The Philosophy of Death is a discussion of the basic philosophical issues concerning death, and a critical introduction to the relevant contemporary philosophical literature. Luper begins by addressing questions about those who die: What is it to be alive? What does it mean for you and me to exist? Under what conditions do we persist over time, and when do we perish? Next, he considers several questions concerning death, including: What does dying consist in; in particular, how does it differ (...) from ageing? Must death be permanent? By what signs may it be identified? Is death bad for the one who dies? If so why? Finally he discusses whether, and why, killing is morally objectionable, and suggests that it is often permissible; in particular, suicide, euthanasia and abortion may all be morally permissible. His book is a lively and engaging philosophical treatment of a perennially fascinating and relevant subject. (shrink)
According to Epicurus (1966a,b), neither death, nor anything that occurs later, can harm those who die, because people who die are not made to suffer as a result of either. In response, many philosophers (e.g., Nagel 1970, Feinberg 1984, and Pitcher 1984) have argued that Epicurus is wrong on both counts. They have defended the mortem thesis: death may harm those who die. They have also defended the post-mortem thesis: posthumous events may harm people who die. Their arguments for this (...) joint view are by now quite familiar, and there is no need to rehearse them here (for a summary, see Luper 2002). Instead, our topic is a third position, which carves out intermediate ground between the other two. The intermediate view takes the mortem thesis for granted, like the critics of Epicurus, but rejects the post-mortem thesis, like Epicurus himself. For Epicurus’ project—the attainment of ataraxia, or equanimity—the intermediate view is almost useless (we are not tranquil if we regard death as a tragedy whose peculiarity is that it frees us from the possibility of any further misfortune); however, it is far more plausible than Epicurus’ own position since it avoids his absurd claim that death cannot harm us, while retaining his view that events occurring while we are dead and gone cannot harm us. According to the proponent of the intermediate view, when we understand the harm death inflicts, we must reject the idea that events following death can be bad for us. The damage death itself does is so severe that people are not subject to harm by any subsequent events. Thus the intermediate view rests on the mortem thesis together with the immunity thesis: death leaves its victims immune from posthumous harm. (shrink)
Most of us think we can always enlarge our knowledge base by accepting things that are entailed by (or logically implied by) things we know. The set of things we know is closed under entailment (or under deduction or logical implication), which means that we know that a given claim is true upon recognizing, and accepting thereby, that it follows from what we know. However, some theorists deny that knowledge is closed under entailment, and the issue remains controversial. The arguments (...) against closure include the following. (shrink)
The harm thesis says that death may harm the individual who dies. The posthumous harm thesis says that posthumous events may harm those who die. Epicurus rejects both theses, claiming that there is no subject who is harmed, no clear harm which is received, and no clear time when any harm is received. Feldman rescues the harm thesis with solutions to Epicurus' three puzzles based on his own version of the deprivation account of harm. But many critics, among them Lamont, (...) Grey, Feit and Bradley, have rejected Feldman's solution to the timing puzzle, offering their own solutions in its place. I discuss these solutions to the timing puzzle, and defend the view that while we are alive we may incur harm for which death and posthumous events are responsible. (shrink)
In early essays and in more recent work, Fred Dretske argues against the closure of perception, perceptual knowledge, and knowledge itself. In this essay I review his case and suggest that, in a useful sense, perception is closed, and that, while perceptual knowledge is not closed under entailment, perceptually based knowledge is closed, and so is knowledge itself. On my approach, which emphasizes the safe indication account of knowledge, we can both perceive, and know, that sceptical scenarios (such as being (...) a brain in a vat) do not hold. (shrink)
Ideally, our account of knowledge would help us to understand the appeal of (and flaws in) skepticism,2 while remaining consistent with our ‘intuitions,' and supporting epistemic principles that seem eminently plausible. Of course, we don't always get what we want; we may not be able to move from intuitions and principles to an account that fully squares with them. As a last resort, we may have to move in the other direction, and give up intuitions or principles that are undermined (...) by an otherwise compelling account of knowledge, so as to achieve ‘reflective equilibrium.'3 But last resorts come last. (shrink)
