Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death
Feldman (Fred)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Cover Blurb

  1. Abstract: What is death? Do people survive death? What do we mean when we say that someone is "dying"? Presenting a clear and engaging discussion of the classic philosophical questions surrounding death, this book studies the great metaphysical and moral problems of death, concluding with a novel consequentialist theory about the morality of killing, applying it to such thorny practical issues as abortion1, suicide, and euthanasia.
  2. About the Author: Fred Feldman is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the author of
    • Introductory Ethics (1978),
    • A Cartesian Introduction to Philosophy (1986), and
    • Doing the Best We Can: An Essay in Informal Deontic Logic (1986).
  3. Reviews:
    • "Lucid, sensible, and insightful throughout. The criticisms of alternative approaches are particularly penetrating, and the positive suggestions are thoughtful.... I have considerable admiration for this fine book. Feldman talks sense about difficult, murky, and perplexing matters."
      … J.M. Fischer, Philosophical Review
    • "Exceptionally lucid and closely reasoned discussions of the nature of death, from a materialist point of view, and the (dis)value of death, from a consequentialist perspective."
      … Robert Frazier Philosophical Books
    • "This book is nearly ideal for engaging students in philosophy. It addresses important and interesting topics, and it is a model of clear thinking. Feldman demonstrates in a way accessible to non-specialists how to evaluate reasons for a position by casting them in the form of an uncomplicated argument and how to undermine those reasons by constructing a counterexample to a clearly identified premise. The book's frequent summaries make it easy for an undergraduate to follow, and the choice of examples ranges beyond the standard science-fiction cases."
      … Edward Wierenga, Teaching Philosophy
    • "Confrontations contains useful and provocative contributions to the growing literature on the metaphysics and value of death. The extraordinary clarity of Feldman's style is also one of the book's virtues .... Feldman has, through clear discussion and illuminating examples, enriched the framework in which philosophers may continue to examine important moral questions concerning death."
      … Stephen E. Rosenbaum, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
    • "Replete with imaginative examples, systematic arguments, and some off-beat humour."
      Times Literary Supplement

Preface (Excerpts)
  1. My daughter Lindsay died on December 7, 1987. She was then sixteen years old. We had known for some time that she had a very serious illness and that it was likely that she would die young. In those very grim months before she died, Lindsay and I often talked about death. We of course expressed our anger and our fears concerning death. But we also discussed all sorts of philosophical puzzles about death including the puzzle about the evil of death.
  2. Lindsay maintained (or perhaps she only pretended to maintain) that her death would not be such a very bad thing for her – for she would be "out of it" once it took place. Her view apparently, was she would no longer exist once dead, being dead could not hurt her. She claimed that her death would be worse for me, since I would be left behind to suffer its aftereffects.
  3. For a while after Lindsay died I found it impossible to think coherently about anything. Later, as my capacity for relatively coherent thought returned, I discovered that virtually all my thoughts were connected in one way or another with death. I began to reflect on some of the traditional metaphysical and ethical questions about death, and gradually I found myself drawn to a certain collection of views about the nature and value of death. I discussed these with friends and colleagues. Some friends, perhaps recognizing that no other topic was likely to capture my attention, encouraged me to try to organize and clarify my thoughts.
  4. I sought out books and articles on the philosophical problems concerning death. I worked up some lectures on these topics and presented them in a seminar. With the help of students and friends, I gradually began to get my own views into a form suitable for presentation elsewhere. Very many students made extremely useful suggestions and comments2 at this stage. [ … snip … ]



In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death")

Footnote 2: Ted Sider is mentioned as a student. Others involved at one time or another included Ned Markosian, Lynne Baker, Roderick Chisholm, Jaegwon Kim, Ernest Sosa, Michael Jubien and John Martin Fischer.


BOOK COMMENT:

Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992



"Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper"

Source: Personal Web-page, University of Michigan
  • This is a blow-by-blow commentary on "Feldman (Fred) - Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death".
  • Simon Cushing was at the time Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan, though now seems to have moved on.
  • It was one of the set texts for a “Mortal Questions” philosophy undergraduate course at the University of Michigan.
  • The paper used to be on-line as a pdf on Simon Cushing’s University of Michigan web-page, but I couldn’t locate it (other than on my hard-drive) last I looked.
  • I have extracted the relevant sections to act as abstracts for corresponding chapters of Feldman’s book.


COMMENT: Detailed analysis of "Feldman (Fred) - Confrontations with the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death".



"Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Introduction


Full Text1
  1. In art and mythology death is sometimes represented as a ferryman, eager to take his passengers to the other side. It is also sometimes represented as a moth fluttering mindlessly into the flame of a candle. But the most compelling image of death is provided by the Reaper – the hooded skeleton bearing the huge curved scythe.
  2. The Reaper is ugly and menacing. He stares directly at us, and with an outstretched bony finger, he beckons us to come to him. He is patient. If we escape today, surely he will have us tomorrow. He is democratic. He takes all; high and low alike will be "harvested" when the time comes. He is unforgiving. Once we are in his grasp, there is no return.
  3. Two aspects of the Reaper are especially noteworthy. He is mysterious. This is illustrated by the fact that the Reaper's face is often hidden in the shadows of his hood. Death is taken to be weird or uncanny – something about which we have no real understanding.
  4. Death is also taken to be evil. This is illustrated by the Reaper's malevolent glare. A visit from the Reaper is to be feared almost beyond comparison. What he does to us is the standard by which misfortunes can be measured.
  5. While most of us find nothing remarkable in the claims that death is mysterious and evil, each of these claims has been vigorously rejected by certain philosophers. Some insist that there is nothing mysterious about death. In a remarkably level-headed and sensible paper2, Paul Edwards argues for the conclusion that death is no more mysterious than any other biological phenomenon. As he sees it, a person’s death is simply the event that takes place when he or she ceases to be alive. We understand (well enough) what life is; we know what cessation is. Thus, since death is just the cessation of life, we understand what death is. The Reaper is thus unmasked.
  6. Edwards suggests that if you seek more knowledge about the nature of death, you may seek something that does not exist. Some apparently want to know what it feels like to be dead. Since no one returns from death, the living apparently have no informants who can tell us what death is like. Thus, according to these people, a certain important aspect of death remains mysterious. We cannot know what it feels like. Edwards points out the absurdity of any such quest. Death surely does not "feel like" anything; once dead, we cease to feel. We have no experience. If you are troubled because you cannot know what it feels like to have no feelings, you are simply confused.
  7. Other philosophers argue that the Reaper is not really evil. Epicurus – perhaps the most eloquent spokesman for this position – says in effect that we have an utterly failsafe way of protecting ourselves from the evil of death. At the very moment when the Reaper clutches us in his bony embrace, we go out of existence. Since the non-existent cannot be harmed, death cannot harm us.
  8. Epicurus summarises this point by saying that "death … is nothing to us, since so long as we exist death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more."
  9. Many modern philosophers, biologists and theologians have defended similar positions. They have claimed that death is neither so mysterious nor so evil as the naïve would suppose. The Reaper, according to these thinkers, is really no more mysterious or evil than the stork who symbolises birth or the flowing stream that symbolizes life. In each case, all we have is a biological phenomenon that has by studied in the full light of day.
  10. In this book, I defend the naïve view on both counts. I try, in Part I, to show that death really is a mystery. Perhaps it is not mysterious in quite the way some have said, but it is mysterious nonetheless. In Part II I try to show how death can be a great evil, especially for its victim.
  11. If I merely claimed that death is mysterious and evil, there would be no reason to read any further. You probably already accept these points and think that anyone who says otherwise is engaging in self-deception. But the issue is more complex. Wise and thoughtful philosophers have presented subtle arguments designed to show that death cannot be evil. Equally sensible thinkers have claimed to take the mystery out of death by telling us, in straightforward biological terminology, what death is. In order to deal responsibly with these views, we must first understand the arguments and proposed definitions. If, after appropriate scrutiny, the arguments and definitions can be seen to be defective, than we can reinstate the naïve views. Of course, under those circumstances, the views will no longer be so naïve.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper")

Footnote 1: The numbering is mine. Also, the chapter-summaries have been removed to the relevant Papers corresponding to these chapters.

Footnote 2: See "Edwards (Paul) - Existentialism and Death: A Survey of Some Confusions and Absurdities".



"Feldman (Fred) - The Search For Death Itself"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 1


Author’s Abstract1
  1. This book, as a whole, is about the nature and value (or, perhaps more properly, disvalue) of death. Part I is about the nature of death. According to a popular view, there is nothing mysterious about death – it is just the cessation of life.
  2. In Chapter 1, "The Search for Death Itself," I present a somewhat more detailed account of the sort of question I mean to ask about death. In other words, I try to explain what is meant by the question "What is the nature of death?"
  3. I also try to locate the target concept ("the biological concept of death"), and I indicate some criteria that must be satisfied by any adequate answer.

