We have argued that it is rational to have asymmetric attitudes toward prenatal and posthumous non-existence insofar as this asymmetry is a special case of a more general (and arguably rational) asymmetry in our attitudes toward past and future pleasures. Here we respond to an interesting critique of our view by Jens Johansson. We contend that his critique involves a crucial and illicit switch in temporal perspectives in the process of considering modal claims (sending us to other possible worlds).
It seems that, whereas a person's death needn't be a bad thing for him, it can be. In some circumstances, death isn't a "bad thing" or an "evil" for a person. For instance, if a person has a terminal and very painful disease, he might rationally regard his own death as a good thing for him, or at least, he may regard it as something whose prospective occurrence shouldn't be regretted. But the attitude of a "normal" and healthy human being (...) - adult or child - toward the prospect of his death is different; it is not unreasonable in certain cases to regard one's own death as a bad thing for oneself. If this is so, then the question arises as to why death is bad, in those cases in which it is bad. (shrink)
In a recent article, I criticized Anthony L. Brueckner and JohnMartinFischer’s influential argument—appealing to the rationality of our asymmetric attitudes towards past and future pleasures—against the Lucretian claim that death and prenatal non-existence are relevantly similar. Brueckner and Fischer have replied, however, that my critique involves an unjustified shift in temporal perspectives. In this paper, I respond to this charge and also argue that even if it were correct, it would fail (...) to defend Brueckner and Fischer’s proposal against my critique. (shrink)
Introduction : death, metaphysics, and morality / JohnMartinFischer Death knocks / Woody Allen Rationality and the fear of death / Jeffrie G. Murphy Death / Thomas Nagel The Makropulos case : reflections on the tedium of immortality / Bernard Williams The evil of death / Harry S. Silverstein How to be dead and not care : a defense of Epicurus / Stephen E. Rosenbaum The dead / Palle Yourgrau The misfortunes of the dead / George (...) Pitcher Harm to others / Joel Feinberg Reasons and persons / Derek Parfit Why is death bad? / Anthony L. Brueckner and JohnMartinFischer Death and the value of life / Jeff McMahan Annihilation / Steven Luper-Foy Epicurus and annihilation / Stephen E. Rosenbaum Some puzzles about the evil of death / Fred Feldman Well-being and time / J. David Velleman. (shrink)
Death can be bad for an individual who has died, according to the “deprivation approach,” by depriving that individual of goods. One worry for this account of death’s badness is the Lucretian symmetry argument: since we do not regret having been born later than we could have been born, and since posthumous nonexistence is the mirror image of prenatal nonexistence, we should not regret dying earlier than we could have died. AnthonyBrueckner and JohnMartin (...) class='Hi'>Fischer have developed a response to the Lucretian challenge by arguing that it is rational to have asymmetric attitudes toward posthumous and prenatal nonexistence. Recently, Jens Johansson has criticized the Brueckner/Fischer position, claiming that it is irrelevant whether it is actually rational to care about future pleasures but not past pleasures. What matters, according to Johansson, is whether it would be rational for us to care about past pleasures had we come into existence earlier. In this paper, I add to the conversation between Johansson and Brueckner/Fischer by suggesting a way to defend the latter side’s position in a way that has not yet been suggested. I do this by considering a suggestion of Johansson’s for interpreting the Brueckner/Fischer position and by arguing that Johansson’s worry for the position I consider is actually incoherent. (shrink)
In previous work we have defended the deprivation account of death’s badness against worries stemming from the Lucretian point that prenatal and posthumous nonexistence are deprivations of the same sort. In a recent article in this journal, Fred Feldman has offered an insightful critique of our Parfitian strategy for defending the deprivation account of death’s badness. Here we adjust, clarify, and defend our strategy for reply to Lucretian worries on behalf of the deprivation account.
