Reconsidering Categorical Desire Views

In Michael Cholbi (ed.), Immortality and the Philosophy of Death. Rowman & Littlefield (2016)
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Deprivation views of the badness of death are almost universally accepted among those who hold that death can be bad for the person who dies. In their most common form, deprivation views hold that death is bad because (and to the extent that) it deprives people of goods they would have gained had they not died at the time they did. Contrast this with categorical desire views, which hold that death is bad because (and to the extent that) it thwarts people’s categorical desires. Categorical desires are desires that are not conditional upon one being alive; yet provide reason for the agent to continue living to ensure that those very desires are satisfied. I argue that categorical desire views are subject to two serious problems that deprivation views are not. First, categorical desire views entail that it is not bad for someone to not be resuscitated after dying a bad death. Second, categorical desire views cannot account for cases in which it is good to prevent people from coming into existence or cases in which it is good to prevent them from continuing to exist. After considering, and rejecting, various replies on behalf of categorical desire proponents, I conclude that we have good reason to reject categorical desire views in favor of deprivation views.

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Travis Timmerman
Seton Hall University


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