• thewonder
    1.4k
    So, it seems to fairly common for people to identify as being death-positive these days and, while I can agree with some of their sentiment, I wonder if it isn't somehow unnatural to even attempt to accept death as a natural part of life.

    The first issue that I take is with common assumptions regarding the platitude. It's as if they assume for death not to represent a radical negation or even nihilation of existence. Is death a so-called "part of life" or does it signify something far more terrifying and unknowable? My assumption is that life after death is an unfathomable void. Death signifies a kind of pure and total nothingness. It points to an epistemic terrain that is impossible to even approach. Sure, it is natural for a body to decompose, but, given that we only have our experience of the world, should we really claim, even with the best of solace granted to the grieving, that death is as a natural phenomenon, or, if we are to consider it as natural, should we take any comfort in this whatsoever? The plain, pure, and simple fact that we will someday die, and, therefore, cease to exist entirely produces acute anxiety. Death positivists seek to cope with this anxiety by situating death as a mere part of the human experience. They seek to cope with the anxiety of becoming aware that you will someday die in an attempt to overcome it. What I am willing to call into question is as to whether or not this can be meaningfully done. I also posit that it may be unnatural not to fear and flee death at all costs.

    My youth, like many so-called "angry young men", was spent in a kind of reckless abandon. I was wild, prone to celebrate illicit political acts, and somewhat suicidal. This kind of revolt, though, in my opinion, perfectly natural, was indicative of that I had an incapacity to cope with both the fascination with and fear of death. What I have gained from it, however, is a certain freedom that is born out of flight. In the The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus suggested that we should against the Absurd, despite that we will ultimately invariably fail. If we are to consider this from a purely Ontological standpoint, we can consider death as the finality which annihilates every form of lived existential riot. It is because of that we will live and ultimately fail in our quest to liberate ourselves from death that we should consider our limited time here on Earth as exceptionally valuable. Death adds weight to the human experience. I posit that it is that we face an unknown non-being, a total abyss, that grants this weight to it. To accept death or even to attempt to cope with it deprives humanity of the immediacy of which to live an authentic life it is somewhat requisite to have. We should live within an active flight from death, rather in spite of many of the world's religious wisdom, and cultivate an authentic experience of as much of the world as we can in what fleeting moments we have. The fact of death provides a basis for which we ought to live according to Friedrich Nietzsche's thought experiment, that of the eternal return. To accept death is to admit defeat. We can only die and lose, and, so, perhaps there is something to accepting it? I would prefer, however, to wage my revolt for as long as I have either the health or mind to do so.

    Though this post may seem somewhat nihilistic, I would actually slate it in opposition to a fundamental Nihilist precept. Life is not meaningless. The fact of death is the basis from which life has meaning. All forms of so-called acceptance are mere soothsaying phrases to old and tired existential revolutionaries. Death ought to be fought against for as long as we shall live.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    The plain, pure, and simple fact that we will someday die, and, therefore, cease to exist entirely produces acute anxiety. Death positivists seek to cope with this anxiety by situating death as a mere part of the human experience. They seek to cope with the anxiety of becoming aware that you will someday die in an attempt to overcome itthewonder

    Furthermore the fact we all going to die one day, it gives more anxiety the fact of the lovers I will leave behid in our path to the "final days".
    If you live alone, probably you will not live such difficult situation and probably, you would able to understand that we are finite.
    But, it hurts when your parents or pets dye before you... It is so sad really. We have to understand it because is the "natural process"
  • Tom Storm
    4.9k
    I have spoken to many close friends about death on numerous occasions over the years. I've only ever known one person who is afraid of dying, or who resents the fact that the show will come to an end. Most of the rest of us don't really care or dwell on it. But it does give me some satisfaction to think that in 3 or 4 decades, I'll be dead. Life is good but it's hard work and frankly there's only so much of it I want. I think it may be those people who fear judgement in the afterlife (or who were taught this as children) who are most anxious. I have no concerns about living an authentic life or letting philosophers form my response to death.
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    Before my grandfather, whom I lived with, died, I had a psychotic episode where, looking into the mirror, I hallucinated myself in old age dying. It was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life. He was the first person that I have known to have died that I have been somewhat close to. On some level, I, at least, like to think that I remember him well and take comfort in that. Being said, however, his death certainly produced acute anxiety within me faced with the fact that I will someday die. I hadn't really appreciated life enough until both attempting and failing to come to terms with what his death revealed to me. What I question is as to whether terms can even be come to. Perhaps, I'm just at a stage in life without certain wisdoms concerning death, but I do suspect that it is natural for people to fear it. It's kind of the only true unknowable unknown.


    That seems to be a very healthy approach to death, contrary to my somewhat nebulous conclusions to have been drawn from my musings on it. I could just be in kind of a mood because of that I'm reading Cioran as of now, but I am somewhat taken by his concept of lyricism, perhaps, particularly because of that I am a poet. Existentialists are likely to occasionally invoke the human condition. I'm not sure what base facts can be ascribed to it other than that of death. It seems kind of like the condition to me.

