The Brother of Death

In another recent thread, Alien Corpuscle Bath asked:

“Half our dayes we passe in the shadowe of the earth, and the brother of death extracteth a third part of our lives.”
– Sir Thomas Browne, On Dreams

That’s right, sleep - the brother of death - extracts a third part of our lives. Who of us hasn’t slept so deeply and dreamlessly, that our last perception one evening was not immediately followed by the perception of sunlight the next morning? Or consider the more striking example of general anesthesia, where one moment you hear the anesthesiologist’s voice followed immediately by the nurse’s voice in the recovery room. In both cases the world continued blithely on even as your consciousness went missing.

Let’s imagine that tonight as you’re dreamlessly sleeping, a malicious intruder enters your bedroom armed with a pistol. She points her pistol at your temple and pulls the trigger. Your brain explodes. One moment you were unconsciously lying in bed, temporarily dead to the world, but in possession of a perfectly functional brain. The next moment this brain that you formerly possessed is splattered against the wall next to your bed. One moment you were unconscious and sleeping, the next moment you are unconscious and dead; meaning, the unconsciousness continues, but it’s no longer correct to call it your unconsciousness. Just as it doesn’t make sense to say that my older brother - the one my parents never had - is unconscious, or that the cartoon character, Bugs Bunny is unconscious. For someone to be unconscious, there needs to be a someone.

You’re unconscious for one third of the duration of your life. And if you truly possess another consciousness so robust as to somehow survive the fragmentation of your brain, then I’m asking where does it go when you fall into a dreamless sleep? If something so innocuous as gentle sleep is sufficient to turn out your “mental lights,” does it make the slightest sense to claim that a light will switch-on after your body has passed through a meat grinder?

The immoralists would have us believe that we’re like the horror show character, Jason; the ghoul that’s drowned, shot, electrocuted, stabbed, incinerated, blown to bits, and pissed on for good measure - only, There he is again! How can the immortalists rationally maintain that it’s impossible to extinguish consciousness, when fully one-third of the duration of their life is spent unconscious?

If whenever I fall unconscious (due to sleep or anesthesia) some other consciousness suddenly switches-on to take up the slack, then I might be tempted to think that this second consciousness might somehow carry me across death’s threshold. And yet there is no a back-up consciousness that activates when I fall into a dreamless sleep. While I’m soundly sleeping, people in Australia are going to the beach, they’re having great sex, they’re reading books and getting together for lunch. And where am I while they’re living it up? I’m with the brother of death.

The immoralists insist that nothing will kill you; that even the pyramids are ephemeral as compared with your consciousness. But they have it exactly backwards. In fact, you are incredibly fragile. You live never more than a few heartbeats away from nothingness. But every meaningful moment of your brief life indelibly burns a meaningful mark in the actual. It will never be the case that you have not lived. A meaningful life is as precious as it is fragile.



On the assumption that dreaming is a second form of consciousness, is this necessarily true? Couldn’t dreaming simply be considered an altered form of awakened consciousness?
Awake one is active and the consciousness perceives the world around it. Asleep the same consciousness merely “creates” or recreates(dredges up) data with little to no concern of logical consistency and plays it to remain at least partially active throughout random (or not so quite random) parts during one’s sleep cycle. There are people who can consciously influence their dreams while they sleep. I am one of them.

Couldn’t this serve as a kind of training for one’s consciousness in approach of death? Or, gasp, some form of afterlife?


Forget about dreaming. It doesn’t matter that we sometimes dream, the issue here is that we’ve no consciousness when we aren’t dreaming.

Btw, the Spanish philosopher, Fernando Savater, remarked that if people never dreamed he doubts they ever would have come up with the idea of immortality. I’m not so sure, but in any case, dreams and dreaming are irrelavant to my position.


Clearly I misunderstood something, I thought this was the crux of your argument:

Off topic but slightly related… I believe that eventually, perhaps in our lifetime, NeuroScience will prove all thought processes as being basically deterministic in nature. Ultimately, this will destroy much of the importance placed upon conscious thought. I am rambling now, time for sleep.

Wonderful topic, Polemarchus, just wonderful!

[size=117]i love sleep[/size]
–Sir Prolificistic Articulationist, On Sleep

However, I think it far, far from the brother of death. I’ll take your thesis as a proposition and, as I am learning to do, tackle it via argumentation.

