Death, Nothingness, Subjectivity

03 Nov 2021 06:23 - 26 Nov 2022 03:17
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    • Oh this appeared in a volume edited by Daniel Kolak of I Am You. That makes sense I guess.
    • To Chapman (unsent I think)

      • Alithough I pointed you to this paper, I have to say on reading it closely I did not like it. It rests on a really crude kind of reading, taking metaphorical attempts to describe death and then pointing out that they aren't literally true.
      • In developing a plausible alternative, my operating assumptions and guiding philosophy will be resolutely naturalistic, materialist, and non-dualist. I assume only a single universe of interconnected phenomena, a universe devoid of souls, spirits, mental essences, and the like. In particular, persons, on this account, are not possessed of any essential core identity (an indivisible self or soul)
        • I'm starting to doubt these assumptions. I mean, yeah, it sounds great: science and Buddha agree, there is no self, no fixed identity, we are just collections of reflexes and dispositions. Well, the collectivity that calls itself "me", right now, the one with the job and house and family and social security number, says, you can't just do that. I assert myself.
        • But OK, I largely agree. There such things as persons, but they are without an essential identity.
      • "When I die I won't go to heaven or hell, there will just be nothingness." Asimov's naturalistically based skepticism about heaven or hell is common among secularists... but he commits an equally common fallacy in his blithe assumption about nothingness, namely that it could "be." By substituting nothingness for heaven and hell, Asimov implies that it awaits us after death. Indeed the word itself, with the suffix "ness," conjures up the strange notion of "that stuff which does not exist."
      • "It might be nice to believe such a theory, but isn't the truth starker? This life is the only existence there is; afterward there is nothing." Although he probably doesn't mean to, with these words Nozick may suggest to the unwary that "nothing" is something like a state into which we go and never return
        • Actually he doesn't do that at all, he doesn't say "we enter into nothingness" or somesuch, he says there is nothing, which is as close as you can get to accurate without abandoning the constraints of grammar. I suppose a more accurate form would be, the sum total of my personal experience is bounded in time, it had a definite start and a definite end. Between \(t_{birth}\) and \(t_{death}\), there was me; after \(t_{death}\), no more me, as it was before \(t_{birth}\).
      • The Burgess example is a lot more on-point.
      • Although the fear of death is undoubtedly biological and hence unavoidable to some extent, the fear of nothingness, of the black abyss, can be dealt with successfully. This involves seeing, and then actually feeling, if possible, that your death is not the end of experience. It is the end of this experiencer most definitely, but that end is not followed by the dying of the light. Experience, I will argue, is quite impervious to the hooded figure who leads his unwilling charges into the night.
      • For the subject, awareness is constant throughout life; the "nothingness" of unconsciousness cannot be an experienced actuality.
        • This seems unobjectionable but I'm going to object anyway. Awareness is not constant, every night we enter an altered state of consciousness that is a complete disruption of daytime consciousness.
      • His point may be that the world continues without us:
        • The second question ("What's next?") is a little trickier, because, unless we suppose that my death is coincident with the end of the entire universe, we can't responsibly answer "nothing." Nothing is precisely what can't happen next. What happens next must be something, and part of that something consists in various sorts of consciousness. In the very ordinary sense that other centers of awareness exist and come into being, experience continues after my death. This is the something (along with many other things) which follows the end of my particular set of experiences.
        • As I tried to make clear above, subjectivities--centers of awareness--don't have beginnings and endings for themselves, rather they simply find themselves in the world...Of course we know that they are not always in place from an objective standpoint, but their own non-being is never an experienced actuality for them.
        • That is interesting. Maybe he is saying that a person seen from outside has a beginning and and end, but from the inside does not. Which is kind of true, if not for the fact that we can reflect on ourselves, that is, see ourselves (with distortions) from the outside.
        • I propose that we should anticipate the subjective sense of always having been present, experienced within a different context, the context provided by those subjectivities which exist or come into being.
        • This is coming close to the I Am You theory that there is just one person.
        • So when I say that you should look forward, at death, to the "subjective sense of always having been present," I am speaking rather loosely, for it is not you--not this set of personal characteristics--that will experience "being present." Rather, it will be another set of characteristics (in fact, countless sets) with the capacity, perhaps, for completely different sorts of experience. But, despite these (perhaps radical) differences, it will share the qualitatively very same sense of always having been here, and, like you, will never experience its cessation.