Philosophy Nagel Says That the Essay

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First is the assumption of freewill and non-determinism in Nagel's argument. While I do not stand to make the argument for determinism here, it should suffice to say that if there is only the illusion of free-will, then death has deprived us of nothing in Nagel's view (because there is not even the possibility of continued life) and, thus, would not be evil. If we do not have an infinite amount of life that death steals from us (but rather a finite amount already determined), then it would be necessary to regard the time after one's death the same way as the time before one's birth.

The second problem is that of time and duration of life (and death). It would seem that humans have a finite capacity to care of about time (and life). For example, while it imaginable to live (or what to live) for an addition 50 or 100 years, it seems unimaginable to live (or want to live) for another 4.5 billion. Yes, people say "I want to live forever," but the statement has little meaning (since humans do not have the cognitive ability to understand infinity). We cannot, therefore, conclude that death after 4.5 billion years would be necessarily bad (as there is no point of reference). We simply would not know what circumstances would be like after living 4.5 billion years. We would not know, for example, that we would even still experience pleasure and pain. Nagel is using our own lifespan as a point of reference to make his claim that death
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is bad, but once one goes beyond those limits too far, it would be hard to even fathom what "life" would be. Such an unbounded timeframe of life would seem to have huge implications on how life (and death) is valued (i.e., what makes life "good") if for no other reason than the fact that everything (e.g., our biology, our experiences of the world) is intricately tied to our lifespan.

Finally, Nagel seems to be, erroneously, falling back on the inability of humans to understand the way the world works fully to argue that death is bad. Nagel claims that we, while living, have experienced an "essentially open-ended possibly future" (p. 80) and that death cancels that. However, that was never true; our possibilities were never open-ended. As living creatures, we process information in such a way as to make it make sense and help continue our survival. Our perceptions, though, do not represent the "real world." Essentially, we have deluded ourselves (or been deceived by nature) into thinking that our future/life was limitless. It is that delusion that is a problem here. It makes us think that death is bad because we are being deprived of life. Bound up closely within that delusion, then, is our want to stay alive (and our notions of "good" and "bad"). Without that want, death would not be seen as bad or depravity, but rather just the non-existence it is. Therefore, I would argue that death is not necessarily bad, but rather the denial of that want to keep living and the delusion that our lives are unbound by their own natural limitations cause…

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