Epistemic relativism rejects the idea that claims can be assessed from a universally applicable, objective standpoint. It is greatly disdained because it suggests that the real ‘basis’ for our views is something fleeting, such as ‘‘the techniques of mass persuasion’’ (Thomas Kuhn 1970) or the determination of intellectuals to achieve ‘‘solidarity’’ (Rorty 1984) or ‘‘keep the conversation going’’ (Rorty 1979). But epistemic relativism, like skepticism, is far easier to despise than to convincingly refute, for two main reasons. First, its definition (...) is unclear, so we cannot always tell where relativism leaves off and other views, such as skepticism or subjectivism, begin. Consequently, it can be difficult to tell when a criticism has done enough. Second, the grounds for relativism are unclear, which can make it hard to know how to attack it or whether we have dismantled all of the ways of supporting it. (shrink)
This volume meets the increasing interest in a range of philosophical issues connected with the nature and significance of life and death, and the ethics of killing. What is it to be alive and to die? What is it to be a person? What must time be like if we are to persist? What makes one life better than another? May death or posthumous events harm the dead? The chapters in this volume address these questions, and also discuss topical issues (...) such as abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. They explore the interrelation between the metaphysics, significance, and ethics of life and death, and they discuss the moral significance of killing both people and animals, and the extent to which death harms them. The volume is for all those studying the philosophy of life and death, for readers taking applied ethics courses, and for those studying ethics and metaphysics more generally. (shrink)
Can we render death harmless to us by perfecting life, as the ancient Epicureans and Stoics seemed to think? It might seem so, for after we perfect life—assuming we can—persisting would not make life any better. Dying earlier rather than later would shorten life, but a longer perfect life is no better than a shorter perfect life, so dying would take nothing of value from us. However, after sketching what perfecting life might entail, I will argue that it is not (...) a desirable approach to invulnerability after all. (shrink)
What sort of thing, fundamentally, are you and I? For convenience, I use the term persimal to refer to the kind of thing we are, whatever that kind turns out to be. Accordingly, the question is, what are persimals? One possible answer is that persimalhood consists in being a human animal, but many theorists, including Derek Parfit and Jeff McMahan, not to mention John Locke, reject this idea in favor of a radically different view, according to which persimalhood consists in (...) having certain sorts of mental or psychological features. In this essay, I try to show that the animalist approach is defensible as against the mentalist approach. I also suggest that animalists have a plausible story to tell about cases such as brain transplantation and dicephaly that might appear to support the mentalist approach. (shrink)
Despite its plausibility, I mean to resist this argument. I will reject premise 1 on the grounds that dying may be atemporally bad for us. I will also reject premise 3. Some postmortem events are bad for some of us while we are alive. But I am not going to report some new exotic particle that makes backwards causation possible. As far as I know, 6 is true. If an event is responsible for a harm that we incur before the (...) event itself occurs, it might be said to harm us retroactively ; if when or after it occurs, it might be said to harm us proactively . My view is that some postmortem events harm us retroactively, but without backwards causation (Pitcher 1984). (shrink)
This volume of original essays assesses Nozick's analyses of knowledge and evidence and his approach to skepticism. Several of the contributors claim that Nozick has not succeeded in rebutting the skeptic; some offer fresh accounts of skepticism and its flaws; others criticize Nozick's externalist accounts of knowledge and evidence; still others welcome externalism but attempt to replace Nozick's accounts of knowledge and evidence with more plausible analyses.
I examine an argument that appears to take us from Parfit’s [Reasons and Persons, Oxford: Clarendon Press (1984)] thesis that we have no reason to fulfil desires we no longer care about to the conclusion that the effect of posthumous events on our desires is a matter of indifference (the post-mortem thesis). I suspect that many of Parfit’s readers, including Vorobej [Philosophical Studies 90 (1998) 305], think that he is committed to (something like) this reasoning, and that Parfit must therefore (...) give up the post-mortem thesis. However, as it turns out, the argument is subtly equivocal and does not commit Parfit to the post-mortem thesis. I close with some doubts about Parfit’s case for his indifference thesis. (shrink)
Recently, Jonathan Schaffer has defended a contrastivist analysis of knowledge. By appealing to his account, he has attempted to steer a path between skepticism and Moore-style antiskepticism: much like sensitivity theorists and contextualists, he offers significant concessions to, but ultimately rejects, both. In this essay I suggest that in fact Schaffer ends up succumbing to skepticism.
Provides a concise introduction to ethics or moral philosophy, surveying the main ideas of moral philosophy and discussing its controversial areas. In pursuing ethics' fundamental query, how we ought to live, this book devotes space - two chapters - to the question of what the best life is like.