According to JohnMartinFischer and AnthonyBrueckner’s unique version of the deprivation approach to accounting for death’s badness, it is rational for us to have asymmetric attitudes toward prenatal and posthumous nonexistence. In previous work, I have defended this approach against a criticism raised by Jens Johansson by attempting to show that Johansson’s criticism relies on an example that is incoherent. Recently, Duncan Purves has argued that my defense reveals an incoherence not only in (...) Johansson’s example but also in Fischer and Brueckner’s approach itself. Here I argue that by paying special attention to a certain feature of Fischer and Brueckner’s approach, we can dispense of not only Johansson’s criticism but also of Purves’s objection to Fischer and Brueckner’s approach. (shrink)
JohnMartinFischer and Anthony L. Brueckner have argued that a person’s death is, in many cases, bad for him, whereas a person’s prenatal non-existence is not bad for him. Their suggestion relies on the idea that death deprives the person of pleasant experiences that it is rational for him to care about, whereas prenatal non-existence only deprives him of pleasant experiences that it is not rational for him to care about. In two recent articles (...) in The Journal of Ethics, I have objected that it is irrelevant what it is in fact rational for the person to care about. Fischer and Brueckner have replied to my critique. In this paper I respond to their latest pair of replies. (shrink)
Here we respond to Johansson’s main worry, as laid out in his, “Actual and Counterfactual Attitudes: Reply to Fischer and Brueckner.” We show how our principle BF*(dd*) can be adjusted to address this concern compatibly with our fundamental approach to responding to Lucretius.
We have argued that it is rational to have asymmetric attitudes toward prenatal and posthumous non-existence insofar as this asymmetry is a special case of a more general asymmetry in our attitudes toward past and future pleasures. Here we respond to an interesting critique of our view by Jens Johansson. We contend that his critique involves an inappropriate conflation of the time from which the relevant asymmetry emerges and the time of the badness of death.
In previous work we have presented a reply to the Lucretian Symmetry, which has it that it is rational to have symmetric attitudes toward prenatal and posthumous nonexistence. Our reply relies on Parfit-style thought-experiments. Here we reply to a critique of our approach by Huiyuhl Yi, which appears in this journal: Brueckner and Fischer on the evil of death. We argue that this critique fails to attend to the specific nature of the thought-experiments (and our associated argument). More (...) specifically, the thought-experiments seek to elicit attitudes about (say) past pleasures per se, and not insofar as such pleasures are connected to more pleasures in the future or a greater total amount of pleasures in one’s life overall. (shrink)
A primary argument against the badness of death (known as the Symmetry Argument) appeals to an alleged symmetry between prenatal and posthumous nonexistence. The Symmetry Argument has posed a serious threat to those who hold that death is bad because it deprives us of life’s goods that would have been available had we died later. AnthonyBrueckner and JohnMartinFischer develop an influential strategy to cope with the Symmetry Argument. In their attempt to break (...) the symmetry, they claim that due to our preference of future experiential goods over past ones, posthumous nonexistence is bad for us, whereas prenatal nonexistence is not. Granting their presumption about our preference, however, it is questionable that prenatal nonexistence is not bad. This consideration does not necessarily indicate their defeat against the Symmetry Argument. I present a better response to the Symmetry Argument: the symmetry is broken, not because posthumous nonexistence is bad while prenatal nonexistence is not, but because (regardless as to whether prenatal nonexistence is bad) posthumous nonexistence is even worse. (shrink)
In a previous paper, we argued that death's badness consists in the deprivation of pleasurable experiences which one would have had, had one died later rather than at the time of one's actual death. Thus, we argued that death can be a bad thing for the individual who dies, even if it is an experiential blank. But there is a pressing objection to this view, for if the view is correct, then it seems that it should also be the case (...) that it is a bad thing for a person that he is born when he actually is born, rather than earlier. That is, if the deprivation account is the correct account of death's badness, then it appears that one should have symmetric attitudes to prenatal and posthumous nonexistence. But clearly we do not in general have symmetric attitudes toward the period before our birth and the period after our death; in general, we do not think of our late births as a bad thing, but we can indeed consider our early deaths as bad for us. Thus, it appears that there is a problem for the deprivation account of death's badness. (shrink)