    It could kind of just be best not to really dwell on it, though. Nothingness is nothingness, and, so, there isn't really anything to fear, I guess.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.1k


    My intuition, and perhaps this is purely my idiosyncratic view, is that the 'taboo' that the death-positivity movement is seeking to address, is not entirely on the mark. I don't think we fear death as much we fear or dislike decay. It seems to me that our 'default' valuations all tend to coalesce around youth, vitality, health, strength etc... the flip-side of this is that we seem to have a general aversion for decay. And unfortunately decay is also a fact of biological life. While trying to retain our biological form encoded in our DNA, our cells and bodies nevertheless progressively decay as flawed copies are made as we age. Death then is merely the most absolute form of decay of a living organism, and therefor at the extreme negative end of this scale of default valuations.

    The point of this little detour is that, if the goal of this movement is to re-evaluate our valuation of death, it probably should try to re-evaluate our value of decay more generally because death is a subset of that... i.e. it should be called the decay-positive movement or something.

    I would agree with you that such a re-evaluation is problematic without all kinds of exercises in delusion and life-negation because it's so antithetical to what life is. But what to do then if decay is a fact of life, inescapable and we also can't re-evaluate it without betraying the essence of life? Double-down on life-affirmation Nietzsche would say and die at the right time.
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    This adds considerable nuance to the discussion that I should hope that I won't dismiss by putting to question as to whether the ultimate negation in death can be considered a part of the natural process of decay. I think that the quiet comfort of that death is a natural part of life encompasses a decaying body already. The absolute finality of death delimits a threshold to human understanding. We can and should cultivate a life philosophy wherein people age well. We also have to consider and understand the effects of decay, particularly late in life. It'd be indicative of a certain degree of cruelty otherwise. All of that, I think, plays part and parcel into coming to terms with the human condition, and, so, is something that philosophers can cultivate the wisdom with which to cope. Death, however, I think, because of that it expresses such a radical negation, is totally unapproachable. In the introduction to Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov writes of a "young chronophobiac" who developed a sense of anxiety at seeing film images of his empty carriage before musing upon the abyss before and after life. He, later, asserts, "I rebel against this state of affairs. I feel the urge to take my rebellion outside and picket nature." Confronted by an absolute abyss, what I'm positing is that it is not only natural, but, also, as adequately as anyone can cope with death, a total lack of existence, to undertake such a rebellion.

    I am still relatively young, however, and, so, perhaps haven't considered well enough another biological fact, that of decay.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.1k
    This adds considerable nuance to the discussion that I should hope that I won't dismiss by putting to question as to whether the ultimate negation in death can be considered a part of the natural process of decay. I think that the quiet comfort of that death is a natural part of life encompasses a decaying body already. The absolute finality of death delimits a threshold to human understanding. We can and should cultivate a life philosophy wherein people age well. We also have to consider and understand the effects of decay, particularly late in life. It'd be indicative of a certain degree of cruelty otherwise. All of that, I think, plays part and parcel into coming to terms with the human condition, and, so, is something that philosophers can cultivate the wisdom with which to cope. Death, however, I think, because of that it expresses such a radical negation, is totally unapproachable. In the introduction to Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov writes of a "young chronophobiac" who developed a sense of anxiety at seeing film images of his empty carriage. He, later, asserts, "I rebel against this state of affairs. I feel the urge to take my rebellion outside and picket nature." Confronted by an absolute abyss, what I'm positing is that it is not only natural, but, also, as adequately as anyone can cope with death, a total lack of existence, to undertake such a rebellion.

    I am still relatively young, however, and, so, perhaps haven't considered well enough another biological fact, that of decay.
    thewonder

    Euthanasia is legal in my country, under very specific circumstance. I generally think that's a good thing. What such a law amounts to is a recognition that at least there are possible circumstances of living that are not worth it. In other words there is a higher value than merely being alive, if you consider such a law a good thing that is. I take that higher value to be quality of life, subjective experience or something to that effect. Of course when quality of life has become bad enough that euthanasia should be allowed is a point of a lot of discussion, and probably not one that I'd want to delve into right now...

    But yes I agree, it's probably not entirely fair to say that death is merely a form of decay, It is a radical negation as subjective experience abruptly ends, and therefor qualitatively different than decay. But maybe it's not that unapproachable if what it negates has seized to be a positive and has become an overall negative thing... negating a negative is positive right?

    EDIT: By "not that unapproachable", what I meant to say is, does it matter that we can't know what lack of experience, of existence, is if we know that life is unbearable in some circumstances? The absence of existence, that unknown, doesn't seem like a factor in that equation, other than that it's an end to something that is either good or bad...
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    I think that voluntary euthanasia is fine in cases where someone is suffering from physical pain, but neither trust nor think a psychologist can assess as to whether a person really wants to go through with a psychologically motivated suicide. To be quite honest, I kind of suspect for the whole thing to function like a litmus test for a person's attitude towards the insane. Perhaps this is just paranoia, but I just kind of suspect for advocates of psychologically motivated suicide to be closet Eugenicists who consider for those who have been declared to be "insane" to be a societal burden. People talk about suicide like it's some sort of heroic act, but it's really just kind of desperate and tragic. There ought be a certain degree of respect for a person's final autonomous decision, but, unless you're in the French Resistance and have to swallow a capsule of cyanide, it's really just born out of fits of mania and acute despair.

