CFS Lecture by Galen Strawson: I have no future
Galen Strawson, DPhil (Oxford 1983), is a professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of, among others, Freedom and Belief (Oxford 1986), Mental Reality (MIT Press 1994), Selves: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics (Oxford, 2009), The Evident Connexion: Mind, Self and David Hume (Oxford, 2011), and Locke on personal identity (Princeton 2011). He taught at the University of Oxford (1979-2000), where he was a Fellow of Jesus College. He was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK (2001–2012), and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center (2004-2007).
He has been on the scientific advisory board of Center for Subjectivity research since 2002.
This paper argues that human beings—living creatures in general—are not entities of such a kind that they can be rightly said to be deprived of anything by death. More specifically: they can’t be rightly said to be deprived of anything if they don’t live as long as they would have lived if they hadn’t undergone an ‘untimely’ death. It appears to follow that human beings are not entities of such a kind that death is bad for them. This claim, also made by Epicurus and Lucretius, is difficult to accept. And it does not seem that coming to believe this claim will dissolve fear of death. The paper also considers the question of whether death could nevertheless be bad for potentially immortal creatures like Tolkien’s Elves or Larry Niven’s Puppeteers (who live for ever so long as no fatal accident befalls them) even if there is a sense in which it isn’t bad for essentially mortal creatures.