Accounting for Asymmetry?

F. M. Kamm

in Morality, Mortality Volume I: Death and Whom to Save From It

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780195119114
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199872244 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 Accounting for Asymmetry?

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Offers a final proposal on the two questions of the question of why death is bad, and whether it is worse than prenatal non‐existence (the asymmetry thesis); it is concerned with whether there are properties observable from a view outside life, rather from within it, that help explain why death is worse than prenatal non‐existence, and if so, whether these properties must make non‐existence‐in‐the‐future different from non‐existence‐in‐the‐past in ways other than just that it is in the future. The chapter is also concerned with what more we can say about the fact, or beliefs about the fact, that something exists in the future that will help illuminate the explanatory role of this fact. Many of the factors that may explain why death is really worse depend on asymmetries related to time: the (supposed) fact that causation has a direction (forward), so that the past affects the future, but the future does not affect the past; the (supposed) fact that there is a direction in time, from past to future; and the fact that there is a before and after in the passage of time. However, some of these features may not be objective at all, rather, they may be features of the subjective view of those who are observing another's life from the outside, and if this were so, the asymmetrical features dependent on the asymmetries related to time and causation might explain the asymmetrical attitude, but they might not justify it. The chapter comes to focus on three factors: the Insult Factor, that death happens to a person who has already existed and undoes him; the Future Deprivation Factor, that death deprives the person who dies of significant future goods (the Thomas Nagel/Derek Parfit point); and the Extinction Factor, that death means the possibility of anything significant for the person in the future is over.

Keywords: asymmetry thesis; badness of death; direction in time; Extinction Factor; Future Deprivation Factor; Insult Factor; Thomas Nagel; non‐existence after death; non‐existence before creation; Derek Parfit; prenatal non‐existence

Chapter.  9816 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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