    There's no negation of the negation of death. I'm rather confused by what you're saying. I think that death, quite radically, is unapproachable. It's an unknowable unknown. We can actually not fathom what it is like not to exist, as all that we know is from our experience of the world, namely as existents. You could philosophize about death, but, I do actually think that it delimits a threshold to even the potential understanding. The Tibetan Buddhists who read from Bardo Thodol probably have a greater understanding of death than I do, but I don't think that even they can know what death is like.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.1k
    I think that voluntary euthanasia is fine in cases where someone is suffering from physical pain, but neither trust nor think a psychologist can assess as to whether a person really wants to go through with a psychologically motivated suicide. To be quite honest, I kind of suspect for the whole thing to function like a litmus test for a person's attitude towards the insane. Perhaps this is just paranoia, but I just kind of suspect for advocates of psychologically motivated suicide to be closet Eugenicists who consider for those who have been declared to be "insane" to be a societal burden. People talk about suicide like it's some sort of heroic act, but it's really just kind of desperate and tragic. There ought be a certain degree of respect for a person's final autonomous decision, but, unless you're in the French Resistance and have to swallow a capsule of cyanide, it's really just born out of fits of mania and acute despair.thewonder

    Our law does also allow for euthanasia when someone is suffering from unbearable (and incurable?) mental or psychic pain if I remember correctly, after amendment of the original law. This boils down to whether you think such a thing exist I guess. I tend to think it does, but at the same time it's also very difficult to 'objectively' asses by a third party (which is always needed for euthanasia) and difficult to know whether it is incurable... so there's a lot of practical problems with it at least.

    I agree suicide is usually desperate and tragic, but part of that I'd think is because it's something that's not allowed and shunned socially. I'm not saying it should be encouraged to be absolutely clear, just that the social isolation wherein it has to happen is part of the desperation I guess. Often the family members of someone who choose euthanasia talk of a serene and dignified end.

    There's no negation of the negation of death. I'm rather confused by what you're saying. I think that death, quite radically, is unapproachable. It's an unknowable unknown. We can actually not fathom what it is like not to exist, as all that we know is from our experience of the world, namely as existents. You could philosophize about death, but, I do actually think that it delimits a threshold to even the potential understanding. The Tibetan Buddhists who read from Bardo Thodol probably have a greater understanding of death than I do, but I don't think that even they can know what death is like.thewonder

    Ok I can see how I wasn't exactly clear there, I wasn't exactly sure either at the time, but was working it out as I was writing, hence the edit...

    I guess what I'm wondering is whether the unknowable unknown of death, the absence of existence, has any bearing on much of anything at all. We know what life is like, the experience of it, and maybe that is enough to make some value-judgement one way or another.

    Maybe this is an analogy that works and can clarify this a bit. An agnostic person holds that he doesn't know whether God exists, and if he would exist, he doesn't know what kind of God it would be. I'm strictly speaking agnostic, that is my belief.... that's an unknowable unknown, but it doesn't factor in in anything I do. Functionally and practically speaking I'm an atheist, because I act on what I do know, not on what I don't know and can't know. I'm not even sure how one could act on something that is unknown?

    I think I would treat death the same way. I take it to be the end of something I do know, life/my experience, and nothing beyond that. So in the event that what I do know (life/my experience) would be negative (like in the case of euthanasia), ending it (the negation) could be seen as a positive if that makes sense.
  • Tom Storm
    4.9k
    I agree suicide is usually desperate and tragic, but part of that I'd think is because it's something that's not allowed and shunned socially.ChatteringMonkey

    Depends who you know. I consider suicide to be a wonderful potential act of freedom and liberation. But the circumstances need to be right and the method benign. No doubt a source of debate and acrimony. I've known folk to jump off buildings or under trains or ram cars into walls at 120 miles an hour - but these approaches come with a degree of anger and theatricality. A quiet overdose of insulin, or an opiate at the right time is best. In facing a terminal disease or some other great suffering, it makes sense to me.
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    If someone is dead set on committing suicide, sure, an opiate is preferable to a revolver, but, I guess that the offered solution doesn't adequately consider as to what produced the situation wherein a person was brought to that level of psychological duress or what other options they have. For a psychologist to recommend that someone commit suicide also seems to bear an inherent set of predicaments in its own right. I'm not sure that I really trust mental health professionals not to just sort of do away with some people.

    What I'm suggesting about the theatrics is that most suicides probably occur during a momentary lapse of reason. Going through with whatever formal process there is probably alleviates that to some extent, but I think that there's a real danger of letting a momentary spell of depression become a person's final hours.

    The two of you can carry on about this if you like, but I don't really feel like getting into my personal kvetch against psychologically motivated assisted suicide.

    I guess what I'm wondering is whether the unknowable unknown of death, the absence of existence, has any bearing on much of anything at all. We know what life is like, the experience of it, and maybe that is enough to make some value-judgement one way or another.ChatteringMonkey

    Perhaps it really is just me who thinks about death, but I do feel like the angst that it inspires is something that people have to cope with.
  • Tom Storm
    4.9k
    I agree with you. I wasn't talking about psychologists making recommendations (that would likely be unethical) - I was talking about personal choice - being in the driver's seat (so to speak).
  • apokrisis
    6.3k
    The point of this little detour is that, if the goal of this movement is to re-evaluate our valuation of death, it probably should try to re-evaluate our value of decay more generally because death is a subset of that... i.e. it should be called the decay-positive movement or something.ChatteringMonkey

    You make an excellent point. And I will add some further complexity that comes from a theoretical biology point of view.

