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Discussion on Theory of Deprivation and Thomas Nagel's Argument

Discuss About The Contemporary Issues In Sociology Of Death?

The essay aims at focusing on whether death is considered as harm. Over the years, this has been a question tacked by most philosophers. Death inquires about the possibility of harm to anyone caused by the state of being. There are however three common interchangeable definitions of death. The first definition refers to a process of occurrence of death and known as dying. The second perspective refers to condition or state described as being dead. The third definition referred as death that intervenes between dying and being dead. This becomes relevant while considering whether death represents harm, as it often remains unclear no matter whether one is considering the harmful properties based on the way of dying or entering the state when one is dead. There have been various arguments that put forward in portraying death causing harm.

The Theory of Deprivation put forward by Thomas Nagel, one of the first philosophers helps in recognizing that death is a complete end to the existence of a person (Taylor 2014, pp.636-637). He also mentions that death corresponds to loss or deprivation not because of there exists certain positive aspects but because of the desirability that it takes away. accounting to this theory, death leads to the deprivation from all pleasant experiences of life. Pleasant experiences are considered good and having lesser good considered as worse than to having more of it (Nagel 1991, pp. 5-9). Death therefore considered as harm since it leads to the removal of the good (Scarre 2007, pp. 26-27). The theory thus claims that Death leads to the deprivation of life where life is supposedly that one good factor, denial of which might harm one. There also exists a different perspective of looking at this particular theory that is in terms of the value. According to this perspective, life is considered a value which death removes and deprives one from such good values (Belshaw 2008, pp.69-70).

Since death is bad due to the removal of desirability and the person is unable to experience death loss, Nagel puts forward an argument that states that death might influence the welfare of a person that he or she might not have experienced (Jupp 2016, pp.17-29). A thing that affects the welfare of a person includes pain, pleasure or misfortunes like betrayal.


However, it is also important for a theory in providing a convincing strategy that would help in accessing the future goods of the potential individual. Based on the theory of deprivation there are two different perspectives of assessing the amount of goods that an individual is deprived off after death (Guenther 2013, p. 184).  This includes the perspective of individual living one’s life or from consideration of the perspective outside actual life of the concerned person whose goods in future remain in a state of question. In this context, the philosopher put forward an observation that stated that human beings possess a natural span of life and therefore cannot live for a matter of more than hundred years. Thus, recognition of the fact that the human beings have a limited lifespan that restricts them from the possible goods since premature death only adds to the deprivation of the goods reasonably hoped during normal span of life. The strategy of restriction based on availability of goods in the basis of mortality is only acceptable under the assumption that losing something good is a misfortune. In this respect, Nagel puts forward an argument that the extent of calculation of the possible future life of the individual along with the amount of goods should have observation from the perspective of individual living her life. Nagel further insisted on the goodness of strategy since it allows other in calculating the extent of hypothetical life in future without the actual person conceiving the fact that life has a limitation (Whitely 2017, p.154).

Challenges of Universal Interest of the Individual

A living human being will always think of an extension of her current life in the future (Irish, Lundquist and Nelsen 2014, p.156). In this context, Nagel has made use of the term indefinite that has two different interpretations. The first interpretation refers to an undefined amount of the possible goods while the second interpretation refers to the presence of goods that does not have any limitation. The interpretations based on the imagination that since life approaches a subtle infinity so are the possible goods. According to philosopher Nagel, since death leads to the abrupt ending towards the indefinitely extensive goods so it leads to a bad ending.

However, the concept of death creating harm is only compatible with few theories of wellbeing (La Placa, McNaught and Knight 2013, pp.118-119). Theories of well being are based on a number of criteria but there is major distinction between the objective and subjective theories of wellbeing.  The objective theories represent good life that is independent of the opinions and desires about something important. The subjective theories show the representation of a good life independent of the opinions and desires of a person regarding what is important. The independence of the objective theories from the desires and opinions makes it compatible with the Theory of Deprivation.


There exist various problems to the Nagel’s version of the Theory of Deprivation (Bauer 2015, pp. 31-38). The theory fails to explain the intuitions about some deaths being worse than others and it is better to succumb to death later than die earlier. The theory also excludes the fact that death can actually be beneficial for the person who actually dies.

Philosopher Mcmahan revised the possible good account of the Theory of Deprivation and offered a superior version that explicitly limited the quantity of future goods deprived to the person succumbing to death. This version described as revised possible good (Manning and Massumi 2014, pp.187). 

