The Temporal Bias Approach to the Symmetry Problem and Historical Closeness

Philosophia:1-19 (forthcoming)
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In addressing the Lucretian symmetry problem, the temporal bias approach claims that death is bad because it deprives us of something about which it is rational to care (e.g., future pleasures), whereas prenatal nonexistence is not bad because it only deprives us of something about which it is rational to remain indifferent (e.g., past pleasures). In a recent contribution to the debate on this approach, Miguel and Santos argue that a late beginning can deprive us of a future pleasure. Their argument is based on the claim that for birth or death to deprive a person of any value in life, the historically closest counterfactual situation that contains the value is such that the person begins to exist earlier or dies later. This is what they call the Historical Condition. However, the Historical Condition is untenable for several reasons. First, this condition substantially weakens the explanatory capacity of the deprivation account because it implies that most ordinary sorts of pleasures are not deprived by death. In addition, the Historical Condition is vulnerable to counterexamples. In particular, what they offer as a standard case of the deprivation of future pleasure due to a late beginning (what they call Seeing The Beatles), or some of its variants, can be used to falsify this condition. Finally, the Historical Condition is theoretically indefensible because it is based on a faulty analysis of deprivation.

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