Several philosophers have responded differently to the question of whether “death is not good for an individual who dies.” Epicurus posed the question, claiming that death is not bad for anyone who dies, and thus it should not be a source of worry and fear. Furthermore, Epicurus believes that there is no harm done once a person has died. Lucretius and Nagel both advance arguments about whether death is bad for the dead person.
Death, according to Lucretius, can never be bad for a person who dies because one can only be harmed if he or she is conscious or in existence at the time of death. When someone dies, he/she is not aware of what is going on; hence, there is no way death can cause harm to this person because the individual does not exist anymore. Lucretius notes that misfortune/harm can only befall a person who is still alive and so death is good for someone who is dead because no harm can befall him/her. According to him, “a person who is no more cannot be wretched” because he/she does not have a mortal life; hence there is no harm in death (90). When one is dead, he/she cannot exist to experience any damage caused by death, only the people left behind can experience the harm caused by the passing of the individual.
In addition, Lucretius contends that the state on non-being, which is death, is not bad for a dead person; therefore, death is not bad. Accordingly, since there is no experience of death, it should not be feared because it is irrational. According to him, death should not concern us because a person can only feel pain and grief when he/she is still in existence, but when dead, that is the end of everything, there is no harm, and so death is good for an individual who dies.
On the other hand, Thomas Nagel argues that death is bad for a person who dies. According to his argument, death deprives an individual the right to life and being alive is good. Nagel insists that being dead is not a good state to be in and so, death is a harm to anyone who dies because he/she seizes to exist and enjoy the good things that life offers. He backs his argument by saying that people can be injured or rather affected by things they are not aware of, for instance, when a spouse cheats on a partner, the other person is harmed even though they might never learn of the existence of the infidelity. Therefore, when one dies he/she is hurt by death because a person does not have to be alive at the time the harm happens and he/she does not have to experience the harm caused for it to be considered damage.
Additionally, Nagel further contends that death is not good for a dead person because it deprives him/her of doing things and even procuring things he/she could have attained if still alive and not dead. Nagel notes that death is not pleasant for an individual who is dead because ‘it brings an end to all the goods that life contains” (74). According to Nagel, ‘the longer a person lives, the longer one can gain a larger amount of goods” meaning death deprives one such an opportunity and therefore, it is not good for an individual who dies. If that person could have remained alive, he/she could attain so much
I agree with Nagel’s argument on death because a harm can be caused whether a person is in existence or not. Lucretius’s argument that death does not cause harm because the individual is no longer in existence is far-fetched because things that happen after death can hurt people. For instance, one can make a deathbed promise to a family member or a friend, and if this promise is broken after a person dies, it causes harm to the dead person because a secret that was not supposed to come out is revealed. Therefore, death is not good for a person who dies because it can cause harm whether the individual is dead or alive.
The best objection Lucretius can make against my position could be that when a person dies, he or she will no longer be there to feel any harm of what is happening. He can further claim that when an individual dies, it is a permanent end of their existence; therefore, they cannot be harmed by death and so no one should fear death. However, my response will remain that death will always cause harm to the dead because it robs them the freedom and liberties that life gives. In simple terms, it denies the dead the human life where he/she can operate normally and enjoy the good that life offers. Therefore, death is bad because it denies an individual a chance to a continuation of being alive to enjoy life because it is a “cancellation of indefinite extensive possible goods’ (Nagel 80).
Lucretius. On the Nature of Things. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc, 2001. Print.
Nagel Thomas. Death. Nous. 4.1, (1970): 73-80. Print.