    I think two things can be confused here. But they may also be the same thing - being just a difference between going out with a whimper or going out with a bang.

    Stan Salthe has defined a canonical lifecycle of an organism in terms of the three stages of immaturity, maturity and senescence. Life is understood as a system of entropy production. An organism is an negentropic structure that arises to breakdown or dissipate a larger entropic flow. And so biology embodies the "paradox" of a struggle to develop and persist as a stable set of habits - a negentropic structure – that efficiently exports enough entropy (or decay) to both survive as that set of habits, and yet not destabilise that set of habits.

    So the production of decay is the basis of life. But it has to be exported to an external sink - the unlucky environment - rather than be allowed to erode the useful negentropic structure of the organism itself.

    To get back to Salthe's three stages, there is thus a general developmental imperative that we can recognise as the human desire to grow and achieve mastery over the world, and in doing so, become a successfully persisting self. This is an open-ended upward trajectory wired into life by the logic of its origins. It doesn't naturally envision its own death as part of the scheme .... except to the degree that this selfhood is in some strong sense going to be recycled as part of a larger scale of organismic structure, like a family dynasty, cultural community or even reincarnated chain of being.

    But I'm jumping ahead. If we stick to the open-ended story of the development of an organism as a unit of dissipatory structure, Salthe argues that immaturity is characterised by vast entropy production - the rapid growth and high consumption of any infant learning to cope and live in the world. The infant is highly plastic, having few established habits, and so prone to making many mistakes. But rapid growth or a high entropy lifestyle also gives the immature organism great powers of recovery. It can suffer big injuries, dreadful errors of judgement, and rebuild back better at speed. Growth papers over mistakes fast.

    Maturity is then when growth slows and a store of habits stabilises. The system settles into a routine relation with its environment such that surprises or perturbations are managed to a large degree, and yet still there is enough growth potential to fix decay, or regain ground lost to errors.

    But fortunately or unfortunately, the developmental journey must continue to the third stage of senescence - which may be a bad term because it over-emphasises the internal decay aspect. Yet anyway, Salthe's point is that an organism never ceases to strive to be well-fitted to its world in terms of its ability to persist as an entropy producing/entropy exporting structure. And so it keeps developing a greater weight of fixed habits. An organism which was clever in its youth - able to deal creatively to solve the many novel situations that an inexperienced self must face - becomes increasingly wise. The longer you live, the more experiences you have learnt to deal with, and so the less you need to learn. You've long had it all figured out down to the level of automaticism.

    Of course, even a long-lived organism can only adapt to the world they have statistically sampled over that lifespan. So some surprise - some environmental insult or perturbation - will catch them out eventually. And because stability of self is fostered by a steady lowering of its the entropy production rate - needing less fuel because the engine has become so efficient in its perfect adaptedness to its world - it will suddenly lack the powers of recovery enjoyed at its early developmental stages. Being wise is also becoming brittle. When something even small breaks, it can cause the whole show to run off the road with a bang.

    Salthe's analysis applies across all life in general. Even ecosystems start with explosive weedy growth, move towards mature slower changing forest, and eventually winds up in super-efficient and super-complex food chains like the Amazon rainforest. But then an asteroid hits, or the planet's climate shifts. Perturbations strike from outside the eco-organism's long experience and you get an unexpected death situation.

    Heck, this is getting long-winded. But you can see that a naturalistic view of life and death has this double-sidedness. We could celebrate getting old and even a little decrepit because that equates with becoming long-lived enough to become wise and energy efficient. But also, that means becoming more brittle and less able to recover by throwing entropy production and inexperienced creativity at our problems.

    We adapt to getting wise but brittle, efficient but low-powered, by become more cautious and risk-avoidant. And that may feel like a bad thing, or a safe thing, depending on your point of view. If you are young - or claim to be young at hear - it might be seen as a dismal prospect. A sad decay of youthful promise. But surveys of the old finds them actually very content as their horizons shrink towards the safe and familiar - or where they have maintained a balance that best matches their life stage in terms of challenging novelty and the ability to recover from mistakes.

    To me, this both explains why attitudes to death can seem so different between the young and the old, and says that any philosophising around the issue has to start with recognising there is not one answer that will seem a correct balancing act for all three life stages.

    It is tempting to say immaturity is better than senescence, or maturity is the Goldilocks sweetspot. But then each of those stages is itself a balance of plasticity against stability, explosive growth against efficient habit, creative experiment against wise caution. And we have to live through all these stages as a natural and logical succession.

    Having said all that, Salthe's canonical lifecycle presumes a materially-closed natural system like the ecology of the Earth that must largely live within the overall entropic budget set by the solar flux - the rising of the sun each morning. And humans of course have constructed a new world based on fossil fuel consumption and the assumption of an equally unlimited environmental sink for the resulting entropy production.

    So that is a new deal - one that seems predicated on eternal immaturity, or exponential rates of growth and hence the unrestricted ability to paper over injury.