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better to be immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Since Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions first appeared, David Benatar's distinctive anthology designed to introduce students to the key existential questions of philosophy has won a devoted following among users in a variety of upper-level and even introductory courses.
With its balance of both classic selections and cutting-edge contemporary writings, this anthology for the beginning student clearly covers all the major historical and leading contemporary approaches to epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. One reviewer says: “...admirably even-handed and fair in its explanations of various views...The chapter introductions are concise and informative... not only are readings selected so as to engage one another in important ways, but the editor serves as a good guide through the scholarly thickets...The presentation of (...) content, both in the choice of readings and in the editor's introductions is superior to other texts I have used,” (Bruce Umbaugh, Webster University). (shrink)
How might we change ourselves without ending our existence? What could we become, if we had access to an advanced form of bioengineering that allowed us dramatically to alter our genome? Could we remain in existence after ceasing to be alive? What is it to be human? Might we still exist after changing ourselves into something that is not human? What is the significance of human extinction? Steven Luper addresses these questions and more in this thought-provoking study. He defends an (...) animalist account, which says that we are organisms, but claims that we are also material objects. His book goes to the heart of the most complex questions about what we are and what we might become. Using case studies from the life sciences as well as thought experiments, Luper develops a new way of thinking about the nature of life and death, and whether and how human extinction matters. (shrink)
What is death? How is it related to the existence of living things? Is it possible for something to continue its existence while dead? In this chapter I will attempt to answer these questions. I will begin by arguing that death is the loss of life. I will then consider whether living things could cease to exist without dying, and whether they could die yet continue existing. Finally, I will discuss some ways my conclusions bear on creatures like you and (...) me. (shrink)
‘Skepticism’ refers primarily to two positions. Knowledge skepticism says there is no such thing as knowledge, and justification skepticism denies the existence of justified belief. How closely the two views are related depends on the relationship between knowledge and justification: if knowledge entails justified belief, as many theorists say, then justification skepticism entails knowledge skepticism (but not vice versa). Either form of skepticism can be limited in scope. Global (or radical) skepticism challenges the epistemic credentials of all beliefs, saying that (...) no one knows anything, or no belief is justified. More local skepticism is restricted to some domain; thus some skeptics question the epistemic credentials of beliefs about other minds (but not beliefs about one’s own mind), or beliefs concerning empirical matters (but not concerning a priori matters). (shrink)
Suppose Ted is in an ordinary house in good viewing conditions and believes red, his table is red, entirely because he sees his table and its color; he also believes not-white, it is false that his table is white and illuminated by a red light, because not-white is entailed by red. The following three claims about this table case clash, but each seems plausible: 1. Tedâs epistemic position is strong enough for him to know red. 2. Ted cannot know not-white (...) on the basis of red. 3. The epistemic closure principle, suitably restricted, is true. Stewart Cohen has called this three-way clash of intuitions the problem of easy knowledge. If we wish to resolve the clash without accepting skepticism, we seem to have two options. According to the hard argument, the best response is to reject 3. The easy argument rejects 2. But there may be a third alternative, the reverse argument, which rejects 1 without ceding a substantial amount of ground to the skeptic. In this essay I criticize recent versions of the reverse argument and the hard argument, thereby lending support to the easy argument. (shrink)
The American Medical Association opposes physician-assisted suicide on the grounds that it “would ultimately cause more harm than good,” because it is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer,” and because it “would be difficult or impossible to control and would pose serious societal risks”. It condemns the practice of euthanasia as conducted by physicians for these reasons as well, and adds, by way of clarifying the serious risks at hand, that “euthanasia could readily be extended to incompetent patients (...) and other vulnerable populations”. In this essay I will attempt to rebut these charges. I will devote most of my attention to the... (shrink)
The subject of this book is epistemology. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge, the study of the nature, sources, and limitations of knowledge and justification. In studying the nature of knowledge and justification, theorists typically try to delineate the conditions that must be met for a given person to know, or justifiably believe, that a given proposition is true. That is, they offer analyses of knowledge and justification. In this introduction, we will briefly describe the task of analysis, and review (...) some of the ways people have understood epistemic concepts. We will also outline some of the difficulties theorists have confronted while working out what may be known. (shrink)