Thomas Nagel- Death

Topics: Death, Consciousness, Life Pages: 4 (1330 words) Published: May 1, 2011
Section I

Thomas Nagel's Death explores the debate concerning the nature of death itself: is death a bad thing? Nagel explores this question by formulating 2 distinct hypotheses. The first of these is the postion that death deprives us of life, which is the only thing (or state) we have, which would make death a certain evil. The other position holds that death is merely the cessation of all awareness and, consequently, existence. Nagel discusses the conditions of position one, saying that life may not be the accumulation of good or bad experiences, hence life has a value that is not simply measured in existence of the organic body. This means that life itself, or the act of having life is inherently valuable and good, but is not solely based on mere existence. Nagel here uses the example of surviving in a coma and missing what goes on during said coma; this experience would not be desireable in this point. Another point in the first position is that good in life can be increased over time. The second position, being that death is simply the state of non-existence and thusly not evil in itself, has three points. The first is that death's evil is not something that has quantity, and thusly does not increase as one is dead, as good does during life. The second point holds that a temporary absence of awareness in life (such as a coma) would not be a great loss by itself. The third point is especially intriguing; it posits that we do not generally bemoan the period of time before we were born as being a misfortune, as we do the period after we cease living. Holding this belief would be a contradiction, and would not make logical sense.

After explaining his two possible postions on the question, Nagel introduces three objections, mostly to the first position. The first of these holds that death can only be considered evil if the person (subject) is actually aware of the deprivation of their life. But, how can someone who has no cognition nor awareness...
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