    The prospect of death, or brittleness, or decay, or even old age caution and wisdom, can all look remarkably different to philosophy when considered against that entropic backdrop.

    My youth, like many so-called "angry young men", was spent in a kind of reckless abandon. I was wild, prone to celebrate illicit political acts, and somewhat suicidal. This kind of revolt, though, in my opinion, perfectly natural, was indicative of that I had an incapacity to cope with both the fascination with and fear of death.thewonder

    On the one hand, the power to recover from most mistakes was real at that age. There was factually less to fear and potentially more to gain by relative recklessness and experimentation.

    On the other hand, modern society promotes eternal immaturity because it guarantees the high entropy production state on which it has become predicated. So being an "angry young man" is a socially-constructed role that unwittingly serves this larger social purpose. Although society itself has continued to evolve to become even more openly consumption driven. The young rebels with nothing to lose have become the young social entrepreneurs with an endless bucketlist of essential acquistions and fancy experiences to tick off.

    So it is natural in an ecological sense to be young and embrace risk. It is a modern thing to be part of a rat race where you are exhorted to cram as much as possible into a short life as can be imagined.

    Death in that scenario becomes both an existential threat to the self as a shiny capitalistic project and also an escape from a world that has become dominated by just such a project.

    The prospect of death produces conflicted feelings because modern society embodies a conflict between the old remembered slower stable rhythms of a solar flux driven era and the new exponential expanding, individually creative, fossil fuel era.

    It is because of that we will live and ultimately fail in our quest to liberate ourselves from death that we should consider our limited time here on Earth as exceptionally valuable. Death adds weight to the human experience.thewonder

    This is true. But it is also part of the general social construction. So it becomes an issue with a degree of choice.

    Modern society thrives on constructing us as self-actualising individuals. The young entrepreneur has become the highest form of existence in modern culture. And in an exponential growth situation - the world of the technological singularity - this indeed is the social ideal.

    But counter to that is a slow-burn senescent social system where individuality its not such a big deal. People feel more part of the overall long-run and largely unchanging succession of birth and death. The sun sets but rises again every day. The fact of death will feel quite different against such a backdrop.

    So I'm not saying either attitude is the correct one in some absolutist moral way. My argument is that both are natural to their social contexts, because they construct the kind of individuals who best further the persistence of that social context.

    The issue is the deeper one of how long you can actually persist with an exponential rate of growth and entropy production as a society. The new crushing fear of anyone who is young these days must be not the weight of their own distance death from old age but the likely global extinction event about to arrive any time soon.

    But as Rupert Read is so good at pointing out, we can't even have open public conversations about that.

    Though this post may seem somewhat nihilistic, I would actually slate it in opposition to a fundamental Nihilist precept. Life is not meaningless. The fact of death is the basis from which life has meaning. All forms of so-called acceptance are mere soothsaying phrases to old and tired existential revolutionaries. Death ought to be fought against for as long as we shall live.thewonder

    So what I am trying to say is that the time for such a view has now past. It has been overtaken by a new reality. And it wasn't much relevant to any early reality.

    In our most natural state - a hunter/gatherer lifestyle lived to the tune of the solar flux - the lines between the individual and the community, and also between the living and the non-living, were more blurred. Or rather, were socially constructed as a constant and long-run interaction. Death would have carried a weight, but not the kind of romantic and existential weight it started to get with the start of the modern era.

    Then when the modern era really cranked up - with the factories and coal fields - there was a shift from the economics of labour to one of consumption. The monetisation of labour led to one kind of social rebellion - the angry young man meme that any boomer was brought up with, and became an avid consumer of. The monetisation of consumption produced its own early response in hippies and greenies, but then was likewise mainstreamed in a positive light as self-actualising yuppies and entrepreneurs.

    The culmination of this life positivity or extreme individualism would look to be the Silicon Valley biohacking and singularity meme. Young money believes it will be too smart to die. It will live forever by some tech trick or other.

    So life positivity is its own pathology when it out-runs even its own socially-constructed entropic base. Fighting death by cryogenically freezing your head was the dumb thing to do in the 1990s. Modern tech promotes even more nutty elevator pitches today.

    It comes down to the tricky question of how individually to view the prospect of your death in today's cultural and entropic circumstances? We are on the Titanic headed towards the big climate change iceberg. We've been assured the ship is unsinkable. Do we jump into the icy water early or stick around to see how the movie ends? Either way, how do we assimilate this global extinction event to our own individualist collection of life projects - that bucketlist of meaningful experiences we were determined to cram in?

    Can all these conflicting thoughts be tied up in a neat bow in fact?

    As you can see, it is quite an exciting time to be talking about the real meaning of life and death. Never has more been happening on that front. Is the only intelligible life goal these days to aspire to being a witness to the end of human history? (Again, Rupert Read is a delight on this issue). :grin:
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    Well, to voluntarily euthanize yourself, you do have to receive some sort of assessment from a psychologist or another, and, so, somewhere down the line, someone has to okay your suicide. Who's to say that these people don't have some sort of economic tie-in with the manufacturers of lethal injection devices or haven't come to their chosen profession out of some form of latent prejudice against the so-called "criminally insane". They could fetishize photographs of people in jumpsuits with black upside down triangles on them for all that we know.

    Those are very facetious statements, but, I think that we should ask as to just who could possibly be making such assessments.

