Death According to Thomas Nagel

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The hedonist would argue that pleasure is the only intrinsic good in life, that joy and suffering are the only distinguishing marks of things beneficial or harmful to the human being. To the hedonist, life is like the common balance scale with suffering on one side and pleasure on the other. With pleasure being inversely related to suffering, in order to maximize the good of life, the hedonist strives to minimize suffering, thereby maximizing net pleasure (pleasure minus suffering). Thomas Nagel, in his book Mortal Questions, disagrees with this viewpoint entirely saying that there is more to harm than just suffering, more to pleasure than momentary comfort, and more to death than an end to an existence. According to the hedonist, to be harmed you must suffer, that is, you must consciously experience a discomfort. According to Nagel, harm does not equal suffering. Certainly suffering is a type of harm but there is more that can harm the human person than mere conscious discomfort. Do we not consider ourselves harmed when a friend acts against our wishes or interests, even when we are not aware of his/her actions; is a mother of four harmed when her husband has passed at war without her knowing it; is an award winning actor who’s mental capacity has been reduced to that of a child’s through a brain aneurism harmed, even though he may be a happy baby? Nagel, contrary to hedonist belief, would argue yes, because he believes that the good or ill fortune of an individual depends on a person’s history and possibilities rather than just their momentary state of conscious awareness. Now let’s imagine that a former hard-core hedonist agrees that harm and suffering are not alike, that if he were stabbed in the back by a friend he would agree that the harm was caused prior to his discovery. But it is still in hedonist belief that in order to suffer one must be alive and therefor the dead cannot be harmed. In the case of death there is no longer a subject. So how can...
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