Whereas the proposition is: There is no afterlife.

Point :: I honestly cannot say that I remember having ever slept 100% uneventfully. Same with general anasthesia, believe it or not. I have a few experiences under m’belt (no, I don’t seek them!) and I can honestly tell you that, to my knowledge and memory, there is always some little blip on the radar, somewhere. If only the faintest, most transient memory of visual, electrical activity.

“In both cases the world continued blithely on even as your consciousness went missing.” Was in an altered state. Not missing.

“I’m asking where does [consciousness] go when you fall into a dreamless sleep?” There is no such thing as a sleep with no dreams or otherwise easily recorded EEG activity.

Point :: “…then I might be tempted to think that this second consciousness might somehow carry me across death’s threshold.” Spiritualists do not believe this. When you die, you die; however it is something other and far more expansive and wonderful than the dry “consciousness” as we know it, that lives on. Call it one’s soul, call it one’s spiritual essence (I really cannot get into definitions right now - in part because I do not claim to know precisely what “soul” is!) but this is a seminal sticking point in your thinking: You’re equating the extremely narrow consciousness of being alive in this realm with the spirit or soul, which in its freest state, transcends all realms and is fact an extention of “All That Is.”

Point :: “The immortalists insist that nothing will kill you; that even the pyramids are ephemeral as compared with your consciousness.” Nay, sir. Read some Wayne W. Dyer. New-age spiritual/metaphysical thinkers insist that you can’t kill thought. And what is “thought”? Why, thought is the stuff of our individual and collective reality! At its most basic form, thought is energy vibrating. Extended to the beliefs held by modern-day new-age spiritualists (notably Chopra, Zukav, and Dyer), thought is the stuff of the universe that we dynamically create.

Point :: And finally, you are conveniently using a bit of a biased term in “immortalists,” not a very long stretch removed from your use of “skygods” to sneakily connote a prejudice against these concepts, my friend. “Leading-edge” (if I may), new-age spiritualist/metaphysical thinkers are hardly immortalists, but instead believe in something far more expansive than simply “living forever.” The soul migrates, Polemarchus. It evolves, it moves, it learns, it sojourns –and very importantly– in the spiritual/astral realm, it transcends the illusion of “time,” such that there is no actual “living forever” per se.

There is afterlife, “because how could there possibly not be?” (Remember the preceptual idea “you can’t kill thought.”)

I hope that helps. In a sense, what I just wrote is only acting out the role of a “for” position (“for” an afterlife): Unfortunately in my own life, I am beginning to fall away even from this belief, much as I did from my Christian upbringing…

Can’t wait for ol’ Alien there to weigh in!


double post

I tend to agree with Prolificisticationist. The idea that sleeping is a lack of “consciousness” and therefore, is the brother to death fails on one point.

If I pinch you, you will wake up. :laughing:

You’ve probably programmed before, Pole, so let me put it to ya this way. The crux of your argument relies on top-down design. Death is like sleep, therefore, create death from sleep. However, looking at results gets you nowhere. You need a “bottom-up” design to make the idea of life->death work properly. Life comes first, make a method for brain function (consciousness) and a method for body function (vitality). Then make a make a special method called “sleep”. When you sleep, you set consciousness to 5%, and you set vitality to 50%. You make another special destructor method called “death”. Death decriments your vitality and consciousness gradually until it reaches 0% by some coefficient C. (remember, a split second of our perception is gradual on some scale).

Death is garbage collection of consciousness.

People who are unconscious are not dead, and the distinction between death and unconsciousness is made for a reason.

One can easily say that unconsciousness is the liason of death, not the brother. To use language like “brother”, one conjures notions of peer equality… progeny to the same mother.

Not only is there a clear distinction between death and consciousness, but there is a clear distinction between unconsciousness and death. These distinctions are necessary. Comparing death to unconsciousness is like comparing oratory to farting. Sure, they both make a noise that can draw attention, but that’s where the similarities end. One could say that unconsciousness is the gate one must pass through to die. That does not make unconsciousness the “brother” of death… it’s the broker. The middleman.

WITH THIS IN MIND, yes, life does seem rather fragile doesn’t it?

