Is there a rational response to the idea that my death is the ultimate evil? I'm asking just because I can't think of useful response, assuming my death is necessary -- inescapable, and most philosophers would I think agree that all men are mortal. Perhaps just a lack of imagination, but I'd like to know if anyone answers this question.

By "ultimate evil" I mean something that cannot be mitigated, made less evil, through life or religion or some combination of them. However, I don't think my death is irredeemable, the "ultimate evil", so I'd be interested in any philosopher who claims it is.

I'm interested in an answer from any robust moral standpoint except relativism, but especially atheist ones, whether or not I'm agnostic.

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    Being "unavoidable" does not automatically absolve something of being bad. Our mortality is only an empirical generalization, so its unavoidability is open to future revision. It is not, on its face, irrational, to pursue longevity or even immortality, and if that can be an ideal then death can be something "evil", i.e. undesirable. I do not know about the "ultimate", there are things worse than death, some say. But one can easily imagine a kind of humanistic ethics, with a good measure of egocentrism, that would support such a claim.
    – Conifold
    Jul 9, 2020 at 2:29
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    Please define "evil". Evil suggests some kind of absolute right and wrong not depending on the subject. Its being featured in the question is at odd with the idea that "your" feat would have anymore significance than any other. It also suggests some kind of moral framework, which you don't specify. The answer heavily depends on which moral framework is considered.
    – armand
    Jul 9, 2020 at 3:13
  • yeah i totally agree with that comment's resolution, thanks @Conifold -- even as i went in the opposite direction to your claim.
    – user46524
    Jul 9, 2020 at 3:36
  • that's a useful request for / clarification, thanks @armand , however, i have an answer to my question now, more or less, so i'm not sure if i need to edit the question. perhaps?
    – user46524
    Jul 9, 2020 at 3:38
  • fwiw i think immortality -- literal not spiritual -- could be an irrational desire, because an infinite project is impossible, and an infinite number of projects would be trivial. ymmv of course @Conifold
    – user46524
    Jul 9, 2020 at 3:52

3 Answers 3


While I don't remember whether this addressed the moral component, the book Dream, Death, and the Self by JJ Valberg considers at length the other component of the question, that it seems there is nothing after my death, and yet also of course we expect the world to go on after that. From the overview:

This ceasing to be presents itself solipsistically not just as the end of everything “for me” but as the end of everything absolutely. Yet since it is the same for everyone, this cannot be. Death thus confronts us with an impossible fact: something that cannot be but will be.


Death is the reason why we are who we are. All creatures evolve through natural selection which involves the survival of the fittest; i.e. those best suited to proliferate in an environment continue to pass their traits such that the lineage lives on while the rest are eliminated. If it were not for death organisms--both well suited and poorly suited-- would continue to flourish. With each generation there would be more and more genetic divergence and as a consequence we would become increasingly dissimilar. Thus death not only made us strong to survive the forces of nature, but also is responsible for a giving us a sense of community and unity based on preserving the gene pool.

Therefore, since death has given us some good things it cannot be the ultimate evil.



only creatures that live in passing time can know moments of undying value.

There are no such moments in a life that can never end. In such a life, there's nothing to treasure, nothing that has value because it cannot come again.... The paradox is that it's only because we die that we can know what it truly means to be immortal.

the BBC

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