    I also don't think that suicide is at all liberatory. In ways, it is an autonomous act, but, to my experience, attempting to go through with the whole thing only ever happens in acute distress undergoing fits of mania. It's just desperate and tragic, in my opinion.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.1k
    If someone is dead set on committing suicide, sure, an opiate is preferable to a revolver, but, I guess that the offered solution doesn't adequately consider as to what produced the situation wherein a person was brought to that level of psychological duress or what other options they have. For a psychologist to recommend that someone commit suicide also seems to bear an inherent set of predicaments in its own right. I'm not sure that I really trust mental health professionals not to just sort of do away with some people.

    What I'm suggesting about the theatrics is that most suicides probably occur during a momentary lapse of reason. Going through with whatever formal process there is probably alleviates that to some extent, but I think that there's a real danger of letting a momentary spell of depression become a person's final hours.
    thewonder

    I think it never should come as a recommendation from psychologists either, but always only after independent request from the person himself and after a non-involved expert or board of experts evaluate the request. This is how it is organised in my country anyway, and I think that could be fine. Sure there's always a danger of abuse of the law, in practice however it has played out the other way up till now it seems, as they have been very reluctant in agreeing to euthanasia because of unbearable mental pain. There's even been several cases brought to court where the person who had his or her request refused tried to overrule the decision, in each of those cases the person had a history of incurable mental illnesses, like severe autism, combined with decades of depression and other disorders...

    The two of you can carry on about this if you like, but I don't really feel like getting into my personal kvetch against psychologically motivated assisted suicide.thewonder

    Fair enough... and I see your concern definitely.

    Perhaps it really is just me who thinks about death, but I do feel like the angst that it inspires is something that people have to cope with.thewonder

    I do think about the finitude of life, the impermanence of it all... but not about death itself or what happens after I guess is what i'm saying. I do agree that this is something that people should try to recon with.
  • Tom Storm
    4.9k
    Hmm - not what I am talking about. And maybe we need to move on from this. Last comment: suicide may be a useful and liberating tool if you have a terminal and debilitating condition. Fuck any doctors or psychologists. I'm talking DIY - not state sanctioned.
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    I thank you for such a lengthy and erudite post, which I have no real idea as to how to respond to other than to beg a question by asking you if you can, in good faith, claim that you really perceive the fate of our environment as being more important to you than your bucketlist of life experiences. It's not just about going to Paris or something; it's about not letting your limited time on this planet go to waste. Perhaps, at least, attempting to avert ecological catastrophe is somehow worthwhile, but, though I don't ascribe some form of Psychological Egoism or whatever, I can't really say that I would trade the life of an effective environmental activist for something like genuine love or a life of whirlwind adventure. Perhaps that's selfish of me, but, I don't know that I believe that there are too many ascetic self-sacrificing types really out there or that such martyrdom isn't somehow instilled out of a kind of communal desperation. I think that if I was put into a situation where I could have to die for my ideals, I'd be willing to, but I don't think that there's anything that I would trade my experience of the world for otherwise. It's all very complex, though, I guess.
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    I said that I was fine with it in that case. I've been talking about psychologically motivated assisted suicide, quite particularly. I don't think that a psychologist can properly assess that a person is capable of such a decision. I'm fine with moving on from this, though.
  • Tom Storm
    4.9k
    Cool. I've enjoyed talking to you.
  • apokrisis
    6.3k
    I thank you for such a lengthy and erudite post, which I have no real idea as to how to respond to other than to beg a question by asking you if you can, in good faith, claim that you really perceive the fate of our environment as being more important to you than your bucketlist of life experiences.thewonder

    Well I could see in the 1990s that 2050 was the bottleneck decade for humanity. So I've had plenty of time to adjust the two sides to my reaction. Personally, I feel I have things lined up as well they could be.

    I can't really say that I would trade the life of an effective environmental activist for something like genuine love or a life of whirlwind adventure.thewonder

    Again, try Rupert Read for practical advice ...



    Realistically, if you are still young, it is likely too late to change society and its collapse is going to deliver all the "whirlwind adventure" you could wish for.

    You are speaking about death as a problem in a context that, with high probability, has only a couple of decades to run. So start making deep philosophical sense of that. :lol:

    Perhaps that's selfish of me, but, I don't know that I believe that there are too many ascetic self-sacrificing types really out there or that such martyrdom isn't somehow instilled out of a kind of communal desperation.thewonder

    That was the problem with greenies. Too self-sacrificing. Very unappealing.

    But then you get the preppers as another response to self-inflicted climate disaster. Buy guns, bunker down and look forward to the Mad Max show.

    There are many reactions, and some are more thoughtful and useful in the actual situation we are in currently.

    I don't know. My reaction to your post was one of nostalgia. And then chatteringmonkey said something interesting about decay positivity. My essential point is that the good old existential issue now has both its individual and collective dimensions being sharply felt. And that is an active area for a newly emerging philosophy of generalised societal collapse. It just feels more relevant.
  • thewonder
    1.4k
    I don't know. My reaction to your post was one of nostalgia. And then chatteringmonkey said something interesting about decay positivity. My essential point is that the good old existential issue now has both its individual and collective dimensions being sharply felt. And that is an active area for a newly emerging philosophy of generalised societal collapse. It just feels more relevant.apokrisis

    Well, thanks, I guess. There was so much exposition upon the theories of Stan Salthe that, given that I knew nothing of them beforehand, I wasn't entirely sure how to respond.