Analysis2

The Problems of Death [11]

Different types of questions surrounding death:
  1. Psychological:
    a) How do we feel about our own impending death?
    b) How do we react to the death of loved ones?
    c) Are there typical stages in adjustment of the recognition of impending death?
    d) At what age do we come to understand mortality?
  2. Legal:
    a) Do dead people have legal rights?
    b) Should suicide be legal?
  3. Biological:
    a) Why do organisms die?
    b) Are there any that don’t?
    c) Could we make it so that people or organisms never die?
    d) Can we make dead organisms live again? [insane laughter]
  4. Philosophical: what is death?
Conceptual Analysis [12]
  • Understanding an engine can be helped by an “exploded” view, showing how all the parts fit together. Same can be done for concepts: we understand complex properties by revealing their parts and relations. This can proceed by trial and error, suggesting necessary and sufficient conditions, and testing them by trial by counterexample.
  • One way to reveal our analysis once it is complete (or even at the various stages along the way) is to give a definition. Example for mother:
    … x is a mother at t = df. X is a female parent at t.
    (Why “at t”? Some concepts are time-relative, and it’s better to be safe in all definitions.)
  • Counterexamples: do not use unclear or controversial borderline cases. Must use a case about which there is relative consensus. The borderline cases are to be decided using our analysis, so we shouldn’t use them to set up the analysis.
  • Obscurity: the definition should not involve terms that are as obscure as the term at hand, and the job of a definition is to improve understanding. Should use clear, simple, and literal terminology.
  • Circularity: can’t use terms that (even covertly) make use of the concept of issue (example: “Thanatological” – means “having to do with death”)
Analysis of Death or Criterion for Death? [14]
  • Differences between the two:
    1. criterion helps us locate the moment of death
      analysis tells us what death is
    2. criterion can (and probably should) be set up specific for humans (e.g. “z-waves”)
      analysis should apply equally to anything that can die
    3. criterion can work fine even if it’s only contingently true (again, “z-waves”. Even if z-waves happen to be a good indicator of death for humans, we can imagine beings who don’t have them but yet live and die)
      analysis is necessarily true (if true at all)
    4. criterion is technology-relative. A good criterion for 1850 will be far too crude for 2050
      analysis of death should be eternally true if true at all
    5. success for criterion is adoption by many people
      analysis can be true even if nobody adopts it
  • analysis is prior to criterion: to know what the criterion is for, you must have an analysis of death (“is it possible to live again after death?” must be answered before we can decide when death has occurred)
The Biological Concept of Death [19]
  • One non-biological definition of death is
    … “to die is to cease permanently to be conscious of one’s own psychological experiences”
  • This is non-biological because it obviously doesn’t apply to cockroaches and trees. According to Feldman, the same concept is being used in these three statements:
    1. JFK died November 1963
    2. The last dodo died in April 1681
    3. My apple tree died in the winter of 1986
  • To say otherwise would be to “pun” — like saying “I have two planes, a Cessna in the hangar and a Stanley in the woodshop”
Life as a Part of Death [20]
  • First pass at a definition:
    D1: x dies at t = df. X ceases to be alive at t
  • Is this circular? No. Life is not the same as death. Is it immediately helpful? No – not until we have some grasp on what life is.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - The Search For Death Itself")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - Life-Functional Theories of Life"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 2


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Since the concept of life apparently plays a role in the definition of death, we must first understand what is meant by 'life'.
  2. In Chapters 2 and 3, I present several of the most plausible accounts of the nature of life. I attempt to show that each of them fails. Life itself turns out to be a bit of a mystery.

Analysis2

Life itself [22]
  • The "life" we’re interested in is the property possessed by all living things. NOT to be confused with:
    1. the "history3" of a living thing ("his life was filled with joy/lasted 82 years") – the life we’re interested in is not tied to duration
    2. the different lives of people – the life we’re interested in is the same for all living things
    3. the aggregate of living things (life on earth, "teeming with life")
    4. metaphorical usage ("the hills are alive…")
  • Are ponds living things? Is the Gaia Hypothesis (that the Earth is alive) right? (No and no, says Feldman)

Some Preliminary Objections [25]
  1. Mayr: "Life is simply the reification of the processes of living … there is no such thing as an independent ‘life’ in a living organism".
    Response: the fact that life is not a substance or force doesn’t mean it’s not a property – analogy with "motherhood". It may not be something measurable by science but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  2. Living things are so varied that there is no one thing they have in common.
    Response:
    • (a) they do have something in common "they share all necessary properties and they are all alive" [isn’t this begging4 the question?]
    • (b) huge variation doesn’t rule out the possibility of similarity – again, the class of "mothers" (bugs, humans, whales)

Aristotle’s Life-Functional Analysis of Life [26]
  1. Suggested life-functions:
    • Nutrition/reproduction (most basic, possessed by all living things)
    • Sensation (only possessed by living things, but not by plants)
    • Motion
    • Thought
  2. LF1: x is alive at t =df. x is able to perform at least one of the life functions at t
    Objection: TOO BROAD. One of the life functions is motion, and robots have it.
  3. LF2: x is alive at t =df. x is able to engage in nutrition and reproduction at t
    Objection: TOO NARROW. Many living things cannot reproduce (too old, too young, mutilated)
  4. LF3: x is alive at t =df. x is able to engage in nutrition at t
    Objection: STILL TOO NARROW. The cecropia5 moth cannot eat.
  5. LF3’: x is alive at t =df. either (i) x is able to engage in nutrition at t or else (ii) x was able to engage in nutrition at some time earlier than t
    Objection: Now TOO BROAD. Includes dead6 things.

Some Modern Life-Functional Analyses of Life [31] - The genetic analysis of life [NASA]:
  1. LF4: x is alive at t =df. x is able to reproduce at t, and x is able to produce and perpetuate genetic variation among offspring at t
    Objection: TOO NARROW. See objection to LF2, and also many ants and bees are never able to reproduce (and no individuals are able to mutate!)
  2. Suggestion:
    • move discussion to talk of species. Although individual ants and bees cannot reproduce, it must be the case that ants and bees as a species must be able to reproduce and mutate.
    • A species is variably reproductive if some of its members can reproduce offspring that manifest small genetic differences from their parents.
  3. LF5: x is alive at t =df. x is a member of some variably reproductive species at t
    • Objection (1) : TOO BROAD. Includes dead things ("a dead chicken is still a chicken")
    • Objection (2) : uses the "notoriously obscure" concept of "species"

The Matthews Approach [35]
  1. Life functions are capacities without which a species cannot be preserved. Suggested examples: reproduction, reason, sense perception, locomotion, appetite, metabolism
  2. LF6: x is alive at t =df. at t, x is able to exercise at least one capacity that is a vital function for x’s species
    • Objection (1): Unclear. What does it mean to say "without which a species cannot be preserved"? Does this mean that every member of the species must exhibit that capacity for the species to be preserved? Clearly not (ants and bees for reproduction). So in that sense it cannot even be that members of the species in general must exhibit a property for it to be a life function. (That is: individual ants and bees do not need to reproduce – in fact only one female in ten thousand engages in reproduction – yet those ants and bees are clearly alive. But Matthews only says they must exhibit one of the capacities. Can an individual be living without displaying reason, sense perception, locomotion, appetite, metabolism and reproduction?)
    • Objection (2): TOO BROAD. Combustibility is a life function for some evergreens, but it is possessed by dead trees.
    • Objection (3): Either covertly CIRCULAR or TOO BROAD again. "Alive" is defined in terms of life functions. Life functions are defined as those without which a species cannot be preserved. But what is the definition of "preserved"?
  3. Suggestion 1: S is preserved up to t = df. S still exists at t
    Dilemma: either
    • (a) species are defined as properties (that is, the species "tiger" is the property of being a tiger, in which case they exist whether or not individual members exist, just as "redness" would still in some sense exist even if all the red things were destroyed), which in this case would mean that there are no life functions, because nothing is required to keep a species existing (just as nothing is required to keep "redness" existing), or
    • (b) for a species to continue to exist, individual members must exist. In that case:
  4. Suggestion 2: S is preserved up to t = df. there are still some living members of S at t
    Objection: But this is flagrantly circular, because "preserved" is defined using the term "living", when we were trying to define living in terms of "preserved". What if we replace "living" with "existing"? That is:
  5. Suggestion 3: S is preserved up to t = df. there are still some existing members of S at t
    Objection: But dead individuals still "exist" – there are even existing examples of dodos. This would make the definition TOO BROAD.

Conclusion [38]
  • The life-functional approach to the analysis of life is unsuccessful7. I see no satisfactory way to define life by appeal to some set of life functions.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Life-Functional Theories of Life")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".

Footnote 3:
  • See my Note on Life (Click here for Note)
  • This distinctions between biological life, and the career or history of individuals that may or may not be biologically alive is important, and frequently confused by Baker.
Footnote 4:
  • Yes, it is, and I agree that Life might be a “family resemblance concept”, like “game”, where there is no set of necessary and sufficient conditions that anything we want to call “alive” must satisfy.
  • This style of analytical philosophy can appear rather nit-picking and sterile. This comment applies to much of the book.
Footnote 5: I’m not convinced of the value of pressing definitions with very unusual cases. See previous comment.

Footnote 6:
  • A lot of problems are caused by Feldman’s belief that dead things are of the same kind as the things they are the corpses of.
  • We’re trying to distinguish live things from dead things (as well as from inanimate things), which will be hard if the things in the two states are taken to be of the same kind.
Footnote 7:
  • Well, you’ll need to try harder then (or give up on “dead things”)!
  • The “life-functions” approach is the obvious “scientific” approach to biological life. Vitalism (see the next chapter) is a non-starter.



"Feldman (Fred) - Vitalist Theories of Life"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 3


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Since the concept of life apparently plays a role in the definition of death, we must first understand what is meant by 'life'.
  2. In Chapters 2 and 3, I present several of the most plausible accounts of the nature of life. I attempt to show that each of them fails. Life itself turns out to be a bit of a mystery.

