Robert Nozick on Death

They say no one is able to take seriously the possibility of his or her own death, but this does not get it exactly right… A person’s own death does become real to him after the death of both parents. Until then, there was someone else who was “supposed to” die before him; now that no one stands between him and death, it becomes his “turn.” . . . How unwilling someone is to die should depend, I think, upon what he has left undone, and also upon his remaining capacity to do things.

The more what he considered important has been done, and the less capacity that remains, the more willing he should be to face death. Deaths are called “untimely” when they end lives where much still was possible that went unfulfilled. But when you no longer have the capacity to do what is undone, or when you have done all that you considered important, then – I want to say – you should not be so very unwilling to die.

Robert Nozick, The Examined Life (Simon & Schuster: 1989) pp. 20-21


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