There’s no reason to believe in an “afterlife”, per se… but there’s no reason to think you will die, either. When is the last time you died? Correct, it doesn’t mean you’re immortal… but it doesn’t mean you’re mortal, either.

Mortality is still a problem.

If the fly of mortality could be swatted as easily as you would have us believe, I would think there would be less attention put onto it than there is, yes?

lol… :laughing:

Back to the evolution (or de-evolution) of my personal beliefs, then. As I indicated, I am reluctantly growing more and more skeptical of an afterlife or spiritual realm, for if it is so unlikely for the Bible to be a literal telling of reality, then why should contemporary metaphysics and spiritual authors be any closer to “knowing” these things!? Both require these great big huge leaps of faith! (Barring an NDE [near-death experience] or the kind of drug-induced altered states of consciousness to which Alien Corpuscle Bath lays claim.) If there is nothing beyond this life but the twin stretch of eternity which preceded our arrival, then it is my belief that the “experience” of being dead is much like that of before you were born: Nothingness; a cessation of being. Just think. We’re born, we’re here for 60, maybe 70 years. We struggle for that life of meaning to which Michael reverentially alludes. Maybe we find some and maybe we don’t. And then… and then, blip. We die. It’s all over forever.

My God that is a depressing proposition to me.

Dudes, I gotta have more than just this. Just one shot? Just ONE!? C’mon, some of us need a couple of go-arounds to learn the ropes. Not very many of us get it right or even close to right the first time round. Polemarchus says a life meaningfully lived is precious – but I tell you now, the countless billions of lives lived in suffering over the eons aren’t very precious or meaningful to those who have suffered. That is why I’ve gotta have more, see. There’s got to be something grander than this, some greater scheme which adds meaning and ties it all together. Souls in process, collecting experience as they make their way across many different lifetimes and realms would serve this purpose.

But really, it’s all down to belief, isn’t it?

Bleh, piss on it anyway. Time for sleep. :stuck_out_tongue:

Immortial Remians is a book on this subject- Small plug for a prof at my school. I haven’t read it, but I hear the author talk about it. It’s really facinateing looking at questions of Post-Mortem Survial, (the official term.)

Of course one thing he said, is even if we are to accept the evidence for survival, that is not tantamount to evidence of imortality. Maybe we do indeed hang around to tell people where are leg is (a case from Iceland,) but that does not imply the second form of existance lingres on indefinately.

Another intesteing thing about looking for such evidence, is any claim of medium-hood, can be in a way more simply explained by Super-Psi. That is to say, that any confirmable evidence a medium might give has to be in the world, and is therefore not nessisarly due to communication with the dead, but perhapse just more mundande psychic abilities.

Of course to actually answer the question. It’s almost impossible to gain evidence agianst post-mortem survivial, if your going to poist that the form of survivial disallows interaction with living beings. Yet, in the same way, its nearly impossible to disprove that extra-dimension gnomes, that don’t ineract with our universe don’t exist. Normally, we can just say- we don’t care, but in the case of us continueing to exist we obviously do.

So I suppose the question then becomes, “Is it possible for us to continue to exist in some meanigfull way, without interacting upon the world as we know it?” This is an interesting question, and one I will have to ponder more.

I’d like to thank everyone for their replies.

Firstly, the phrase “brother of death” was lifted from a poem - it’s a poetic metaphor, gentlemen, and not a technical description.

Next, I’m not saying that sleep = death, or sleep = brain death. I’m drawing a functional parallel between the unconsciousness of sleep/general anesthesia and the unconsciousness of death, so Rafajafar’s objection, “If I pinch you, you will wake up,” as pertains to my claim is trivially true.

“Deep non-REM sleep can be regarded as a state of physiological reversible unconsciousness.”
B M Evans, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol 95, December 2002

What wakes us up is RAM (reticular activating mechanism). When you sleep the RAM is generally present, but every four seconds of dreamless sleep is accompanied by a short burst of activity deep in the brain known as “spindle sleep.” This burst interrupts the RAM; in other words, sleep is a state of continuously prevented waking. In the above paper, Dr. Evans proposes that coma patients don’t wake up because their waking-up mechanism is damaged.