Analysis2

Vitalism [39]
  1. Distinction between substances and properties:
    • According to the life-functional analysis of life, life involves having a property or properties.
    • According to vitalism, life involves containing a substance – for Aristotle "soul", for Hans Dreisch, "vital fluid".
  2. V1: x is alive at t =df. there is some vital fluid in x at t

The Empirical Problem [42]
  • Vital fluid is "imponderable" (has no weight) and invisible. It is therefore impossible to prove it exists.

The Jonah Problem [43]
  1. Suppose Jonah is inside a dead whale. According to V1, the whale is actually therefore alive, because there is vital fluid inside it (inside Jonah). Thus the definition is TOO BROAD, because it includes dead whales. (Also dead people, because there are live maggots and bacteria inside corpses.) So simply "inside" is not enough. How about:
  2. V2: x is alive at t =df. there is some vital fluid inside the cells of x at t
    Objection: TOO BROAD: virus could be in the cells of the dead whale
  3. Okay, so we need the vital fluid to be in the organism "the right way". How do we know it’s the right way? If it animates the organism:
  4. V3: x is alive at t =df. some vital fluid animates x at t
    Objection: makes vital fluid irrelevant. The following is just as good:
  5. V4: x is alive at t =df. something animates x at t
    Objection: "animates" is "hopelessly obscure"

The Failure of Analyticity [45]
  1. On taking a sample of an (obviously living) Martian, scientists test it and say:
    • 1. The Martian is alive but he contains no vital fluid.
  2. This is clearly not a contradiction, because it makes sense and we can imagine it happening. (Contrast with the claim "the circle had 3 sides".) But that means that whatever "being alive" is, it isn’t necessarily containing vital fluid. And as we saw (number 3 on p. 17, chapter 1), a correct analysis of a term is necessarily true. For example, it is not possible for a bachelor to be married. That is, "The bachelor is married" is a contradiction. (This is called the failure of "analyticity" because statements whose denial involves a contradiction are called analytic truths. The fact that you can deny "being alive means containing vital fluid" without it being a contradiction, as we see from 1 above, shows that it is not an analytic truth and thus not necessary.)

DNA-ism [46] Suggestion drawing on Mayr’s writings:
  1. DNA1: x is alive at t =df. x contains some DNA or RNA at t
    This is an improvement on V1 because it avoids the empirical problem. DNA is detectable because "I’ve seen it with my own eyes" – a test tube full of DNA extracted from "ground-up mouse spleens" (ugh). BUT:
    Objection: TOO BROAD. The test tube contains DNA but is not alive. (This is the Jonah problem again.)
  2. DNA2: x is alive at t =df. DNA or RNA is contained in the cells of x at t
    Objection: TOO BROAD again. A corpse has DNA in its cells but is not alive.
  3. DNA3: x is alive at t =df. x is animated at t by some DNA or RNA
    Our objection to the use of "animates" in V4 was that it was "hopelessly obscure". Let’s try to fix that problem by defining animates. First attempt:
  4. A1: x animates y at t =df. x gives life to y at t
    Objection: CIRCULAR. We’re defining "is alive" in terms of "animates", so we can’t turn around and define "animates" in terms of "life". Second attempt:
  5. A2: x animates y at t =df. x causes y to be able to perform the life functions at t
    Objection:
    • EITHER this rests on life functions, and we saw in chapter 2 that nobody has been able to give an adequate account of the life functions
    • OR: even if they could, it would make DNA irrelevant, because then we could define life in terms of the life functions alone:
  6. L1: x is alive at t =df. x is able to perform the life functions at t
    (This takes us right back to the beginning of chapter 2. And we DON’T want to go there…)
  7. Third attempt to define "animates": treat it as a conceptual primitive – that is, something that is so basic that everybody instantly "gets it" and it defies definition (like, perhaps, "yellow").
    Objection: treating "animates" as such is "tantamount to taking life itself as a primitive" which would go against the whole project of analyzing life.
  8. So, we’ve seen that although DNAism avoids the empirical problem for vitalism, it is vulnerable to the same Jonah problem. What about the problem of analyticity? Let’s go back to the Martian, only this time, the scientists test for DNA or RNA and report:
    • 2. The Martian is alive but he contains no DNA or RNA.
  9. Again, this is not a contradiction (Crick even talks of the possibility of life without DNA [50]) so DNAism has this problem too.

Genetic Informationism [51]
  1. GI: x is alive at t =df. x contains a genetic representation of x at t

Problems for Genetic Informationism [54]
  1. TOO BROAD: Dead female frog contains still-viable eggs that can be extracted and fertilized, producing genetic representations of the dead frog.
  2. ALSO: living seeds in dead tomato plants.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Vitalist Theories of Life")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - The Enigma of Death"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 4


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Suppose we understand life well enough. Can we then use the concept of life in our definition of death? Would it be correct to say that death is just the cessation of life?
  2. In Chapter 4, "The Enigma of Death," I explain why death cannot be defined in this way.
  3. One problem concerns suspended animation2. Things that go into suspended animation3 cease to live, but don't die. So death is not the cessation of life.
  4. Furthermore, there seem to be certain other ways of getting out of life without dying.
  5. I claim, in light of all this, that even if we understood the nature of life, it is not clear how we could use it in the effort to define the nature of death.
  6. Death is thus a double enigma.

Philosopher’s Index Abstract
    According to "the Standard Analysis" death may be defined as the cessation of life. In spite of the popularity of this analysis, it confronts a number of difficulties. Organisms that go into suspended animation4 cease (temporarily) to live, yet they sometimes do not die. Organisms that reproduce by fission cease to exist when they divide; hence, they also cease to live when they divide. It is counterintuitive to say that they then die. In this paper, I discuss several proposed analyses of the concept of death, and attempt to show that each fails. I conclude that death remains enigmatic.

Analysis5

The Gift of Life [56]
  1. We need to use "life" in our definition of death, but because the analysis of life in chapters 2 and 3 was inconclusive, we’ll have just to treat it as an "unanalyzed primitive" (see discussion of "animates" above – another example is "yellow").

The Biological Concept of Death [56]
  1. Recap of points in chapter 1: According to the biological concept, "dying" is the same for JFK, dodos and trees. That is, it cannot be defined in terms unique to humans (like brain waves) because trees die and they don’t have brains.
  2. Also: criterion of death vs. analysis (see p. 17):
    • Sample criterion of death:
      CoD: x dies at t iff x’s brain ceases to emit z-waves
    • Sample analysis of death:
      D1: x dies at t =df. x ceases to be alive at t
  3. A single counterexample shows that the analysis is incorrect (shows "the failure of analyticity", like the Martian did for the vitalist analysis of life in chapter 3).

Perrett’s Analysis [58]
  1. Roy Perrett in "Perrett (Roy W.) - Death and Immortality" seems to claim:
    • D2: x dies at t =df. x is a living biological organism up to t, but at t, x is destroyed
  2. Objection: TOO NARROW. Butterfly carefully captured is still dead.

The Standard Analysis [60]
  1. According to the standard view (which Perrett elsewhere seems to advocate), death is simply identified with the cessation of life. In other words, D1 as stated above (and below).
  2. [Feldman will argue that the standard analysis is wrong, specifically because death is only one of several ways in which life can end – that is, life ending is necessary but not sufficient for death. Also, he will assume that death only happens once – that is, that if you "die" and come back then you didn’t really die (see Jerry Lewis below). Why is this important? Because not only is death an important concept in our everyday lives (and feared – but why should it be if it’s not terminal?) but also in the law. It would seem unfair if you caused someone to "die" and then they came back, but you were still charged with manslaughter, for example.]

Puzzles About Suspended Animation6 [60]
  1. Suspended animation7 already works for living cells: microorganisms can be flooded with glycerol and frozen indefinitely. Imagine that this can be done for adult humans:
  2. CASE 1: Max has bad, currently incurable, disease such that he will die in a few days. Instead, he is frozen, and ten years later, when a cure is found for the disease, he is defrosted and cured.
  3. D1: x dies at t =df. x ceases to be alive at t
    Objection: TOO BROAD because of case 1. Max ceases to be alive at the moment he is frozen but does not die. Why not? Because he is later revived. This suggests:
  4. D2: x dies at t =df. x ceases permanently to be alive at t
    This fixes the problem for Max, but there’s a new problem:
  5. CASE 2: Identical twins8 (Tom and Tim) are in the same boat as Max in case 1, and they too are frozen. Unfortunately, after a year with no problems, Tom’s body is damaged while frozen such that he can never be revived. Tom’s body is thawed and buried. Tim, however, is cured ten years later just like Max in case 1. So:
  6. Objection to D2: GETS THE TIME WRONG. According to D2, Tom dies at the moment he is frozen. But this is weird because from that time for a whole year he is in exactly the same state as Tim. How is it that two identical twins9 can be in an identical condition, but one is dead and the other is not? Surely it makes more sense to say that Tom dies when his body is irreversibly damaged rather than at the time he is frozen.
  7. D3: x dies at t =df. x ceases permanently and irreversibly to be alive at t
    Objection: TOO NARROW. According to this definition, Tom never dies, because there is no moment at which he both permanently and irreversibly ceases to be alive. That is, he ceases permanently to be alive when he is frozen, but irreversibly a year later. But this seems like a minor quibble – we can fix it like this:
  8. D4: x dies at t =df.
    • (i) x ceases permanently to be alive at or before t, and
    • (ii) at t, it becomes physically impossible for x ever to live again
    Thus death occurs at the time loss of life becomes irreversible, even if (as with Tom) the loss of life occurs a year earlier. But it works fine for normal cases.
  9. [Possible objection: Jerry Lewis claims to have died several times. That is, for him death is not irreversible. But maybe he would accept the claim that his life ceased several times, even if he did not die (just as Tim’s and Max’s life ceased when they were frozen without them dying).]
  10. Real Objection to D4: TOO BROAD. Seems to include cases where the reason a person cannot be revived is external to the person. Suppose Max is frozen as in case 1, but before he can be revived, a massive nuclear war wipes out all civilization on earth. He’s safe in his canister, but at the time of the war, it becomes the case that his loss of life is irreversible simply because there’s nobody around to revive him. This seems to be a case where he doesn’t die. Why not? Because the reason his death is irreversible is not internal to him. So:
  11. D5: x dies at t =df.
    • (i) x ceases permanently to be alive at or before t, and
    • (ii) at t, internal changes occur in x that make it physically impossible for x ever to live again
    (Minor) Objection: the notions of "internal" and "physical impossibility" are at present vague.

