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According to the immunity thesis, nothing that happens after we are dead harms or benefits us . It seems defensible on the following basis: 1. If harmed (benefitted) by something, we incur the harm (benefit) at some time. 2. So if harmed (benefitted) by a postmortem event, we incur the harm (benefit) while alive or at some other time. 3. But if we incur the harm (benefit) while alive, backwards causation occurs. 4. And if we incur the harm (benefit) at any other time, we incur it at a time when we do not exist. 5. Yet nothing incurs harm (benefit) while nonexistent. 6. And nothing is causally affected at one time by events that occur at a later time. 7. So no postmortem event is ever bad (or good) for us (the immunity thesis). Despite its plausibility, I mean to resist this argument. I will reject premise 1 on the grounds that dying may be atemporally bad for us. I will also reject premise 3. Some postmortem events are bad for some of us while we are alive. But I am not going to report some new exotic particle that makes backwards causation possible . As far as I know, 6 is true. If an event is responsible for a harm that we incur before the event itself occurs, it might be said to harm us retroactively; if when or after it occurs, it might be said to harm us proactively. My view is that some postmortem events harm us retroactively, but without backwards causation (Pitcher 1984).


Ben Bradley, Fred Feldman, and Jens Johansson




Oxford University Press


New York


9780195388923, 9780190271459

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The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death

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Philosophy Commons