PHL 204-07

*** handout: Rule Utilitarianism ***


  • believed that hedonism was the correct view of the good life
  • believed in two types of pleasure: pleasures of excitability, pleasure from removing fear & anxiety (preferred)
  • partly because pleasures of excitability bring with them anxiety
  • pleasures you get from removing anxiety are intrinsically better
  • one of the greatest fears that most people have is the fear of death
  • born |——————-|-dying-| dead
  • can dying be bad for you?
  • what happens to us when we die?
    • death is the complete and total annihilation of the self (Epicurus believed this)
    • afterlife: which can be either very good or very bad
    • reincarnation
  • if Epicurus’ position is correct, can your death harm you? No. Once you are dead, you cease to be, therefore you are beyond any form of harm that we can concieve of. How do you cause harm to someone/thing that is dead? impossible.
  • (break for group discussion)

  • No: I am not experiencing any loss, sadness, etc.
  • No: it is just nothingness (neither good nor bad) — this is a radical view
  • Yes: because it stops all possible experiences (common sense view?)

First Epicurean argument: Death & experience

  1. the only thing intrinsicaly good for you is for you to experience pleasure; the only thing intrinsically bad for you is to experience pain
  2. therefore some event is bad for you only if that event causes you to experience pain
  3. since death is complete and total annihilation of you, your death cannot cause you to experience any pain
  4. therefore your death cannot harm you

Second Epicurean argument: problem of the subject and time of the harm of death

  1. if your death can harm you, then it must do so either before you are dead, or once you are dead
  2. your death cannot harm you before you are dead, because you are not yet dead
  3. your death cannot harm you after you’re dead because you do not exist then.
  4. therefore your death cannot harm you.
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