Approaching Life, Death, and the Non-Identity Problem

Hey guys, I have a question concerning life/death and the non-identity problem. Now please bear with me, because I understand the following thoughts will sound irrational, because they are. I just don’t know how to construct a different model for approaching this that I can be satisfied with. For those who don’t know, the non-identity problem claims that you cannot make someone better or worse off by bringing them into existence because non existence is not a state that can be compared to. If this is the case, wouldn’t it apply to the ending of life? Or more drastically, suicide/euthanasia. If our lives were to end, does it even really matter? We would be no worse or better off, as there would be no us to be this way. If we were somehow suffering, how would we feel the relief of death? My mind seems to project myself after my death, and I have thoughts of our state of mind when we die somehow continuing, even though we are non-existent. This in itself is clearly irrational, because there will be no us to experience continued suffering. But I don’t understand how these feelings can be resolved? I need a different way to look at this, in a way that can give me some sort of peace. These thoughts have me thinking that it really doesn’t matter when we die. I understand there can be an afterlife, but if it is finite, doesn’t this still pose the same problem? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Hello. I would say that the idea of comparing existence to non-existence is irrational at face value, but our imaginative minds can conceive of possibility directly in this way,as we can juxtapose what “may be” or even what “will be” with regard to what does not currently exist but what can nonetheless, if we choose to bring it into existence, come into existence later. So it makes logical sense to project possibility directly within the imagination to “compare existence and nonexistence”, this is really what planning and anticipation is all about. It is also what makes us such meaning-oriented beings, I think. Our sense of meaning, purpose and value is largely based in our experiences of “time”, the fact that our minds throw together a strange collage of past, present and future experiences, each more or less “real”, more or less a construct of “pure possibility”.

Anxiety of death can be justified based on our clinging to living, because we do not want to “not live”, even if “not living” does not equate to an actual state of affairs which we will experience. When we die we will certainly not be around to bemoan the fact that we are no longer living, we will not “suffer the fact of death”, however we already suffer this fact right now because we are presently alive and able to comprehend our own mortality. Death is a prerogative of the living. Nothing really “dies”, things experience “stages of dying”, decomposition and whatever, until at some point they simply no longer exist. Death is not “experienced”, except by the living human who experiences death imaginally.

Back to your main point, comparing bringing new life into existence from its previous “non-existence” to our being existent already and then later becoming non-existence (“dying”) is problematic because these two movements are not analogous. One is bringing something into existence which formerly did not exist and presently even does not (yet) exist, while the other is taking an already-existing thing and removing it from existence. Both involve “non-existence”, but in different ways. While non-existence as a category of possibility is necessary to the functioning of our sort of consciousness, in fact no such state really exists in any sense. Possibility is something our sort of consciousness is able to relate to and thus “effectuate” causally, by acting with respect to it directly, by adapting ourselves and what we do to an idea. But of course this only has any meaning with regard to living consciousness’ like ours.

Also, nice point on “if the afterlife is also finite, this poses the same problem”. This is certainly true and is something seemingly missed by a lot of people who seek refuge from the anxiety of death in vague thoughts of “after-worlds”. Unless they think these after-existences are infinite, they are not addressing the source of their anxiety and are merely covering it up, lying to themselves with the aid of convenient delusions and self-ignorance.


[size=112]There is no afterlife.

We repeat our lives, more or less the same, over & over again.

You will never experience death.[/size]


I don’t think your condition of what the non identity problem is correct, but brings about an issue of the non identity problem itself. First of all, there is no person to make better or worse by bringing them into existence. There is nothing compare non existence to show that anything would be better or worse than non existence… as there is no person.

This would not apply to the end of life, because the person already exists. We know that the person would be able to choose for themself at that point what is best for them, continued life or death. If we do not know the answer, and death being inevitable regardless, its safe to say life must be preserved until we know the persons wishes, because you can’t simply reverse death.

Dude… seriously, this has nothing to do with this post. Are you addicted to pain pills or something?

Sometimes there are signs – extreme example, you’re the one nearest the live grenade who’s expected to throw yourself on it. If, on the other hand, you somehow survive near-certain death, maybe you are meant to go on. (Although surviving near-death isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be – it can mean, IMO, that even though you’re worn out and ready to go, you’ve STILL got more work left to do on this plane, and it’s probably not going to be a lot of fun!) In any event, since I’m not absolutely certain that it doesn’t matter, I choose to role with the flow, watch for signs, and see what happens.



