Is Death Bad for the One Who Dies?: Annihilation by Steven Luper
“Annihilation”BY STEVEN LUPERPHIL. OF DEATH AND DYINGFALL 2012-ELI WEBER
3 Components What a person would have to be like in order to adopt the Epicurean view of death Why this isn’t the sort of person anyone would want to be What’s right about the Epicurean view
Shared Assumptions Death is a kind of non-existence. Distinction between whether being dead is bad, as opposed to the moment of death or the process of dying.
What Makes Death Bad for Us? A state of affairs is bad for us if it thwarts our desires. So death is bad for us because it thwarts our desires. An advantage: Allows that in some cases, death isn’t bad for us, because it doesn’t thwart any of our desires.
What are Epicureans like? Epicureans can have:1. Escape desires-desires that under certain conditions, I would be dead2. Independent desires-desires the satisfaction of which are unaffected by what I do (or fail to do)3. Conditional desires-desires I have only on the condition that I am alive
What are Epicureans like? Epicureans cannot have:1. Unconditional desires –desires which I have irrespective of whether I am alive to see them satisfied.2. Fulfilling desires-desires the satisfaction of which make life meaningful or enjoyable
What are Epicureans like?1. If Epicureans have fulfilling desires that death would thwart, they must think death is a misfortune.2. Epicureans don’t think death is a misfortune.3. Therefore, Epicureans don’t have any fulfilling desires.The Epicurean indifference to death requires an indifference to life that isn’t very appealing.
Is Epicureanism a Life WorthLiving? Can still be motivated by their conditional desires Can still disapprove of wrongful killing Reasonable to modify desires to make inevitable consequences less bad for you
Is Epicureanism a Life WorthLiving? Any good reason to not die is a good reason to live. Epicureans must avoid desires that give good reasons to not die. In doing so, they also avoid desires that give good reasons to live. Must also avoid any activities that would be “too” enjoyable.
What’s Right about Epicureanism We shouldn’t expect to live longer than a normal human lifespan. Our desires should reflect this unavoidable fact. As death draws nearer, we should modify our desires so that it isn’t bad for us.
Summary1. We should not be indifferent about death. Insofar as death thwarts our desires, it is bad for us.2. We should not want to be the sorts of people who are indifferent to death. This requires that we are indifferent to living.3. Given the inevitability of death, it makes sense to “Epicureanize” our desires so that they can be fulfilled within a normal human lifespan, and conditionalized at the end of life.
Critical Comments Luper’s view allows that things can be bad for us long after we are dead, and without our knowing about them. Are conditionalized desires really so bad? Luper’s entire argument turns on his insistence that the Epicurean must think premature death is bad, which they might simply deny.
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