Abstract According to the Deprivation Approach, the evil of death is to be explained by the fact that death deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had lived longer. But the Deprivation Approach confronts a problem first discussed by Lucretius. Late birth seems to deprive us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had been born earlier. Yet no one is troubled by late birth. So it’s hard to see why we should be troubled (...) by its temporal mirror image, early death. In a 1986 paper, AnthonyBrueckner and JohnMartinFischer appealed to a version of Derek Parfit’s “Bias toward the Future”; they claimed that early death deprives us of future goods that we care about, while late birth deprives us of past goods that we don’t care about. In this paper I show that the Brueckner–Fischer principle is open to several possible interpretations, but that it does not solve the Lucretius problem no matter how we understand it. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9766-6 Authors Fred Feldman, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
JohnMartinFischer and Anthony L. Brueckner have argued that a person’s death is, in many cases, bad for him, whereas a person’s prenatal non-existence is not bad for him. Their suggestion relies on the idea that death deprives the person of pleasant experiences that it is rational for him to care about, whereas prenatal non-existence only deprives him of pleasant experiences that it is not rational for him to care about. Jens Johansson has objected (...) to this justification of ‘The Asymmetry’ between the badness of death and pre-natal non-existence on the grounds that what it is actually rational for us to care about is irrelevant to the question of whether the event is bad for us. Taylor Cyr has recently argued that Jens Johansson’s objection to Fischer’s and Brueckner’s position relies on an incoherent example, and is thus unsuccessful. I argue that Cyr’s attempt to defend Fischer and Brueckner in fact illustrates that their position is incoherent, and that Johansson’s objection therefore succeeds. (shrink)
Erratum to: Philosophia 42:741–748DOI 10.1007/s11406-014-9543-9The original version of this article unfortunately contained a mistake. There were two slight text errors. The correct text information are given below.In the second line of the last paragraph in section "Reply to Yi" right before the "Conclusion", the text should read as:“atypical or, as Yi suggests, are more typical than we appear to suppose”.andIn the middle of the same paragraph, the text should read as:“…Note that a proponent of the Brueckner/Fischer approach can (...) accept that it would be rational to regret late birth somewhat, if it really were true that Learning Japanese represents the typical case.”. (shrink)
Introduction: "meaning in life and death : our stories" -- JohnMartinFischer and Anthony B rueckner, "Why is death bad?", Philosophical studies, vol. 50, no. 2 (September 1986) -- "Death, badness, and the impossibility of experience," Journal of ethics -- JohnMartinFischer and Daniel Speak, "Death and the psychological conception of personal identity," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 24 -- "Earlier birth and later death : symmetry through thick and thin," Richard (...) Feldman, Kris McDaniel, Jason R. Raibley, eds., The good, the right, life and death (Aldershot : Ashgate Publishing, 2006) -- "Why immortality is not so bad," International journal of philosophical studies, vol. 2, no. 2 (September 1994) -- JohnMartinFischer and Ruth Curl, "Philosophical models of immortality in science fiction," in George Slusser et. al., eds., Immortal engines : life extension and immortality in science fiction and fantasy (Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, 1996) -- "Epicureanism about death and immortality," Journal of ethics, vol. 10, no. 4 -- "Stories," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 20 -- "Free will, death, and immortality : the role of narrative," Philosophical papers (Special issue : meaning in life) volume 34, number 3, November 2005 -- "Stories and the meaning of life," revised and expanded version of "A reply to Pereboom, Zimmerman, and Smith," part of a book symposium on JohnMartinFischer, my way : essays on moral responsibility, philosophical books, vol. 47, no. 3. (shrink)
In defense of the Deprivation Approach to the badness of death against the Lucretian objection that death is relevantly similar to prenatal nonexistence, JohnMartinFischer and Anthony L. Brueckner have suggested that whereas death deprives us of things that it is rational for us to care about, prenatal nonexistence does not. I have argued that this suggestion, even if correct, does not make for a successful defense of the Deprivation Approach against the Lucretian objection. (...) My criticism involved a thought experiment in which a person avoids being tortured. Recently, Taylor Cyr has defended Fischer and Brueckner’s approach, arguing that my thought experiment is incoherent. In this response, I question both the truth and relevance of Cyr’s incoherence claim. (shrink)
