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An Internalist View on the Value of Life and Some Tricky Cases Relevant to it

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Abstract:

If we understand death as the irreversible loss of the good of life, we can give meaning to the idea that for suffering patients in the end stage of their illness, life may become an evil and death no longer a threat. Life may lose its good already in the living person. But what does the good of life consist in, then? I defend an internalist view according to which the goodness of life is intrinsically related to the attitudes, concerns, interests and experiences of the person who is leading the life. This results in the contention that the core of what we understand as the value of a person’s life is to be identified with what makes life go well for the person living the particular life. This internalist view does not presuppose (or imply) hedonism or mentalism, nor does it pose an experience requirement. Something may be good for you, because it is valuable as seen from your authentic viewpoint, even if you do not actually experience this goodness, or think otherwise because you are mistaken about your own well-being. To test this position, and the authenticity-requirement it includes, I discuss three cases of patients who are persistent in denying that in their life any value is left and who contend that death is no worse than further living. Internalism acknowledges that in the life of these patients there may be ’functionings’ and ’beings’ that are worthwhile, where the test of value is at least partially independent of subjective assessment. Still, internalism claims that something truly valuable can only contribute to the good of one’s life of it has positive meaning as seen from the attitudinal viewpoint that identifies oneself.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-5930.00171

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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