Philosophers Index Abstract
- Epicurus contends that your postmortem nonexistence is no worse than your prenatal nonexistence. Thomas Nagel objects that your postmortem nonexistence is worse because it is time you are deprived of; you could have lasted longer but could not have started earlier.
- However, a collection of Zeno style thought experiments1 show that instead of caring about time, we care about a time-like relation that David Lewis dubbed "personal time". He uses it to consistently interpret time travel2 stories. Any prejudices we appear to have about time are really preferences about this pseudo-time.
- The article discusses the argument that death does not harm the person who dies. For a man is harmed by his death only if his future non-existence is bad. But this post-mortem non-existence is no worse than his prenatal non-existence. Thomas Nagel objects that there is an asymmetry. He could not have been born earlier because he owes his existence to a particular sperm-egg combination that could not have arisen earlier. Therefore, he was not deprived of time prior to birth. However, his death will happen earlier than it need happen.
- You are a god. You would have enjoyed the normal immortality of an Olympian god. However, a demon cursed you to live in a stop and go fashion that makes you indistinguishable from an ordinary mortal.
- Anticipating Adrian W. Moore 's (2001: 2283) meditations on 'veiled immortality', the demon divided your existence into a Zeno sequence: You live half your life, followed by a trillion years of nothingness, then a quarter of your life followed by a trillion years of nothingness, then an eighth of your life followed by a trillion years of nothingness, and so on, ad infinitum. During the intermissions, everything stops (except perhaps for the ticking of a clock in a remote corner of the universe).
- You will live forever. But you will not have a better life than a mortal. The demon has harmed you as gravely as death harms mortals.
- “The Infinite”, Routledge; 2nd edition (25 Jan. 2001), 296pp.
- “An historical study of the infinite, covering all its aspects, from the mathematical to the mystical. Moore discusses not only Aristotle and Zeno, but also Cantor, Gödel and Wittgenstein, and examines God, mortality and human finitude”.
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