This may not be the right place for this, but I need quotes about death coming from the orthodox (normative, non-LW) position on death.  I'm working on a project that will eventually be at least tangentially LW relevant, and I want to have some good 'pro-death' quotes that I can adapt for usage in the final project.  I don't think I really need any quotes from the LW perspective; I plan to paraphrase Yudkowsky and the Sequences as well as Dylan Thomas's poem "Do not go gentle into that good night" for the opposing viewpoint.

I don't want to go into too much detail as to what it is exactly I am working on (if I fail or lose motivation fewer people will be disappointed), but I think that the project will take a maximum of 2 months to complete.  This means that it will in all likelihood be complete in 3.  More details as progress is made.  Thank you in advance.

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a maximum of 2 months to complete. This means that it will in all likelihood be complete in 3

For me at least, 50% doesn't even begin to cover the planning fallacy.

Human attitudes to death have been rather diverse. It's a journey to a better world, it's a journey into the unknown, it's a journey to the place where you will be judged for how you lived your life, it's the end of an illusion; it's the final mercy and release from pain, it's just another absurdity after a life of absurdities, it's the blight that taints everything. The inevitability of death will make one person relax because everything is pointless, and another agitated because they are running out of time. There is no one orthodox position on death.

In another (non-conventional) view, death is the ultimate good, because it is the only thing you will definitely never regret.

By coincidence, I do have some notes lying around on images of death in the Western canon. You might want to look into Swinburne's "The Triumph of Time", the Helen Burns character in "Jane Eyre", the eponymous "Lady of the Camellias", or about half the people Dickens kills off. There's "The Little Match Girl" if you're looking for something a little more well-known, or Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death...". And quite a lot's been written on the various stuff in the memento mori clade. Not sure how much of that is pro-death as such, but most of it does romanticize death to some extent.

My internally cached references are more along the lines of Poe's "Ligeia", but I wouldn't call that a good reflection of the normative approach to death by any means.


Thank you!

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I suggest going with 'conventional' rather than 'orthodox'. When I saw the title of your post, I was expecting something from Orthodox Jewish or possibly Orthodox Christian sources. Admittedly, this took assuming that the lack of capitalization might be a typo.

Would you want to include fantasy and science fiction? They've got a tremendous amount of "don't try immortality or great life extension, it will make you miserable and/or evil".


Title has been edited. I didn't think of the ambiguity.

The only science fiction story about bad immortality I can think of off the top of my head is, "I have no mouth, and I must scream" by Harlan Ellison, but that is more to do with UFAI than anything else. I know the Dune mythos has some comments on immortality, but I've only read the first book.

Hmmm... Tolkien has some rather choice things to say about death in the Silmarillion IIRC. I believe the context is that he is speaking about the elves being envious that men can die rather than pass to the Halls of Mandos. In the downfall of Numenor, Tolkien speaks quite extensively about men rejecting death being an evil thing, and inheritance being screwed up because of it.

I would love more sci-fi/fantasy examples.

Edit: Tuck Everlasting! That book is centered around the theme of immortality, and perfectly 'conventional' in its treatment of immortality.

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Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn has a magician who's been cursed with not aging until he finds out how to be good at magic. When he makes the breakthrough about magic, the fact that he's moved on to the normal track about aging is simply good news.

Beagle's A Fine and Private Place is about ghosts who are clinging to their memories so that they don't dissolve the way ghosts are supposed to. This is presented as a bad thing.

IIRC, in Harry Potter there are no legitimate magical methods of life extension.

Beagle's A Fine and Private Place is about ghosts who are clinging to their memories so that they don't dissolve the way ghosts are supposed to. This is presented as a bad thing.

It is notoriously tricky to dissolve a ghost. I've tried all manner of vinegars, oils, and sauces in addition to plain water, but alas, have yet to find the right recipe.

Well, Nicolas Flamel used the Philosopher's stone for a long time, but in the end he's depicted as tired of life and wanting to die, having experienced all that is to be experienced, seeking something new to explore. Maybe his expression of that could be of interest to the OP?

That is not quite applicable, as he has significant evidence of an afterlife.

In the third part of Gulliver's Travels, there is a rare birth defect that causes people to live forever. They do not stop aging, though.

This was linked to on Less Wrong recently. It's a clear expression of the conventional viewpoint, but I don't know who to attribute it to.

This poem by John Dryden was quoted by a guy turning down free cryopreservation. The first stanza is particularly appropriate for your purposes.

So, when our mortal forms shall be disjoin’d.
The lifeless lump uncoupled from the mind,
From sense of grief and pain we shall be free,
We shall not feel, because we shall not be.

Though earth in seas, and seas in heaven were lost
We should not move, we should only be toss’d.
Nay, e’en suppose when we have suffer’d fate
The soul should feel in her divided state,
What’s that to us? For we are only we
While souls and bodies in one frame agree.

Nay, though our atoms should revolve by chance,
And matter leap into the former dance,
Though time our life and motion should restore,
And make our bodies what they were before,
What gain to us would all this bustle bring?
The new-made man would be another thing.

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live, and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
“Here he lies, where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Also worth considering in the light of this story).


I recommend taking a look at the movie "How To Live Forever". Not that great of a documentary, but has great content on this subject. Some clips here.

I've heard almost word-for-word the same quote from my 99-year-old grandmother and from a middle-aged woman who had lived with severe depression for decades: "I don't know why God doesn't take me." A friend's grandmother said she planned to rejoin her husband after death: "I can't wait to see him again."

I'm confident that Schopenhauer will have some good quotes on this.

You'll probably be able to find something decent in here.


From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

  • A.C.Swinburne
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Nick Bostrom is probably also a good go-to anti-death source.

Anyhow, this is a fine google-fu exercise with no time pressure, so I don't see why I should google for you :P


Fair enough about googling; I just thought that LWers would have on 'mental cache' references to the orthodox position on death (movies, books, poetry, etc. that talk about death, i.e, Hamlet's description of death):

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

Edit: Formatting, phrasing

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