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Thread: What, in your view, occurs subjectively after death?

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    What, in your view, occurs subjectively after death?

    Personally, I subscribe to the doctrine of generic subjective continuity (as advanced by Thomas Clark)/existential passage (Wayne Stewart), which can be conceived of as a secular version of Buddhist doctrines of reincarnation, scrubbed of notions of karma or the different Hells and Heavens that populate certain Buddhist traditions. The theory, roughly, is as follows.

    1. Nothingness cannot exist for the subject. The vulgar notions of "eternal blackness" or darkness or silence that most atheists posit requires the existence of an eternal soul to experience this state, the existence of which I do not accept (much of Western materialism has imported this notion of the soul over wholesale from Christianity).
    2. Spiritual reincarnation, of the kind advanced by Hinduism and certain other Buddhist traditions, is equally fallacious, because there is no core soul or 'self' to incarnate.
    3. If nothingness cannot be experienced, then it follows that there must be a next experience for the subject. This requires some parsing: I do not think there is anything continual, anything retained in this except for experience. No karma, no past-life memories, no identity. Nothing continual except the subjective first-person perception of Self, a qualia which is innate to the universe.

    This is close to notions of open individualism (Daniel Kolak, Arnold Zuboff), but I am agnostic as to the nature of the experiencer - open individualists maintain that there is only one subjectivity in existence which experiences itself as all things; I do not believe that this is demonstrable. It is also not dissimilar practically from Alan Watts' view that "energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so it goes elsewhere", except in my view it isn't any sort of energy that is transferred, but a repetition of the ontological patterns of being.

    What seems most likely to me is that the universe will at some future point duplicate itself, whether through Poincare recurrence (if the acceleration of the universe should ever cease) or through a spontaneous reduction in entropy after the heat death of the universe - there is some evidence now for repeated iterations of the universe, in the form of remnant cosmic background radiation with no explicable source - to an arbitrarily identical degree necessary to reproduce a biologically and temporally identical iteration of me, and that my subjective experience, stripped of memory, will be reproduced in this new universe. (I also hold that, if the universe should cycle endlessly, it may be possible that I will find myself in an indeterminate universe, and a version of me with an identical history up to some particular point will be produced, at which point its history will branch off). This would be, basically, analogous to Nietzsche's Eternal Return.

    I am not, however, completely adverse to the more random conceptions of radically different experiences suggested by proponents of generic subjective continuity/existential passage, assuming that 'my" experience does not require a biologically and temporally analogous body to exist in, though I think, if this subjective experience can be experienced in forms radically dissimilar to my own, that nothing can be said about the exact nature of what the next experience "I" feel after death will be.

    Suggested reading supporting comparable hypotheses:

    Tom Clark - Death, Nothingness and Subjectivity
    Wayne Stewart - Metaphysics By Default
    Reddit - Open Individualism (this concept makes metaphysical claims I am not prepared to advance - that there is only a single subjective experiencer in the entire cosmos - and is closer to idealistic panpsychism than materialistic naturalism, but it's close enough to be relevant)

    Recommended viewing:



    Last edited by Einzige; 08-30-2020 at 07:21 PM.

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    Subjectively, I don't know if there is anything after death, and I'm okay with that. I think it's something that people obsess over too much. It takes away from what's in front of us, which is tangible and real.

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    There's no consensus on what consciousness even is, how it works, where it comes from, what keeps it going, and so forth. Without solid answers how can we possibly address what happens to it when the body experiencing it dies?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Einzige View Post
    stuff
    A few questions for your view:

    You say in (1) that:

    "Nothingness cannot exist for the subject. The vulgar notions of "eternal blackness" or darkness or silence that most atheists posit requires the existence of an eternal soul to experience this state".

    I'm not sure who you have in mind with this, but I'd imagine that most atheists are rather of the view that, when you die, you literally cease to be. I think (hope!) that most would be inclined to reject the idea that you persist as a soul experiencing eternal blackness. Rather, you and your experience simply end.

    This point then feeds into your argument in (3):

    "If nothingness cannot be experienced, then it follows that there must be a next experience for the subject."

