Death (Spring 2008) - Final

Rather than writing a 10 page (3,000 word) term paper, you have the option to write a small (5 page, 1,500 word) paper AND answer 4 final exam questions.

Please include both the paper and the question in a single file. Answer the questions first and start a new page at the beginning of the paper. (Don't skip a page, just make sure the paper starts on a new page. Insert a page break after the last question.) Submit your document via Turn It In.

Part I. Questions

Please answer 4 of the questions below. You have 1,500 words.

Answer 2 Questions from 1-4

1. Explain the duplication problem for the brain version of the body theory of personal identity. (We talked about this in class. Perry discusses a related problem.)

2. Explain and evaluate Plato's Argument from Recollection for the immortality of the soul.

3. Explain Feldman's solution to the asymmetry problem (found in chapter 9 of Confrontations with the Reaper).

4. Suppose you had a choice between leaving a huge sum of money to either (i) a psychological clone of yourself as you are now or (ii) yourself in the far distant future (where you lack many of the beliefs and desires that you now hold). Alternatively, imagine that you can direct torture to either a psychological clone or yourself in the distant future. In such scenarios, which option does Parfit think that we should take?

Answer 2 Questions from 5-8

5. Explain and evaluate Bradley's notion of extrinsic badness.

6. Explain Soll's response to Nagel's bad-talking friend objection to the experience requirement.

7. Explain and evaluate Freud's argument that no one can entirely believe that they are going to die.

8. Does Kaufmann think that we should fear death? Why or why not?

Part II. Paper

Write a paper on one of the topics below. You have 1,500 words.

1. Fear of Death

Should we fear death? Perhaps, all things considered, it would be best for us to not fear death, but this does not mean that fear is not appropriate. So, we might ask, is it appropriate to death? Is it fitting? Is it rational to fear death? For fear to be appropriate, we must think that its object is in some way bad. Feldman and Nagel argue that death is bad because it deprives us of something good. But is this the right kind of bad for fear? Kamm argues that death terrorizes. But is this rational?

2. Experience Requirement

The experience requirement holds that for something to be bad for a person, it must have negative experiential consequences. Nagel rejects this claim; Soll and Rosenbaum support it. Who is right? Why? How can the defender of the experience requirement counter Nagel’s deceived businessman, Nozick’s Mongolian voyeur, and Nagel’s contented infant? How does the fact that we think it is a great thing to save someone’s life fit with the rejection or the acceptance of the experience requirement?

3. The Asymmetry Puzzle

If one thinks that it is bad to die (a premature death), then how does one account for the intuition that although it would be better to live longer, it would not be good to have been born earlier. Nagel thinks that our birth date is essential, Rosenbaum rejects this, Feldman is committed to the view that an earlier birth would be a good. Parfit’s discussion of the rationality of concern for the future suggests one possible answer. At least Bruekner and Fischer think so. Who is right?

4. Life

Feldman argues that neither vitalist nor life-functional theories of life are viable. Can you develop a life-functional analysis of “life” that resolves the problems Feldman identifies with Aristotle and Matthews?

5. Posthumous Harms

Pitcher and Luper argue that we can be harmed after our deaths. Clearly, this requires that they reject the experience requirement. In a way, Bradley also thinks we could be harmed after our deaths. It’s not so clear. Feldman would deny this, since death denies all the possibility for future good. Pitcher and Luper reject Feldman and Bradley’s hedonistic theory of welfare. They seem to accept a desire-satisfaction theory of welfare (or well-being). Perhaps such a theory is correct, but no plausible version holds that any and every desire that we might have affects our well-being. Pitcher and Luper have a problem with past desires. Does their account imply that it would be bad for my childhood self that I will never become a garbageman? If so, is this acceptable? If not, why not? How do they escape the problem?