Desire Satisfactionism is true. (UDS, is roughly, the view that how
well one’s life is going for oneself is determined by the extent to
which one’s desires are satisfied or frustrated.) I have some naive
questions about harm given UDS, and some parallel questions about the
badness of death. More below the fold.
UDS is a very popular
answer to the question of what makes a life go well for the one who
lives it. Here are some naive questions for the friend of UDS.
I want that you do not perform action A. You perform action A. A
desire of mine has been frustrated; my welfare level has now dropped
accordingly. I have been harmed. Where have I been harmed? Is the
location of my harm the location of action A? If the answer is "yes",
then I can be harmed at a distance: something bad can befall me at a
location that I do not occupy. Is this really possible?
Suppose I want that you brush
your teeth tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning comes, and you don’t
brush your teeth. My desire has been frustrated. I have
been harmed. Where have I been harmed? (Have I been harmed at the
region where you would have brushed your teeth had you brushed your
Suppose I want that some mathematical result obtain. It
does not obtain. I didn’t get what I wanted. My life goes less well
for me. Where have I been harmed? (Have I been harmed at the region
wherein the brain state that realizes my desire resides?
Since mathematical results lack locations, is the harm without a
location as well?)
It seems to me that the friend of
UDS should not be concerned that these questions arise, and should not
feel pressure to answer them one way or another. We shouldn’t change
our views about how plausible UDS is when we learn that UDS generates
these questions. And it seems to me that there is something misguided or
wrongheaded about these questions. But I am having a hard time
putting my finger on what exactly is wrongheaded about these questions.
The Deprivationsist says that one’s death is bad for oneself —
that death harms the one who dies — in virtue of what it deprives one
of. My death is bad for me (roughly speaking) in virtue of the fact
that, had I not died, my life would have contained more of whatever it
is that makes a life worth living. This is why death is a harm for the
one who dies.
The deprivasionist says that death is a harm. But
when is death a harm? At the moment that one dies? At those moments
in which things would have gone well for that person had that person
not died? (If the latter answer is true, then one can be harmed at a time that one is not located at. Is this really possible?)
It seems to me that these questions are parallel to
the questions facing the friend of UDS. We shouldn’t change our views
about how plausible the Deprivation account is when we learn that it
generates these questions. And the questions themselves seem to me misguided
(This is Harry Silverstein’s line as well.)
Is there a really a parellel here between UDS and the Deprivation Account? Are the questions rightheaded and pressing?