questions without answers

From the film, Zorba the Greek:

[b]Zorba: Why do the young die? Why does anyone die? Tell me!

Basil: I don’t know.

Zorba: What’s the use of all your damn books? If they don’t tell you that, what the hell do they tell you?

Basil: They tell me about the agony of men who can’t answer questions like yours.[/b]

How true. But just because we can’t answer them does not stop most of us from trying. And even though the answers all hopelessly conflict and contradict each other this doesn’t stop many from insisting that only their own answer is true.

Human psychology, in other words.

The only antedote is to live life to its fullest.

That’s why Zorba responds to Basil with, I spit on your agony.

After all, what else is there when you don’t have God and Salvation?

We can answer that question…

Some people die because they have diseases, cancer, a fatal illness, fall from a tall building, get stabbed in the face, get stabbed in the heart, get stabbed in a major organ, inhale a poisonous substance, get shot, drown, don’t get enough nutrients to continue supporting their body, don’t get enough water to continue supporting their body…there are many more. This is why people die.

I’m not sure iambiguous is limiting the idea to just the question ‘why do people die’ though Humps.

I wouldn’t say it is the ONLY antidote. I think that even though the world is incrediby complex, the pursuit of knowledge is a worthwhile one.


Responding to Zorba’s question like that is analogous to responding to Sartre’s “hell is other people” with, “yeah, they can really be a pain in the ass”.

that’s the only response to Zorba’s question, because those are the types of reasons why people die.

Well, I don’t see the two as necessarily in conflict. If you are going to live your life to the fullest why do it stumbling around in the dark?

I’d say they are, because as soon as you start to pursue knowledge you have to answer the questions of the world.

That’s how they die.

same thing. how and why are both different perspectives on causality. i’m not able to put it into words at the moment, but my paradigm for viewing the world basically makes those two perspectives more or less equivalent.

How are you telling me this?

Why are you telling me this?

“more or less equivalent”:

why are you telling me this = how did you come to decide to tell me this

How are you telling me this = by what means are you communicating?

It’s different; mechanics versus motivation. And in the OP, Zorba is not looking for mechanics but motivation. Humans love narrative.

All you need to do, is NOT assume some dualistic “free will” and those two questions are the same, no?

Because at the sight of your reply his brain starts doing some stuff we may or may not wish to describe as “thinking”, that results in his fingers doing some stuff, that results in him hiting some keys on his keyboard, that results in a massage being posted here… that coveres pretty much the HOW and the justiication for WHY…

exactly right. motivation IS mechanics.

How could a thread begun with something like the question as to why people die end up in another discussion of determinism? Let me make it easier for the philosophically impaired. The kind of questions being talking about in the OP are questions of value. Zorba is looking for moral answers, value judgments. The question of death is being posed in relation to notions of human value and human meaning. We all know the biological reasons for death and sickness.

Let’s put it another way: the majority of time, death doesn’t have anything to do with morality. Death happens. It’s cold and impersonal. Sometimes death happens because of deliberate actions, and in those specific cases, sure, morality might be involved, but I don’t see how it makes sense to look for moral answers when someone dies of old age, or of malaria or leukemia or cancer. What does that have to do with morality and values?

Everything has a moral meaning, a relationship to human value and meaning. Ever heard the expression, draw the moral of the story?

To speak about this question of the relationship of death to human meaning, I will quote my own book:

“Of all man’s gods, Time is the only one that is truly silent. The hand of time idly counts the number of fallen leaves with the same indifference that it counts the numbers of the dead. It is not the hand of time that touches everything with decay, that introduces the singular tragic element of change into people and things. It is the human heart that accomplishes that: present in the note of music that could have risen a little further, the smile that faded a moment too soon, or the embrace that could have been a bit warmer, we find this vanity. In this way even love devours itself for, having merely secured for us a threshold upon which a new order of desires might evolve, it gradually replaces the dissatisfaction and that sorrow which it had rendered virtual with a new sorrow, a sorrow more sublime, more heavenly, more replete. Love ultimately lives only so that it may cease to live. It is fitting that we mortals should only feel love between the beatings of our heart, as one of Castilho’s poems declares. That mortal heart stirs with the contemplation of beauty, and rests in the contemplation of its disappointment. So close are these two moments that they touch upon one another, staining each other to the extent that our desire for any particular thing may be said to be our regret over its dissolution, and that the only true desire which might possess us in this life is the desire for things to have lasted-- for life to have been otherwise. Thus, in every word we utter, in every teaching that warms our spirit, in all of our joys and sorrows, long have we been prepared for that renunciation of things in which all music offends us save for what the dawn’s gentle hand plays upon the harp of still waters; notre cœur eut goûté, dans une paix profonde, to speak with Rotrou, in which all beauty strikes us as quite false save for what the heart can drink in profound silence. Life is only the first note in that unknown song which, long before it has been finished, death will silence.”

Agony? And in between the agonies there is living life to the fullest which may or may not include asking such questions as: ‘Why does anyone die?’

Zorba, in a valiant attempt to answer your question: People die to remind us that we are still living but that one day we too will die.

Life is but one blink of the evolutionary eye. :open_mouth:

“Why are you telling me this?” “Because I think it’s important to be honest” is not said in order to describe the neural pathways and the history of every event that has impacted on your initial genetically-determined neural structure, but as a social justification for action, or a dispositional description. “Why are you telling me this?” “So you don’t make the same mistakes again” is said in an attempt to educate someone, and perhaps to show that you care about them enough that you don’t want them to make mistakes. “Why are you telling me this?” “I have no choice, it’s the physical makeup of my neuropsychology that forces me to act this way under exactly these circumstances” puts you somewhere on the far end of the Asperger’s spectrum.

Cause and effect isn’t purely a one-on-one chain, of course; the events and objects we talk of (especially dealing with human psychology) can be far, far more complex than a Newton’s cradle. Why is it raining? Because the temperature here, the humidity there, the low pressure over the North Sea and that butterfly in China. So instead of talking in this way, there are narratives which pick out salient features of history and tempt us to say that that is the explanation, there are dispositional terms that deal with propensities to act a given way under given circumstances and there are motivations. Which at base may well be deterministic, or purely random, or something else again - but they are not used in that way when we analyse meanings.

If you don’t see how it makes sense to look, and you can’t see an answer that would satisfy Zorba, you could be honest and answer “I don’t know” like Basil. It’s a bit hard on the ego, mind you, especially for those who flatter themselves as more thoughtful or knowledgable than the average.

Or you could think of a different way to frame the question or look at the problem he has that would help him find some way to go on.