Problems Concerning Fission and Fusion [66]
  1. Real Objection to D5: TOO BROAD. Alvin the Amoeba produces Amos and Ambrose. Does Alvin die? No – he passes from life "deathlessly". So:
  2. D6: x dies at t =df.
    • (i) x ceases permanently to be alive at or before t, and
    • (ii) at t, internal changes occur in x that make it physically impossible for x ever to live again, and
    • (iii) it’s not the case that x turns into another living thing or a bunch of other living things at t.
    Objection to D6: TOO BROAD: fusing chlamydomonas
  3. D7: x dies at t =df.
    • (i) x ceases permanently to be alive at or before t, and
    • (ii) at t, internal changes occur in x that make it physically impossible for x ever to live again, and
    • (iii) it’s not the case that x turns into another living thing or a bunch of other living things at t, and
    • (iv) it’s not the case that x is a member of a set of living things whose members fuse and turn into a living thing at t.
    Objection: TOO NARROW. Mouse in the cell separator: it produces a bunch of living things (its cells) but is clearly dead. Also: the victim of the Mad Organ Harvester.
  4. Perhaps the difference between Amoebas and the mouse and the organ victim is that in the latter two cases it is only living bits of them that survive, not new entities (as in the case of Amos and Ambrose). So:
  5. D8: x dies at t =df.
    • (i) x ceases permanently to be alive at or before t, and
    • (ii) at t, internal changes occur in x that make it physically impossible for x ever to live again, and
    • (iii) it’s not the case that x turns into another living thing or a bunch of other living things at t, and
    • (iv) it’s not the case that x is a member of a set of living organisms whose members fuse and turn into a living thing at t.
    Objection: TOO BROAD. A frog cell is divided into two "daughter cells" which do not turn into organisms. It fits criterion (iv) of D8, and so appears to die. But isn’t the frog cell actually in Alvin’s situation of passing from life "deathlessly"?

The Mystery of Death [71]
  1. My main point is that when we say that some biological entity has died, we do not invariably mean that it has ceased to live. I am inclined to suspect that we never mean just this. If there is some single thing that we do mean, then it is hard to say precisely what it is.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - The Enigma of Death")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 5: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - On Dying as a Process"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 5


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Chapter 5 concerns "Dying as a Process." Suppose we understand life and death well enough. Can we then explain what we mean when we say that something is "dying"?
  2. Roughly, the idea seems to be that something is dying if it is still alive, but on an irreversible downhill path that will soon terminate in death.
  3. Further reflection on a variety of cases makes it clear that any such rough characterization of dying is wrong. I propose a novel analysis.

Philosopher’s Index Astract
  1. To say that a thing is dying, in the process sense, it to say (roughly) that it is in a "terminal decline," that it is "heading toward death."
  2. After examining and rejecting several proposed analyses of the concept of dying as a process, I present my own.
  3. When an organism is dying, it is engaged in a process consisting of the sequential decrease of the thing's vital properties; a process which, if allowed to reach its conclusion without interference, will terminate with the death of the organism.
  4. I discuss the virtues of this analysis, and its weaknesses.

Analysis2

Two Senses of ‘Dying’ [72]
  1. "Dying", like "winning" and "finishing" is ambiguous.
    • Dying1 is the success sense, whereby you are actually doing the verb right now (for winning and finishing this would be crossing the finish line)
    • Dying2 is the process sense. Just as you can be winning and fail to win, or be finishing and be interrupted and never finish, so you can be dying without your death necessarily resulting (although, in most cases, it should).
  2. Challenge: can we give an analysis of the concept of dying2 as expressed in:
      Morton is dying2.
    (Where Morton is a miner who has black lung disease)?

Some Preliminary Proposals [73]
  1. D1. x is dying2 at t = df. at t, x is engaged in some process that will later end with the death of x
    Objection: TOO BROAD. Implies that every living thing is dying2
  2. D2. x is dying2 at t = df. at t, x is engaged in some process that will end in a relatively short time with the death of x
    Objection: TOO NARROW. You can be dying and recover. (Morton and the "dangerous experimental drugs" [75].)
  3. D3. x is dying2 at t = df. at t, x is engaged in some process that, if it were allowed to run its course without interference, would end in a relatively short time with the death of x
    Objection: TOO NARROW. Some processes of dying do take a long time – dying elephant or redwood.
  4. D4. x is dying2 at t = df. at t, x is engaged in some process that, if it were allowed to run its course without interference, would lead to x’s death at a time that would be "premature" for x, considering the kind of thing x is
    • Objection (1): TOO NARROW. You can be dying of old age but not prematurely.
    • Objection (2): TOO BROAD. The about-to-be flattened healthy pedestrian is not dying.

Smart’s Analysis of Dying2 [77] Something is dying 2 iff it is engaged in some process
  • (a) that will lead to death unless interrupted
  • (b) that "normally" leads to death
    (but not invariably: the phrase "this man is dying – do something!" makes sense)
  • (c) that is internal
    (so that a pedestrian about to be flattened is not "dying")
  • (d) that involves some specific malady
    (so that healthy people are not dying simply because they’re mortal)

Problems for Smart’s Analysis [78]
  1. Problems for (b), normal:
    • not NECESSARY – can die of something that doesn’t usually cause death (peanuts?)
    • not SUFFICIENT – plant with anti-freeze isn’t killed by frost
  2. Problems for (c), internal:
    • Man with shrapnel in his body is eventually killed by it, but until it reaches a vital area he is not dying.
    • Thus Smart’s analysis (that says he is dying) is TOO BROAD.
  3. Problems for (d), specific malady:
    • Not NECESSARY – can be genetically programmed to die. Also "general decrepitude" is not a specific malady.

A New Proposal [80]
  • The vital properties of a species are the biological capacities organisms of that species must have, at least to some degree, if they are to remain alive in anything like the normal way appropriate to their kind.
  • A terminal process (P) for an organism x, of species S is one such that:
    1. P is a causal process
    2. P can be broken down into a number of stages, each of which (other than the last) is the loss/decrease of a vital property for S
    3. P’s last stage is the death of x
    4. P contains no covert external linkages
  • A sequences has a covert external linkage when two of its adjacent events are … linked by a complex causal process that involves events that are not themselves declines or losses of vital capacities, and are in some sense "external" to the dying2 organism. [84]
  • For example, where the fact that a plant has ceased to photosynthesize leads to its death because of the action of a "photosynthesis fanatic" who cuts it down.
  • Put this all together, and you get:
      D6. x is dying2 at t = df. at t, x is engaged in a process that would be terminal for x, if it were allowed to reach its conclusion without interference
  • Applied to the shrapnel bearer, D6 does not say he’s dying until the shrapnel is doing him some harm:
  • The trick here is that the process, though internal and ending with death, does not yet involve the loss of any vital properties. Thus it is not "terminal". [85]
  • Also, no need for Smart’s "normality" condition: a process can be terminal for x, without it having normally to be terminal.

More Mysteries of Dying2 [85]
  • Problems for the previous account:
    1. "vital property" is still obscure
    2. the causal concepts are unclear, especially interference
    3. "covert external linkages" is critically vague, and it may be the case that every terminal process has these
    4. the analysis of dying2 makes essential use both of the concept of death and the concept of life. Both are enigmatic.
  • Still, D6 is an improvement in that it is less obviously prone to counterexamples.

On Death and Dying2 [87]
  1. Dying2 is neither necessary nor sufficient for death
    • Not NECESSARY because a healthy pedestrian can be flattened.
    • Not SUFFICIENT because Alvin the Amoeba (see chapter 4) can be dying but then recover, and then get out of life "deathlessly"
  2. HOWEVER, there is a conceptual connection between dying2 and death, because dying2 is defined in terms of a "terminal process" which involves the concept of death.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - On Dying as a Process")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - The Survival of Death"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 6


Author’s Abstract1
  1. When Hamlet says, "To be or not to be, that is the question," he really means "To die or not to die, that is the question." .Hamlet apparently supposes that when a living thing dies, it stops existing – it ceases to be. Very many philosophers agree.
  2. But this "termination thesis" blatantly conflicts with some obvious facts. There actually exist very many dead bodies. Each of these formerly was alive. Hence these seem to be things that died but did not cease to exist.
  3. In Chapter 6, "The Survival of Death2," I try to unravel this conceptual tangle.

