Against Death (On the dogmatism that death exists)

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RELATED ARTICLE: What does it take to believe in death?

Death is one of the biggest agonies of humans.

And as such, it dictates our life in ways we do not even realize.

Philosophers and common people alike have been contemplating death for millennia and we are destined to do so for as much as we exist in this world. For living, DYING is the one thing that can cause terror and destroy our temporary happiness. For those who exist, DEATH is the one thing that makes them realize that they will not exist for ever and, thus, makes them aware of their ephemeral nature. Regardless of the philosophical ideas for death that each one of us have, one thing we all share in common: Our BELIEF IN DEATH.

No matter what we think about it though, we never question its existence!

Harmonia Philosophica has already mentioned in multiple articles how dogmatism can hinder our vision even when things are clear, let alone when things are obscure as in the case of death. The main article related to Death and its non-existence has the elaborate title “What does it take to believe in death?” and it summarizes the main beliefs that are the foundation for the existence of death itself. This article is an attempt to re-examine the case of the dogmatism in favor of death that transcends our civilization and give the final blow to the dogma of death. Note that this article will be constantly updated with new ideas.

The foundations of our belief in Death

Without further delay, let us examine the major dogmas that lie at the foundation of our belief in death:

Notion of Change: We believe things can change. This may sound weird since we obviously see things changing, yet Parmenides would argue fiercely against this naive belief. How can an object change and still stay the same? If an apple changes to something else, is it still an apple? Believe it or not (pun intended) the notion of Change is something under discussion in philosophy. And guess what: Without Change, there is no death…

Notion of Identity: What is an apple? How do we know it is still *that apple* after it has decayed? Who am I? Who are you? How do we still know it is *you* even after you have changed way of thinking, way of walking, or even something as simple as your haircut? How can I still be *me* if all my human body cells get replaced about six times during my lifetime? And yes, your guess correctly: Without a way to identify a person (i.e. to also identify that this person has seized to exist), there is no death…

Notion of Time: There is a huge debate about Time and whether it exists or not. Is it part of reality or just an arbitrary notion we invented based on our limited perception of the world? Einstein was famous is saying “People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. His theories anyway portrayed time as just another dimension. Meaning that as we can easily get from Athens to Paris (3 spatial dimensions) we can easily (well, not now but perhaps in the future) go from Time point A to Time point B by taking our personal time machine. If that is the case, then Death is essentially not we have been fearing about. We can always visit our great-great-great-grandfather when needed and get his advise… And perhaps we do go back in time to when humans did not believed so much in this stubborn illusion we call “time”, but in immortality…

Notion of Nothingness: This is weird, but still one of the foundations of our belief in Death. We firmly believe that there are things that exist and things that do not exist. This belief is so fundamentally hardcoded into our thinking that we barely think about it. Parmenides though thought a lot about it. How can we even speak about something that does not exist?, he asked. And there is not an easy answer to that simple question. The implications of the above should be clear enough by now. What is death without the possibility of not-being?

Dogma of Materialism: This is another big dogma that underlies almost all humans to-day. And it is a crucial belief that supports our belief in Death. Materialism dictates that everything in the world is made of matter (hence the name). Thus, it is easy to conclude that when the matter that makes a human body seizes to function then we have seized to Be. Yet, there are many things that are left unanswered by such a worldview. Materialism is a dogmatic philosophical belief and a rather old one to be honest. Harmonia Philosophica has multiple articles against materialism – feel free to search for them. In summary, materialism has many gaps that disprove it. Belief in that dogma is more a matter of blind faith than a matter of scientific knowledge. And once more, the implications for our belief in death are devastating: Without our belief in Materialism our belief in Death is purely a matter of… choice.

