Death According to Thomas Nagel Essay

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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
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Nagel believes for example that if Martin Luther King had died prior to the civil-right movements, he would be the subject of harm because the subject, by Nagels definition, extends beyond momentary state and into a persons projects, beliefs, history, and potential.
According to the hedonist, assuming there is no afterlife, the periods before life and after death are equal because both cases are equal in terms of the subject’s momentary state. By Nagels definitions the two periods are not equal at all because of the period between them, existence. Without life or existence there would be nothing to give nonexistence contrast, making it a blank slate. It is not until someone is born that they become a subject whose life can be taken away by death. Another fundamental difference between the two periods is Nagel’s observation that someone can die at different stages of life but cannot be born at a different time without being born a different person.
Nagel provides a complete a thorough argument against the hedonist position by explaining that one can be harmed without suffering, one can suffer post-mortem, and it is not the bad nor the good momentary conscious experiences that judge our lives but our projects, goals, ambitions, history, and possibility.

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