Analysis3

The Termination Thesis [89]
  1. For people:
      TTp: If a person dies at a time, then he or she ceases to exist at that time.
  2. Difference between simply ceasing to exist and ceasing to exist as something or other.
  3. Terminators believe that when a person dies, he or she simply ceases to exist.
  4. Feldman is a survivalist.

Some Philosophers Who Have Accepted the Termination Thesis [91]
  1. Epicurus: "death is nothing to us" because "when death comes, then we do not exist"
  2. Lucretius: Follower of Epicurus, dualist (more on him below)
  3. Peter Dalton: "When a man is dead he no longer exists and will never again exist"
  4. Roy Perrett: appears to ascribe to a broader, biological termination thesis:
    • TTo: If a biological organism dies at a time, then it simply ceases to exist at that time.
      This could be generalized even further:
    • TTu: If a living thing dies at a time, then it simply ceases to exist at that time.
  5. Jay Rosenberg: on Aunt Ethel:
    There is no one thing which both died last week and will be buried tomorrow. What died last week was Aunt Ethel. What will be buried tomorrow, however, is not Aunt Ethel but rather Aunt Ethel’s remains. What will be buried tomorrow is a corpse, Aunt Ethel’s corpse. But a corpse is not a person. Aunt Ethel’s corpse is not Aunt Ethel.

Doubts About the Termination Thesis [93]
  • Problematic cases:
    1. Frog being dissected: "that object was never alive". "Why is this called biology?"
    2. Old horse dies: "that object is not my horse. My horse went out of existence a few minutes ago when it died. Thus I have no responsibility for this large object blocking the road."
    3. Fish: never slept in Chesapeake Bay.
  • The point is, that assuming that after death the thing that dies "is no more" leads us to adopt very strange views about the corpse that is left behind – that is, that the corpse is not the same thing as anything that once lived.
  • Why do "terminators" accept such a paradoxical view about death?

The Argument from Definition [96]
  • Perrett’s definition of death:
      D1. x dies at t = df. x is a functioning biological organism for some time up to t, and at t, x is annihilated, destroyed, or disintegrated
  • The argument from definition
    1. When an organism dies, it is annihilated, destroyed, or disintegrated.
    2. When an organism is annihilated, destroyed, or disintegrated, it simply goes out of existence.
    3. Therefore, when an organism dies, it simply goes out of existence.
  • BUT: the definition (D1) is incorrect – same butterfly example from chapter 4. Butterfly is dead but intact.

The Argument from Dualism [97]
  • Lucretius argued for a "personal dualism" – body plus "soul atoms"
  • The argument from personal dualism
    1. When a person dies, his soul separates from his body.
    2. When a person’s soul separates from his body, he simply ceases to exist.
    3. Therefore, when a person dies, he simply ceases to exist.
  • Problems:
    1. (a) No reason to believe premise (1) – dualism
    2. (b) Many terminators reject dualism
    3. (c) Applies only to persons, but we want a biological conception
  • What about the body? What happens to it at the moment of death?
  • Consider corpse C: what should the dualist say about C? Either:
    1. C formerly was alive
      In this case, the termination thesis is rejected because it implies that a living thing continues to exist after death. OR:
    2. C was never alive
      If the body was never alive even when it was walking around, "One wonders what it takes to count as a living thing"

Corpses and People [100]
  • How to explain Rosenberg’s view that Aunt Ethel’s "remains" are not Aunt Ethel? Why is a corpse not a person?
  • The argument from personality
    1. When a person dies, he or she ceases to be a person.
    2. When a person ceases to be a person, he or she simply ceases to exist.
    3. Therefore, when a person dies, he or she simply ceases to exist.
  • Distinguish between two concepts of personality: psychological and biological. They usually overlap (normal human adults are both – they are biological members of homo sapiens, and also they have psychological capacities to act like a person), but BP is not necessary for PP (Martians or Dolphins) and not sufficient (severely brain-damaged individuals)
  • This means we can interpret the argument from personality two ways:
  • The argument from psychological personality
    1. When a psychological person dies, he or she ceases to be a person.
    2. When a psychological person ceases to be a person, he or she simply ceases to exist.
    3. Therefore, when a psychological person dies, he or she simply ceases to exist.
  • Comments: First Premise: O.K.
  • Second Premise:
    1. "Why would anyone think that ceasing to be psychological person entails simply ceasing to exist?"
    2. Perhaps because of the general principle: "When an F ceases to be an F, it simply ceases to exist"
    3. BUT: when a boy ceases to be a boy he does not cease to exist. So the principle does not apply in all cases.
    4. Response: It applies in this case, because every psychological person is essentially a psychological person. (That is, psychological personhood is an essential property of every being that possesses it.)
    5. BUT: a BP who is also a PP does not cease to exist when it ceases to be a PP, so "however important psychological personality may be to us, it is not a property we have essentially"
  • The argument from biological personality
    1. When a biological person dies, he or she ceases to be a person.
    2. When a biological person ceases to be a person, he or she simply ceases to exist.
    3. Therefore, when a biological person dies, he or she simply ceases to exist.
  • Now Second Premise becomes plausible, but First Premise doesn’t seem right: it means that a member of a species ceases to be a member of that species when it dies, BUT "a dead chicken is still a chicken"

Death and Nonexistence As [104]
  1. While it is TRUE that when a living thing dies it ceases to exist as a living thing and when a psychological person dies it ceases to exist as a PP, living things just are certain kinds of material objects which (generally) continue to exist after death (this is most obviously true in things like dead trees: the tree is obviously still there – it’s just dead).
  2. GOOD NEWS: most of us will survive death
  3. BAD NEWS: we will still be dead.
    • "We will just be corpses."
    • "Such survival may be of very little value" [duh!]




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - The Survival of Death")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 3: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - A Materialist Conception of Death"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 7


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Chapter 7, "A Materialist Conception of Death," contains my proposed conceptual scheme for death and related concepts.
  2. I try to explain the central concepts ("death," "dying," "a death," "dead," "person," etc.) and I defend some answers to fundamental metaphysical questions involving these concepts. Can a person survive death? Can a person die more than once? Can a person get out of life without dying? Can something die if it never lived?
  3. This chapter provides a summary of a proposed materialistic conceptual scheme for death.

Analysis2

A New Approach to Death [106]
  1. Instead of trying to define it (tried that in chapter 4 – failed), this approach involves formulating general principles that locate the connection between death and concepts like dying and life:
  2. Thus, although I will not be attempting to explain what death is, I will be attempting to explain where the biological concept of death is located in a certain materialist conceptual scheme. [107]

The Lifeline [107]
  1. See diagram on p. 108: Adam goes from conception at t0 to death at t6 and finally cremation at t7.
  2. Twice Adam is dying2: at t2 and t4. But he recovers at t3.

Death Itself, "a Death," and Being Dead [108]
  1. D1. x is dead at t = df. x died at some time earlier than t
  2. But what about the possibility of revitalization? To rule out that:
    • D1'. x is dead at t = df. x died at some time earlier than t and x has not been alive since then
  3. Two senses of death – the success sense (death1):
    • D2. e is the death1 of x = df. e is the event such that, necessarily, e occurs precisely when x dies
    and the process sense (death2):
    • D3. e is the death2of x = df. e is the event such that, necessarily, e occurs precisely when x is dying2
  4. Thus we can say:
    • Adam’s death1 took place at t6, but his death2 lasted from t4 to t6.
  5. Puzzle about the moment of Adam’s death (t6): at that time he is neither dead nor alive. If he was dead then, then he would have been dead when he died, and if he was alive, he would’ve been alive when he died, and neither makes sense.

Death and Life [110]
  1. From D1′ we get the following:
    • Necessarily, nothing is both alive and dead at the same time.
  2. Adam goes through stages when he’s alive (t0-t6) and dead (t6-t7). Thus:
    • Possibly, something is alive at one time, and dead at another time.
  3. The possibility of "deathless exits from life" (like Alvin the Amoeba’s) give us:
    • Possibly, something is alive at a time even though it does not die at any later time.
  4. Jerry Lewis thinks the following:
    • [Possibly, something is alive at a time even though it died at an earlier time. ]
  5. This allows life after death3. Is this possible? Even if not, the following is true because of suspended animation4:
    • Possibly, something is alive at a time even though it ceased to be alive at some earlier time.

Death and Existence [113]
  1. Obviously you can’t be alive and not exist, so:
    • Necessarily, if a thing is alive at a time, then it exists at that time.
  2. Obviously also, there are many dead things that don’t exist (except to the extent that their component atoms are still around), for example, the dinosaurs. So:
    • Possibly, a thing is dead at a time even though it does not exist at that time.
  3. However, also, despite what Epicurus says, chapter 6 (the dead horse, especially) shows that you can be dead and exist:
    • Possibly, a thing is dead at a time even though it does exist at that time.

