Parfit argues that if we come to believe his theory of personal identity, we should care differently about the future. Amongst others, we can redescribe death in ways that make it seem less bad. I consider three challenges to his reasoning. First, according to the Argument from Above, a fact, event, or state of affairs can be good or bad independently of the value or disvalue of its constituents. Death could thus be bad even if R-relatedness matters and some degree of it is gets preserved. Second, I argue that the Extreme Claim and the Moderate Claim suggest that it is unclear whether what we are left with in Parfit’s picture is less bad than death. Third, I propose that in light of the foregoing, we might still regard Parfit’s redescription and its suggested effects on our concern as rationally permissible. However, I claim that rational permissibility does not fully deliver upon the promise that the redescription is also consoling. Despite these challenges, I conclude that Parfit has given us valuable prompts for reconsidering our attitudes towards death. He has set an inspiring example for how philosophical arguments can show us new ways of thinking about ourselves and our practical concerns.
Parfit argues that if we come to believe his theory of personal identity, we should care differently about the future. Amongst others, we can redescribe death in ways that make it seem less bad. In the following, I examine whether his theory lives up to this claim. I argue that despite a number of challenges to this project, his attitude towards death, while not necessitated by his views on personal identity, is indeed rationally permissible. Unfortunately, the mere permissibility of alternative ways of caring about the future is not exactly what we were hoping for when seeking consolation about the prospect of death.
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