Belief in our self (Metaphysical ignorance and arrogance): This is a largely ignored fact when we discuss about death. Our ignorance of basic metaphysical matters is so profound that it makes our dogmatic belief in death and its meaning almost comical. We claim to know what death is and yet we do not now what life is, we do not know what existence is, we do not know what Being is. Yet, we are arrogant enough to claim that we know what Death is! We believe so much into our self and the knowledge we have acquired up to know, that we are stupid enough to claim things regarding death without even knowing the basics for life. We should at least follow the example of Socrates who boldly admitted that we does not know what death is, if we want to be honest to our self. It may sound weird but our belief in our self and our capabilities to understand the cosmos has also lead (literally) to our death!

Philosophy is all about questioning everything.

Science is also all about questioning everything.

And yet, when it comes to one of the most important facets of our life – death – we forget that. And we blindly accept multiple dogmas in our urge to claim that we “know”. But we do not know.

Question your dogmas!

You may not be brave enough to believe in your immortality…

At least be coward enough not to believe in death…

There is no Death! (A child, a brain map and a coincidence?)

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‘No death’ brain map

Harmonia Philosophica has already published articles for the use of brain maps to solve the great philosophical problems of humankind. Check the relative article here.

In summary, the ‘Truth Puzzles’ in Harmonia Philosophica are nothing more than simple brain maps with all the major elements of philosophy (life, death, existence, being, God, truth, phenomena, faith, self, others, knowledge, thinking, consciousness, nothingness, One). Every once in a while we try to draw one new Truth Puzzle (brain map) with all these elements and put random connections between them to indicate the relationship between them. For example an arrow drawn from God to Existence could indicate that God is the source of existence. The connections could be without arrows or with bi-directional arrows as well. There are no rules.

But how are the Truth Puzzles filled in? Based on what thought? Based on what principles?

That is the beauty of it!

The connections in the brain maps are filled in randomly as the writer of the brain map sees fit!

There are no principles!

No thinking!

But could such a random process produce any meaningful result? one might ask…

Sure it can!

Why shouldn’t it?

We know so little about life, death, existence and all the other elements of philosophy, that thinking has not managed to bring us any inch closer to the truth, if such thing ever exists. Our best shot in finding the ‘solution’ to the great philosophical problems of humankind is to just start drawing lines in random based on our instinct or just based on… nothing! Who knows? One of those Truth Puzzles could hold the answer we have been searching for since Plato. And if non-thinking sounds weird to you, read related articles in Harmonia Philosophica about non-thinking (with the tag ‘against thinking’ or ‘non-thinking’) and you will understand what we are talking about here. In short, structured thinking is as good as the principles on which it is based upon. And our thinking about the abovementioned elements of philosophy is based on pure ignorance.

But let us go back to the point at hand.

One day I asked from a child to fill in a brain map. I had entered all the elements and just asked from the child to fill in the relationships between ALL the elements of the Truth Puzzle with whatever way it saw fit.

The child liked the game and started filling in the brain map relationships.

When it finished, it gave the brain map back to me.

To my amazement, this is what it had handed over…

‘No death’ brain map (Truth Puzzle)

The child had put relationships (arrowless relationships to be exact – but having arrows was never a requirement) between all elements of the Truth Puzzle.

Except for one.

The element of ‘Death’ was omitted from the relationships!

After discussing we found out that this was done because the left hand of the child was on top of the ‘Death’ word while filling in the puzzle, something that by itself does not reduce the importance or the amazement element of the coincidence (I would rather say that it increases it, if we see this as a more fundamental way in which the ‘Death’ element was hidden completely from the eyesight of the child). A coincidence that it could alone be the topic of a separate dedicated article. I am sure Jung would be very much interested in such a coincidence had he came upon such.

Yet, I am not talking about the coincidence of omitting only the ‘Death’ element from the Truth Puzzle. What I am talking about is something much more fundamental: The child did not use all the elements in the brain map even though it was told to do so! This might sound mundane to you, but it not. We constantly make assumptions in our thought and based on these assumptions we produce more thoughts. We deduce conclusions, we derive theorems, we build science and cultivate philosophy. However we keep on forgetting that our assumptions are here only to be questioned and replaced by new ones at our own free will!