    Your conclusion doesn't follow from the premise, simply because there are other options here. Let's accept the premise that nothingness cannot be experienced; it does not then follow that there must be a next experience - it might simply be that there is no further experience of anything. No experience is not the same thing as the experience of nothing.

    So, your view seems a little undermotivated, as it stands.

    On the view itself: I'm a little unclear as to what the thing is that you say persists between deaths. You describe it as "the subjective first-person perception of Self". But if there's really a perception of Self, does that not imply there is a self which exists and which persists from one person to the next? But you also characterise this persisting thing as 'experience', so let's focus on that. Here's a question: what makes it the case that an experience occurring at a later time counts as a continuation of an experience occurring at an earlier time, rather than simply being a distinct experience? For example, my current experience is plausibly a continuation of an experience that I underwent a moment ago, and not a continuation of any experience that you underwent a moment ago. If this is right, then it seems there's a certain relation - call it "continuity" - in which my current experience stands to the experience that I underwent a moment ago, and in which it does not stand to any experience undergone by you. But how should we explain this disparity? A simple approach would be to posit a persisting self or subject: my present and recently past experiences are related by continuity because they're experiences undergone by the same subject; my present and your recently past experiences are not related by continuity because they're experiences undergone by distinct subjects (note, this kind of answer leaves open a lot of questions about what subjects are). But if subjects - a self, or a soul - do not persist beyond death, then what makes it the case that an experience undergone by one person is actually a continuation of an experience undergone by another (now deceased) person, and not simply distinct experience?
    Last edited by Tom; 08-31-2020 at 01:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom View Post
    I'm not sure who you have in mind with this, but I'd imagine that most atheists are rather of the view that, when you die, you literally cease to be.
    At lest poetically, the description of the state of death as "blackness" or whatnot is in common currency. Here's the example which Clark uses in his essay:

    My richest example is offered by the late novelist Anthony Burgess in his memoirs, You've Had Your Time: The Second Part of the Confessions. The following paragraph from his meditations about death contains several nice variations on the "nothingness" theme.

    Am I happy? Probably not. Having passed the prescribed biblical age limit, I have to think of death, and I do not like the thought. There is a vestigial fear of hell, and even of purgatory, and no amount of rereading rationalist authors can expunge it. If there is only darkness after death, then that darkness is the ultimate reality and that love of life that I intermittently possess is no preparation for it. In face of the approaching blackness, which Winston Churchill facetiously termed black velvet, concerning oneself with a world that is soon to fade out like a television image in a power cut seems mere frivolity. But rage against the dying of the light is only human, especially when there are still things to be done, and my rage sometimes sounds to myself like madness. It is not only a question of works never to be written, it is a matter of things unlearned. I have started to learn Japanese, but it is too late; I have started to read Hebrew, but my eyes will not take in the jots and tittles. How can one fade out in peace, carrying vast ignorance into a state of total ignorance?

    Listing the thematic variations, we have: "darkness after death," "approaching blackness," "black velvet," "a world that is soon to fade out," "the dying of the light," "a state of total ignorance."



    Death, for self-evidential reasons, cannot be experienced as a "darkness", a "blackness", "velvet", etc.

    I think (hope!) that most would be inclined to reject the idea that you persist as a soul experiencing eternal blackness. Rather, you and your experience simply end.
    And yet my qualia (mental impressions), which are an objective fact in the universe, must still exist, because nothing cannot exist.

    Your conclusion doesn't follow from the premise, simply because there are other options here. Let's accept the premise that nothingness cannot be experienced; it does not then follow that there must be a next experience - it might simply be that there is no further experience of anything. No experience is not the same thing as the experience of nothing.
    Nothingness cannot only not be experienced, nothingness doesn't exist. In a very real sense, there is no such state as non-existence, and it cannot be comprehended precisely because, in my view, it does not exist.

    On the view itself: I'm a little unclear as to what the thing is that you say persists between deaths. You describe it as "the subjective first-person perception of Self". But if there's really a perception of Self, does that not imply there is a self which exists and which persists from one person to the next?
    No. After my death there will be another entity in the universe which understands itself as "I" in the same way I understand myself as "I", and which therefore will inherit my perceptual frame of reference.

