When I... suppose that my death is going to be a matter of instant annihilation, completely unexperienced, completely unforeseen, it seems plain to me that I – the human being that I am now, GS – would lose nothing. My future life or experience doesn’t belong to me in such a way that it’s something that can be taken away from me. It can’t be thought of as possession in that way. To think that it’s something that can be taken away from me is like thinking that life could be deprived of life, or that something is taken away from an existing piece of string by the fact that it isn’t longer than it is. It’s just a mistake.
I find this very puzzling. Surely if the piece of string had the opportunity to be longer, but we cut it short, then something -- the extra length -- is "taken away" from it in virtue of this.
Perhaps Strawson is assuming mereological essentialism, such that if an object were to have additional parts, it would ipso facto be a different object. It would then be metaphysically impossible for anything to be longer than it actually is. But this is surely not true of persons, or the kind of (perhaps metaphysically 'loose') identity we care about. We are not time-of-death essentialists: my Grandad could have lived an extra day, and he would still have been the same guy (in any sense that matters). If that extra day would have contained many joyful experiences that would have enriched his life, then it seems clear that death harmed him by depriving him of these experiences.
So I wonder what Strawson would make of the following simple argument:
(1) One is harmed by an event if said event makes one's life go worse than it otherwise would have.
(2) Death deprives one's life of certain experiences that it would otherwise contain.
(3) Experiences may enriched our lives, and so depriving us of experiences may make our lives go worse than they otherwise would have.
Thus: (C) Death can harm us.
He seems to want to deny premise 2, what with all his talk about how we don't "own" our futures. But that seems indefensible. Consider:
(i) My Grandad could have lived an extra day (were it not for his dying when he did).
(ii) If he had lived an extra day, he would have had certain additional experiences, which he did not actually have.
Thus: (iii) My Grandad's death meant that he did not have certain experiences that he would otherwise have had. [i.e. premise 2 above.]
What step of this argument could the death apologist possibly deny?