Deaths, Lives, and Histories [115]
  1. What is "the life" of somebody?
  2. Suggestion 1: the length of time they’re alive
    PROBLEM: If two identical twins5 are killed at the same moment, then, by this definition, they have identical lives, because they were alive for exactly the same time.
  3. Suggestion 2: the property of being alive
    PROBLEM: this is even worse! It implies that everybody alive has the same life.
  4. Solution:
    • x’s life is the complex event containing all the events that happen to x in the period x is alive.
      Thus: Adam’s life: t0-t6
    • x’s history is the complex event containing all the events that happen to x in the period x exists.
      Thus: Adam’s history: t0-t7

Death and Humanity [117]
  1. Can one’s history as a human continue after one’s death? Yes, if humanity is simply membership in the species homo sapiens.
  2. Humanity is neither NECESSARY (non-human living things) nor SUFFICIENT (human corpses) for life.
  3. Possibly, a thing is a human and dead at a time.

Death and Personality [118]
  • Can one’s history as a person continue after one’s death? Depends on the kind of person one means:
  • Four kinds of person:
    1. BIOLOGICAL
    2. PSYCHOLOGICAL
    3. LEGAL
    4. MORAL
  • Necessarily, no biological person’s history as a biological person extends beyond his or her death.
  • Necessarily, if something is a psychological person to any nonzero degree at a time, then it is alive at that time.
  • Possibly, something is a high-degree psychological person at one time, and dead at another time.
  • Necessarily, no psychological person’s history as a psychological person extends beyond his or her death.
  • Possibly one can be both a moral and a legal person as a corpse: corpses have rights (rights to have their wills respected, for example).

A Materialist Way of Death [123]
    So far as we know, every biological person eventually dies. Since, in the materialist view, these biological persons are their bodies, and in most cases the bodies continue to exist after they die and continue to be members of the human species, it would be correct to say that death does not necessarily mark the end of the history of an object as a biological person…[but] death…does seem to mark the end of the history of an entity as a psychological person. [124]




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - A Materialist Conception of Death")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - Epicurus and the Evil of Death"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 8


Author’s Abstract1
  1. In Part II, I turn to questions about the value of death.
  2. The central ethical problem, as I see it, is whether death is bad for the one who dies. Will my death be a misfortune for me?
  3. Epicurus and Lucretius presented a famous argument designed to show that since I will not exist after death, and will not then suffer any pain, my death cannot be bad for me. In Chapter 8, I explain and criticize the Epicurean argument.
  4. I defend a version of the "deprivation approach" – death is bad for those who die because it deprives them of the goods they would have enjoyed if they had continued to live.

Analysis2

Epicurus and the Evil of Death [127]
  • Death is standardly thought of as the worst misfortune that can befall a person, but Epicurus argued that this was not so.

Epicurus’s Argument Against the Evil of Death [128] - Epicurus against the evil of death – 1
  1. Each person stops existing at the moment of death
  2. If (1), then no one feels any pain while dead
  3. If no one feels pain while dead, then being dead is not a painful experience
  4. If not being dead is not a painful experience, then being dead is not bad for the one who is dead
  5. THEREFORE, being dead is not bad for the one who is dead

Difficulties for the First Version of the Argument [133]
  • Focusing on premise 4:
    DISTINCTION: intrinsic bads (bad in themselves — for an Epicurean, only pain qualifies) vs. extrinsic bads (bad because of what they cause).
  • Examples:
    1. Epicurus: overindulging is bad. Not intrinsically (because it’s enjoyable) but extrinsically because of what results (stomach pain)
    2. Feldman: poisoned candy (same point)
  • If we take (4) to mean that being dead is not intrinsically bad, then this is obviously true, but also no surprise. But furthermore, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that being dead is extrinsically bad.
  • If, on the other hand, we take "bad" in (4) to mean "extrinsically bad" then it’s clearly false, because something can not be painful but still be bad. (e.g., living in a country in which seething racial hatred is about to emerge).

A New Version of the Argument [135]
  • The Causal Principle:
    CP: If something is extrinsically bad for a person, then it is bad for him or her because it leads to later intrinsic bads for him or her

Epicurus against the evil of death – 2
  1. Each person stops existing at the moment of death
  2. If (1), then no one feels any pain while dead
  3. If no one feels pain while dead, then death does not lead to anything intrinsically bad for the one who dies
  4. If death does not lead to anything intrinsically bad for the one who dies, then death is not extrinsically bad for the one who is dead [based on CP]
  5. THEREFORE, death is not extrinsically bad for the one who is dead

The Fallacy in the New Version [137] Examples:
  1. eg1. Young man goes to college A instead of college B. He enjoys his time there, but because A offers no Philosophy courses, he "goes to his grave" without discovering the life of Philosophy which would have been of greater enjoyment to him than the life he ended up living.
  2. eg1. Girl is born in country A, whose culture teaches that women can be homemakers but not poets. She goes to her grave satisfied with her life as a homemaker, but she was (unbeknownst to her) a natural poet and would have enjoyed that life much more.
  3. What these examples show:
    "Some things are bad for us even though they are not themselves painful experiences, and they do not lead to any painful experiences."

How Death Can Be Bad for the One Who Dies [138]
  1. There is some connection between extrinsic and intrinsic value but it is not CP. It is rather this:
    EI: Something is extrinsically bad for a person if and only if he or she would have been intrinsically better off if it had not taken place.
  2. [My comment: this is not enough to work for the examples eg1 and eg2: you need a context of reference. Because, we can easily imagine the Young Man not going to college A – because he gets kidnapped and tortured for years instead! If that is his alternative, then going to college A is not extrinsically bad. So EI should say something like "if a preferred alternative had happened (or perhaps, "the most likely alternative").]
  3. eg3. Boy undergoing minor surgery dies (painlessly) under anesthesia
    This person’s death is extrinsically bad for him even though it is not itself a painful experience.
  4. The evil of death is a matter of deprivation; it is bad for a person when it deprives him or her of intrinsic value; if he or she would have been better off if it had not happened. [139]

Points of clarification [140-142]
  1. Death is not always bad for the one who dies:
    The badness of a given death depends on what would have taken place if that death had not happened. If great suffering would have happened, then the death might be preferable (thus euthanasia could be permissible).
  2. Defeating Epicurus does not show that one should fear death:
    Since fearing death makes life less pleasant "I would recommend, then, that if possible, you stop fearing death."
  3. Death is bad but not painful:
    "I agree with Epicurus that the dead suffer no pain. Being dead is not painful … Nevertheless, in my view, death may be bad for the one who dies."
  4. Where Epicurus is right: it is wrong to fear death on the grounds that it is painful.
  5. Where Epicurus is wrong: fear of death can have a rational basis, because death is bad for one.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Epicurus and the Evil of Death")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - More Puzzles About the Evil of Death"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 9


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Chapter 9, "More Puzzles about the Evil of Death," contains a discussion of four philosophical puzzles that confront the defender of the deprivation approach.
  2. One of the most interesting of these is a puzzle presented by Lucretius. If early death is bad for us because it deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had died later, then "late birth" must be equally bad for us, since it deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had been born earlier. Yet we do not lament the fact that we were born so late. Why is this?

Analysis2

The Puzzles [143]
  1. Puzzle 1: How can being dead be a misfortune for a person if she doesn’t exist during the time when it takes place?
  2. Puzzle 2: How can you compare the benefits a person receives if he lives to those he would receive if he dies, when a dead person can’t have any benefits?
  3. Puzzle 3: When is death supposed to be a misfortune? It can’t be after one is dead (or if it is, one certainly doesn’t care).
  4. Puzzle 4: If early death is bad because we are denied goods we would have had, then why isn’t late birth just as bad for us?

Axiological Preliminaries [146]
  1. Introducing the concept of the intrinsic value for a person of a life. It is the objective value (not the subjective – so someone can be wrong about how they value their life – pessimists value it too low, optimists too high) to him (not to anybody else – so he can be Robinson Crusoe his whole life and never have any effect, or even Hitler, and still have a positive value) of the life.
  2. If (like Epicurus) we assume hedonism, then the value is worked out by adding up all the pleasures of life and subtracting the pains.
  3. (It’s worth pretending to be a hedonist even if we’re not, just to tackle Epicurus on his own terms. Feldman wants to show that even if we grant Epicurus his main assumptions [hedonism, the termination thesis] it doesn’t follow that "death is nothing to us".)

Things that are Bad for People [148]
  1. Feldman aims to show that one’s death is bad for one. To show this, we first need to know what it is for anything to be bad for one.
  2. Distinguish intrinsically bad from extrinsically bad. Intrinsically only happens (on the hedonistic view) when we suffer pain. We can work out the extrinsic bad (on the assumption of EI [138] by subtracting the extrinsic good of one alternative from the other and the difference is the extrinsic bad of the lower alternative (because you could have done better by taking the better alternative). That is:
  3. D: The extrinsic value for S of P = the difference between the intrinsic value for S of the life S would lead if P is true and the intrinsic value for S of the life S would lead if P is false.
  4. Example: Dolores going to Bolivia. [149].

The Evil of Death [150]
  • We can use this formula to work out the extrinsic badness of death (for me in a flight to Europe [151] or for eg3 in chapter 8 (boy dies on operating table [139]) by using D above, where P is "x dies".

Some Proposed Answers [152]
  1. Puzzle 1: "A state of affairs can be extrinsically bad for a person whether it occurs before he exists, while he exists, or after he exists." Example of father losing job and being forced to move before I was conceived – this was bad for me even though I wasn’t around. This is simply because of D: my life with move is worth less than life without move.
  2. Puzzle 2: Death is not the comparison: we are comparing two lives – a long one and a short one. The short one (with the early death) has less value than the long one, so by D, death is an extrinsic bad.
  3. Puzzle 3: An early death is a misfortune eternally, not just after her death. The comparison made by D is from a God’s eye view: it is always true that the shorter life produces less value than the longer one.
  4. Puzzle 4: Not a good answer.