According to the “deprivation approach,” a person’s death is bad for her to the extent that it deprives her of goods. This approach faces the Lucretian problem that prenatal non-existence deprives us of goods just as much as death does, but does not seem bad at all. The two most prominent responses to this challenge—one of which is provided by Frederik Kaufman (inspired by Thomas Nagel) and the other by AnthonyBrueckner and JohnMartinFischer—claim (...) that prenatal non-existence is relevantly different from death. This paper criticizes these responses. (shrink)
The first, the Transfer Version, employs an inference principle concerning the transfer of one's powerlessness with respect to certain facts. The principle says, roughly, "If a person is powerless over one thing, and powerless over that thing's leading to another, then the person is powerless over the second thing". The key premises are the Fixity of the Past and the Fixity of the Laws. Fischer defends the transfer principle against objections that have been raised by Anthony Kenny and (...) Michael Slote. (shrink)
Here I respond to AnthonyBrueckner and JohnMartinFischer’s “The Evil of Death: A Reply to Yi.” They developed an influential strategy in defense of the deprivation account of death’s badness against the Lucretian symmetry problem. The core of their argument consists in the claim that it is rational for us to welcome future intrinsic goods while being indifferent to past intrinsic goods. Previously, I argued that their approach is compatible with the evil of (...) late birth insofar as an earlier birth would have generated more goods in the future. In reply, Brueckner and Fischer argue that my critique fails to appreciate an important aspect of their thought experiment, which aims only to show that the deprivation of past goods per se is not bad for us. Thus, purportedly, my critique poses no threat to their view. Here I argue that since the deprivation account explains the evil of death with recourse to how one’s life would have fared had one lived longer, it ought to respond to the symmetry problem with reference to how one’s life would have fared had one been born earlier. However, it is not generally true that the life one would have had with an earlier birth is not preferable to one’s actual life, because in many cases such a life would contain more future goods. (shrink)
I seek to reply to the thoughtful and penetrating comments by William Rowe, Alfred Mele, Carl Ginet, and Ishtiyaque Haji. In the process, I hope that my overall approach to free will and moral responsibility is thrown into clearer relief. I make some suggestions as to future directions of research in these areas.
What, if anything, makes death bad for the deceased themselves? Deprivationists hold that death is bad for the deceased iff it deprives them of intrinsic goods they would have enjoyed had they lived longer. This view faces the problem that birth too seems to deprive one of goods one would have enjoyed had one been born earlier, so that it too should be bad for one. There are two main approaches to the problem. In this paper, I explore the second (...) approach, by AnthonyBrueckner and JohnMartinFischer, and suggest that it can be developed so as to meet deprivationists’ needs. On the resulting view, metaphysical differences between the future and the past give rise to a corresponding axiological difference in the intrinsic value of future and past experiences. As experiences move into the past, they lose their intrinsic value for the person. (shrink)
Some have argued, following Stalnaker, that a plausible functionalist account of belief requires coarse-grained propositions. I have explored a class of functionalist accounts, and my argument has been that, in this class, there is no account which meetsall of the following conditions: it is plausible, noncircular, and allows for the validity of the argument to coarse-grained propositions. In producing this argument, I believe that I have shown that it might be open to a functionalist to adopt fine-grained propositions; thus, one (...) might be a functionalist without holding that all mathematical beliefs are about strings of symbols (and that the belief that all bachelors are unmarried men is a belief about words).My project in this paper has been minimal in the following sense. I havenot argued thatno functionalist account of belief which meets the three conditions can be produced; rather, I have simply explored the inadequacies of certain sorts of accounts. I think that this is useful insofar as it makes clear the challenges to be met by an account of belief which can play the required role in the argument to coarse-grained propositions. It is compatible with my position that such an account is forthcoming, insofar as I have not produced a functionalist theory of belief which is clearly non-circular, plausible, and which yields fine-grained propositions. Of course, it is also compatible with my position that no plausible, non-circular functionalist account of belief of any sort can be produced. My argument has been that,if one construes such mental states as belief as functional states, no convincing argument has yet been produced that they require coarse-grained objects. (shrink)