In the Truth Puzzles I created I made the assumption that all these great words (Truth, Death, Life, Existence, …) should all somehow be connected with each other.

A random (and beautiful) coincidence reminded me of the need to be more vigilant of my own dogmatism. I should never take for granted rules that I myself invented.

This applies to me, to you, to all philosophers, to all scientists, to all thinkers, to all humans. We should constantly question the obvious and make irrational thoughts. Only the irrational is free enough to actually produce valid results without the need for unfounded assumptions.

At the end, I am not certain whether there Death does not exist.

But from now on, I will also keep in mind that I do not know whether Death exists either…

Related Articles

What does it take to believe in death?

Many people discuss about the human spirit and the possibility of it being immortal and surviving the physical death of our body. However those discussions and efforts are based on the wrong presumption that “immortality” is what has to be proved, and not “death”…

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Prologue

This text is an article that tries to show how many philosophical dogmas are under the (common) belief that “death” actually exists. The parts of the article were first published in the Harmonia Philosophica @ Blogger philosophy portal and can be found also there.

Part I [2010-12-05]

Many people talk about “immortality” and try to show why the human soul is not destroyed after the death of the physical body. Many people try to articulate arguments in favor of the idea that an “immortal” spirit exist, which continues to “be” even after the physical brain stops functioning. However those discussions and efforts are based on the wrong presumption that “immortality” is what has to be proved, and not “death”.

Many people today take many things for granted. Our time is characterized by an arrogant belief in a materialistic point of view for everything, according to which only what modern physics and chemistry claims to be true is actually true. The opinions of philosophers – and especially of those who lived many years ago – are not taken into account by many. However things are not so simple.

In order to believe in “death”, i.e. in the complete extinction of the human spirit after the physical body stops functioning, you must believe in a series of dogmas that are still under debate between philosophers. In order to believe in “death”, you must believe in the existence of differences between objects (something with which Parmenides would disagree), you must believe in the existence of the notion of “change” (something with which Zenon and Parmenides would disagree), you have to believe in the existence of the notion of “time” (something with which even many modern scientists would disagree)…

Part II [2010-12-17]

The concept of Change

What does it mean for something or someone to “change”? How can something change? If it changes, doesn’t it become a different “something”? How can we change every second, but still remain the same person? The most simple questions are the hardest ones. What is evident seems to hold the key to the most serious underlying dogmas that define our thought… If death is also a change we undergo, why do we think that change results in something so drastic as…complete extinction? As I said in the The Extinct Fish that Reappeared Philosophy Wire, everything is a matter of definion. And we should re-examine our definitions if we want to really mature spiritually. If we cannot really tell how something can actually “change”, then maybe the simplest childish answer that comes to our mind is the correct one: things do not change!

Part III [2010-12-19]

The concept of Identity

Besides the belief in the notion of Change we analyzed in the Second Part above, believing in the notion of death (in a way that means the complete extinction of our body and spirit from the world) also requires someone to believe in the notion of “Identity” as well. To believe that someone is dead means that you believe you can actually tell when this someone is himself and when he has seized being himself, i.e. when he has “died”. When someone dies we understand he has changed and he is not who we knew he was: he does not talk, he does play, he does not interact the way he did (the false belief in the notion of Time will be analyzed below, so we can still use past and present tense here). When we think we “know” someone we attribute to him certain characteristics. We know a friend of us is who he is because he talks in a specific way. But what if he changes the way he talks? Will he not be the same? We know he is the same because he thinks in a certain way – in “his” way. But what if he changes his way of thinking? Will he not be the same? We know he is the same because he has a specific birth mark on his arm. But that if he removes that? Will he not be the same? We know the is the same because he has specific hair. But what is he changes them? Will he not be the same? We know he is the same because he has a specific set of cells in his organism as all individuals do. But human cells are continuously replaced (even the cells in our brain), about six (6) times during our whole lifetime. Are we not the same after the changes in our cells? We know someone is the same because he lives. But what if he stops living? Is he not the same anymore? Dying is part of who we are and “knowing” someone means knowing his death as well. The point is, that we do not have a specific way to know when someone is someone and not someone else! We cannot tell the identity of someone (or something) and we certainly  do not have specific ways to tell when someone has stopped being! The limits we set with respect to the “identity” of a person are not based on something solid. The simple phrase “he has died” implies that we know those limits, while in reality those limits do not even exist…

