Other problems for the account:

1) The idea that reasons to benefit are person directing and so one can't have a reason to benefit a nonexistent person implies that we have no reason to revive people from the dead who no longer exist. But that's obviously false.

2) It can't make sense of the axiological non-identity problem. It seems better if a very happy person is made than if a merely pretty happy person is made. But if this is so then it can't just be grounded in people's duties--it must be grounded in axiology.

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It's not at all obvious to me that we should revive the dead even if we could. They don't seem to care to be revived. Would we also have a special reason to respect the wishes of ancient civilizations about how society should be structured, about their legacies and monuments, because that's what they wanted? If the past population is large enough, could their wishes outweigh those of the living?

If not, and what they wanted isn't what grounds the reason, then I don't think we'd have a special reason to revive the dead that wouldn't apply to bringing people into existence for the first time.

To be clear, I don't think it's crazy to think the preferences of the dead can still matter, and I have some sympathy for it. But I wouldn't call it obvious without qualification, and it instead seems pretty controversial.

2) By "axiological non-identity problem", are you talking about a specifically axiological version of the non-identity problem? Couldn't there be one that's just based in duties? Or do you mean all versions will have to rely on some kind of axiology, including Frick's own Selection Requirement?

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Do you agree that it's obvious that we should revive coma victims?

How about reversing brain-death (prior to biological death occurring)?

In each instance, the obvious reason is just that it would be *good for the beneficiary*. I agree that there can also be reasons to bring new people into existence for this reason. But we might think that there are especially strong reasons to benefit those who (do or did) exist independently of our action, since we can more readily (i) latch on to *that individual* and perform the action *for their sake*, and (ii) take the failure to benefit them as a comparative harm (whereas we can't say the non-existent person is harmed by failing to bring them into existence).

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Nov 17, 2023·edited Nov 17, 2023Liked by Richard Y Chappell

I think the case for reviving coma victims is stronger. There's a case for them still having implicit preferences to be revived or whose satisfaction is promoted or frustration reduced by their revival. Their preferences are still somewhere in their brains, whether (now suppressed) dispositions or actually stored or represented. (The same would apply to preventing people from dying in their sleep.)

I'm less sure about brain death, and it might depend on how badly their brains are damaged and what exactly is damaged. If too much is gone, would we even consider them the same person if revived?

I suppose reviving the dead would generally require preserving structure or information to reconstruct memories, personality, etc.. If someone is preserved via cryonics, that might be like a coma. If someone has their brain mapped to enough detail and that information stored somewhere, that might count, too. And all of that could still be causally connected, so the case for their identity being preserved is stronger, instead of, say, if matter randomly arranged itself to manifest a representation of your brain that can be used to revive or upload "you".

I am also pretty sympathetic to your points (i) and (ii); I just don't find them (personally) obvious, because the arguments don't seem extremely compelling, and I'd find it counterintuitive to let the interests of the long dead together outweigh the interests of the living. But maybe there are other ways to address that problem, e.g. not count certain interests of the dead, or consider the interests of the dead to be relatively weak and limit aggregation.

I find claims related to identity and death generally non-obvious. I am both sympathetic to the Epicurean view that death isn't bad for the person who dies, and to the view that death can be bad for them because it frustrates preferences/desires. I haven't been very sympathetic to deprivationism, but I'm somewhat more sympathetic recently. I used to be very reductionist, e.g. empty individualism, experientialism, and have mostly moved away from those positions, but they're not totally ruled out to me.

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Point 1) is kind of interesting, but I feel like it can be avoided with a simple modification to conditioning on someone's never having existed, not just on their current non-existence.

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But that removes the motivation. People agree with 1 because they think that something can't benefit someone who wouldn't have otherwise existed because comparisons between the existent and the nonexistent are nonsensical. The death case disproves that.

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Nov 13, 2023Liked by Richard Y Chappell

I think you're correct, but I think the only reason people like Frick are talking about non-existence is because, at our current ability to resurrect the dead (i.e., no such ability whatsoever), we aren't forced to confront the difference between non-existence and never-having-existed.

I am pretty confident that most people attracted to Frick-type positions would happily modify their views to account for this, for basically the reason Richard points out below. In a sense, I think if resurrecting the dead were a real possibility, people would be more likely to regard death as like an extended coma or something like that.

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Then that's a cost for the view if it requires having a weird metaphysics to accommodate the data that one should bring one back from the dead.

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For eternalists about time, dead people exist, just at an earlier time. There's no metaphysical difficulty in referring to them (de re), for example.

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Okay but surely it would still be bad for happy people to die if A-theory was true? I also think you could make a parallel version of the argument with time slices:

1) for something to be good it must benefit someone at some time.

2) for something to benefit someone at some time they must be better off at that time than they would have otherwise been.

3) revising someone doesn't make someone better off than they would have otherwise been at some time because they wouldn't have otherwise been at that time.

so reviving someone is good.

What's wrong with that argument is the same as what's wrong with the original argument for the asymmetry.

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