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Wednesday, January 24, 2018


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Can a thing literally be in a state of death when it does not exist? Does Morty literally have the property of being dead when he does not exist?

Is the assumption that death is something positive? Why not say that death is a mere privation of life rather than an actual state in which something is or property which something has? Why not say, from a mortalist pov, that ‘death’ is a term to signify that something which was alive is not? “Morty is dead” would mean “The man who was Morty is not.” “Morty has the property of being dead” would mean “There was at least one property such that Morty had it and there is no property such that Morty has it.”


You ask: "Don't we think that, on balance, it is bad for such a person to be dead?"

Perhaps in a sense.

And why not just in this one, discussed by Benatar in Better Never to Have Been (2006, ch. 7) as follows?

"The time of the harm cannot be when death occurs because by that time the person who non-Epicureans say is harmed by the death no longer exists. And if it is the ante-mortem person who is harmed, one cannot say that the time at which that person is harmed is the time of his death, because that would involve backward causation—a later event causing an earlier harm. One response to this challenge is to say that the time at which death harms is ‘always’ or ‘eternally’. George Pitcher offers a helpful analogy. He says that if ‘the world should be blasted to smithereens during the next presidency. . .this would make it true (be responsible for the fact) that even now, during. . .[the current president’s] term, he is the penultimate president of the United States’. Similarly, one’s later death makes it true that even now one is doomed not to live longer than one will. Just as there is no backward causation in the case of the penultimate president, so there is no backward causation in a death that harms one all along."

You also say: "Isn't it true that Morty is dead? I should think so. So Morty has the property of being dead at times at which he does not exist."

I don't see that to follow. I see just this: something alive was Morty, now nothing alive is Morty. This may sound to you like a Quinean or thin theory of existence, hence superficial, but I've never quite got what's wrong with that approach. (Though years ago I did read your book on existence as well as your discussions with Ed Buckner.)

Final point: I remember Quentin Smith published a paper on "Degree Presentism" -- the present is most real, past and future less so.


Benatar repeatedly assures that 'better never to have been' does not, for all of us, imply 'better to kill oneself'. For often suicide hurts a lot. (Also, often it hurts others, a lot.) But if life is, for all of us, _as terrible_ as Benatar argues, it is hard to see why avoiding _decades_ of it should not, for each of us, offset the misery of suicide. (Also why it should not offset the misery caused to others.)

This comment of mine is, in part, close the 2nd comment to Benatar's online review of The True Detective (titled "We Are Creatures That Should Not Exist", 2015). In his paper "Every Conceivable Harm" (2012), Benatar answers similar worries, but I remember vaguely that he never compares the _magnitudes_ of those pros and cons.

Thanks for the comments, V and E.

Many difficult questions here.

It is true now that Morty is dead. What is the truth-maker of this contingent truth?

You say, >>something alive was Morty, now nothing alive is Morty.<< No doubt, but this merely unpacks 'Morty is dead.' It doesn't get us anywhere.

What is the truth-maker of your sentence? It would be unacceptable to say: It is just true!

Looking into The Human Predicament (2017), I can only see Benatar begging the question against the above suggested view (described in the quote from his 2006 book). For on p. 113 he simply assumes, with some other authors, there is a time at which death's badness befalls the person.

Also, to say 'it is it bad for a person to BE deprived at the time he NO longer IS' seems obviously contradictory. It will not do, as Benatar does on pp. 115f, to merely note that death is special. Likewise, you do not explain away apparent incoherence in an interpretation of QM by just saying that quantum processes are special.


I'm on p. 102 of my running commentary. I'll be coming to that section of the book pretty soon.

Has Benatar committed himself to coming to the Prague conference?

Suppose it’s correct to say that, on a naturalist/mortalist pov, a thing can be in a state of death while it doesn’t exist.

Benatar holds that the ills of human life make it such that it is wrong to procreate. What reason could B. have for holding that death is bad for the person who is dead while he is dead?

He can’t reasonably hold that death is bad because it’s a bad conscious state experienced by the dead person. His naturalism rules this belief out. And given his belief that the ills of human life make it such that a human being is not worth procreating, the cessation of those ills would seem a boon for the human being who experiences them. (Consider Twain's very short story The Five Boons of Life) It appears the only reason for saying that death is bad for humans is that human death in itself is objectively bad. But why? Isn’t it bad because the cessation of something of high intrinsic value is bad, and humans have high intrinsic value?

If this is correct, then B. would seem committed to the view that man has high intrinsic value. (Although it’s hard to see why, on a naturalist pov) But then why oppose procreation? Unless he holds that the ills of human life outweigh the high intrinsic value of man.

>>It is true now that Morty is dead. What is the truth-maker of this contingent truth?<<

How about this? The fact that made it true when Morty was alive that “Morty will be dead” is the same fact that makes it true now that “Morty is dead.”

Maybe we can say the fact is this: the present state of affairs that although something alive was Morty, nothing alive is Morty.

He did.

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