Prolificisticationist wrote:

Physiologically speaking, few of us do all the time. Sleep is accompanied by a regular progression of brain states that produce varying depths of unconsciousness. And yet I remember boarding an airplane in San Francisco and buckling my seat belt. The very next conscious perception I had was of someone shaking me in St. Louis. I had just finished a rigorous, three month long boot camp, and in that three-month period I suffered constantly from sleep deprivation. I have never slept so soundly, either before or since.

My mental state between those two cities was not unlike that produced by syncope, where one moment you feel a bit funny and see little dots before your eyes, and the next you find yourself on the floor. I’ve had a few personal experiences with that phenomenon. I also remember talking to two buddies, both fighter pilots, about the effects of negative G forces. The “black-out” they talked about is another term for syncope. Finally, I boxed for a time in my early twenties. I know all too well what it’s like to have one’s “bell rung”. I fought as a Cruiserweight. Try having some badass black dude catch you roundabout with a hook, and then come back and talk to me about the persistence of consciousness. :laughing:

Again, I’m not saying that sleep equals death. One doesn’t climb out of one’s coffin in order to pee. As I replied to GCT, I’m not referring to dreaming, restlessness or semi-conscious sleep. And even if we were semi-conscious for 7 hours and 59 minutes out of every 8 hours we sleep, I’m specifically referring to that one minute in which we are not conscious.

John, you seem to be objecting that you’ve never been aware of having being unconscious. Would you please think about that for a moment? Can you spot a problem with that sentiment? That’s right. An awareness of unconsciousness is precisely what you won’t have. Awareness and unconsciousness are mutually exclusive. You might have been aware of falling asleep, waking up, dreaming, getting up to pee, etc., but you very well aren’t going to be aware of not being aware.

As for your experience of awareness during anesthesia, please understand that the purpose of anesthesia is not to render you unconscious, the purpose is to induce analgesia. There are markedly differing levels of anesthesia, some of which merely induce a listless stupor in which you vaguely perceive distant sounds, etc. Anesthesia is a tricky business - one that if done wrong can easily kill you. The anesthesiologist isn’t going to induce a coma-like state whenever a lessor state will suffice.

Spirit, soul, free state, transcendence…I’m asking in any terms, wide or narrow, where are they when you temporarily lose consciousness? If these supposed states are so robust that they transcend your body, why don’t they kick-in when your consciousness, even momentarily, drops-out? People have suggested any number of possible residual transcendent states. If they’re nowhere to be found when I’m unconscious and embodied, then why should we expect they will arise when I’m unconscious and disembodied? If these states transcend the body, what difference does it make whether or not unconsciousness is accompanied by a body? The immoralists claim that consciousness is not body dependant. Very well, I’ll accept that for the sake of this argument. But then I’ll turn around and ask why transcendent consciousness is dependent on my not having a body? My consciousness sometimes goes missing whilst I have a body. I’m asking why? And if an immoralist tells me that transcendent consciousness only kicks-in once I lose my body, I’m going to point-out his claim that transcendental consciousness is body independent. The immoralists simply can’t have it both ways.

There’s what after life? Are you saying there is life after life? That statement is logically self-defeating.

As for your statement that “you can’t kill thought,” I think it displays a confusion between thinking and the thought that’s thunk (think, thought, thunk, right?). Thinking requires a thinker; no thinker - no thinking. If I should die this evening from a cerebral aneurysm, then my thinking will abruptly cease, but that’s not to say that my previously disseminated ideas will die. Einstein’s theory of relativity didn’t disappear along with him. But Einstein is no longer thinking it; he isn’t thinking anything at the moment. Ideas persist so long as someone is there to think them. If the human race were suddenly extinguished through an intense, natural gamma ray burst, our books would still exist. Lacking us, our books still contain our scribbling, but until such time as something comes along that’s capable of deciphering those scribbles, then they will persist as scribbles, not ideas. Einstein’s theory of relativity will persist as an idea so long as there are minds thinking it.

Rafajafar wrote:

When is the last time you had your arm mangled so badly in an accident that it had to be amputated? Because you haven’t yet experienced something doesn’t mean you can’t form very credible ideas about what it would be like. Other people die all the time, and yet from my vantagepoint the world keeps spinning 'round without them. But by your first-person experiential limitation, how do we know the external world is going to persist without us? As you might say, we’ve only seen other people die, we’ve never yet died ourselves. So why do people bother recording their last-will and testament? Indeed, why do so many people bother to have children? If we really had no reason, one way or the other, to think the external world won’t fold up and die with us, then what’s the point of leaving a will? Why go through the trouble of changing diapers (nappies) if the kid is just going to perish along with you?