    But you also characterise this persisting thing as 'experience', so let's focus on that. Here's a question: what makes it the case that an experience occurring at a later time counts as a continuation of an experience occurring at an earlier time, rather than simply being a distinct experience? For example, my current experience is plausibly a continuation of an experience that I underwent a moment ago, and not a continuation of any experience that you underwent a moment ago.
    I would completely agree with this. This is integral to my argument - the sequence of experiences I identify in my memory as "me" are in fact simply separate experiences, and do not constitute a "me"; there is no "me" at all, only experience, which will continue elsewhere after my passing.

    I
    f this is right, then it seems there's a certain relation - call it "continuity" - in which my current experience stands to the experience that I underwent a moment ago, and in which it does not to any experience undergone by you. But how should we explain this disparity? A simple approach would be to posit a persisting self or subject: my present and recently past experiences are related by continuity because they're experiences undergone by the same subject; my present and your recently past experiences are not related by continuity because they're experiences undergone by distinct subjects (note, this kind of answer leaves open a lot of questions about what subjects are). But if subjects - a self, or a soul - do not persist beyond death, then what makes it the case that an experience undergone by one person is actually a continuation of an experience undergone by another (now deceased) person, and not simply distinct experience?
    What makes them intelligible as a continuation is the fact that there will be an entity which regards themselves as an 'I', in the same way which I do. Continuity is maintained by the subjective experience of "I", and not by any metaphysical substance like self or soul. Once this illusory self loses its integrity, then any frame of reference identifying itself as an "I" in a comparable way to myself while I was alive can thereby be identified as continuous with myself. With the death of the biological organism, its frame of reference becomes indeterminate, and can be localized to any comparable frame of arbitrarily similar composition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Einzige View Post
    And yet my qualia (mental impressions), which are an objective fact in the universe, must still exist, because nothing cannot exist. ... Nothingness cannot only not be experienced, nothingness doesn't exist. In a very real sense, there is no such state as non-existence, and it cannot be comprehended precisely because, in my view, it does not exist.
    I'm not sure about this. Plausibly, things can come into existence. There are many, many things which currently exist but which have not always existed. These are things which have come into existence at a certain time, before which they did not exist. This is not at all to say that, before coming into existence, they existed in a state of nothingness (whatever that would be) rather, they simply didn't exist in any state at all. Likewise, there are many, many things which did exist at some time in the past, but which no longer exist. This isn't to say that those things now exist in a state of nothingness (whatever that would be) rather, they simply don't exist in any state at all - they don't exist! I think the contrary view - that it's not possible for things to come in and out of existence - is significantly more novel and controversial than the view about persistence and death that you're using it to support, and so you're putting the cart before the horse by focusing on the latter. In general, if you're trying to motivate a novel or controversial view, it's good practice to do so via ideas which are less novel and controversial.

    Quote Originally Posted by Einzige View Post
    What makes them intelligible as a continuation is the fact that there will be an entity which regards themselves as an 'I', in the same way which I do. Continuity is maintained by the subjective experience of "I", and not by any metaphysical substance like self or soul. Once this illusory self loses its integrity, then any frame of reference identifying itself as an "I" in a comparable way to myself while I was alive can thereby be identified as continuous with myself. With the death of the biological organism, its frame of reference becomes indeterminate, and can be localized to any comparable frame of arbitrarily similar composition.
    Okay. So an experience of a present person - me, say - counts as a continuation of the experience of a now-deceased person because the present person (me) regards themselves as an 'I' in the same way in which the deceased person did. Some questions: What is the content of this way in which I regard myself, by virtue of which I'm linked to the now-deceased person? Presumably it can't include the idea of myself as the person with the peculiar personal history which I happen to have, since this will differ between me and the deceased person. Perhaps it includes the idea of myself as person with certain character traits? This seems like something which, in principle at least, I might be able to share with the deceased person. Or perhaps it's something even more generic - just the idea of myself as a subject of experience? Whichever way we go on this, a problem seems to arise: Is there any reason why there could not be another currently existing person who, just by sheer coincidence, happens to regard themselves as an 'I' - however we flesh that out - in exactly the same way in which I do? Notably, the more generic we make the relevant conception of 'I' in terms of which I regard myself, the more likely it is that this possibility will be realised. But in which case, it seems we're back with the same problem: What makes it the case that my experience - and not that of this presently existing person who happens to regard themselves in the same way that I do - is a continuation of the relevant deceased person's experience? One way to resolve this would be to posit some kind of causal link between me the deceased person, which does not obtain between the other presently existing person and the deceased person. But this would introduce a lot of other questions. Another option would be to bite the bullet and say that both my and the other person's experiences are continuations of the deceased person's. But then it seems like we start to lose our grip on the idea that the now-deceased person's experience is really continuing in some way, rather than it's just being the case that two distinct people happen to think of themselves in the same way.

