Rationally Not Caring About Torture: A Reply to Johansson
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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. Anthony Brueckner and John Martin 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.
KeywordsAnthony L. Brueckner and John Martin Fischer Death Deprivation approach Jens Johansson Prenatal and posthumous nonexistence Symmetry argument
I owe special thanks to John Fischer and to an anonymous referee for The Journal of Ethics for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
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