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Are some narratives worse than death? I'm not talking about psychological or physical suffering, but narratives (what actually happens, as we understand that, as humans) that are worse than it just ending right away. For example

In the best-known version of the myth, Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. Laius wished to thwart the prophecy, so he sent a shepherd-servant to leave Oedipus to die on a mountainside. However, the shepherd took pity on the baby and passed him to another shepherd who gave Oedipus to King Polybus and Queen Merope to raise as their own. Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy that he would end up killing his father and marrying his mother but, unaware of his true parentage, believed he was fated to murder Polybus and marry Merope, and so he left for Thebes. On his way, he met an older man and killed him in a quarrel. Continuing on to Thebes, he found that the king of the city (Laius) had recently been killed and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus answered the monster's riddle correctly, defeating it and winning the throne of the dead king – and the hand in marriage of the king's widow, who was also (unbeknownst to him) his mother Jocasta. Detail of ancient fresco in which Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx. Egyptian Museum, 2nd c. CE

Years later, to end a plague on Thebes, Oedipus searched to find who had killed Laius and discovered that he himself was responsible. Jocasta, upon realizing that she had married her own son, hanged herself. Oedipus then seized two pins from her dress and blinded himself with them.

The example of incest is coincidental, and you could take a Shakespeare tragedy as a less obvious example. Philosophers often talk about the "harm" of death, which is what I'm getting at more or less: would Oedipus or Othello have been less harmed if they had just killed themselves before it had happened?

If so, are those shared in or do they belong to overlapping individuals? I probably think yes - that some fates are worse than death, independent of hedon - but I wonder if in all salient examples it reduces to injustice.

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  • Do you mean, "What the narrative says will happen," or do you mean, "The effect the narrative has on behavior"? Nov 5, 2023 at 15:20
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    narratives about what?
    – armand
    Nov 5, 2023 at 15:21
  • narratives like idk like a story but more objective in some sense @KristianBerry so what the narrative says did happen. i don't feel i have those backwards.
    – user67675
    Nov 5, 2023 at 15:22
  • i mean specifically tragic human events @armand so greek dramas, their paraphrasable content
    – user67675
    Nov 5, 2023 at 15:25
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    Ok, so kind of like: "if I had known all this was going to happen, I might have just packed it in"? I suppose people wonder that. Existentialism seems to revolve around that, with the idea that at best, things are crazy and absurd.
    – Scott Rowe
    Nov 7, 2023 at 11:28

2 Answers 2

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Kant's narrative of radical evil, as contrasted with diabolical evil, might be read along such a line. He says that we empirical human beings are capable of radical but not diabolical evil, since the latter would mean using reason to turn against reason per se, which he takes to be self-contradictory for us. However, we can then suppose:

  1. Instead of the existence of a mortal, but diabolical, will being logically impossible, we might take it to be metaphysically self-destructive in that, were we ever to choose such a thing, our will would then cease to exist. Arguably, per Kant's premise of the noumenality of the will, this would mean that our self-destroyed will would never appear in the physical world; and any being who "has" done such a thing would never manifest unto other physical beings.
  2. The same except that then radical evil, because it is more substantively possible, and survivable, is worse than diabolical evil. Then the narrative of radical evil is worse than the metaphysical death occurrent in (1).

So: is metaphysical worse than physical death? Or if those are equivalent in demerit, then is metaphysical corruption worse than either because it has more enduring ramifications in the physical world? We might wonder about the propriety of referring to such accounts as narratives, but the mythopoesis of Kant's Religion does, I think, allow for said propriety.

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    your wording is wicked, but i think we're on the same page, so thanks for the slap on the back ha
    – user67675
    Nov 5, 2023 at 16:40
  • how does that link to individuality? i would have thought that my 'narrative' makes me an individual, even as it means that the other actors are not equally anything. but idk...
    – user67675
    Nov 5, 2023 at 16:44
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    @prof_ghost I just was hoping my reference would be relevant :) there are overtly narrative sections with individualistic justifiability, in Kant's Religion, since he overall says that we personally are allowed to hope that God is possible but not collectively compelled to believe that God is real. Nov 5, 2023 at 16:46
  • hm fate then i guess.
    – user67675
    Nov 5, 2023 at 16:48
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Many people judge their end-of-life suffering to be worse than death. This has led some jurisdictions to allow for medical assistance in dying. The Supreme Court of Canada even concluded that prohibiting medical assistance in dying is unconstitutional:

We conclude that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying is void insofar as it deprives a competent adult of such assistance where (1) the person affected clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

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    +1 And to make your argument more powerful, the narrative of the death of one's children is even more painful than one's own suffering in the general case. One has to live one's adult life feeling the effects daily of a tremendous loss.
    – J D
    Nov 5, 2023 at 15:43
  • and is that because of a series of events or merely the psychologuical trauama they cause ppl?
    – user67675
    Nov 5, 2023 at 15:43

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