    I think that you make a good critique of cult pathologies that life-affirming philosophies can be prone to by citing the cyber-utopianism particular to Silicon Valley, but wonder if they haven't always hazarded such delusions. There isn't too much of a difference between a transhumanist cybernetic project that seeks to transform consciousness unto an information network and a quest for either a mythic grail or fountain that is thought to be capable of granting whoever drinks from it eternal life. Perhaps angst isn't somehow intrinsic to human nature? It'd be difficult to assess as to what role death played within hunter-gatherer societies. Most cultures have some sort of ritual for the disposing of the bodies of the dead, and, so, I would be willing to posit that death is something that people feel a need to somehow come to terms with is somewhat universal. The celebration of life in spite of death obviously hazards certain delusions of grandeur, but I would argue that such a predicament has existed since there has been so-called "civilization". When you think about some its absurdities, it becomes clear, to me, at least, that they born out of an attempt to make it as if certain people had lived forever. The official name for the Valley of the Kings was "The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes". There's a phrase that was coined in ancient China using the highest order of magnitude at the time, "ten thousand years", that was later ascribed to the People's Republic under Chairman Mao. These myths of eternal prosperity, I think, are born out of an incapacity to cope with the reality of death and are much older than any recent Postmodern phenomena. They are definitely indicative of a certain kind of hubris that any life-affirming philosophy hazards, though.

    I may or may not watch this hour-long video later, but, it does look fairly interesting. As for how to cope with either environmental or societal collapse or even the end of kind of a lot of life on Earth, that, you are probably correct to suggest that I haven't put quite enough thought into, and, so, I may or may not get back to you on that as well.
  • apokrisis
    6.3k
    Perhaps angst isn't somehow intrinsic to human nature? It'd be difficult to assess as to what role death played within hunter-gatherer societies.thewonder

    There is cross cultural research on such things. And it shows that angst is fairly specific to modern society. You could start with the Catholic Church developing a whole guilt-based economy of social control.

    Most cultures have some sort of ritual for the disposing of the bodies of the dead, and, so, I would be willing to posit that death is something that people feel a need to somehow come to terms with is somewhat universal.thewonder

    Yes it is also true that everything must be ritualised to give it social meaning. And death within a group is a major event, along with birth, entry into adulthood, getting ready to go hunting, and anything else.

    So society just is a network of rituals designed to socialise it’s individuals. And the way of life that results is one that makes the best use of the available circumstances. I would agree death has to be a more significant event than most - especially when your total world is limited to a few hundred others at most. But being ritualised only means that it is part of the general need to socially construct a collective meaning.

    These myths of eternal prosperity, I think, are born out of an incapacity to cope with the reality of death and are much older than any recent Postmodern phenomena.thewonder

    When you move from hunter gatherers to agrarian and hierarchical societies, death may indeed become far more ritualised - along with the whole of social life in general. Think of Victorian funerals and widows in black or embalmed bodies.

    And then the 20th century with its atheism and rationality may have gone the other way. Both my parents wanted no funeral, no grave, no fuss at all. Just quick cremation in a cardboard box. That in itself is a somewhat ostentatious demonstration of some specific cultural values one could argue.

    We can learn to think about the same material fact - an end to life - in entirely different ways. And what can make all of them right is their appropriateness within a functional social context. I stress functional.
  • T Clark
    9.7k
    Furthermore the fact we all going to die one day, it gives more anxiety the fact of the lovers I will leave behid in our path to the "final days".
    If you live alone, probably you will not live such difficult situation and probably, you would able to understand that we are finite.
    But, it hurts when your parents or pets dye before you... It is so sad really. We have to understand it because is the "natural process"
    javi2541997

    I agree with what you've written so gracefully. I don't look forward to death, but I'm not particularly afraid of it. Is it a natural part of life? I don't know what that means. As you note, it's coming for us whether or not we want it. Why let that fact interfere with the life we have now.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k


    I wrote death is a “natural” process because it is inside our DNA the act of dye, and then all our lovers will dye one day before us do it, simple. It is unstoppable. I want it to accept it the most transparent or rational way possible but I can’t do it yet.
    I guess the issue here is not only your parent or pet “dying” but how nostalgic and depressed you will feel afterwards.
    I remember four years ago, when a Boxer dog of mine died. The veterinary said to us my dog had six months left before death. I thought “this is better because I rather see it resting peacefully than being so sick”, but when the final day came I wasn’t ready as I thought. It gave me pity the act of how the time flies by and I understood nothing lasts forever.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    Excellent. Thanks! :clap: :fire:

    (I'm planning on some sort of chemical brain preservation process rather than tissue-cellular destroying "cryonics" to hopefully keep my brain 'viable' after I die until the 'restoration' technology is (if it's ever) ready for prime time.)180 Proof
  • apokrisis
    6.3k
    This got me wondering where cryogenics had got to - have they tested the concept on rats yet.