Oh. I thought the original posted asked; I have a question concerning life/death and the non-identity problem.

Hey wait a minute…they DID ASK - I have a question concerning life/death and the non-identity problem.

If you’re going to be the interpreter or sheriff or something, perhaps you should really try to understand what you are actually interpreting.

Just sayin…[/size]


Did you only read the first sentence and then respond? Yes. Yes you did.

Your questions arise out of an overriding experience of trepidation and fear. It is fear that tells you that you are alive and that you will die and come to an end. You are operating in the fear. If the fear ends then the existence of you ends. So you keep the fear active and your strong sense of self is maintained. That is why we have all these psychological therapies offered. They keep the fear going.

Who is approaching death? I certainly am, have a terminal illness. Am I concerned with all these metaphysical questions, definitions of what things are or should be? Not really. I see others dying aorund me, friends I have known. I even get messages from the beyond from some persons I knew. Are they still alive? Yes, I believe so.
One message came to my late father many years back. He was giving a lecture and after his speech, he was approached by a man who had come to pass on a message. The man in question - my father had never seen him, didn’t know him. The message came from a person beloved by my father, a lady who had died two years earlier. The message was to say she was ok, stop grieving. But the crux of this matter was the messenger. Who was he? A world famous international medium who had never known this woman who was just an ordinary person, a nurse. But she had contacted him to pass on this message.
Work it out. I certainly can’t. This medium rang me last night, tells me he often gets messages from my late father. So where do I stand on all this?
Things change, all the time. My mind is open, I have no idea what’s coming next.

Nothing “comes next”, at least we certainly have no reason to think there is anything “after death”, and plenty of reason to think otherwise.

Why do people need the idea of life after death? Isn’t one life good enough?

The “beyond”, created by thought out of fear, is really the demand for more of the same, in modified form. This demand for repetition of the same thing over and over again is the demand for permanence.

Right, but why this demand for permanence?

What is the rationale for giving up on it? Too much trouble?

From the evolution stand point, the families that continue are the ones who didn’t give up trying to continue. If you want to accredit genetics then you can merely assume that the gene pool has been tailored through trial and error to produce those who strive to keep living.

Right, but again, why must “striving to live” equal a “demand for permanence” in the guise of believing in eternal life?

“Guise of”??

How do you segregate “demand for permanence” from “striving to live”?

I agree that all life which exists has inbred into it a “striving to live”, a “will to life”. This is genetic, and perhaps not only genetic. But my question here is: as the striving for life manifested as a demand for permanence, why must this translate into beliefs that one will live eternally? Why can we not make this demand for permanence in our life as it is, as we see it and experience it, rather than sublimate this demand to a higher level of fantasy? One can both admit that one will utterly perish one day, as well as succeed in demanding permanence for oneself in this life which one does possess. Many people do this. Not everyone believes in an after-life, far from it, in fact.

People who accept that they will someday die and become nothing are not sublimating their demand for permanence onto a higher level of fantasy. To me this seems to force the demand to actualize in this life, this reality and experience, which is to say it focuses and potentiates it. So my question becomes, what distinguishes the first type of person from the second type here, assuming of course that both are operating with respect to their programed “striving to life”?

Well wait, never mind that you are presuming to know about something that you obviously do not, and not at all meaning to be sarcastic, but to answer your question, just think about why you cannot accept the way people are without trying to demand them to be different because of a higher fantasy?

You believe that you understand an issue.
They believe that they understand an issue.

You ask why can’t they let their fantasy go.
They ask why you can’t let your fantasy go.

Now I am not trying to say that neither is right. I am trying to say that in order to answer the very questions that you have been asking, merely look at your behavior and pretend to be them asking you the very same questions from the perspective that you are the one who is deluded or fantasizing. The person doing the fantasizing DOES NOT BELIEVE that it is a fantasy any more than you believe that you are merely fantasizing. You are each merely a different program doing the same things in a different direction.

And that is the answer to your question.

Two things, then. First, yes I am absolutely making the claim that heaven and after-life are fantasies. Second, I am claiming that there is a meaningful difference between the method of reasoning which I employ to arrive at my ideas and the method of reasoning which the religious believer uses to arrive at their ideas (about God, after life, whatever). Or do you really think there is no difference between the religious and the philosopher?

They both come from the same instrument which is thought. Each uses its particular knowledge and thought to achieve. One is favored over the other as a higher more sublime level due to its particular prejudice. But there is no difference in the instrument they are utilizing to maintain a paradigm.