Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Death and morality

There is some literature from what I know on the badness of death. See this paper by Sider and the book The Ethics of Killing by Jeff McMahan for example. There are other problems with the ethics of death due to some metaphysical considerations. Consider when someone is murdered. Murder is considered very serious morally and legally because of its badness to victims. But if we can someday (somehow) resurrect the dead, will our punishments toward murderers be fitting? Perhaps we ought to have to compensate them for punishment that exceeded the seriousness of the crime! How would death be different than say, a long coma? So instead of murder, a more appropriate crime for the perpetrator would have to be revised to "serious bodily harm" or perhaps something even less serious.

But this conveniently avoids the metaphysical problems for you may define death as irreversible cessation of life. In that case no one that is resurrected really died. But that seems wrong because death seems to be an event that is not dependent on future contingent events. If someone is not resurrected for whatever reason but resurrection is a possibility, his death seems not to depend on this future possibility not being actualized but on some event prior (his brain being destroyed by a bullet, e.g.).