, Volume 158, Issue 3, pp 507-513
Date: 27 Nov 2010

Fischer on death and unexperienced evils

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A simple Epicurean argument goes as follows. Dead people have no sensations, a fortiori no bad sensations. Nothing is bad for us unless it is, or causes, some bad sensation (the experience requirement). Thus, being dead is not bad; nor is the event of one’s death, since it does not cause one to be in a bad state.

This argument stinks. But why? John Fischer, like Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, Jeff McMahan, and many others, objects to the experience requirement. In several chapters of Our Stories Fischer argues that there can be things that are bad for us that do not involve bad sensations at all.

Fischer 2009. All page references in the main text are to Our Stories unless otherwise noted.

Some examples: Nagel’s example of the man who is betrayed behind his back and never finds out about it, but lives happily to the end of his days (pp. 5, 37, 104); Nozick’s example of the person who is secretly videotaped in her bedroom and watched by people in Outer Mongolia, but never finds out or has an ...