    This report says they have managed to perfectly preserve a rabbit’s brain now. But using a preservative that is also perfectly toxic. So one step forward and two steps back. :razz:

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2077140-mammal-brain-frozen-and-thawed-out-perfectly-for-first-time/
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    The Tibetan Buddhists who read from Bardo Thodol probably have a greater understanding of death than I do, but I don't think that even they can know what death is like.thewonder

    Indian religions say that recall of previous lives is something that ascetics are able to obtain. Accordingly such texts as the Bardo Thodol are believed to be based on actual accounts and witness testimony. (Take it or leave it.)



    'The old must die for the new to be born' ~ Krishnamurti. So preserving the old may not be wise. It's not as if the world is short of people.
  • thewonder
    1.4k
    There is cross cultural research on such things. And it shows that angst is fairly specific to modern society. You could start with the Catholic Church developing a whole guilt-based economy of social control.apokrisis

    I was moreso just citing examples of common myths that seek to project the life of a ruler or civilization indefinitely. I wasn't really undertaking a serious anthropological inquiry.

    You are right, though, that angst is a fairly modern phenomenon. I remember reading a book for a Cultural Anthropology class, The Forest People, which is about the Mbuti, who are commonly called "pygmies", though that is kind of a slur, in the Congo. Because of that most of their culture is transmitted orally, when an old person dies, there will be extraordinary displays of grief, whereas when a young person dies, it's considered as a fairly minor event, which does run somewhat contrary to the preference for human experience that I have put forth.
  • thewonder
    1.4k

    I'm about half of the way through this video. It's very sobering, and refreshingly so.

    It's somewhat strange for someone like Rupert Read to echo either ecological pessimist or left-accelerationist arguments that you'll hear from time to time in either Anarchist or Communist circles. Their general line of reasoning is that, in order to salvage the ecology, civilization needs to be so radically transformed that it can only effectively happen after a revolution. Personally, I think that this too is quasi-eschatological, near messianic, and, in all likelihood, completely undesirable, but people within the Left have totally insipid notions of what an actual global revolution would actually be like. What seems to be more reasonable, ethical, and viable is to actively disengage from society as such, salvaging what is good of it that we can, and to just kind of let it all fall apart. In the aftermath of the decline of civilization as we have come to understand it, an alternative and radically new society could hopefully be created. I would imagine a kind of synthesis between Communization, Anarchism, particularly, perhaps, the Libertarian Municipalism of Murray Bookchin, what is still veritable of Liberalism, effectively the oft-lauded rights established by the United Nations, aside from many of what ideals it still retains in tact, participatory and representative democracy, a generalized Pacifism, and, of course, a very practical concern for the environment. It'd effectively be somewhere between an eco-village, the so-called "Commune of communes", a scaled down set of international intra-governmental organizations like the United Nations or the European Union, a somewhat mixed-economy, perhaps, proceeding from the Nordic model, and even, perhaps, a few Libertarian experiments, such as something like micro-nations, so as to retain a certain degree of pluralism, created via a process analogous to the concept put forth in A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, "deterritorialization/reterritorialization", social disintegration and reintegration unto whatever emergent society could be created. That's an extremely optimistic assessment, though.

    On some level, I find for the idea of living to see the end of humanity somewhat liberating. I could move to San Francisco, develop a MDMA habit, a co-dependent relationship with a person who had previously listed their entire Astrological chart on Tinder, start a Shoegaze band and be blissed out for the remainder of my rather troubled youth. If the world is just going to end no matter what anyone does, then, I think that we ought to, at least, celebrate it.

    I only watched about half of that video, but, while he does offer what seem to be a lot of reasonable solutions to a projected ecological collapse, he doesn't say too much about what kind of society ought to be created in the wake of the decline of civilization. Though I have qualms with it, namely that either revolution or some form of utopian project are the favored catholicons of the far-Left, aside from that I would love to believe in so-called "green capitalism", I am sort of the line that, in order to prevent ecological collapse, we have to think about how to completely restructure the socio-economic organization of society, which, of course, hazards the inherent dangers of doomsday prophecy and quasi-eschatological cultic utopianism, both of which are quite common in green anarchist circles. What I have put forth, without any jargon, is effectively nonviolent libertarian socialism. As, without the elimination of entire sectors of the global populace en masse, I am extraordinarily doubtful of that a supermajority of the population is going to agree to participate within a socialist society in the coming eras, I do think that a pluralistic syncretic society is not only requisite, but also preferable, as the incorporation of political ideas outside of what I would prefer to tell you flat out is, but will say that I understand as Anarchism will have the effect of providing a certain balance to what would necessarily be an experiment in governance. My political position, however, is entirely absurd, as these ideas have never been seriously considered within either the libertarian Left or intellectual Liberal circles.

    Being said, my grand political project isn't terribly related to the anxiety of death or even ecological collapse, though it is a proposed resolution to the crisis. If we are to seriously consider that humanity will someday end, perhaps, within a future that is much nearer than anyone has anticipated, I think that it could be considered as kind of a macrocosmic threshold to the microcosmic fact that life ends in the abyss of death, thereby providing kind of a significance to the lives that we lead here and now. If its all going to end someday, you can forget about your historical legacy and consider living a good life for what brief time it is that you do have it. In so far that we care that others do as well, which I think plays and parcel to good living, I don't have any real concerns with such a philosophy.
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