We record our will and we bear children because we have a sufficiently credible expectation that the objective world is not going to perish along with us. None of us can be absolutely certain of that fact, and yet no one has to be certain; we only need a reasonable assurance. And this thought conveniently leads me to you next assertion.

Funny, Rafajafar, but that reminded me of Wittgenstein’s remark about the flies swarming in the closed end of an open bottle. I think that much of the hand wringing is a result of an epistemological confusion. If all you recognize for an answer is a certainty, then I think there’s no way out of the bottle. But if we relax our hands and sphincters; if we accept that our human world is inherently uncertain, then some of us might begin to notice that the bottle is open on one end.

Plato didn’t share many of my views, and yet this passage, as it stands, can be interpreted through my views:

" ‘But how shall we bury you?’ said Crito. ‘any way you like,’ replied Socrates, ’ that is if you can catch me and I don’t slip through your fingers’…"I can’t persuade Crito that I am Socrates here who is talking to you now…; he thinks that I am the one whom he will see presently lying dead…[but] when I have drunk the poison I shall remain with you no longer.’ "
Plato, The Phaedo 114A-114D

“The dead cannot be buried. For what does not exist is obviously not there to be shoveled under the ground.”
Palle Yourgrau, Gödel Meets Einstein, p. 186


First off I would like to clarify that I don’t believe in immortality. The nature of the universe is impermanence. Secondly I would like to discuss what you consider periods of sleep in which you are not dreaming. It has been confirmed by scientists that the periods of sleep known as rapid eye movements are the periods that produce dreams. We need these sleep sessions to recharge our mental faculties, and without them we would go insane. Another thing that has been confirmed by science is the fact that people always dream during rapid eye movement. Every night you sleep, you are dreaming, reguardless of whether you remember those dreams or not. You do not remember the vast majority of your dreams, but there are techniques to help remember more of your dreams then normal. Simply writing down your dreams when you wake up is helpful.

Now, while I don’t believe in immortality, I don’t believe that anything can be destroyed either. Scientists agree. Matter and energy can be neither created or destroyed. I believe spiritual energy is a form of energy, and neither can it be created or destroyed. It can be dissipated and reformed into something else perhaps, but not created or destroyed. We are all part of the universe. The universe is one big whole. In order to destroy ourselves, we would have to destroy the universe which is impossible as far as I can tell.

Furthermore, I don’t think that unconsciousness is evidence against continued consciousness at all. On the contrary, I think that it is evidence FOR continued consciousness. The fact that you can’t remember dreams sometimes to me has little to do with afterlife. The fact that we can be unconscious, and then be conscious again is evidence that unconsciousness is not a permanent state. Also I believe unconsciousness to be a form of consciousness. Most of our thought processes are unconscious. That is to say that we do not percieve and analyse them in a conscious manner. That doesn’t mean that those thoughts are non-existant, or even that they do not have logic to them. You are arguing that when we die we are completely destroyed. It is impossible to completely destroy anything. We can only break something down into it’s baser elements and disperse those elementary parts. Though that thing would no longer retain the same form, it would still exist.

I believe death is much like that. When we die, our physical form disperses, and we are left with our elementary self, or our spiritual self. That too can disperse and take different forms (or to be more accurate, ideas or ideals), as is the nature of the universe to constantly form and reform itself. Our physical, and spiritual selves are part of this universe. This is also why I am a firm believer in reincarnation. I think that is the destiny of all things; to be formed, and then reformed over and over again. Let’s take your dreaming example. You go to sleep. You wake up not remembering having had any dreams. Let’s assume for a second that you in fact did not dream, even though science would suggest otherwise. The fact still remains that you became unconscious for a period of time, but then suddenly you woke up and were reborn in a sense. Your consciousness continues having now refreshed itself. If your going to compare death to being unconscious (even without dreaming) you still have to take into consideration the possiblity that you would wake up from this unconsciousness. To me there is a big difference between unconsciousness, and non-existance. In a dream state, we are unconscious yet we still exist. We experience existance in a much different fashion, yet we still experience it. In my opinion the dream realm is another realm of existance. It is the realm of thought. We can only enter realms of thoughts and spirit by completely disreguarding our bodies as we do by being asleep or unconscious.