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    if we're talking about consciousness? i honestly don't really care. it'd be cool to believe that reincarnation exists and that i could be, like, a cat in my next life, but the likelihood of that seems slim. i'm perfectly fine with the idea of me just not existing at all once i'm dead. what we leave behind (for me, my music and the (hopefully mostly positive) impact i've had on other people) matters more.

    physically, i love that we become food of the earth. we decay, which feeds other organisms and helps sustain life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eversonpoe View Post
    physically, i love that we become food of the earth. we decay, which feeds other organisms and helps sustain life.
    Unfortunately, the way we inter people here in the modern U.S. pretty much PREVENTS that process, because nearly all cemetaries require that a casket be surrounded by a concrete or steel vault. These prevent grave collapse when digging an adjacent grave, and also when using tractors on top of graves. Note that there ARE "natural" cemeteries and burial sites where you can bury someone without a casket (let alone a vault), which WOULD then promote the "food for the earth" concept, particularly if the area is also a garden, etc. But you have to look hard for them, they're not your average urban cemetary.

    But before you do that: You don't want to embalm someone and then plant them in the earth with all of those REALLY toxic chemicals in embalming fluid (like formaldehyde).

    Also, cremation does not ever lead to "ashes." Cremains are actually solely bones. And those bones are actually REALLY bad for plants.


    I used to be upset at the idea of being buried in the earth. I wanted to be interred in a mausoleum. Then I learned some pretty disturbing shit about those. So now I want to be cremated. Although, that's not good for climate change.

    I'm not sure about how I feel about my existence. The idea of immortality, on one hand, is comforting, yet not-so-comforting on the other hand.

    Most philosophies that subscribe to any reincarnation believe that there is some end state, that you don't endlessly reincarnate to this plane; that there is some final, perfect form of "self" or a "soul" that is achieved wherein this "human" form is no longer necessary and the "perfect" form is achieved (Buddhism = Nirvana). Buddhism describes the state between death and rebirth as the "bardo."

    (Btw, I don't know that any reincarnation theories allow us to return in other forms other than our usual form, e.g. we can't come back as felines.)


    I WISH there was some ending where I crossed a bridge and people were waiting for me on the other side, smiling and waiting to hug me and welcome me. I try to believe that, especially when I'm going through some really bad times in my life.

    But, the logical part of me struggles with that. Because, like this guy says at 22:00

    Last edited by allegro; 09-01-2020 at 06:33 PM.

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    I'm going to heaven.

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    You die, there is no more you, that's it.

    Take a look at the AWARE study- it's the closest you'll get to a scientific study on near death experiences. Ostensibly it was marketed as trying to figure out if NDEs were a side effect of dying, or otherwise. Beyond this, it demonstrated that brain death is a process that takes longer than initially thought (which leads to some useful resuscitation treatments). There's a bunch of real issues with the methodology (as it almost teeters on pseudoscience) but it demonstrated that death means death.

    But who cares- what's the problem? I was dead for eternity -40 years, I'll be dead for just as long and fuck it all.

    Edit: Beyond that I want to be stuffed and used as a coat rack.
    Last edited by DF118; 09-01-2020 at 08:16 PM.

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    I have a terrible fear of death, since childhood. When I was a little kid, I’d lie in bed, contemplating death, and I’d end up having an existential panic attack knowing that I can’t weasel my way out of it, it’s inevitable, it WILL happen, there is NO getting out of it. And this would freak me out so much I’d be crying and sweating.

