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October 16th.docx

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Department
Philosophy
Course
Philosophy 2073F/G
Professor
Chris Sheriff
Semester
Fall

Description
October 16 , 2012 Nagel and Silverstein: The Evil of Death: Nagel: - Argues against the idea that death cannot be considered to be bad for the person who dies - Thinks we actually can consider death to be bad for the dead - Two main arguments: Life is good, and we can regard a loss of possibilities as an evil - Preliminary work: o Two important things that Nagel (and also Silverstein, though not explixitly) is not concerned with:  Whether or not we are/can be immortal, or whether or not we can survive death  Whether or not a person’s death can be bad for someone who is not them o Life (that is, merely being alive) is “emphatically positive” o If death is bad, it can’t be because of any positive qualities (it has none) - Why Nagel doesn’t care about surviving death: o If some conscious thing survives death, then what has occurred is not the sort of death with which we are concerned o Nagel cares about permanent death, that is, the absolute and final death of a person o In cases of resurrection/life after death, this condition is not satisfied o Roughly, the idea is that the person has not died, but rather one from one form of life to another o What we are concerned with is whether the sort of permanent lack of any experience described by Lucretius can be bad - Life is Good o There are events which someone can experience which will make their lives better, and some which will make their lives worse o If we take all of these experiences and set them aside, however, what we are left with are constitutive elements of human life (perception, desire, thought, etc.) o These things are “formidable benefits in themselves” o So, independent of all experiences, life is good- not merely neutral- and remains good even if the bad experiences outweigh the good ones. - More on Life o As has been a common thread for the past few weeks, life and its value applies to more than just survival of an organism  We should have no real preference between dying now, and falling into a coma right now and dying sometime in the future without ever waking up o More life is better than less life  The more time spent alive, the more the positive experience of being alive continues - - Locating the Badness of Death o It is not the case, however, that more death is worse than less death  Death is defined as a negative state: the loss/lack/privation of life. Rather than a positive experience of being dead  Death’s badness stems from a lack of the further good of more life, not a continuous extension of positive badness for every day dead o Dying is also not the problem. Our only problem with dying is that it ends with death o Badness of death also does not come from worries about an extended period of nonexistence: We’re okay (mostly) with the idea of cryogenic freezing o Badness of death, then, must rest on the deprivation/ loss of good/ desirable/ positive possible occurrences - Problems with this approach o Nagel identifies 3 potential problems:  Not clear that anything can be bad for a person without being actually unpleasant to them  Imagine someone who is betrayed by friends, mocked behind his back, etc. , but never find out about it  If something has to be experienced as unpleasant to be bad for someone, we would have to say that is experience is not bad for him  This would mean that betrayal and such are bad because of the suffering people experience by learning about them  A more plausible view seems to hold that learning betrayal causes us to suffer because it is bad to be betrayed  So, an evil does not need to be experienced as an evil in order for it to be unfortunate, bad, ect.  It is not clear that the badness of death can be assigned to any particular subject  We can understand good and ill occurrences as happening to a person located in a particular point in time, but do not need to think of those occurrences as occurring in a particular place and time  This is laid out by the example of the intelligent person who suffers a traumatic brain injury  The person who is currently living the life of a content infant is not (necessarily) unfortunate; he is- by hypothesis- perfectly content  The unfortunate one is the formerly intelligent person who has been brought to this state  Why?
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