On Death, Philosophically Speaking


death

It is no secret that everybody dies. The disagreement seems to be on what happens next.

Some people believe their spirits will proceed onto Heaven, Hell, or someplace else. Some believe they will become ghosts. Others think they will re-appear on Earth in different bodies. Many just think they will cease to exist. While I am not qualified to answer these questions, I am capable of discussing them.

The question of survival after death is closely related to the philosophical concept known as the mind-body problem. Philosophers attempt to determine whether the mind is the brain, or something that exists independently of the body itself. Those adhering to religious doctrine would call such an existence the soul.
 
Obviously, if our sensory perceptions and mental functions can exist without dependence on the physical body, then it might be possible for them to live on after the body dies. If not, it is hard for human beings to understand the afterlife concept. Religious doctrines deal with those difficult explanations.

In any event, I ponder how we should feel about death. Should we be terrified? Sorrowful? Should we feel relieved? How about simply remaining indifferent? It would seem to depend on what death is.

Sometimes, when people die, we conclude their suffering has ended, and death was a good thing. Sometimes, we say that the good things have ended upon death. If things are good, then their absence would seem to be bad. If things are bad, their absence would appear to be good.

We all understand that before we were born, we did not exist. Why then should the prospect of nonexistence bother us? That is easy to say, but it sure does not feel the same.

So ponder this, if you will. If we cease to exist upon death, we really have nothing to fear, so what is the big deal. On the other hand, logic tells us that if there is life after death, the prospect of the eventual transformation is a frightening one. 

Personally, I choose to focus on how I live my life. I think that might be all I can do – and it makes me happy.

Comments

  1. We all understand before we were born we did not exist. Hmmmm. I don't understand that at all. I think that energy does not die. People are energy. They existed before they entered this body. They will exist after they exit this body. Interesting that not even everyone has the same universal statements to work on, isn't? However, I do believe the point of it all is living in the now. The only time that we have any power is in the now. We can't change the past. The future has yet to happen. All of our power is RIGHT HERE.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Robin: I probably should have said we did not exist in the same form. I do believe in Einstein's theories on matter, so I guess you are correct. Energy did pre-exist.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Recently, a study of the information contained in strands of DNA was placed in water. This insightful experimentation showed that the information-- alone-- contained in DNA continued to cast readings on a meter used to map electrical activity. The 'body' was not present, but the information persisted in an aqueous solution. (For more on this, the name of the scientist performing the study is Montagnier.)

    I have spent a fair amount of time cogitating on the mind/body 'problem.' I can say with certainty that I don't have a clue about reality. :) But I can also state with intestinal assurance, that, fundamentally, it is good. By all means, bright and observant JJ, relish the life you are leading in this incarnation. I would also throw in the admonition to expect great things past the boundary from which few of us have ever returned. (As for those who have, I speak of the resurrection of Christ, and the couple dozen reanimated bodies that bust out of their graves at the hour of his death as recorded in one of the gospels. John, maybe? Luke?)

    Intriguing post. I quite relished the anticipation of reading it as it came up in the blogroll.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Suze: That makes me happy. We should all ponder our existence, with an eye toward leading a happier life.

    ReplyDelete
  5. For me, death is part of the cycle of life.. After losing a spouse, grandmother, some friends, I think death teaches us what life is and that it is part of the cycle of living... Plants, fish, even building die.. If there wasn't death, there would be no room left on earth- no food, oxygen, water, etc... Science goes on and improves the quality of life, constant learning, experimenting...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh JJ I love how you challenge me to think, it's great!
    When I was a child death was such a difficult concept for me to grasp & accept. I was so very affraid of it. It wasn't that I feared my own death so much but rather losing someone that I loved so dearly, such as my mother. I decided that it was not something I could control & decided not to think about it anymore because in doing so it was making me sick. Today, death is still not something that I choose not to think about. I'd rather concentrate on living. I've experienced death through the loss of others & these experiences have taught me valuable lessons about the purpose of life & living it! I have to believe that there is more after this JJ, there just has to be. I think there is just so much that is unexplained even in life itself for me to totally doubt that there is more.
    I guess I will find out when my last breath is drawn.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Interesting question JJ. I like to think that we live on in the hearts and minds of those we've known and loved and in the additions that we make to human culture and learning. Even if our own part is only small, I think that each of us contributes in our own small way to the sum total of human knowledge and experience, so that even though individuals die, we pass down a culture that endures.

    I also share an optimism that Stephen Hawking has expressed that, as members of a species only just beginning to form some sort of understanding of our place in the Universe, it is an exciting time to be alive.

