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Saturday, January 27, 2018

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Hi Bill,
Fischer uses an example similar to your (Pessimist of the Year) example in "Death, Badness and the Impossibility of Experience".

In that paper he also makes the following argument, which you might like. (I think it's pretty good anyway :))

(1) The only plausible reason for imposing an Existence Requirement is some prior acceptance of an Experience Requirement, i.e., the belief that x could be bad for me only if x could possibly cause me to have some kind of bad experience (i.e., an experience that I the subject wouldn't like or wouldn't want or something like that); of course I do have to exist in order to have bad experiences.

But (2) The Experience Requirement is false (as shown by examples such as the case of being betrayed behind one's back, even when we add conditions making it impossible ever to have a bad experience as a result of the betrayal).

Therefore, (3) There's no plausible reason for imposing an Existence Requirement.

This seems pretty convincing to me, unless (1) is false (i.e., there's some reason for an Existence Requirement other than an Experience Requirement).

**** A question:

How can Benatar think we have an "independent" interest in continuing to exist while also thinking that our mere existence, apart from any contingent details, is always so bad that we'd have been better off not existing in the first place? If he thinks it's no longer _that_ bad given that we did in fact begin to exist, that seems inconsistent with his anti-natalism (since on this view natality alone would make our actual existence good enough overall, even if it wasn't good enough when merely possible). If he thinks it really is that bad even though we did begin to exist, what is it _about_ our continued existence such that it's in our interest to keep existing _regardless_ of any good experiences we might have or not have? Surely continuing to 'do' some activity A, such that it would be better for the agent never to have started A, is not in the agent's interest unless there is something over and above A, contingently associated with A, that it is in the agent's interests to do... But then it seems that continued existence is worthwhile for us only because, in existing, we get to do or experience things...?

Hello, Gentleman. Some thoughts:

First, it might help to clarify the sense of ‘good’ under discussion. For example, if it’s Aquinas’ view – that good and being are the same; that a thing’s good is, or contributes to, its being – then it seems incoherent to hold that a good can accrue to a thing that does not exist. How could there be a contribution to a thing’s being if that thing doesn’t exist? Mutatis mutandis if good is taken to be identical to pleasure, as Aristippus is said to have held.

Second, Jacques suggests that the only plausible reason for imposing the Existence Req. is some prior acceptance of an Experience Req. Perhaps there is another plausible reason. Call it the Relation Requirement. If g is good for S, g stands in relation to S. And if g relates to S, S exists. This can but need not be an experiential relation.

For example, we could modify Bill's example about the PoY award so that the philosopher doesn’t die, yet for some reason never becomes aware of the award. Perhaps a necessary condition of one’s receiving the award is that he not be aware of it, lest he become an optimist!

Jacques,

Thanks for the comments and the reference to Fischer's paper. I haven't read it. I need to.

It is clear that one has to exist in order to have bad experiences, or any experiences. (Or at least it is clear if one is not a Meinongian, and I am not.) It is also clear that one has to exist at the times one is having the experiences.

It is not clear that (1) is true. I think I can give a reason for the ER other than the ExpR. The reason is that ER is just a special case of a generalized ER: No x is such that it has a predicate true of it unless x exists at the time the predicate is true of it. Now let the predicate be '___ is deprived of a non-experiential good' and let the values of 'x' be restricted to sentient beings. Then you get ER as a special case.

>>How can Benatar think we have an "independent" interest in continuing to exist while also thinking that our mere existence, apart from any contingent details, is always so bad that we'd have been better off not existing in the first place?<<

I don't think B. holds that mere existence, apart from contingent details, is bad. I read him as saying that it is the objective preponderance of the bad over the good for every sentient being, even those most fortunate, that makes it better never to have come into existence.

In fact, I think his view is that mere existence is good. Being dead is bad not only because it deprives one (or in many cases deprives one) of goods one would otherwise have had, but also because it obliterates or annihilate ones. Annihilation is a further bad only because mere existence is good.

It would have been better had I never come to exist, not because to exist is bad as such, but because the nature of our world is such that the bad outweighs the good for all.

