The Good, the Bad, and the Dead: An Essay on Well-Being and Death

  • Date:
  • Location: Geijersalen, Engelska parken, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Ekendahl, Karl
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Avdelningen för praktisk filosofi
  • Contact person: Ekendahl, Karl
  • Disputation

This book examines some central arguments in the debate about the value of death.

The first main chapter, Chapter 2, begins with an introduction to the debate and a clarification of Epicureanism, i.e. the view that it is not bad to die. I then go on to evaluate several versions of a popular Epicurean line of argument, according to which death’s failure or inability to cause its victim any unpleasant experiences gives us reason to deny that death can be bad for the person who dies. I argue that none of these arguments succeeds. In Chapter 3, I turn to a more promising argument against the badness of death: the Timing Argument. Because there is no time at which death can be bad for its victim, the argument goes, it cannot be bad for her at all. To clarify the nature of this rather obscure argument, I offer two different interpretations, only one of which, I argue, should be considered a challenge to the anti-Epicurean. In Chapter 4, I review different attempts at refuting the Timing Argument, many of which fail to address the argument in its most challenging form. I also argue that there is no time at which death is bad for its victim, but that the conclusion to draw from this is that death can be bad for its victim without being bad for her at any time. The final chapter, Chapter 5, starts with the widespread worry that Epicureanism is hard to combine with certain normative commonsense ideas, e.g. the idea that we often prudentially ought to avoid death. As it turns out, however, the anti-Epicurean faces similar problems: in certain cases where, intuitively, a person has prudential reasons to avoid her death, the most prominent anti-Epicurean accounts fail to yield that her death is bad for her. This is a serious problem for anti-Epicureanism, and I end with a few remarks on its potential implications.