Conclusions [156]
  • The deprivation approach explains why death is bad for the person who dies, even assuming the termination thesis and hedonism.
  • However, the deprivation approach generates four new puzzles.
  • This chapter has been an attempt to respond to those puzzles still within a hedonistic framework.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - More Puzzles About the Evil of Death")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - Utilitarianism, Victimism, and the Morality of Killing"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 10


Author’s Abstract1
  1. One of the most notorious scandals of moral philosophy is this: no moral philosopher has presented a clear and plausible answer to the question "Why is it wrong to kill people?"
  2. In Chapter 10 I discuss two of the standard answers and explain why they fail.

Analysis2

"Thou Shalt Not Kill" [157]
  1. Difference between legally wrong and morally wrong – we’re interested in morally wrong.
  2. Difference between prima facie morally wrong and "all-in" morally wrong. We’re interested in all-in wrong.
  3. It’s not necessarily all-in morally wrong to kill in all circumstances (might be okay to kill in self-defense, or to kill a deranged mass-murderer), so the question we’re interested in is:
  4. Q4. Why is it all-in morally wrong to kill another person, in any instance in which it is all-in morally wrong to kill another person?
  5. "Pluralists" might say that there are different reasons why different deaths are wrong. But we’re going to be monists: that is, the same thing is wrong with each wrong killing.

Hedonic Act Utilitarianism and the Morality of Killing [163]
  1. Utilitarianism: a consequentialist moral theory — that is, a theory that says that what makes something right or wrong is its consequences only. Not the intentions behind it or the quality of the person doing it, just what happens after it. Also, for utilitarianism the consequences include for all affected, not just the primary people involved.
  2. Act Utilitarianism: in this case the "something" is an act. So every action should be assessed on its own merits. Lying in some circumstances will be wrong, but in some circumstances (lying about trivial things to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, lying to a murderous person about the location of his intended victim) it will be justified. AU is to be contrasted with Rule Utilitarianism which only assesses types of action. So RU would say that if lying is wrong it is always wrong (because of the consequences it generally produces).
  3. Hedonic Act Utilitarianism: the rightness/wrongness of the action is to be measured in terms of quantities of pleasure and pain (or hedonic utility). Thus:
    • HAU: An act is morally right if and only if it maximizes hedonic utility.
  4. Apply this to particular acts of killing and you get:
    • HAU-K: An act of killing is morally wrong if and only if it fails to maximize hedonic utility.
  5. Case 1: the case of the popular store clerk:
    • Here HAU-K gives the answer we think is right – that killing the store clerk is wrong (because it would, on balance, cause a much lower general amount of pleasure than the alternatives). But that’s because the clerk is happy and well-loved and the killer has a conscience.

Why HAU Fails to Explain the Wrongness of Killing [166]
  1. Case 2: the case of the unhappy vagrant
    • Here the victim is not loved, not happy and the killer enjoys killing. Now HAU-K not only says that killing him is not wrong, it is morally required! In other words, the killer would be wrong if he didn’t kill the vagrant! Surely this is wrong.

Theories Based on Harm to the Victim [167]
  1. Perhaps HAU-K is flawed because it takes too many other people into account. Isn’t killing wrong because of its effect on the victim? Otherwise killing someone popular is worse than killing someone unliked, and that seems wrong. So perhaps the wrongness of killing should only take into account "victim value":
  2. To make useful comparisons among alternatives, we should similarly focus, in the case of each alternatives to an act of killing, on that alternative’s impact on the same person — the one who would be the victim if the killing were performed. [169]
  3. This suggests "Hedonic Victimism" as an account of the wrongness of killing:
    • HV: An act of killing another person is all-in morally wrong if and only if it fails to maximize victim value
  4. According to this theory, it might be slightly less wrong to kill the vagrant than the store clerk, but only because the vagrant isn’t very happy. [But there are other problems too: is it less wrong to kill an old person because they have less time in which to be happy?]

And Why They Fail, Too [170]
  1. But maybe we shouldn’t ignore other people:
  2. Problem 1: Ignores third parties
    • Vicious serial killer example: just because the victim (the serial killer) wouldn’t like me to kill him doesn’t necessarily mean I shouldn’t, especially if it’s the only way to stop him killing many others.
  3. Problem 2: Pleasure and pain are not the only important measures
    • Euthanasia of well-loved and loving woman in great pain: a doctor surely would be wrong if he killed her just to put her out of her pain, if she wanted to stay and be with her family as long as possible.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Utilitarianism, Victimism, and the Morality of Killing")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - Why Killing Is Wrong"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 11


Author’s Abstract1
  1. One of the most notorious scandals of moral philosophy is this: no moral philosopher has presented a clear and plausible answer to the question "Why is it wrong to kill people?"
  2. In Chapter 10 I discussed two of the standard answers and explained why they fail.
  3. In Chapter 11, I propose a better answer of my own. I try to show that my view gives plausible results in a variety of very puzzling cases.
  4. One feature that makes my proposal especially unusual is that it is a form of utilitarianism – a view often thought to be incapable of dealing with the morality of killing.

Analysis2

Ideal Act Utilitarianism [173]
  • Hedonic Act Utilitarianism has two components:
    1. Consequentialism: it is morally right to perform an act if and only if no alternative would have had a better outcome (this part alone is "ideal act utilitarianism")
    2. Hedonism: the outcomes should be measured in pain and pleasure alone.
  • Can isolate component (1) and replace (2) with alternatives, so the outcomes are judged by different things from quantities of pleasure or pain. How about quantities of life?

Vitalistic Act Utilitarianism [174]
  • VAU: an act is morally right if and only if its outcome maximizes universal length of life
    (where "universal length of life" is the sum of all the individual lengths of life of all the people who would exist if the outcome were to take place)
  • VAU-K: an act of killing is morally wrong if and only if it fails to maximize universal length of life
    1. Happy clerk case: VAU-K says it would be wrong
    2. Unhappy vagrant: ditto (so VAU-K appears to be an advance over HAU-K)
  • BUT: problems for VAU-K:
    1. Torturing Smith: VAU-K sees no difference between (a) torturing Smith for 5 years and (b) NOT torturing him, if his length of life is unaffected.
    2. Commandant of Condoms: VAU-K advises us to conceive as many children as possible consistent with maximizing lengths of lives led, even if this makes most lives miserable.

Hedono-Vitalistic Act Utilitarianism [177]
  • HVAU: an act is morally right if and only if it maximizes the combination of hedonic utility and universal length of life
  • Assumptions of HVAU:
    1. There is a precise exchange rate of pleasure-length of life (i.e., these goods are comparable and 1 unit of one is equal to a certain quantity of the other, so that you can replace the 1 unit and have an equally valuable "bundle")
    2. Nothing besides pleasure and length-of-life has any intrinsic value
  • One problem for 1 is that we have no clear way of working out the exchange rate, and that will make HVAU indeterminate for cases where we have to weigh pleasure gained against loss in life (e.g., smoking on p. 178)
  • BUT:
    1. Torturing Smith: HVAU improves over VAU by agreeing with HAU that more pleasure is better (in other words, counting pleasure makes the combination view better than counting just life)
    2. Homeless vagrant: HVAU improves over HAU by agreeing with VAU that life is important (in other words, counting life makes the combination view better than counting just pleasure)
  • So clearly HVAU is an improvement over hedonism or vitalism alone because it can handle both problem cases.

Problems for HVAU [181]
  • Involuntary heart transplant3:
    1. Either: rich man dies soon and clerk lives long (but not very happy) life,
    2. OR: clerk’s heart is placed in rich man and he lives just as long but happier life.
  • Seems HVAU should choose the second option (indeed, it would be morally obligatory for the butler to kill the clerk), but that’s not right!
  • What’s wrong with the rich man getting the heart? It’s UNJUST.

Justicism [182]
  • Justice is to do with desert (that is, people getting what they deserve). Two factors to desert:
    1. How much an individual has already experienced (if you’ve had a lot all ready, you may deserve less than someone who has not, other things being equal)
    2. Past behavior: if you’ve been good, you deserve more.
  • But what is it you deserve more or less of? Life? Pleasure?
  • Feldman says we don’t have to decide, we can just talk about "primary intrinsic goods" – that is, things that are intrinsically good.
  • An Individual’s justice level in any outcome is the quality of the fit between her "desert level" and her "receipt level" in that outcome
  • Universal justice level (UJL) is the sum of the individual justice levels for an outcome.
  • Justicism is the view that the intrinsic value of an outcome is entirely determined by the UJL of that outcome.

Justicized Act Utilitarianism [185]
  • JAU: an act is morally right if and only if it maximizes the UJL
    1. Popular store clerk: JAU says that it would be wrong to kill him because he doesn’t deserve death.
    2. Unpopular vagrant: again, the vagrant deserves life, and the killer wouldn’t deserve ill-gotten gains
    3. Vicious serial murderer: (apparently) the VSM deserves to die, and none of his victims deserves the death they will get. So kill him!
    4. Arthritis victim: she deserves her life, her friends deserve her company. She lives.
    5. Involuntary heart transplant4: the rich man does not deserve the heart, the current owner does. So the rich man should die – hard cheese.
  • Challenges for JAU (not mentioned by Feldman):
    1. Where does the notion of "desert" come from? How do we decide who deserves what? Why does the poor man deserve his heart? He owns it, yes, but why does he deserve it?
    2. Should we give the hearts of healthy but lazy people to dying people who work hard for others and are therefore more deserving?
    3. Do fetuses5 "deserve" to be born?
    4. Do eggs deserve the chance to be fertilized, and are they therefore unjustly deprived this by contraception?
    5. In the serial murder case, why does the killer deserve death? True, his victims in the future do not deserve their deaths – but they haven’t happened yet. And if we can count them, can we count potential victims of a potential killer, and kill him before he’s done anything?