For example, pain is far far worse than pleasure is good. This is consistent with saying that sentience, as such, is good.

"I don't think B. holds that mere existence, apart from contingent details, is bad. I read him as saying that it is the objective preponderance of the bad over the good for every sentient being, even those most fortunate, that makes it better never to have come into existence."

Maybe I was unclear about this. What I meant was that, as I understand him, he's saying that any (actual) human life is so bad that anti-natalism holds for that life--regardless of any (actually) possible contingencies, i.e., even if some people have lives that are maximally good relative to whatever is humanly possible in this world. And that's what you're attributing to him too, right?

But then, on that kind of view, to exist _as one of us_ in this actual world is always such that anti-natalism holds for that existence. To me there seems to be a tension, at least, between that claim and the claim that _continued_ existence would be some kind of good for the person who dies. What is good about it for him? Intuitively, the only answer possible seems to be: the good activities or experiences or other things that would or could have accompanied that existence. But if those would or could have been good _enough_ that, overall or on balance, the whole continued existence counts as a good rather than a neutral or bad thing for him, wouldn't that imply that his actual existence was likewise a good rather than a neutral or bad thing while it was actually continuing, i.e., up to his death?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding something here...?

Hi Elliot,
I agree about this:

"Perhaps there is another plausible reason. Call it the Relation Requirement. If g is good for S, g stands in relation to S. And if g relates to S, S exists. This can but need not be an experiential relation."

And the Relation Requirement seems true, but maybe only because it's so abstract. Logically, it couldn't be that something is good for me despite being in no relation to me; after all, being-good-for is a relation. Some goods and bads might be related to me atemporally or eternally; or they might be related in such a way that they exist only at some time when I don't. I think what we'd need in order to motivate the Existence Requirement is a stronger Relation Requirement, something like this:

"If g is good for S, g stands in a relation R to S such that R(g, S) only if g and S exist at the same time."

But then the stronger requirement would just assume the Existence Requirement, and it wouldn't be an independent reason for accepting that other requirement. Is there a plausible version of the Relation Requirement strong enough to be a reason for the Existence Requirement but not so strong that it begs the question?

Hello, Jacques.

Here’s a quick response. I need to go teach an ethics class. Interestingly, we’re addressing the value of human life and its relevance to topics such as euthanasia.

Your modification of RR is helpful. It clarifies the presupposition of presentism. If P-a-P or some version of the B-theory is true, then we wouldn’t need “at the same time.” So, RR would seem to presuppose ER, though perhaps not presentism. But I wasn’t trying to avoid ER. I only wanted to provide a reason for thinking ER holds by broadening it beyond ExpR.

ExpR, then, is one way to satisfy RR. Another way is the *having* relation. sRg such that S stands in the asymmetrical relation of having g. Socrates has rationality, for example. A third way to satisfy RR is the *earlier than* relation. Plato is earlier than us. Presumably, that’s good for those of us who do philosophy in his footnotes.

Is there a plausible version of RR strong enough to be a reason for ER but not so strong that it begs the question?

How about this? (Again, this is a quick reply. I’d want to consider it more thoroughly.) In the *having* relation, S’s having of a property is explanatorily prior to S’s existence. So, S’s having a property (say, some non-experiential property) would be a reason for accepting ER without ExpR.

Would this avoid begging the question in favor of ER?

Bill,

Excuse the delay.

You consider:

"In order for something to be bad or good for somebody, that being must actually exist at the time at which the bad occurs."

I do not consider that self-evident or obvious, though you think I do. Perhaps my death tomorrow is bad for me during the time I exist as it deprives me of valuable future. See my comments to your maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2018/01/death-and-deprivation.html

I consider obvious rather this:

"In order for something to be bad for somebody AT t, that being need not actually exist at the time at which the bad occurs but must exist at t."

You ask: "how can being dead be bad for me if I am alive and kicking?" My answer: Again, death (if it annihilates you) deprives you of valuable future (supposing it would be valuable).

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