Earlier you uised the example of Jason from the Friday the thirteenth movies. You said that he comes back to life no matter what they do to his body, and this work of fiction shows the supposed absurdity of continued existance after death. I think you are taking a much too narrow look at this. While Jason’s body couldn’t feasibly come back to life, who is to say that he can’t be reborn in a different body as a different person? Even if Jason were to be put down for good, he would still live. The acts that he committed would haunt the families of his victims. His memory and influences would still remain after he was gone. The ideas that may have lead him to commit those crimes will still exist. Some other person may be inspired by the very same thoughts that he had to commit similar crimes. By the time that he has been forgotten there will likely have already been another Jason to follow in his foot steps. This cycle, likely, could repeat until the human form it’s self was extinguished and reformed into something else.

If there is no spirit, and people are simply the sum of their genetics, then how do we explain identicle twins. Identicle twins have tendencies to act similar, but are in no way gauranteed to be the same people. Even if raised in the exact same environments and given the exact same treatment, identicle twins will still show signs of individuality. In fact some of them rebel against their similarities, loathing the thought of being simple carbon copies of one another. The existance of individual spirit could explain all of this. On top of all this there is still scientific research that has found weight discrepancies just after point of death that cannot be accounted for through fluid losses or other things. There are studies of near death experiences where people have been pronounced clinically dead, and doctors have confirmed that there should be no brain activities, that have had memories, and even enlightening experiences. Near death experiences can be very enlightening in fact, especially for those who are stuck with the idea that they are just flesh. Anybody who studies shamanism knows what I am talking about. In many cultures the initiation of a new shaman requires that the individual is killed and brought back to life. This is how the individual gains his powers of insight. If you are interested in the subject I suggest reading “Dream Time and Inner Space” by Holger Kalweit.

I highly recommend an out of body experience. That will renew your belief in spiritual existance. Also check out remote viewing, which cannot be explained by any other means then the existance of the soul. Some people don’t believe it, and most others have never heard of it. The fact still remains that the department of defense has training programs in remote viewing, and plenty of accurate information has been recorded from the process of remote viewing.

Okay, there is a real simple answer to this: memory. It is not possible to remember everything. If I asked you exactly what you were doing on March 11th 1986, could you tell me. What about the day after, or the day before? Even still, you have much more of a chance remembering what you did on that day, then what dreams you had that evening. Conscious experiences are much easier to remember then unconscious experiences (i.e. dreaming, or NDE’s). Just because you don’t remember what happened for that minute of sleep where you were truly unconscious, doesn’t mean that nothing happened then. When you fell asleep on that plane, you don’t remember the plane traveling through most of the trip. That doesn’t mean that the plane did not travel. The same goes for your unconscious state in between. You may not remember dreaming during any of that time, but that is no proof that dreaming did not occur. In fact it is so likely that you were dreaming during that period that it can be considered fact. In the same way we cannot have the physical memory of previous lives. Nor will we remember this life once we depart. You give human memory far too much credit, it is a far from perfect faculty especially when concerning realms of altered consciousness.

No it isn’t. After a number comes another number. After life comes another life. How is that self-defeating? I believe in reincarnation, so I believe quite literally that after life there is life again.

So you do not believe in unconciousness?


Alien Corpuscle Bath wrote:

And there’s even a simpler refutation to your amnesiac reincarnations: identity.

"The individual who loses his memory loses his mind, his self, his personhood. – Thomas Szasz, The Meaning of Mind, p.50

“The function of memory is to provide us with a sense of continuity about our lives without which it would be hard to conceive of a sense of self…” – Eugene Winograd

I have a brother-in-law that cares for persons suffering from Alzheimer’s and other diseases involving memory loss. His stories are truly heart-breaking; they’re stories of lost identities - stories of men who don’t know their wives and children; men who’ve forgetten how to tie their shoes. And when these living-shells of their former selves finally die, the families are often heard to say that the person they knew had already died some years before. They’re right, of course.

