Volume 37, Issue 2, July 2021
David Emmanuel Rowe
Death Does Not Harm the One Who Dies Because There is No One to Harm
If death is a harm then it is a harm that cannot be experienced. The proponent of death’s harm must therefore provide an answer to Epicurus, when he says that ‘death, is nothing to us, since when we are, death is not present, and when death is present, then we are not’. In this paper I respond to the two main ways philosophers have attempted to answer Epicurus, regarding the subject of death’s harm: either directly or via analogy. The direct way argues that there is a truth-maker (or difference-maker) for death’s harm, namely in virtue of the intrinsic value the subject’s life would have had if they had not died. The analogy argues that there are cases analogous to death, where the subject is harmed although they experience no pain as a result. I argue that both accounts beg the question against the Epicurean: the first by presupposing that one can be harmed while experiencing no displeasure as a result and the second by conflating a de re with a de dicto reading of death’s harm. Thus, I argue, until better arguments are provided, one is best to agree with Epicurus and those who follow him that death is not a harm.