There is the classic Epicurean argument that:
You aren’t harmed by death when dead, since then you don’t exist, and
You aren’t harmed by death when alive, since then you’re still alive,
- You aren’t ever harmed by death.
I just thought of a cute way to make the argument slightly more compelling. Take it, contrary to fact but in accord with what the Epicureans believed, that death is the permanent cessation of existence.
Now let’s imagine a scenario where everything, including time itself, comes to an end at the last moment of your life. And for simplicity (this doesn’t affect anything) let’s suppose you came into existence at the beginning of time. Then you are never dead. When we think about this scenario, the analogue of claim 1 is trivially true, for you’re never dead. Thus on this scenario, all that needs to be thought about is an analogue of of claim 2 (with “death” being understood not as an event but as the fact that one’s life has an end) plus the additional highly plausible claim:
- The scenario where everything, including time, comes to an end at the last moment of your life is no better for you than the scenario where you alone come to an end then.
I don’t think this makes the argument much more compelling, because I don’t think claim 1 was ever the real problem with the Epicurean argument. But in the scenario where time comes to an end, I think we avoid some irrelevant objections to the argument.
The real problem with the Epicurean argument is, I think, two-fold. First, I think 2 is dubious: your well-being at one time can depend on what happens or does not happen at other times.
Second, one can accept 3 and still think you’re harmed by death. For one can hold that one isn’t ever harmed by death, i.e., that there is no time at which one is harmed by death, but nonetheless as a four-dimensional whole one is worse off for death. Here’s one way to make the point. Suppose that by choosing a medical regimen for you, I can choose whether:
- You are unconscious for ten years, and then you live ten years while experiencing two units of wholesome pleasure each day, without anything negative, and then you cease to exist.
- You live ten years while experiencing one unit of wholesome pleasure each day, without anything negative, and then you cease to exist.
If I choose the regimen that gives you the second life, I harm you overall but you aren’t ever harmed—there is no time at which you’re worse off for that option.