Suppose a man sentenced to death is involved in a traffic accident on the way to his place of execution. And as a result of the severe head trauma suffered in this accident, suppose he loses his memory entirely. Upon his release from the hospital he’s sent back to court for a review of his case. The judge informs him that he’s been found guilty of murder and has been sentenced to death. The man protests that he doesn’t even know his name or who his parents are, much less that he killed someone. He accepts the story about his accident, and yet he says that he isn’t the man who had that accident. He claims that the man who had the accident died in it, and the new man who was created now stands before the court.

Would it be just to execute the man who came out of the accident or has the guilty man already died in the accident? Justice is not about punishing guilty bodies, it’s about punishing guilty persons. I say that the guilty man effectively died in the accident, so there’s no one left to punish for the crime.

But taking your reincarnation ideas on face value, the amnesiac man would be executed because he is still the same man that he knows nothing about. Does this sit well with you, Alien?

To lose your memory is to lose your self. You don’t use your memory only to remember who you are, you use it to anticipate and plan for who you will become. Our memory is an integral part of who we are as persons.

Just as I’ve no “proof” that the Trafalgladorians didn’t hold me as their sex-slave for five years before wiping my memory clean and sending me back to earth. We’ve already been over this ground, Alien. Because you can’t “prove” that something is impossible doesn’t elevate it to the probable.

The lives that have already been lived belonged to those who lived them. My life is my own, it belongs to me. It doesn’t belong to some reincarnated Egyptian Pharaoh or some murdered French prostitute. They had their lives and I now I have mine.

“…for if in addition there were no remembrance of what one had been, immortality would not be at all desirable. Suppose that some individual could suddenly become King of China on condition, however, of forgetting what he had been, as though being born again, would it not amount to the same practically, or as far as the effects could be perceived, as if the individual were annihilated, and a king of China were the same instant created in his place? The individual would have no reason to desire this.” – G.W. Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, XXXIV


I recently attended a wedding reception where I had a few too many. After quite a large night, I awoke the next day with limited recollection of the night before. Piecing together the parts of the night, from my own hazy memories and the accounts of my less intoxicated friends, I found that I had lost around 1 hour of the night.

Obviously I was conscious during that time (and making an arse of myself, by the way) but due to the limited brain damage I inflicted on myself, those memories of consciousness were lost.

My point is, I don’t think it is safe to assume that we ever lose consciousness in our sleep and become “unconscious”, just because we are not aware of, or do not recall, that type of consciousness when we are in our “awoken consciousness”. For whatever reason, our brain often decides that the dreams and memories we have in our sleeping consciousness are not for keeping.

So what I am trying to propose is that, whether due to damage to the brain or some sleep process, it is possible to believe that we have lost consciousness, when in fact all that has happened is we have lost our recollection of consciousness.

I realise some other people on the post have stated similiar things already but I thought I would try to summarize it in a different way.

Sorry Polemarchus, I hadn’t read your most recent post when I submitted mine.

I am not sure what this has to do with your original forum topic. Does the loss of memory and its implications on ones identity have anything to do with a supposedly totally unconscious state while sleeping?


Yes I agree, we can’t readily prove that we enter a truly unconscious state while sleeping any more than we can prove that we do. Because of the lack of memory during such a stage, that is impossible to do with certainty.


Because it is not certain that we ever enter a stage of total unconsciousness for even a minute, then your questions about where our conscious self goes when we are truly unconscious is, really, entirely hypothetical.

An interesting thought though. Perhaps I am missing the point

As soon as you put it that way I caught the mistake.

I did.


I hate you.


Serious reply to come when time permits.

If we take the idea of the sub-conscious mind and follow it through, Consciousness could be its own agent. Filtering that data it feels “we” should know, and placing the rest in some respository where it may or may not be useful later.
This implies two seperate levels of consciousness in relation to two levels of identity.

  1. Observer
  2. Active Censor

1)Capable of acting beyond consciousness
2)And yet a slave to what is directly observed.

It could be possible then, that our deepest, most penetrating thoughts are not the result of neurons that look like Bill Clinton firing in any particular pattern, but are a result of our “will” seeking to assert truth beyond that which our conscious mind could possibly apprehend, or, dare I say, desire. Such a “will” could be deemed a soul…

Instead of the assumption that we are only capable of using whatever % of our brain that experts say we use this week, and that any human being is only capable of X because X conforms with expectations, it could be that there is a purpose beyond consciousness that we cannot directly observe because the purpose of consciousness is to keep that purpose hidden.