But what about Time itself? Our belief for death is based on our belief in the existence of time per se. There can be no death, i.e. discontinuation of existence from a point in time onwards, without time itself existing and transcending our world. But time is a very elusive notion, that is even questioned by scientists (let alone philosophers, who have the tendency to question everything). Einstein is famous for saying “People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”… And death can only exist in a world where people still believe in this stubborn illusion…

Epilogue

All antinomies that mathematics or modern science discovers, are based on things we take for granted but we should not. After exploring some things we must have as axioms in order to believe in death, the most basic being the notion of “Change” and the notion of “Time”, we must now move on… And we can do that only by denying all “truths” that we now think “are”, we can only do that if we are irrational. Because “rationality” is based on axioms and only by discarding all axioms can someone reach the truth (if it even exists and this word is not another “axiom” we believe in). Truth is related to “Being” and anything like “being based on axioms” is far away from its real essence. We must base our conclusions on what we “know” and not on what we “understand” (see Harmonia Philosophica [English] for the difference between those and how all antinomies can be merged philosophically into One Reality). And what we know is that we “are”. Where did the idea that we will sometime “stop being” come from? Because certainly no-one “not being” could come that tip us off. And certainly no-one had any experience of “not being” so as to formulate and spread the idea… Where did we learn of things that “are not”? Because certainly no person could have experience of such a thing… And certainly no-one can think of something that is “not”… So where did the notion of “death” come from? In the past, primitive people buried their dead and put food with the bodies. They “knew” that life did not end with death. In the past, alchemists “knew” that everything had a living force in it. It is important to know and understand that the distinction between “living organisms” and “things” was made on the years of Kepler by the “new” science of the days: mathematics could be applied for the first time so as to predict the movement of planets, but in order to do that a great assumption should be made. An assumption so great and so fundamental, that actually changed the way we think for ever. The assumption was “simple”: there *must* exist “living things” and “non-living things”, with mathematics being applied only to the latter. This defined almost everything from thereon. Ask a modern physicist to find “man” in the Universe and he will have a hard time. Because the “Universe” is a complex set of things – there is no room for humans with consciousness in it… Ask a modern biologist to explain to you the difference between particles organized into living matter and particles forming a “non-living” object. He will have a hard time explaining, because a model which is defined as void of consciousness, cannot suddenly “discover” consciousness… Bohr characterized Pauli’s theory for the fourth quantum number as “crazy” and by that he meant “correct” (see “Yung, Pauli – The phsychoanalyzer, the physicist and number 137”). The best way out of a dead-end is to stop seeing the dead-end, as a crazy person would do. As William James said, “what we want to think is what is”. And what we have hard time explaining may have a simple solution: maybe the distinction we cannot explain does not even exist… Is it a coincidence that everything related to “not being” cannot be explained easily? Time, change, the problem of identity, the problem of life… Everything is hard to explain. Everything is hard to define. But yet, our very being is dependent on those ideas… Pythagoras talked about Harmonia and one cannot find harmonia if he believes in things that entail the “end of being”. What “is” cannot suddenly “stop being” and vice versa, without destroying harmonia… As philosophy turned into exact science, humans turned into objects. We must stop believing we are mere objects if we are to fulfill our destiny as humans. When in a Universe void of consciousness, consciousness appears as a candle in the dark, one can stick to the fact that this light will someday fade out. But this is a very shortsighted view… Another one might stick to the fact that this candle came from somewhere, produced its flame from an energy that surrounds the cosmos and shed its light everywhere… How can such a candle die out? We must try to just listen and go with the music of the cosmos, rather than trying to “understand” everything…

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