The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 331–339 | Cite as

Rationally Not Caring About Torture: A Reply to Johansson

  • Taylor W. Cyr


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.


Anthony 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.


  1. Bradley, B. 2009. Well-being and death. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Broome, J. 1993. Goodness is reducible to betterness: The evil of death is the value of life. In The good and the economical: ethical choices in economics and management, ed. P. Koslowski, and Y. Shionoya, 70–84. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brueckner, A.L., and J.M. Fischer. 1986. Why is death bad? Philosophical Studies 1993: 221–229. Reprinted in The metaphysics of death, Ed. J. M. Fischer, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993: 221–229.Google Scholar
  4. Feldman, F. 1992. Confrontations with the reaper. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Feldman, F. 2011. Brueckner and Fischer on the evil of death. Philosophical Studies 162: 309–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fischer, J.M., and A.L. Brueckner. 2012. The evil of death and the Lucretian symmetry: A reply to Feldman. Philosophical Studies 163: 783–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fischer, J.M., and A.L. Brueckner. 2014a. Prenatal and posthumous non-existence: A reply to Johansson. The Journal of Ethics 18: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fischer, J.M., and A.L. Brueckner. 2014b. Accommodating counterfactual attitudes: A further reply to Johansson. The Journal of Ethics 18: 19–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Johansson, J. 2013. Past and future non-existence. The Journal of Ethics 17: 51–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Johansson, J. 2014. Actual and counterfactual attitudes: Reply to Brueckner and Fischer. The Journal of Ethics 18: 11–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Parfit, D. 1984. Reasons and persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

Personalised recommendations