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Why Killing Is Wrong")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Taken from "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper".



"Feldman (Fred) - Abortion and the Failure to Conceive"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 12


Author’s Abstract1
  1. In Chapter 12, I discuss applications of my view to a thorny and pressing practical difficulty. I defend a view about the morality of abortion2.
  2. In connection with the discussion of abortion3, I try to show how one's view about murder and abortion4 may come into conflict with one's view about the morality of failure to conceive. My own view, I argue, does not run into this difficulty.

Analysis5
  • Two failings of the literature on abortion6:
    1. Treat abortions7 as morally homogenous (i.e., either all good or all bad)
    2. Divorced from reflection on morality in general (i.e., using only principles that apply to abortion8 cases, and therefore at risk of being in conflict with principles we have about other moral issues, say, capital punishment)

Three Examples [193]
    1. The Murder Example: a couple kill their 5-year old because they can’t stand her whimpering
    2. The Abortion9 Example: a couple terminate their fetus10 because they predict that they won’t be able to stand her whimpering
    3. The Non-conception Example: a couple practice abstinence to avoid conceiving a child whose whimpering they predict they would not be able to stand.
  • In all three cases, the couple gets away with no adverse consequences for themselves and do not regret their action.
  • How do the different moral theories of chapters 10 and 11 evaluate these cases?
    1. Hedonic Act Utilitarianism
      1. The murder would be wrong because the child is deprived of happiness
      2. The abortion11 is even more wrong because the child is deprived of more happiness
      3. Non-conception is worst, because the child doesn’t even get to be a fetus12
    2. Vitalistic Act Utilitarianism
      1. Murder wrong because life is lost
      2. Ditto (only more life)
      3. Ditto (only the most life)
  • The problem with these two cases is that, while we agree with their conclusions in (a) [and possibly (b)] their conclusions about (c) are very counter-intuitive.
  • The difficulty seems to be that utilitarianisms are unable to make any sense of the important difference between the case in which someone is killed and the case in which someone never exists in the first place. [197]
  • BUT: Justicism, Murder, and the Failure to Conceive [198]
    1. Justicized Act Utilitarianism
      1. The daughter deserves her "allotted 75 years of life and happiness" so killing her is to commit a great injustice, and therefore not something that maximizes "universal justice level".
      2. See next section.
      3. "According to justicism, in order to determine the value of an outcome we must consider the extent to which the individuals who exist in that outcome get the primary intrinsic goods that they deserve in that outcome" [198]. Because no child is conceived, there is no individual to deserve a life, so no injustice is done.
  • Thus JAU is different from the other utilitarianisms because it can distinguish between cases where someone is killed and where they never exist in the first place. But what does it say about abortion13?

Justicized Act Utilitarianism and the Problem of Abortion14 [200]
  • What does the fetus15 deserve?
  • This does not depend on whether or not the fetus16 is a person (says Feldman, and this is a good thing because the term is ambiguous among four senses of person).
    1. The Landowners Case: Two landowners own identical parcels of land both ruined by a toxic waste spill.
      1. Landowner is a speculator who buys land and "sits on it"
      2. Landowner is a hard-working tree farmer who has worked long and hard to cultivate trees whose fruit he was expecting to harvest
    2. The Two Young Women: Both were talented but die young.
      1. One sacrifices and studies hard to hone her talents and is about to become a scientist.
      2. The other allows her talents to "rust" – she’s a slacker.
  • In both cases (b) deserves more than (a) because of the principle that you deserve more, the more you put in. This can be applied to fetuses17 to argue that the more developed the fetus18, the more it deserves. Feldman suggests that this is because an older fetus19 has
      Endured the boredom of a long, claustrophobic, underwater captivity. She has exerted energy and other resources to the tasks involved in growth and development…she has made a substantial investment [203]
  • This makes it sound as if the fetus20 has intentionally planned her actions. Feldman restates his point to avoid this implication:
      The suggestion is rather that [fetuses] engage in activities that have a point only insofar as they help to bring the fetus21 closer to maturity; if the fetus22 endures these activities for eight long months and then is killed, her efforts are deprived of their point, and she suffers a serious injustice. [203]
  • BUT: This is a very problematic claim for a few reasons:
    1. It seems to suggest that simply getting older means you deserve more, which would imply that old people suffer the most injustice when they’re killed
    2. It suggests that if a living thing’s behaviour has a "point" irrespective of the thing’s knowledge of or intentions regarding that point, then you do it an injustice in killing it. But this would apply to all plants just as much to any fetus23. Is killing a tree doing it an injustice because you’re depriving it of things it deserves?
    3. Related to that, if the "point" of sperm and egg is to unite, then is contraception denying them what they deserve?
    4. Feldman ignores his other principle of desert (mentioned in chapter 11) that beings who have had less deserve more. This might counter problem (1) because young people haven’t had any life yet, but it also makes it much harder to work out who deserves what, because the two principles are in conflict.

The "Right to Life" [205]

Differences between Feldman’s "desert" view and the view that claims the fetus24 has a right to life:
  1. Desert admits of degrees, whereas you either have a right or you don’t
    • [BUT: is that true? Certainly the capacity to deserve anything is just as "on/off" as any right. Rocks don’t have it, people do. Now, what we deserve is a different matter, but even then, I could say "I deserve an education" in exactly the same way that "I have a right to an education". If I only deserve an education K through 12, well then, you could say I only have a right to that much.]
  2. For the RTL view, you need to establish when a being becomes a rights-bearer (because it’s an on/off thing), but desert can gradually increase from the moment one begins to exist.
    • [BUT: does the desert view really avoid this issue? Isn’t there an identical issue of "when does one start to deserve something?" If we say "the minute you start existing", well, we can say the same thing for RTL – the question remains "existing as what?" but that’s true for desert too]
  3. RTLers have to answer the question "what justifies the claim that an individual has a right?", whereas the desert view uses a concept of desert that is familiar from our thoughts about justice.
    • [BUT: even if we have intuitions about justice, it is by no means clear that these apply unproblematically to life. I can have clear intuitions about who deserves what slice of cake, but I’m not sure I have intuitions about what fetus25 deserves how much life.]
  4. Sometimes the RTL is regarded as absolute, overriding everything. Desert, however, can be weighed against other interests.
  5. Those who are prepared to say that different rights can conflict lack a general theory whereby we can rank importance of rights. However, JAU is a general theory within which it is easy to make comparisons of desert according to values of outcomes.
    • [BUT: again, is the situation any different? If the fetus26 has a right to life and the mother has a right to control her body, then you have conflicting rights. But the same is true if one deserves her life and the other deserves her freedom. Who deserves it more? That isn’t settled by anything Feldman has said.]

Advantages of This View [207]
  1. Part of a general moral theory (not ad hoc and applicable only to abortion)27
  2. When abortion28 is wrong it is wrong for the same reasons as killing a child, when it is wrong: "the act is wrong because it makes the world worse"
  3. Failing to conceive is not wrong on this view
  4. Avoids the use of the "obscure and controversial concepts" of person and right to life. ("I should perhaps acknowledge that the concept of desert is slightly slippery."[208 – damn right!])
  5. Abortions29 are not "morally homogenous" – some are right, some are wrong, and to differing degrees of each.
  6. Provides a "coherent framework for further discussion" in part because it avoids debates over personhood and right to life.




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - Abortion and the Failure to Conceive")

Footnote 1: Footnote 5:



"Feldman (Fred) - The Morality and Rationality of Suicide"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 13


Author’s Abstract1
  1. Finally, in Chapter 13, I discuss a special sort of murder – the murder of a person by him- or herself. Some, perhaps influenced by St. Thomas Aquinas, have claimed that suicide is inevitably immoral. I try to show that Aquinas's arguments are inconclusive. For all he has shown, suicide might sometimes be morally permissible.
  2. Other philosophers have insisted that suicide cannot be a rational choice. I attempt to draw out the main arguments for this counterintuitive conclusion, and to show that they fail. This involves drawing distinctions among several sorts of rationality. I then try to show that there are circumstances in which the Reaper is to be welcomed. In these circumstances it is rational (in several senses) to choose to die.

Sections2
  1. Welcoming the Reaper
  2. Three Arguments for the Immorality of Suicide
  3. An Argument for the Irrationality of Suicide
  4. An Epistemic Argument against the Rationality of Suicide
  5. “Calculative Rationality” and Suicide
  6. Euthanasia




In-Page Footnotes ("Feldman (Fred) - The Morality and Rationality of Suicide")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Feldman (Fred) - Introduction: Confronting the Reaper".

Footnote 2: Unfortunately, "Cushing (Simon) - Fred Feldman: Confrontations with the Reaper" doesn’t have an analysis of this chapter.



"Feldman (Fred) - Confrontations With the Reaper: Epilogue"

Source: Feldman - Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapter 14



Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
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  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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