Vol. 1) - Death and Whom to Save from It, Chapter 3
Paper - Abstract

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OUP Abstract

  1. Offers a final proposal on the two questions of the question of why death1 is bad, and whether it is worse than prenatal non-existence (the asymmetry thesis); it is concerned with whether there are properties observable from a view outside life, rather from within it, that help explain why death2 is worse than prenatal non-existence, and if so, whether these properties must make non-existence-in-the-future different from non-existence-in-the-past in ways other than just that it is in the future.
  2. The chapter is also concerned with what more we can say about the fact, or beliefs about the fact, that something exists in the future that will help illuminate the explanatory role of this fact. Many of the factors that may explain why death3 is really worse depend on asymmetries related to time4: the (supposed) fact that causation5 has a direction (forward), so that the past affects the future, but the future does not affect the past; the (supposed) fact that there is a direction in time, from past to future; and the fact that there is a before and after in the passage of time. However, some of these features may not be objective at all, rather, they may be features of the subjective view of those who are observing another's life from the outside, and if this were so, the asymmetrical features dependent on the asymmetries related to time and causation6 might explain the asymmetrical attitude, but they might not justify it.
  3. The chapter comes to focus on three factors:
    1. the Insult Factor, that death happens to a person who has already existed and undoes him;
    2. the Future Deprivation Factor, that death deprives the person who dies of significant future goods (the Thomas Nagel / Derek Parfit7 point); and
    3. the Extinction Factor, that death means the possibility of anything significant for the person in the future is over.


Part I - Death: From Bad to Worse

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