The Symmetry Argument Against the Deprivation Account

Philosophia 44 (3):947-959 (2016)
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Here I respond to Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer’s “The Evil of Death: A Reply to Yi.” They developed an influential strategy in defense of the deprivation account of death’s badness against the Lucretian symmetry problem. The core of their argument consists in the claim that it is rational for us to welcome future intrinsic goods while being indifferent to past intrinsic goods. Previously, I argued that their approach is compatible with the evil of late birth insofar as an earlier birth would have generated more goods in the future. In reply, Brueckner and Fischer argue that my critique fails to appreciate an important aspect of their thought experiment, which aims only to show that the deprivation of past goods per se is not bad for us. Thus, purportedly, my critique poses no threat to their view. Here I argue that since the deprivation account explains the evil of death with recourse to how one’s life would have fared had one lived longer, it ought to respond to the symmetry problem with reference to how one’s life would have fared had one been born earlier. However, it is not generally true that the life one would have had with an earlier birth is not preferable to one’s actual life, because in many cases such a life would contain more future goods.
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