Beyond Price: Essays on Life and Death - Introduction
Velleman (David)
Source: Retrieved from, 31/05/2015
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  1. Beyond Price collects my essays in bioethics, most of which are unified by a rejection of the prevailing egoistic voluntarism about creating new lives and ending one’s own — that is, about procreation and suicide.
  2. Many now believe that it is not only permissible but virtuous to “take control” of one’s death and to exercise that control when life is no longer “worth it”. Feature articles in the press celebrate the courage of people who commit suicide because the benefits of longevity no longer repay them for the burdens of old age. And society is happy to be relieved of responsibility for euthanasia by those who take the initiative to self-euthanize.
  3. In three essays:-
    1. "Velleman (David) - Against the Right to Die",
    2. "Velleman (David) - A Right of Self-Termination?",
    3. "Velleman (David) - Beyond Price"
    I argue that having control over one’s death is itself a burden, and that the calculation of benefits and burdens is in any case inadequate to guide a decision in which the value of the person is at stake. I ultimately arrive at the conclusion that the choice of death should be guided not by self-interest but by self-love — which, I believe, regards the still-intact capacity to make the choice as a reason for not making it, at least not yet.
  4. Procreation is another site for the self-interested assertion of will, as infertile couples perseverate in trying to have children, and single people choose to have children, by buying gametes from anonymous strangers. Although a large segment of our society denies that whether to abort1 a pregnancy2 is a private decision, there is oddly no party platform denying that it’s a private decision whether to have a child. Oddly, because what makes the privacy of abortion3 so controversial — that is, disagreement as to whether there is another person involved — should make it uncontroversial that procreation is not private. There obviously is another person involved: the child.
  5. No doubt, the living child is left out of account because it receives what the aborted4 fetus5 is denied, the so-called gift of life. I contend that life is not a gift, and that “giving” it to a child is wrong if the child will be severed from half of its ancestry. Defending this contention requires some careful reasoning about personal identity and non-existence, which I undertake over the course of four essays:-
  6. The subsequent three essays in this collection are about the harm of death. Over the twenty-odd years between the earliest paper in the collection:-
    1. "Velleman (David) - Well-Being and Time",
    2. "Velleman (David) - So It Goes", and the latest
    3. "Velleman (David) - Dying",
    my attitude toward death has gradually changed. I no longer think that the question how to feel about death has a right answer.
  7. The last essay in the collection is about life-writing — biography and autobiography — and it concludes with some autobiography of my own. I have the nagging sense that my mixing autobiography with philosophy, always self-indulgent, is sometimes unfair. I commit the fallacy of argumentum ad misericordium by revealing unfortunate parts of my life-history, as if soliciting philosophical agreement by appealing for personal sympathy. All I can say in my own defense is that I have included a lot of happy autobiography in my work, as in “Family History”, and that I actually regard all of my writing as autobiographical. Although I write about what it is like to be a human being, I am always aware of writing only about what it is like for me.


See; downloaded 31/05/2015.

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