    I finally talked about it with my maternal Grandma, and she said (I’ll never forget): “As you age, and get to my age, you care less and less about dying, and you really don’t care about it anymore.” And that’s all I needed to hear.

    But, now my Mom is 82 - many years older than my Grandma at the time of our discussion - and Mom’s like “I’m really afraid of dying!!” So this just scared me again! My Grandma was just full of shit! And it’s freakier to realize that I am, now, the age that my Grandma was, then!

    I started having those panic attacks again, in the middle of the night, and I have to talk to my husband and he’ll usually just tell me to “think of something else.”

    But my Mom told me something similar to what Neil said, above: “Do you remember where you were before you were here?” No. “You were nowhere. We are just afraid of the unknown.”

    I hate the whole death “sleep” analogy: “rest in peace” or “rest well” etc. Implying that we are gonna go “sleep” for 100s of years. WHICH IS NOT ATTRACTIVE TO ME AT ALL, THANK YOU.

    I prefer “goodbye,” or “so long,” or “farewell.” But it seems like those are forbidden.

    I think the biggest regret of not living longer is not being able to experience new inventions or technology. Otherwise, at some point I know I’ll be ready to check out. Everything dies. Everything.

    I just keep remembering Virginia Woolf and the dead bird in “The Hours.”
    Last edited by allegro; 09-01-2020 at 09:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DF118 View Post
    Edit: Beyond that I want to be stuffed and used as a coat rack.
    My father is adamant that he wants to be cremated, dumped in a toilet, pissed on by friends and family, and then flushed down the toilet.

    Death is non-existence. The end.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon View Post
    My father is adamant that he wants to be cremated, dumped in a toilet, pissed on by friends and family, and then flushed down the toilet.
    I can assure you that this will clog up the toilet.


    I had this friend whose uncle died and the uncle wanted his cremains scattered in this lake he loved. So my friend’s mom and dad rented a row boat and loaded themselves and my friend and his brother into the boat, and they rowed out some distance and conducted some kind of impromptu memorial.

    Then they grabbed the plastic bag containing the uncle’s cremated remains and upon attempting to scatter them into the lake, a huge gust of wind whipped up and not only doused them all with lake water but also sent the cremains backwards onto them ...

    Upon him telling me this story, I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe; until I composed myself and saw that HE didn’t think it was particularly funny.

    :-/
    Last edited by allegro; 09-04-2020 at 08:31 PM.

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    I have no idea what happens or not after death. I'm not frightened of what might or might not be, I am more worried about the process of dying. Those minutes of existing as a dying brain. I've been present at many deaths and they vary enormously. Some are comforting, some less so. All my fears are bound up in those moments.

    Regarding burial, any chemical used in the body by undertakers to prevent immediate decay is usually horrible for the environment. I have always been fond of the Parsi death towers, kind of peaceful place, feeding birds and flies and quietly decaying

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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    Then they grabbed the plastic bag containing the uncle’s cremated remains and upon attempting to scatter them into the lake, a huge gust of wind whipped up and not only doused them all with lake water but also sent the cremains backwards onto them ...

    Upon him telling me this story, I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe; until I composed myself and saw that HE didn’t think it was particularly funny.

    :-/
    It is a little bit funny.

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    ^ And they were all WET so it STUCK to them and ...

    omg

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    We become ripe (with decay).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Einzige View Post
    1. Nothingness cannot exist for the subject. The vulgar notions of "eternal blackness" or darkness or silence that most atheists posit requires the existence of an eternal soul to experience this state, the existence of which I do not accept (much of Western materialism has imported this notion of the soul over wholesale from Christianity).
    Nonsense theory.

    Atheists don't believe in floating in some endless black void; they believe that when you die, you die and cease to exist.

    Our existence starts when our mother is born, as female human babies are born with a full complement of eggs. Cognizant existence most likely begins in the womb after fertilisation. Before that, we do not seem to exist in any state at all.

    To an atheist, that non-state is the same as death.

    Quote Originally Posted by Einzige View Post
    3. If nothingness cannot be experienced, then it follows that there must be a next experience for the subject.
    No, it doesn't.

    If there's no proof for a theory, it remains as conjecture. There's no substance to any of this beyond blind faith.

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