Introduction to Philosophy, Fourth Edition, is the most comprehensive topically organized collection of classical and contemporary philosophy available. Building on the exceptionally successful tradition of previous editions, this edition for the first time incorporates the insights of a new coeditor, JohnMartinFischer, and has been updated and revised to make it more accessible. Ideal for introductory philosophy courses, the text includes sections on the meaning of life, God and evil, knowledge and reality, the philosophy of science, (...) the mind/body problem, freedom of will, consciousness, ethics, and philosophical puzzles and paradoxes. It presents seventy substantial--and in some cases complete--selections from the best and most influential works in philosophy, offering a unique balance between classical and contemporary material. An extensive glossary of philosophical terms is also included. The fourth edition features fifteen new readings, including work by Albert Camus, Roderick M. Chisholm, Daniel Dennett, Harry G. Frankfurt, William Paley, Derek Parfit, John Perry, Richard Taylor, Peter Van Inwagen, Bernard Williams, and Susan Wolf. Part III, Knowledge and Reality, has been restructured and now includes Plato's Thaetetus, selections by Edmund L. Gettier and Robert Nozick, and an essay by Christopher Grau that explores the philosophical concepts presented in the popular film The Matrix. Two new ethics puzzles--"The Trolley Problem" and "Ducking Harm and Sacrificing Others"--are also included. This edition incorporates Study Questions after each reading and is accompanied by an Instructor's CD and a Student Companion Website, both containing helpful resources. (shrink)
According to the “deprivation approach,” a person’s death is bad for her to the extent that it deprives her of goods. This approach faces the Lucretian problem that prenatal non-existence deprives us of goods just as much as death does, but does not seem bad at all. The two most prominent responses to this challenge—one of which is provided by Frederik Kaufman and the other by AnthonyBrueckner and JohnMartinFischer—claim that prenatal non-existence is (...) relevantly different from death. This paper criticizes these responses. (shrink)
. In a number of papers I have sought to discuss and cast some doubt on a certain strategy of response to an argument that purports to show that God's foreknowledge is incompatible with human freedom. This argument proceeds from the alleged ‘fixity of the past’ to the conclusion that God's foreknowledge is incompatible with human freedom. William Lane Craig has criticized my approach to these issues. Here I should like to respond to some of Craig's claims. My goal is (...) to attempt to achieve a clearer, more penetrating view of some of the issues pertaining to the relationship between God's foreknowledge and human freedom. The focus here will be on a strategy of response to the incompatibilist's argument which is associated with William of Ockham. (shrink)
JohnMartinFischer’s most recent collection of essays, Deep Control: Essays on Free Will and Value, is both incredibly wide-ranging and impressively detailed. Fischer manages to cover a staggering amount of ground in the free will debate, while also providing insightful and articulate analyses of many of the positions defended in the field. In this collection, Fischer focuses on the relationship between free will and moral responsibility. In the first section of his book, Fischer (...) defends Frankfurt cases as an important and useful tool in rejecting the necessity of regulative control for moral responsibility. In the second section, Fischer turns his attention to his own account of guidance control. In this essay, I first focus on Fischer’s defense of Frankfurt cases, specifically his response to the argument that the assumption of determinism in such cases is question-begging. I then analyze two objections to Fischer’s account of guidance control. Finally, I conclude with a brief discussion of the metaphor of the pilgrimage, which Fischer introduces in the opening essay of his collection. (shrink)