Human consciousness could be at war with Human nature (assuming there is something to Human nature we can only glimpse during those most rare of moments, when a seperate self becomes nascent) and that our nature could be more than capable of hiding a “soul”… or rather, possessing a soul which Consciousness hides

Dreams during sleep could be the soul seeking itself, and the consciousness deluging it with… unconscious images?

I don’t believe it (any of this), haven’t read anything like it, but I figured I would give it a shot.

Identity is the ego. I never stated that I thought that the ego would remain intact. The release from ego and sequent awakening is referred to in Buddhism as rebirth. You may find this idea repulsive for some reason, but that doesn’t disprove it. Also, I believe that your essence remains the same. As I said before, thoughts do not die. They remain in the realm of the spirit. Your ideas and ideals as established from past lives remain with you as innate idiosyncrasies inherent to your being that persist with you even after death and rebirth. Your thoughts are you, and will never die completely. Your memory is your ego, and is condemned from the day it is born, to die with the flesh that you possess. Your memory isn’t who you are. Who you are is who you are. People are defined by their thoughts and actions, not their memories. Who do you know that would say of you “you know, Michael is really a great guy, his memories are superb!” Rather someone who would compliment you would refer to your actions, personality, and thought processes as good traits, not your memories. The ego is necessary to survive and function in the material world, but serves no purpose in the realm of spirit. A person who loses his memory can be born anew, this is true. In fact there is a Tibetan Buddhist scripture known to most as the Tibetan Book of the Dead (but literally the name translates to the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) which is designed to aid people in the separation from their ego, and the sequent reunitement (also called rebirth) so as to be freed from it’s restraints. In this process a person is separated from his/her ego and then reunited with it, memories both of their life before the experience and the spiritual journey remain intact. This process is equated with the actual act of dying and being reincarnated. The person dies, and then is reborn again as a new person, yet holding the same innate traits and idiosyncrasies that define their individuality.

As far as the hypothetical amnesiac criminal, that would be a hot debate indeed were it in fact real. No I don’t think that person should be executed, but I think that has little to do with the specific personal beliefs mentioned earlier. People aren’t executed for what they did in past lives. Also I believe that there are other means in which one could become a different person that are less radical then your hypothetical amnesiac. Spiritual rebirth for one. Many people “find god” and reportedly are completely different people afterwards. Some people have life threatening experiences, or other traumatic events that reportedly have changed their lives to the extent as being seen as a different person by others who knew them before, and by their own views as well. It doesn’t take amnesia or alzheimers to change a person beyond recognition.

Yes we have been over this, and I’ll say the same thing I did last time. If there is evidence that suggests a theory may be true, and there is no evidence to suggest it isn’t, it then becomes at least some what probable. Your example does not hold against what I said, because there is all sorts of scientific evidence that suggests that you were in fact, most probably dreaming, though you could not remember it. It would be very unlikely that you did not reach REM sleep during that plane trip considering that you hadn’t slept well before, and deep sleep is almost always accompanied by REMs. There is evidence that you did dream, though not official undenyable mathematical proof. There is no evidence that suggests that you didn’t dream. Which assumption sounds more logical, that you were dreaming or that you were not dreaming based upon the evidence? Same goes with the existance of the spirit, as you tried to refute last time under the same premise. There is some (though certainly not conclusive) evidence of the existance of the human soul. There is no evidence against it. That makes that belief a safe bet. The day I pull something out of my ass to which I have no evidence either for or against you can make this argument with me.

And lastly, what you said about immortality being undesireable, I agree! Though I do agree differently. First of all I don’t believe in immortality. Secondly, if there were such thing as immortality I believe that it would eventually be torture. I think there is a reason why no one lives forever. Everyone thinks they want to live forever, but I have the intuitive feeling that the reality would be much worse then the idea. Anyhow, what I am referring to isn’t immortality. Continued existance and immortality are two different issues. I think that rebirth is such a necessary process for existance that it is even built into our daily lives via sleep. Have you ever tried staying up for an extended period of time, say a week? I have. It actually becomes quite torturous, and reality becomes less and less firm. Things start to seem more imaginary. Hallucinations occur frequently. Your brain feels over-worked and deficient. Your body feels over-used. It’s really not a good thing. To do away with death, I imagine would be every bit as unpleasant as doing away with sleep.