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DEATH AND MEANING OF LIFE

DEATH AND FEAR OF DEATH

The awareness of death has its roots in our conscience; it’s a human evil, not shared by other species. The fear of death is a specific human grief.


The conscience of death accompanies us since childhood, as conscience of the absolute destruction of the only precious treasure of ours: our I.
E. Morin, French philosopher and sociologist, Method V


In endowing us with memory, nature has revealed to us a truth utterly unimaginable to the unreflective creation, the truth of immortality... The most ideal human passion is love, which is also the most absolute and animal and one of the most ephemeral.

George Santayana, 1863-1952, American philosopher, Reason in Religion


Unlike man, animals, so to speak, live without knowing death. The individual animal enjoys fully the immutability of its gender, being conscious of itself only as an immortal being.
Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860, German philosopher, Le monde comme volonté et comme représentation




DEATH TORMENTS MAN


Death is a source of drama, interrogations, grief and revolt.

The anguish of death hangs over and leads the human spirit to wonder about the mysteries of existence, man’s destiny, life, the world.
E. Morin, French philosopher and sociologist, Method V


The certainty of death and the uncertainty of the hour of death is a source of grief throughout our life.
E. Morin, French philosopher and sociologist, Method V


Death is never a trick; nature doesn’t play a comedy; instead, it’s a tragic, colossal and unstoppable drama.
L. Fuerbach, 1804-1872, German philosopher, cited in Edgar Morin O homem e a morte


The irresistible and incessant stream of time carries all creations in its wave, throwing them into the depths of obscurity, regardless of whether they are trivial or, on the contrary, notable and important.
Ann Comnena, 1083-1150, Byzantine historian, The Alexiad of the princess Ann Comnena


The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb.
William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, English writer, Romeo and Juliet


She died or vanished somewhere, forgotten as a nameless number on a list which was subsequently mislaid.
Boris Pasternak, 1890-1960, Russian writer, Doctor Jivago


Death frights us. Death is a perpetual torment, for which there is no sort of consolation. There is no way by which it may not reach us. We may continually turn our heads this way and that, as if in a suspected country, but we can’t forget death.
Montaigne, 1533-1592, French writer, Essais


Men come, go, sing and dance, without uttering a word about death. All this is very fine: but, when it comes either to themselves, their wives, their children, or their friends, taking them unawares and unprepared, then what torment, what outcries, what madness and despair.
Montaigne, 1533-1592, French writer, Essais


Man is a being that knows death, but can’t believe it.
E. Morin, French philosopher and sociologist, Method V


Systematically, we insist on the occasional nature of death – accidents, illnesses, infections, advanced age - revealing in this way our deep desire to deprive from death all its necessary element, thus making it become just an accidental event.
Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939, Austrian psychoanalyst, Essais de Psychanalyse


Comments
Death and the fear of death



UNDERVALUING DEATH

Against the fear of death, man has produced a lot of logical arguments which undervalue both the fear and death.

Death, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, since when we are, death is absent, and, when death is present, we are not any more. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead (…).
Epicurus, 341-270 a. C., Greek philosopher, Letter to Menoeceus


Don't fear the gods, and don't worry about death, because what's good is easy to get, and what's terrible is easy to endure.
Epicurus, 341-270 a. C., Greek philosopher, cited in Philodemus of Gadara book


Death is nothing to us; for once the body is dissolved into its elements, there will be no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.
Epicurus, 341-270 a. C., Greek philosopher, Principal Doctrines


Foolish is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect.
Epicurus, 341-270 a. C., Greek philosopher, Letter to Menoeceus


Man who is dead cannot be made unhappy.
Lucrecius, 98-55 a.C, Roman poet and philosopher, De rerum natura


Death is nothing to us, nor should it worry us a bit; we can’t suffer after death, since the nature of the spirit we possess is something mortal.
Lucrecius, 98-55 a.C, Roman poet and philosopher, De rerum natura


There is nothing to be feared in death; it matters not a scrap whether one might ever have been born at all, when death that is immortal has taken over our mortal life.
Lucrecius, 98-55 a.C, Roman poet and philosopher, De rerum natura


All those things told in fables about the land beyond the grave are here, in our life on earth. There is no such thing as a wretched Tantalus, numbed with idle terror, fearing the fall of a great rock hanging over him in the air, as the tale tells. Rather, it’s here, in life, that the empty fear of the gods threatens mortals.
Lucrecius, 98-55 a.C, Roman poet and philosopher, De rerum natura


Comments
Death and the fear of death



HUMOUR ABOUT THE FEAR OF DEATH

When death comes around, nobody is willing to die and old age is no longer a burden.
Euripides, 480-406 b. C., Greek poet, Alcestis


Railing at life, and yet afraid of death.
C. Churchill, 1731-1764, English poet, Gotham


Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death shouldn’t be an even greater one.
V. Nabokov, 1889-1977, Russian writer, Pale Fire


All tragedies are finished by a death.
All comedies are ended by a marriage
The future states of both are left to faith.
Lord Byron, 1788-1824, English poet, Don Juan 

Comments
Death and the fear of death

See also:
The Human Beings
Existential Thought
Life Best Years
Is Life Meaningful
Life is Dream
Life is Short
Life is Pain
Life After Death

Science and Meaning
Man and the Universe
Humour about life


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FEAR OF DEATH

 



Above:
Hindu Painting: Goddess Mahakali
, associated with death and destruction.

Commentary
Fear of death

We can play with death and say that it is to «stop sinning suddenly», or that «the fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead», as Einstein said.

We can proclaim to ourselves, as Epicurus did, that we shouldn’t worry about death because «when we are, death is absent, and, when death is present, we are not any more». Or agree with Socrates, when he argues that «if death doesn’t involve sensations, then it is as a dream and as a marvellous present».

But, against all the logical arguments we may produce, we can’t help but fear it. We can’t truly ignore that «hidden tiger, ambushed and ready to kill the unwary». We fear death, even if the reasons aren’t exactly the «dread of something after death» in «the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns» as enunciated by Hamlet.

We can handle death as an accident, «revealing our deep desire to deprive from death all its necessary element, thus making it just an accidental event», as said by Freud. We can look for aid in religion and in God: «He who believes in God doesn’t die» (St. John). But, even then, we can’t truly ignore it.

Death is part of our conscience. In a sense, it’s a «cause of madness», as said in the Bible, in Ecclesiastes: «This is the major evil in all that is done under the sun: that there is a same destiny to all. That’s why the heart of the sons of men is full of evil. And madness is in their heart while they live: that they all go to the dead». Death represents the destruction of «our unique and precious treasure: our I» (Morin). 

We may argue, as Saint Augustine did, that death is a passport to a better life, near God, and that we shouldn’t cry. Maybe Saint Augustine didn’t cry at his mother and son’s death (as he said he did in his Confessions), but he couldn’t help avoiding the pain and interior tears, or avoid feeling the anguish despite his faith and his creed. We can’t «forget death».

Death is, in fact, a crucial existential question. Death is at the heart of many of our meditations about the meaning of life. It’s part of our conscience, and a direct emanation of our intelligence. «In endowing us with memory, nature has revealed to us a truth utterly unimaginable to the unreflective creation» (Santayana).

Most animal species simply ignore death. Their memory, intelligence and degree of consciousness do not allow them the insight of death. Only we have a total knowledge of it, with the correlative degree of hopelessness, pain and fear. 

 


 

 

 

 



 

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