This article presents results from a multidisciplinary research project on the integration and transfer of language knowledge into robots as an empirical paradigm for the study of language development in both humans and humanoid robots. Within the framework of human linguistic and cognitive development, we focus on how three central types of learning interact and co-develop: individual learning about one's own embodiment and the environment, social learning (learning from others), and learning of linguistic capability. Our primary concern is how these (...) capabilities can scaffold each other's development in a continuous feedback cycle as their interactions yield increasingly sophisticated competencies in the agent's capacity to interact with others and manipulate its world. Experimental results are summarized in relation to milestones in human linguistic and cognitive development and show that the mutual scaffolding of social learning, individual learning, and linguistic capabilities creates the context, conditions, and requisites for learning in each domain. Challenges and insights identified as a result of this research program are discussed with regard to possible and actual contributions to cognitive science and language ontogeny. In conclusion, directions for future work are suggested that continue to develop this approach toward an integrated framework for understanding these mutually scaffolding processes as a basis for language development in humans and robots. (shrink)
I first want to thank JohnFischer for his generous appraisal of the book, and for his astute and challenging comments on my treatment of the manipulation argument in Chapter 4. Fischer’s core strategy for resisting this argument is a soft-line reply. Soft-liners claim that in some manipulation cases the agent is not morally responsible, and in others he is. A corollary of the soft-line reply is that there is a plausible compatibilist condition on moral responsibility that (...) has not been met in some of the cases. One prominent response of this sort is that a key condition on basic desert moral responsibility is the absence of intentional manipulation or causal determination . This is not the line Fischer takes. In the response he proposes, intentional causal determination is compatible with moral responsibility in Case 2, that is, in what he calls an initial design case, in which the intentional causation, as in Leibniz’s theological determinism, is confined to the beginning of the agent’s life. But in Case 1, where the intentional manipulation is direct and immediate, the agent is not morally responsible. Fischer’s thought is that Plum’s non-responsibility in Case 1 can be accounted for by the conditions on mechanism-ownership, a feature of the compatibilist account of moral responsibility he and Ravizza developed, which, he correctly points out, I neglect in favor of the reasons-responsiveness component. (shrink)
In this collection of essays on the metaphysical issues pertaining to death, the meaning of life, and freedom of the will, JohnMartinFischer argues that death can be a bad thing for the individual who dies. He defends the claim that something can be a bad thing--a misfortune--for an individual, even if he never experiences it as bad. Fischer also defends the commonsense asymmetry in our attitudes toward death and prenatal nonexistence: we are indifferent to (...) the time before we are born, but we regret that we do not live longer. Further, Fischer argues, that immortal life could be desirable, and shows how the defense of the badness of death and the goodness of immortality exhibit a similar structure; on Fischer's view, the badness of death and the goodness of life can be represented on spectra that display certain continuities. Building on Fischer's previous book, My Way a major aim of this volume is to show important connections between issues relating to life and death and issues relating to free will. More specifically, Fischer argues that we endow our lives with a certain distinctive kind of meaning--an irreducible narrative dimension of value--by exhibiting free will. Thus, in acting freely, we transform our lives so that our stories matter. (shrink)
This unique text focuses on ethical puzzles and hypothetical problems to help students at all levels understand and refine their moral principles and see how they apply to various situations. An extensive, thoughtfully written introduction provides the theoretical background and lays out numerous moral puzzle cases that are analyzed and discussed throughout the text. Challenging follow-up articles argue a variety of stances on the ethical puzzles set forth in the introduction.
JohnMartinFischer's The Metaphysics of Free Will is devoted to two major projects. First, Fischer defends the thesis that determinism is incompatible with a person's control over alternatives to the actual future. Second, Fischer defends the striking thesis that such control is not necessary for moral responsibility. This review essay examines Fischer's arguments for each thesis. Fischer's defense of the incompatibilist thesis is the most innovative to date, and I argue that his (...) formulation restructures the free will debate. To defend his second thesis Fischer relies upon examples designed to show that an agent is responsible for an unavoidable action. I criticize Fischer's account of these examples, but I also maintain that my criticisms do not compromise his theory of responsibility. I raise several other difficulties for Fischer's theory of responsibility, and I close by offering some suggestions about how he might further defend it. (shrink)