Epicurus however put forward a counter argument to Nagel’s theory stating that death is neither bad nor evil (Davies 2017, p.130). The argument of Epicurus however depends on two different assumptions that include the existence requirement and the experience requirement. The existence requirement put forward by Epicurus shows that a person is harmed only if there is existence and dead person do not have existence. Therefore, a dead person cannot be harmed. The experience requirement assumption of Epicurus puts forward that harming someone is bad and therefore it order to have the negative feel it is important to experience it. Death represents a state of no experience and hence it cannot be bad for someone. 

Appearance of Dead People and Technological Affordances

There is persistence of death as moral patients (Boden et al. 2016, pp. 358-360). The question of how death is construed as moral patient despite the absence of existence has long been under discussion in response to the challenges to universal interest of the individual. The existing arguments helps in portraying a straightforward theory showing the ways in which a social network service user harmed because of deletion of profile. This might be to the extent when the living person has an immense interest in persistence of the profile but follows it up by subsequent deletion thereby reducing the welfare of the descendent in relation to the possibility of the existence of profile (Stokes 2015, p.239). This however depends on the specific set of circumstances that includes the interest of the decedent regarding the profile in social media, unaffected by the dependency on being alive and get frustrated on the subsequent deletion of the profile. However, on the other hand one must remain within realm of interest-based welfare accounts while appealing to the interest of the general creating a posthumous recognition. This holds most of the people that ideally apply to everyone. However, this seems quite contingent and does put forward an obvious instance of on the preservation of the social media pages.    

The appearance of dead people has been either in our dreams or in our memory lane. There has been immense use of technological affordances for supporting such persistence (Sidaway 2016, p. 305). This has been visible through the ancestral marketing of Romans to the death masks and corpse photography of the Victorian. Varied technologies possess different ranges in preserving individuals after death. Photography represents such powerful means and particularly the relics of dead that allows the persistence of the memories of dead people in the lives of other people even though there are photographs have no connection with the memories of the living. In present times, various social media users have ingrained in our live so much that it also plays a vital role in reliving the memories.

Conclusion:

The discussion in the essay would not be able to alleviate a person’s anxieties about death instantly. Although knowing why death is harm can influence one desire and actions while they are alive. A person realizing the fact that death causes harm that might be in the form of unfulfilled desire might encourage the person in actively shaping all the desires that causes minimum harm after death. Thus, the ideas developed in the essay and supported by various theories might actually help an individual in adjusting their desires in the light of impending death.

References:

Bauer, C.M., 2015. The Inconsistencies of the Replaceability Argument.pp.1-87

Belshaw, C 2008, Annihilation: The sense and significance of death, pp. 64-93

Boden, M.A., Feldman, F., Fischer, J.M., Hare, R., Hume, D., Joske, W.D., Kant, I., Kaufman, F., Lenman, J., Leslie, J. and Luper, S., 2016. Life, death, and meaning: Key philosophical readings on the big questions. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 358-360

Davies, D., 2017. Death, ritual and belief: The rhetoric of funerary rites. Bloomsbury Publishing.p.130

Guenther, L., 2013. Solitary confinement: Social death and its afterlives (p. 184). management: University of Minnesota Press.

Irish, D.P., Lundquist, K.F. and Nelsen, V.J., 2014. Ethnic variations in dying, death and grief: Diversity in universality pp. 155-160

Jupp, P.C., 2016. Contemporary issues in the sociology of death, dying and disposal. Springer.pp.17-29

La Placa, V., McNaught, A. and Knight, A., 2013. Discourse on wellbeing in research and practice. International Journal of Wellbeing, 3(1).pp.116-125

Manning, E. and Massumi, B., 2014. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience. University of Minnesota Press.pp.187

Nagel, T 1991, Mortal questions, canto ed, Cambridge University Press. Pp. 1-10

Scarre, G 2007, Death, Central problems of philosophy, Acumen , pp.25-45

Sidaway, J.D., 2016. Deathscapes: Spaces for death, dying, mourning and remembrance. Routledge.p. 305

Stokes, P., 2015. Deletion as second death: the moral status of digital remains. Ethics and information psychology, 17(4), pp.237-248.

Taylor, J.S., 2014. Death, posthumous harm, and bioethics. Journal of medical ethics, 40(9), pp.636-637.

Whitely, G., 2017. Aestheticism and the Philosophy of Death: Walter Pater and Post-Hegelianism. Routledge. pp. 100-150

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