My previous pre-vital nonexistence is not, and was not, bad for me.
My previous pre-vital nonexistence is relevantly similar to my forthcoming post-mortem nonexistence—that is, just as it is true to say that my going out of existence sooner than I might have means that I will end up having done less, having experienced less, having accomplished less, etc. than I otherwise would have, so it is also true to say that my coming into existence later than I might have means that I will end up having done less, having experienced less, having accomplished less, etc. than I otherwise would have.
- Therefore, my forthcoming post-mortem nonexistence is not, and will not be, bad for me.
This argument challenges the deprivation account of the badness of death, the view that holds that death is not intrinsically bad (as, say, suffering is) but is extrinsically bad, for it deprives us of the goods of life. The challenge arises, because it seems that my pre-vital and post-mortem non-existences are symmetrical with respect to depriving me of the goods of life.
Many philosophers are attracted to the deprivation account, as am I, and so must reject either premise 1 or 2 above. Many deny premise 2, arguing that it is metaphysically impossible for a person to come into existence substantially earlier (or later) than he or she actually did. Some argue that I couldn’t have come into existence substantially earlier, for anyone who came into existence substantially earlier would have arisen from different gametes and therefore not been me. Others argue that even if we’re talking about the same zygote (stemming from the same two gametes) being unfrozen and implanted at different times, we would still not have an example of the same person coming into existence at different times, because the products of those two implantations would be neither psychologically continuous nor sufficiently psychologically connected with one another and so can’t count as being one and the same person, and thus we would not have a case of the same person existing earlier than he in fact did. Here, the idea is roughly that if I was born at an earlier time, I would have had different experiences, memories, desires, etc.
It seems to me, though, that we can get around such worries about premise 2 with the following example. Let’s suppose that I find out that I might be leading one of two possible lives: A or B. Both A and B arise from the same (numerically identical) zygote and womb. Indeed A and B are identical lives in all but their mental properties. And from 2000-2010, they are even identical in their mental properties: their beliefs, emotions, desires, memories, psychological dispositions, etc. are all the same during that period of time. The only difference between the two lives is that whereas life A is a zombie life (a zombie being physically identical but completely unconscious) from 1968-2000, life B is a zombie life from 2010-2042. See the graph below. The pluses indicate that the light is on inside (i.e., consciousness is there) whereas the minuses indicate there is no light on inside (it’s a physically identical zombie there).
|1968 |2000 |2005 |2010 |2042
Given this sort of example, it seems to me that premise 2 of LSA is true. My pre-vital non-existence from 1968-2000 in life A is symmetrical to my postmortem non-existence from 2010-2042 in life B does. But, in this case, I think that we should deny premise 1. As a result of my not having come into existence in 1968 in life A, I missed out on a lot of experiences, many of them pleasant ones. (I’m assuming that I am an essentially conscious being and so didn’t come into existence until consciousness began.) Moreover, it seems to me that my being deprived of these pleasant experiences was bad for me. So I think that perhaps the best move for those who accept the deprivation account is to deny premise 1 rather than deny premise 2. What do others think is the best response to LSA?