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Can we imagine death?

  1. Jul 1, 2009 #1
    Let's say that there is no afterlife, no reincarnation, nothing but death.
    Can we imagine death?
    Every time you try to think about death, you end up having a thought.
    So what do you think about this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 1, 2009 #2
    In principle, it's not non-existence that's mind-boggling but existence itself. I'd say it's harder to imagine existence than non-existence. Even when one is within it, it's nearly impossible to imagine what this thing really is.
  4. Jul 1, 2009 #3
    I think both are mind-boggling in their own ways.
    Not sure which philosopher came up with the theory, but we could all just be brains sitting in jars, and our whole existence is perceived.
  5. Jul 1, 2009 #4
    I have first hand experience with non-existence.

    In 1991, because of an accident on a play field, i was 3 days in coma in a state between life and death. Since consciousness paints ALL reality and i was totally unconscious you could say that i have experienced nothingness and non-existence. It's feels the same as when you imagine you don't exist. Maybe others have different accounts of their unconscious states, though i'd find it very hard to believe given my direct experience of it.
  6. Jul 1, 2009 #5


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    How a thing really is? There is no reason to assume that there exists a 'correct' perspective which can define a thing how it _really_ is. A thing is what we percieve it as. Properties may be hidden, but the search for properties of an object is never a search to see what a thing really is. A thing can by definition never be seen as anything else than how we percieve it as and as human beings we don't have the privilege of seeing things the 'correct' way.

    It's an interesting question though. How was it like before you were born? By the way, you shouldn't use the word 'death', as it refers more commonly to the act of dying, not being dead.
  7. Jul 1, 2009 #6
    I always imagined an after life, and knew there was one, guess this was dictated by religion, but over the last decade my mind has changed.

    When i hit 16, i lost my dad, and wanted to think there was an after-life, and then as time went on, i got more and more away from thinking there was such thing as life after death.

    Then, i started an Engineering Degree, and i look at the facts and use my new knowledge of physics, chem, and bio to conclude to my-self, how can there be an after-life.

    In simple terms i now think, when you go to sleep at night, the next thing you know is that you have woken up. I think if one was to be frozen and woken up thousands of years later, it would seem instant to that person.

    But, in the back of my mind, i want there to be an after-life, and know one will ever know till it happens, and if nothing happens, you'll never know anyway, thus wont be able to worry or do anything about it.

    Makes me raise the question, whats the point of life?

    My point in life is now my kids, before kids, i dont think i really had one.
  8. Jul 1, 2009 #7

    I said "Even when one is within it, it's nearly impossible to imagine what this thing really is". Beside "nearly impossible", did you see that i used the word "to imagine"? What are you objecting to? You seem to be saying the same thing, i wonder why you'd pick up exactly my comment as if i had stated - "we can know the true nature of existence".

    In truth, one has to acknowledge there is at least a theoretical possibility that we humans can find out the true nature of existence. I'd say time and our self-destructive tendencies are the biggest obstacles that stand in our way.

    Are you saying i should have said " i was 3 days in a coma, in a state between life and non-existence"?

    I admit that I speak English as a 2nd/3rd language(depending on how you count it), but my modest linguistic skills tell me this sentence is correct: "In 1991, because of an accident on a playfield, i was 3 days in a coma, in a state between life and death".

    I have no idea if it's really wrong or simply misleading/ambiguous, but i seem to recall hearing the phrase "between life and death" quite often.

    BTW, I meant that I was on the verge of dying, i.e. that i was close to, as you say, "the act of dying" but it was only a brush with death.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2009
  9. Jul 1, 2009 #8
    Wave jumper, I believe he was talking to me, and I also used this correctly. When people think about death, they think about someone who has died.
  10. Jul 1, 2009 #9
    I reason: I live now and therefore that state most likely will happen again, although maybe in other time, world and as other form of creature. But the "time-space" between this life and next, i.e the state of death OP is asking about will never be perceived at all. So I guess we will subjectively experience an immediate reawakening after death - independently of when and where that reawakening will occur.

    And whatever state we are at as newborns, we will notice nothing special because that is a natural state - like we were as newborn humans. So the answer is: We will notice nothing,
    everything will feel in essence as in this life - although we may look quite different or are not comparable to humans.

    Although logical reasoning as living human may not be applicable to life after death ... o:)
  11. Jul 4, 2009 #10
    Agreed. It's an issue that has kept me awake many a late night since my early teenage years - lying in bed, staring at a dark ceiling, trying to simply justify the existence of existence. I feel a distinct terror or horror when, at a certain point, my mind decides that nothing should be here.

    Then I'll hear the lonely sound of a train horn in the distance, shiver, and fire up the Internet for temporary solace.

    The only way to come close to describing the feeling in words that I have come across is in the words of the great science-ish fiction horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft:

    "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate its contents."

    Lovecraft, unlike horror writers before him, didn't invoke religious demons - his 'monsters' were so otherworldly as to defy human understanding. His description of an otherworldly sleeping-ground for Cthulhu:

    "Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something very close to it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces - surfaces too great to belong to anything right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and hieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it suggests something Wilcox had told me of his awful dreams. He said that the geometry of the dream-place he saw was abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours. Now an unlettered seaman felt the same thing whilst gazing at the terrible reality...

    ...Parker slipped as the other three were plunging frenziedly over endless vistas of green-crusted rock to the boat, and Johansen swears he was swallowed up by an angle of masonry which shouldn't have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse."

