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January 27th, 2014
workshop/symposium
philosophy of mental time I:
human existence in time



invited speakers

Huiyuhl Yi
(Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Republic of Korea)
The Future Bias Approach to the Symmetry Problem

Seahwa Kim
(Ewha Womans University, Republic of Korea)
Time Travel in a World with Circular Time


speakers

Takeshi Sakon
(Kyoto University)
Can We Really Speak of the Dead? (A Case of Presentism)

Fumitake Yoshizawa
(Chiba University)
The Value of Birth and Life as a Whole: A Criticism of Benatar’s Anti-Natalism

Ikuro Suzuki
(Keio University)
Immortality and Narrative Structure of our Life

Lajos Brons
(Nihon University)
The Incoherence of Denying My Death


discussants
(in addition to the speakers)

Takashi Iida (Nihon University)
Tora Koyama (Osaka University)




abstracts

Huiyuhl Yi
The Future Bias Approach to the Symmetry Problem

The mainstream view as to why death is bad for the person who dies is that it deprives her of possible intrinsic goods she would have enjoyed if she were to die later. One of the most serious problems for this account arises from the observation that prenatal nonexistence appears to be perfectly symmetrical to death: prenatal nonexistence, like death, also deprives one of some possible goods she would have enjoyed had she been born earlier, though it is not usually deemed bad for her. According to an influential strategy to cope with this problem, prenatal nonexistence is not bad for us because it only deprives us of something it is not rational for us to care about (e.g., past pleasures), whereas death is bad for us because it deprives us of something it is rational for us to care about (e.g., future pleasures). Since this strategy refers to what Derek Parfit calls “bias towards the future” to explain the asymmetry between death and prenatal nonexistence, I term it the future bias approach to the symmetry problem. Recently, Jens Johansson has raised interesting objections to the future bias approach. In this paper, I first come to the aid of the future bias approach, and argue that his arguments fail. Then, I suggest a new problem for this approach that has not yet been addressed in the literature.


Seahwa Kim
Time Travel in a World with Circular Time

According to the standard definition of time travel due to David Lewis, an object time travels if and only if the separation in time between departure and arrival does not equal the duration of its journey. After arguing that the standard definition of time travel is inadequate by discussing a world with circular time, I suggest a new definition of time travel that does not fail in situations involving circular time.


Takeshi Sakon
Can We Really Speak of the Dead? (A Case of Presentism)

In linguistic practice, we sometimes speak of non-existent objects. For instance, we may talk about harm of death, which dead people are said to suffer posthumously. However, I think that it's dangerous to draw an ontological implication directly from linguistic appearance, and we should carefully examine whether we succeed to convey what we apparently intend to express in such a case. In this presentation, I will give my own reason to believe that we fail to express singular propositions about wholly past (or future) objects. In particular, I will suggest that the following two theses are true: (i) the presentist thesis that only the present exists; and (ii) the existentialist thesis that singular propositions depend for their existence on the individuals they are about. It follows that singular sentences about wholly past (or future) objects express no singular propositions about the non-existent objects in question because there are no such propositions. Thus, I will conclude that we cannot speak of the dead just in the same way as we do of our living contemporaries despite the linguistic appearance. Following this, I will briefly address the question of  why this conclusion should deserve some serious philosophical reflection.


Fumitake Yoshizawa
The Value of Birth and Life as a Whole: A Criticism of Benatar’s Anti-Natalism

In this talk, I try to clarify a feature that should be included in evaluations of the value of birth, through a criticism of David Benatar’s anti-natalistic argument. In Better Never to Have Been (Benatar 2006), Benatar argues that there is an asymmetry between benefits and harms that explains the prevalent asymmetry of our procreational duties. However, Benatar’s asymmetry between benefits and harms yields the conclusion that coming into existence is always a serious harm and, thus, that we should not have children. I make a counter proposal that explains the asymmetry of procreational duties by applying Benatar’s asymmetry to “the value of lives as a whole,” while blocking his anti-natalistic conclusion. I will also suggest an outline of what makes an appropriate evaluation of values for a person in general.


Ikuro Suzuki
Immortality and Narrative Structure of our Life

In his famous article “Makropulos Case: Reflections of Tedium of Immortality” (1973), Bernard Williams argues that any immortal life would necessarily become boring and not be worth living. However, this ambitious argument has been challenged by various critics and seen as not so convincing. Yet, even though it comes out to be untenable, the following question is still worth considering: are there any other negative aspects in an immortal life, even though they may not show that any form of immortal lives would necessarily be undesirable? The aim of this talk is to answer this question affirmatively. To do so, I focus on the narrative structure of our life. As J. David Velleman argues, the overall value of our life (or an activity that constitutes our life) is partly determined by its narrative structure, that is, the temporal order of events in our life and the narrative content that we assign to it. Thus, our life and activities in our life have “narrative value” that is not reducible to any other value. Based on this understanding of narrative value, I argue that temporal structure of an immortal life must “trivialize” the narrative content of many kinds of our activities, and thus affect their narrative value negatively.


Lajos Brons
The Incoherence of Denying My Death

The most common way of dealing with the fear of death is denying death. Such denial can take two (and only two) forms: strategy 1 denies the finality of death; strategy 2 denies the reality of the dying subject. Most religions opt for strategy 1, but Buddhism seems to be an example of the 2nd. All variants of strategy 1 fail, however, and a closer look at the main Buddhist argument reveals that Buddhism in fact does not follow strategy 2. Moreover, there is no other theory that does, and neither can there be. This means that there is no viable theory that denies death.