Death - an essay

by dglukhov2 min read2nd Feb 20174 comments

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This essay may not hold a position by the end. See the original meaning of writing essays if you're confused.

A cursory search for discussion articles on death, though not necessarily optimized to exploit the best results, yielded several results that I wasn't necessarily satisfied with. Particularly because nothing was definitive, nothing particularly convinced me one way or the other. Why?

Testimonials of how awful the death of a loved one was to a person doesn't satisfy me since I get emotional evidence, not necessarily empirical evidence. There were cultures that revered honorable deaths, I think of the Vikings that searched for the opportunity to die if it meant dying well, and I'm sure there were many other complex emotional testimonies one could have gleaned from such figures, and still might. Historical stories about the systematic killings of members of certain nationalities, religious groups and other affiliations strike me as the result of politics at its most grizzly, where death is the ultimate punishment. And yet I can't help but think of what a martyr must have been thinking in their minds as their doom drew to a close. Or what people do when death is an inevitability that they cannot control, and have to cope with the idea of dying. One might claim that there is an almost universal understanding of death, yet research suggests that the fear of death in children is a learned phenomenon, that understanding the dread of death is developmental milestone. (Note that these are not definitive sources on such subjects, and further discussion can improve or mitigate the effects of this potential evidence).

Some might find death a liberation from their lives of pain, whether they be attributed to individual circumstances or otherwise because they convinced themselves their life is hell, or for other reasons. I will occasional see a promoter for death, talking about lowering overpopulation, elder influence, and stagnation as a result of not having a timed lifespan to operate under. I'll see people arguing death is a meaningless concept, where time is an illusion, or where there are infinitely many copies of you existing in the multiverse, making immortality a moot concept and goal. Otherwise, some may claim that the fear of death is an evolutionary bi-product, where those individual organisms that feared death had better overall selection over those that did not(another cursory search of source on this subject yielded myriad soft paywalls, additional verification would be highly appreciated).

And of course, who can forget the group of people interested in cryonic preservation, in the hopes of being saved by a new technological age. I imagine in such a group, death should not even be an option. Either because it would do the most good, or because it is the ultimate solution for the more ego-centric utilitarians. One could argue here about the cost-effectiveness of such ambitions, and that brings up a whole other kettle of fish that could simply be left without debate if more basic assumptions about death are argued about instead.

Personally, I've had only one near-death experience (though mild compared to others). It involved nearly drowning in the ocean as I was getting pulled away by tide from shore. I don't think I've ever worked so hard in my entire life before, my life depended on me being able to swim back. Of course I understand the urge to live. Ironically enough, I've had suicidal thoughts as well, though attempts at such were not very creative, and ultimately scraped for fear of putting my family in a bind. I can't really say anything on the nature of my personal stance, other than the fact that I'd like to accomplish more things before I kick the bucket, if I ever want to kick the bucket.

I am aware that this is a broad topic, and I suppose I'd prefer the topic stayed fresh in the discussion realm. Consider this an act of curiosity, exploration. I'm not so eager to declare any stances on the subject, vast subjects rarely get my eager conclusions. I hope very much that I'm the only one, and that discussion will alleviate some of this apprehension.

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I think that this essay failed to explained why death is bad. I will list some point to show that death is bad:

  1. Death is end of existence, so any positive thing which is associated with life is also ending with death. If you like floweres, there is no flowers. There is full eternity without flowers.
  2. Non existence itself is known to create existential fear. Moreover, non-existence after death can't be proved, and there is a chance of suffering in some form of bad quantum immortality, there you can't die. So we can't advocate death as a way to stop sufferings.
  3. Moments before death are often the most emotionally and physically painful for a person. Moreover they often include prolong periods of unbearable pain of unimaginary strong intensity. Cancer patients, death in fire and asphyxiation are known to cause unbearable sufferings.
  4. Death mean that I can't finish all my projects, and I will stop be usefulness as altruist
  5. Death is loosing of information, biggest part of which is unique.
  6. Death is unpredictable by its time and form, and thus is extreme burden for any planning.
  7. Death of relatives create strong and long emotional sufferings.
  1. Conversely, anything negative will also end. If you don't like being depressed, there won't be depression once you're dead. There is full eternity without depression.
  2. I guess you're 2 was a counterargument to my 1. I need some literature on this, I don't quite understand.
  3. Human reactions to impeding doom don't have to reflect on death. Reality doesn't have to conform to our emotional reactions to it, after all. We can only come closer to understanding that reality, and if that requires understanding and accepting one's own mortality, shouldn't that be a priority? I mentioned the source regarding development stages because it seems children do NOT always innately understand death, it is an acquired knowledge, a milestone, according to this theory. So why learn the fear of death, which can cause so much emotional struggle in a person, instead of teaching death's primary result: the termination of gene propagation for an individual.
  4. Agreed.
  5. Again, agreed.
  6. Once more, agreed. though I suppose wills help with such planning to an extent, among other actions.
  7. Conversely, if a relative is suffering from their illness, death can provide for a release from that suffering. This probably ties back into point 2.

Overall, agree that the essay failed to explain why death is bad. It also failed to explain why death is good. Hence it being an essay, it didn't have purpose other than to put thoughts out into the open and rekindle discussion. My intention was to talk, not make claims.

I don't think he was taking a stance on death as he stated the essay may not hold a position in the end.

Whose says death is bad? Only those who believe death is a bad thing.

The perspective of death lies within cultural context. Is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

Also #2, there might be a chance no suffering in some form of quantum immortality. And #3 there are such things as peaceful deaths too. I agree with #4 and #5 though. Losing information draws some setbacks unless their knowledge was recorded somewhere.

Although I am not a Freudian...(different discussion)

He once believed that the basic instincts involved life vs death...Eros vs Thanatos. Freud thought that people who have had rough lives will probably want to suicide but the pleasure principle (life/eros) outweighs the thanatos urges; which then produces this whole war inside a person. He once said "The goal of all life is death"...in his Beyond the Pleasure Principle book 1920. Kind of conflicts with the cryonic people.

Why fight the laws of entropy?