    An acute angle that behaves like an obtuse one and swallows a man whole! It is terrifying because it is against all reason.

    That sort of horror is close to what I feel.
  12. Jul 5, 2009 #11


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    Here, whether you imagine it or see it makes no difference as you in the first place assumes that it makes sense to imagine how an object originating from our experience really is. I don't think there is a real disagreement here, however, after reading your comment.

    There is no rational reason to assume an afterlife. The belief of such a thing is considered faith. Faith and belief differs in the way that belief is based on rational reasons and evidence by experience, and faith is a virtue in itself - completely confined to transcendental entities. According to Kierkegaard, faith is less virtous if you find metaphysical reasons to believe it. As a consequence of this, doubt is both a natural and necessary element of faith. Believing something without doubt can therefore not be considered faith. As belief of knowledge about transcendental entities is completely irrational, knowing there is an afterlife is being illusionary.

    Your story is interesting though, and I think it applies to a vast majority of people who goes through what they may call their "enligthening" period. My opinion is however that it is not the knowledge of the mechanical properties of nature in itself that is the reason for the seperation with religous faith, but rather that being exposed to science and logic gives you a scientific and empirical perspective of nature. It is sad, however, how those who would consider themselves more or less naturalists rejects any religous notion based on their perspective. These militant atheists are not any closer to the truth than creationist christians. Both these extremes make the same mistake of forcing one perspective on another.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2009
  13. Jul 5, 2009 #12

    Looking into the dark, feeling our way around the universe, trying to figure out what is going on, forever ignorant about what might lie outside existence. Does it sound like humans?
  14. Jul 5, 2009 #13
    Death is like a dreamless sleep, or a general anesthetic except that you never wake up.
  15. Jul 5, 2009 #14

    I must have woken up, else what am i doing here? Or did i not exist(whatever that means)?
  16. Jul 5, 2009 #15
    That is very interesting. You should be writing new chapters in the Bible.
  17. Jul 5, 2009 #16
    you were alive, but not aware that you were alive.

    but if you are dead, which is simpler: being aware that you are dead, or not aware that you are dead?
  18. Jul 9, 2009 #17
    Questions can exist independently of a questioner.For example, the answer to what does 1 + 1= ? is still 2 even if there are no conscious observers to ask the question. Now, yes, existence is a mind blowing mystery, but so is nothingness! The classic way of emphasizing the mystery is by asking, " why is there something rather than nothing?" However, suppose that nothing exists at all. Then the equally astounding question exists, "Why is there nothing and not something?" Now suppose ( this part is not my thought but I cannot remember the physicist that postulated it) that nothing exists at all, including laws of nature* then anything is possible and so therefore it is possible for something to come into existence! A theory explaining how something can come from nothing!
    * laws of nature define what is possible and what is not possible.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2009
  19. Jul 9, 2009 #18
    However, to get back to the topic of the thread. You are consciousness.Consciousness implies experiences. Death by your definition is the lack of experiences. Therefore, you are asking ,"can someone experience something without experiencing it."This is a meaningless question.
  20. Jul 9, 2009 #19
    This reminds me of my wife's brother when he said," Perhaps there is no explanation for why there is something rather than nothing!" This went against the core of my beliefs. I always believed that everything has an explanation. Sometimes we are not smart enough ( being mere hominids) to ever know the explanation but surly there is an explanation! What would it mean if something had no explanation? Then I remembered that explanations always defer meaning. For example, what is a tooth pick? Wood. What is wood? Cellulose fibers. What is cellulose fibers? Carbon atoms...etc. Note that each time a definition is given another word pops up.* Unless, we accept that word as the ultimate explanation the regress is infinite. But what is a word without a definition? Ultimate meaning is a contradiction in terms. If "ultimate meaning" had an explanation it would not be ultimate ( foundational) meaning. So, why is there something rather than nothing? Ultimately the question is meaningless. It is like asking," Is the number 5 married?":surprised

    *Like the chicken and egg, what comes first, the word or its definition?
  21. Jul 9, 2009 #20
    Perhaps the reason that quantum physics is so weird is that we have reached a foundational definition of matter* and the chain of explanations ( meaning) has finally stopped and we are left with intrinsic mystery!
    * What is matter? Atoms. What are atoms? ..... The chain of definitions has to stop somewhere and when it does by definition there is no more meaning or explanations!
  22. Jul 9, 2009 #21
    The idea that things exist for a reason, makes no sense unless you believe in a higher power.
    Reason, or "why" is a human invention.
  23. Jul 9, 2009 #22
    With respect, you are confusing reason with purpose. The fact that a billiard ball causes another billiard ball to move does not require a God as an explanation.
  24. Jul 9, 2009 #23
    Yes, but that is not a question.
    We are questioning why the universe exists.
    And there is no reason, because "why" is a human idea.
  25. Jul 9, 2009 #24
    Perhaps, I have misunderstood you. I thought that you were saying that as humans we can never know why the universe exists but that God can. I am saying that even God ( if there is one) cannot know why the universe exists because there is no explanation. By universe I am using the definition "everything" this would include God ( if god exists) . One could then say," even God does not know why he/she exists!:surprised

    I am beginning to believe that we are actually in agreement.
  26. Jul 9, 2009 #25
    If we provisionally define God as the foundation of reality ( ultimate meaning) then sense ultimate meaning has no explanation, then God cannot explain himself even to himself! God is a mystery to himself!
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