    ReplyDelete
  8. KBF: I would say you have a pretty good grip on things.

    Kath: We all have those feelings, especially when we are young. I focus on living, and if I were to pass away, I have absolutely no regrets. It's all about how we live our lives, and I am enjoying mine. It is a decision.

    Akseli: Absolutely! That is the meaning of life.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi J.J., I am a Christian, so have no concerns about the afterlife. I agree that it is of supreme importance how we live now. I want to thank you for being one of the few people on this hop faithful enough to post something fresh. This speaks volumes and is greatly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello JJ. Thank you for following my blog. A friend of Judie is a friend of me :). I hope you like the story.

    In a relatively short period I lost two very near familymembers. A period in which thinking of death was inevitably. Partly because I have to cope with the loss off two people who were so important to me in life, I tell myself that their energy surround me now they are dead. Maybe I am fooling myself, but it feels good. One thing I definitly learned is that we life now.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Elizabeth: Thank you so much. It is wonderful to hear from people who have a good grip on things in life. So many folks dwell on depressing situations, when life has so much to offer.

    Dick: Thank you so much for following. It is a tough subject. I don't think you are fooling yourself at all. There is an energy out there.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I found Suze's comment to be quite fascination, and I plan to investigate it. My views on religion have changed quite drastically over the years, and I find myself approaching the mystery of just what happens to us when we die from a scientific viewpoint.

    There is an old wives tale that a window should always be opened in the room of a dying person, so the soul can fly away.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It is interesting to me that Buddha refused to speculate about things such as how the world came about, and what life after death is like. I believe he felt no-one could ever know for sure how life began and what the after-life would be like. He was more concerned with dealing with the practical problem of living in the here and now. I tend to agree with that philosophy. - Live in the moment and treat others as you would be treated' we will all be gone soon enough.
    joanny

    ReplyDelete
  14. Judie: I have read such scientific studies. Let us know what you find.

    joanny: I do like living in the moment, and I have studied much of Buddha's philosophy. It is interesting to me that while most people believe that Buddhism is a religion, I don't think Buddha saw his teachings in that way.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hmmm.... I used to believe in heaven, then i thought maybe reincarnation. Then i got cancer and decided to focus on living instead of dying or being dead....

    Works well for me!

    Thanks
    Great post!
    Leontien

    ReplyDelete
  16. JJ, I just started reading a very interesting book called Anam Cara, by John O'Donohue, and there is a part that talks about death as an ultimate companion and forging a friendship with it. Interesting perspective!
    Anyway, although I disagree with what you said about us not existing before we were born (I believe we have always existed, even before gaining a body, as intelligences or "souls," as you said), I completely agree with your final point, that it matters how we live! If we really try to do our very best toward ourselves and our fellow men we won't have anything to worry about in the life to come. The only hard part are the ones left behind, missing their loved one.
    Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

    ReplyDelete
  17. Miriam: The book sounds very interesting indeed. I will pick it up for summer reading - right after Meatless Meals!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Leontien: A great perspective!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Looking at the other comments, I noticed that I might look at this in some different AND similar ways.
    When I was growing up, there just was no time or peace in my life enough to allow for the luxury of thinking about something like death. I did however find it strange that adults always seemed preoccupied with age and dying. That's when I came up with the idea that those who worried about getting older were silly because, after all, "what's the alternative?"

    Only recently have I begun to consider what there might really be after this life on earth, but much like you and your readers I am more concerned with making sure I enjoy what is here right now. Yet death is sometimes the catalyst for how that appreciation comes about.

    On a related note: I do not totally understand everything involved in it, but I do have a love for the idea of entropy and that kind of explains what I might consider for how I relate to life and death.

    ReplyDelete
  20. YRJ: I avoid politics and religion as much as I can on my blogs because I respect everyone's views and I concentrate on the positive, while avoiding confrontations. However, this is one of those subjects where science and religion clash, so it's almost impossible to balance the equities here. I did notice that my readers have done an excellent job separating the two concepts.

    All that being said, I do accept thermodynamics as a science. If Einstein was correct, matter cannot be destroyed, just transformed. If you burn a log, it does not disappear. It changes into a gaseous form. If water evaporates, it still exists. Why then should we not do the same?

    ReplyDelete
  21. I asked my mother when she was dying how she felt about it. She said she was "curious." I liked that.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Galen: What a terrific summary to this post!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Other Works by JJ Botta

My books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and numerous Bookstores. Amazon.com AND Barnes and Noble

Mystery

Mystery

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon!