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Why does one fear death?

  1. Sep 16, 2005 #1
    First, there are no religion specifics here anywhere. It is simply a question by philosophical reasoning.

    To me and many others, this seems the most important question that one can make a decision on, in duration of their life. And I have not seen this type of question in here yet. And I would like to ask, do you fear death? If you do, why? Because of uncertainty? Well let me ask you this.

    While assuming (using logically reasoning) that there are two possible paths after death, one being that you cease to exist, the other being able to think without being "alive"....

    Hypothetically, someone does not believe in a creator. He believes he will cease to exist and not be able to think any longer once his body disintegrates from functioning. Logically, he should not fear death, and any entity with this given fate should not fear death.

    The other path, being that you think outside of the universe. There is another "fork" in the road (assuming many religions are correct). A path of great happiness, etc. Or a place to feel only pain and seperation from our creator.

    So, what have you done to cope with the inherent uncertainty with your inevitable death? What kind of philosophical thought process have you done to make that decision.

    This topic seems most relevant.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2005 #2
    I would even go further than that. I believe most of our behaviour is driven by our attitude towards death. Which only seems logical, since death is the only certainty we have.

    Through most of human history, death was seen as a natural part of life. In our modern "scientific" age, death is an embarassing reminder that progress doesn't mean much, so people avoid the subject like the plague.

    I was once on an airplane and something happened which made everyone aboard think we were about to crash. It was the most dramatic moment in my life. During the episode I only had two thoughts: "so this is how my life will end, that's interesting" and "I feel so sorry for my wife, she's going to become a widow at such a young age". Never for a moment I felt afraid of what would happen to me.

    It seems almost everyone who comes close to death realizes there's nothing to fear. I think the so-called fear of death is actually the fear of something entirely different.

    Well, I have three life-insurance policies; that takes care of all problems that can be taken care of. The other problems are not up to me so I don't have to worry about those either.

    Really, the best way I found to cope with uncertainty is to realize I don't have to worry about it. If it is something I can control, it's not uncertain; if I can't control, there's no point worrying about. But I didn't come to understand that easily, it took me years and years.

    I don't think it can be called philosophy, I just tried to learn about as many things as I could. And religion was the subject that gave me the best understanding of life, that helped me understand why I don't have to worry about many things. But religion is a difficult subject, you either get it or you don't, it can't be explained. Even though I have in a way or another been religious all my life, it was only in recent years that I really understood what it is about, and why it is the most important subject one has to learn in life.
  4. Sep 16, 2005 #3
    "To die would be an awfully big adventure" - Peter Pan :biggrin:
  5. Sep 16, 2005 #4
    One fears death as surely as another seeks it. One fearing death is just what one does, others do differently and dance with death on a daily basis. One must keep death entertained, or else death will ask for a more substantive contribution.
  6. Sep 17, 2005 #5
    Death is a thing I've thought a lot about in my existential stage..
    I'm still kind of afriad of dying, not being dead though.
    It doesn't sound too pleasant to lie there feeling your heart stopping, your breath taken away from you and life sucked out of you..
    However I hear when you die the brain releases a chemical I can't remember the name of, and it's supposed to be the best high ever.
    That could only be a rumor though.

    I don't fear being dead, I don't remember much from before i was born, because I wasn't conscious ;P
    However, what I fear the most is losing my loved ones, and losing the ability to live.
    For example I don't like the idea of never being conscious again, ever in infinity.
    Which means I have about 80 years(am I lucky) in the entire existence of the universe, to do my thing.
    This is so infinitely small it's not even funny.
    So I can do 2 things, 1. contribute to the furthering of society so my name can be remembered through the ages, and 2. live a full life where I accomplish all my goals and do everything I want to do with my life.

    That's pretty much all I can do, while I'm here.
    On that note, I'll just say I'm so immensely grateful for being born, and being able to be conscious in this universe, and I'd much rather be alive and go through the process of dying, than to never have been alive to begin with, which helps a lot and makes me not so scared of death.
  7. Sep 17, 2005 #6
    Death does not exist as a thing. Only life exists as a thing. A thing that does not exist cannot be feared. When you die you have loss of a thing called life, not the gain of a thing called death.
  8. Sep 18, 2005 #7


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    Well, we all fear big things that happen to us, in general. Death is a pretty big deal if you ask me. A rather traumatic experience for sure. It's the most important thing that ever happens to someone besides being born. Death should be feared (not afraid of necessarily, just feared) by every living thing.
  9. Sep 18, 2005 #8
    Perhaps just sematics or I am looking at this topic too abstractly, but "death" should not be feared, but I would agree that "loss of life" may be feared (but may not--some for example hasten the process--called suicide). My point is: "death" does not = "loss of life", they differ fundamentally, the second exists as a thing, the first does not. The initial post asked if I fear death--I do not--and I am not sure if I fear "loss of life", it sort of goes with the saying "s--- happens". :yuck:
  10. Sep 19, 2005 #9
    I disagree Rade.
    Death is something, it's the end of life, but it's also a process, namely dying.
    SO it doesn't really matter how you put it, because after you lose your life, you are dead.

    If you want to go really deep, you can say that death itself is a state.
    The lungs shut down, the heart stops and the brain ceases to be conscious, but the body and all its objects is still there, meaning the body has changed from one state to another.
    Meaning.. The body was alive and is now dead.

    It's pure semantics subjectively if you want to say "loss of life" or "death".
  11. Sep 19, 2005 #10
    I think the reason one fears death is that it was coded into us biologically. Just like many other natural instincts that a human has, fearing death is just one of them. Making us fear death is natures way of forcing us to avoid it.
  12. Sep 22, 2005 #11
    heres a question for you all, would you want to live forever? and the fear of death i a big fear of the unknown, just like a job interview for the first time, or going to a new school, the difference is you have some one who has been there and done that telling you it would be ok. You will find the more spiritual a person is, the less they fear death, when the time comes, the time comes.... all science needs is an electronic device to speak to the dead and find out!!!!
  13. Sep 24, 2005 #12


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    I'll second that, adding that I do not think the big world religions threatening with Hell for eternety if one does not believe; it certaintly haven't helped.

    There are though, people who take death very camly,

    see www.exit.ch (You got to read swiss-german to understand it, it is a suicide clinic.)
  14. Sep 24, 2005 #13
    Its the fear of the unknown.

    Some people reason that they are not scared because everyone must face the same fate. Using this line of reasoning, a person should not be scared of being slowly tortured to death if everyone is tortured to death.
  15. Sep 24, 2005 #14
    I am afraid to die because I truly value living. I believe once I am gone my universe is gone. The universe may still exist, but to me it is gone completely. I will no longer be able to think. I just can't imagine nothing. The closest thing I can relate it to is sleeping, but even that is far from the mark. An eternal sleep of emptiness even my thoughts cannot penetrate.

    I believe anyone who values thier life should fear death. If you don't fear death you will be careless. Careless like the idiots I see on my way to work every morning driving with little regard for anyone much less themselves. I care about my life and other lives around me. I sit back and think about people, about thier daily lives and the people they care about.

    I had an interesting scenario happen to me just yesterday. I met a couple friends at Caesarland with thier kids. I happened to get there when they were about to leave. We decided to head over to a park. We get outside to my friends car and some guy in a truck parked a little slanted. Mind you this was a very minor inconvenience. My friend just blew up saying stuff like "I should key the shyt outta this car." I had to tell her to calm down and realize what she was saying. She didn't care about that other persons life at all. She blatantly wanted to ruin the guys property over a slight parking mishap that didn't hurt anybody. I had to give her a long speech on over reacting lol.

    That kind of mentality really frustrates me. I know a lot of people get bent out of shape over the most ridiculous stuff. Little things make people risk thier lives or damage others lives. It is insane, but that is the mentality in this day and age.
  16. Sep 25, 2005 #15


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    This kind of mentaility you can find in upper and upper-middle class people. They think they are relative kings, anyone wasting there time or irretates them should have a grusome punishment, just as a king did when met disrespect in the midages.
  17. Sep 25, 2005 #16
    I find among the philosophical community it is cool or trendy not to fear death...
  18. Sep 25, 2005 #17
    I have noticed that too :eek: Why do you think this is so?
  19. Sep 25, 2005 #18

    I am not sure. I am studying philosophy at university and this is the message I get from my fellow students as well as faculty...
  20. Sep 26, 2005 #19
    I think they like to believe they have all the answers.
  21. Sep 27, 2005 #20
    Why does one fear death?
    'Fear', of anything, is born of ignorance.

    I explain what I mean below. Before going off 'half-cocked' please take the time to read my explanation. Argue that if you choose... This doesnt adequately state my opinion, after further thought. Hence, the 'below'.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2005
  22. Sep 27, 2005 #21
    So you are saying that I fear death because I am ignorant. Unfortunately everyone else is as ignorant as I am.

    So why do I fear jumping off The Empire State Building? Is it because I am ignorant or is it because I don't want to die?

    Why am I afraid to get bit by a cobra? Is it because I have no education and simply don't know what will happen, or is it because I know the consequences and would rather not experience them?

    I think it is a little bold to declare that fear of anything is due to ignorance.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2005
  23. Sep 27, 2005 #22
    I think that it is highly unlikely that 'everyone else' possesses the same quantity and quality of ignorance in exactly the same areas as you do, don't you? It seems that you are making a rather rash statement about 'everyone else', so, I'll let it be. Suffice to say that there are many people who will tell you that they have no 'fear' of 'death'.

    So, yes, I'm saying that you fear death because you are ignorant of a particular 'thing'.

    Let me digress a moment to forestall a 'defensive reaction' to being called 'ignorant'. Ignorance is just an area where we have little or no 'data'.
    I am completely ignorant of the Tamil language.
    Ignorance is not 'bad' in and of itself, except where survival is concerned, I guess. ('Willfull ignorance', I think, is called 'stupidity' by some.) So if I say that you are ignorant of something, that is merely an observation, not a value judgement. Being aware of one's ignorance is the beginning of knowledge. Everyone is ignorant of something. As data is gained, ignorance dissipates.

    Could it be your ignorance of 'death' that causes you to fear 'death', therefore deliberately avoiding it? To one extent or another, some spend so much of their lives 'avoiding death' that they have never even 'lived'! Living life and avoiding death are NOT the same. Why not stay off of the roads? Stay out of boats? Never leave the house? Where does it end? Is this rational? Healthy?

    I think I'm focusing in on the problem here.
    If you are living in the 'moment', as opposed to living in a fantasy (imagined) future, full of unknowns (and bogeymen) that might make us dead, if we were 'here/now', we could not fear. Fear is the anticipation of... whatever, death, pain leading to death, heights, spiders, whatever.. There can be no 'fear' if your consciousness, your awareness, is maintained in the only place you can really exist anyway.. 'here/now'.

    Perhaps, this is where the 'ignorance' comes from. 'Not knowing' that fear is the result of attachment to a hallucination, the 'future', and being 'ignorant' of the 'solution' of that 'fear'.

    Using your cobra example, if one were in the moment, one knows that it is 'counterproductive' to allow oneself to be bitten by anything. One knows that a cobra bite will be damaging to one's health. Avoiding being bitten is as helpful and natural as the knowledge that smoking is detrimental to one's health. We don't have to 'fear' smoking, just don't smoke. So, walking through the jungle, enjoying the cool of the evening, the vibrant verdancy of the living things, when suddenly a cobra 'rears' and prepares to strike. One can turn, jump back, and remove oneself from dangerous range.. One can catch the snake in mid-strike and 'relocate' him. One can then continue on one's way. No attachments to the 'past' or the 'future', and as there is no quick, immediate action required, continue along one's peaceful way, enjoying the cool of the evening... Where would 'fear' enter into this scenario? Where can it?

    Live each moment fully, as if it were your last. One moment will be your last. Show's over. Or not. Either way.. where can fear slip into your life now/here? There is no room for it to enter any longer. The enterances (past and future) have been sealed.

    This is how to live without fear.
    Thanx for being kind.
    But, I'll reword my original 'too bold statement' to say that 'fear' is a result of being attached to fantasies of the 'future' and the 'past', instead of living in the only place that even comes close to a 'reality', Here/Now!

    Our ignorance, is that we are not living in the moment. 'Fear' is the result of our 'expectations' not the actuality of the Present.
    Am I making sense?
  24. Sep 28, 2005 #23
    Thats about the level of thought of a kid in highschool who takes a philosophy class for an elective and tries to be a philosopher....without any true philosophical thought.

    This goes along with what I said earlier, it is "cool" or trendy not to fear death.

    Among what I call the psuedophilosophical groups, it is also "cool" and trendy to oversimplify emotions as being derived from something cut and dry, instead of the complexities that psychology tells us is the reality.

    Fear, of anything, is born of anything. It can be born of complete ignorance, willfully or not willfully, or be born of complete knowledge and even partial knowledge.
  25. Sep 28, 2005 #24
    Well, you've sure shown me!
    That you are capable of a juvenile dismissal of something you don't agree with (if you are even capable of understanding what I said) and an ad hominem attack.
    Well, you sure told me off!

    Now, are you capable of contributing anything of value?

    Care to back up your problems and dismissal of the truth that I have shared, with actually thought out words and sentences? You can take your complicated psychology and sit on it. If, what I shared about being in the 'Here/Now' doesn't make sense to you, the lack is yours. It is simple, to say. Actually doing it takes a bit of practice.

    Any 'thought process' involved besides your unsupported ass-ertions?
    Fear born of knowledge? Are you serious? How old are you 19?
    If you read my subsequent post above, I explain exactly what I am talking about. If there is something you have trouble understanding, I'd be happy to speak a bit slower for you.

    Otherwise, I've already wasted too much time with you.

    Fortunately, there are others reading this that arent as 'challenged' as you seem to be.

    And perhaps a bit more mature..
    Good luck in school..
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2005
  26. Sep 28, 2005 #25
    You are correct. I am very capable of dismissing a juvenile/childish notion of human emotion.

    Now run along with your adolescent ideas of philosophy.

    " 'fear', of anything, is born of ignorance"...What an absurd and ridiculous notion.
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