This collection of seventeen essays deals with the metaphysical, as opposed to the moral issues pertaining to death. For example, the authors investigate (among other things) the issue of what makes death a bad thing for an individual, if indeed death is a bad thing. This issue is more basic and abstract than such moral questions as the particular conditions under which euthanasia is justified, if it is ever justified.
Though there are important connections between the more abstract questions addressed in this book and many contemporary moral issues, such as euthanasia, suicide, and abortion, the primary focus of this book is on metaphysical issues concerning the nature of death: What is the nature of the harm or bad involved in death? (If it is not pain, wha is it, and how can it be bad?) Who is the subject of the harm or bad? (if the person is no longer alive, how can he be the subject of the bad? An if he is not the subject, who is? Can one have harm with no subject?) When does the harm take place? (Can a harm take place after its subject ceases to exist? If death harms a person, can the harm take place before the death occurs?) If death can be a bad thing, would immorality be a desirable alternative? This family of questions helps to fram ethe puzzle of why—and how—death is bad.
Other subjects addressed include the Epicurean view othat death is not a misfortune (for the person who dies); the nature of misfortune and benefit; the meaningulness and value of life; and the distinction between the life of a person and the life of a living creature who is not a person. There is an extensive bibiography that includes science-fiction treatments of death and immorality.
About the author
"The great variety of viewpoints contained in this book make it a pleasure to read and study, full as it is of intelligent, sometimes brilliant, occasionally infuriating, but always stimulating arguments. It provides the reader with a fairly comprehensive survey of recent developments in the debate on the value of existence and the evil of death-as-non existence and as such it is certainly recommended."
—Canadian Philosophical Reviews
"This book immediately becomes the most convenient source for recent writings that confront some of the more abstract aspects of the problem of death. Those possessed by philosophical curiosity but pressed for time must be grateful to Fischer for making these contributions so readily available. By and large, the authors are skillful communicators and, on occasion, advance their theses with playfulness and wit."–Omega
"A balanced collection of 17 contemporary essays on something everyone needs to think about. . . . [Any] reader is bound to learn to think somewhat more clearly about what lies ahead."
—The Key Reporter