"No future triumph or metamorphosis can justify the pitiful blighting of a human being against his will." Peter Zapffe
(I’m sorry to say I do not have the source of this- please contact me if you are the author so I can link to you)
A great poem that will not make you feel any better
Death is the bullies bashing
against the black walls and roof tiling,
death is the women being loved
in the course of onion peeling.
Death the squalid, unimportant streets
with their glamorous and pompous names,
the olive-grove, the surrounding sea, and even
the sun, death among all other deaths.
Death the policeman bending over
to weigh, a “lacking” portion,
death the harebells on the balcony
and the teacher with the newspaper.
Base, Guard, Sixty-man Prevezian Rule.
On Sunday we’ll listen to the band.
I’ve taken out a savings booklet,
my first deposit drachmas thirty one.
Walking slowly on the quay,
“do I exist?” you say, and then: “you do not!”
The ship approaches. The flag is flying.
Perhaps Mr. Prefect will be coming.
If at least, among these people,
one would die of sheer disgust
silent, bereaved, with humble manners,
at the funeral we’d all have fun.
I need to write a post refuting each of these cliches.
That’s a lot of cliches to analyze! Well, do link us up if you do.
The “nothingness” of being dead is such a great comfort .
Just like a deep sleep, we won’t experience a thing . No more bullshit, no more caring about tedious life, no more desires, no more other people and society.
I often find myself lying awake thinking to myself what a fucking relief death is. No consciousness it’s literally hard to imagine but I lay in bed thinking about it. How will it be when I’m dead , absolutely nothing !
Some people may say it’s sad and depressing but you will be gone there’s no more you , you are no longer aware so it won’t be anything to you . Your experiences will be just like how before you were born…. nothing.
I find this very comforting and dare I say exciting .
Had you asked me this around a year ago, I probably would have agreed. But as of now I can’t say I agree with your outlook on death.
The problem I see with your view is that it’s grass-is-always-greener thinking by-and-through. What seems to me is that by fantasizing about non-existence, you’re applying some sort of value to it that cannot be applied rationally. You’re reifying comparative value into actual value – a classic psychological phenomenon. It’s the same reasoning that goes on when people think a recovery from a detrimental accident qualifies the accident itself as good, as if recovery is goodness itself.
When in reality, non-existence is not good. There is no good outcome in our position: we live a life of mediocrity and suffering, and then die. Both states of affairs are not good, and it’s only a poetic coping mechanism to actually say an empty universe is good. It’s not. In fact I think it might be rather insulting to even argue that non-existence and death are good things for us: it places to focus on a good in order to justify action against the bad, when our primary ethical focus should be on minimizing the bad, and not necessarily because there’s a good state in store afterwards. After all, we aren’t even there to enjoy the peacefulness of non-existence. There is no redemption.
So that’s the rub of a negative ethical outlook: there is no good state of affairs in which sentients as we know them to be, exist, only levels of bad and worse. You know we’re in a pretty shitty situation when we start fantasizing about the quality of non-existence.
I am sure Francois would also agree with this viewpoint.
I think you’re both approaching this from different directions. I think you both have the right idea, just in different ways.
As much as I hate suicide, I also understand it…. You can’t weigh in on why someone might commit suicide unless you’ve really had your life torn apart by an episode of major depression. Why? Because severe major depression is probably the most unbearable pain a human being can withstand for any protracted period of time. Many people who died of cancer have written eloquently about how the crushing pain from their tumors paled in comparison to the pain they felt when depressed. With all other pain, most people can maintain some sense of separation between themselves and the pain. As horrible as it is, the pain is in their arm, or leg, or belly or head. But there is still a “them” that is separate from the misery.
Depression is different. Because it is at its essence a perceptual disorder, it causes one to see the entire world as pain. It feels painful inside, but it also feels painful outside. When a person is depressed, the entire world is disturbed and distressed, so there is nowhere to escape. And it is this fact that makes suicide so seductive, because it seems to offer the one available escape option.
I am not suicidal and have never been suicidal… but I do question if life is even worth living.
We are self-replicating bio-robots; lumps of self-aware meat hung on a rack of bones slowly decaying until we die and rot in a grave/crematorium. All we are here to do is consume and reproduce more copies of ourselves, the rest is just drama created by a CULTure/society.
It’s just – eat, sleep, shit, work, chase trivial crude, animalistic desires and then die. Once our brain rots we won’t even remember any of this nonsense so it will be as if we never even existed. The sad reality is, there is no “positive”, there is only the elimination of the negatives. (Negatives instilled by life) e.g. – we are hungry, we need food — we are lonely, we crave companionship — we have needs/desires, we seek fulfilment — we are sick/ill, we seek relief/aid. Once one removes all cobwebs of delusion they can see the silliness of life; a bunch of animals eating each other.
Things only get worse in time, such as nursing homes, dementia, cancer etc. Also, your better not having kids and making more victims to suffer this slaughterhouse of an existence. All you can do is try and “enjoy” your own life the best you can without causing harm to others and that’s about it. But if we we’re logical and had no emotional bias we would probably realize it is best to terminate ourselves as soon as possible.
I hear ya!
I appreciate all the comments here but for me the question is: Is it better to be alive or dead?
Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all? Dying, sleeping—that’s all dying is—a sleep that ends all the heartache and shocks that life on earth gives us—that’s an achievement to wish for. To die, to sleep—to sleep, maybe to dream. Ah, but there’s the catch: in death’s sleep who knows what kind of dreams might come, after we’ve put the noise and commotion of life behind us.
This is certainly something to worry about.
This is the consideration that makes us stretch out our sufferings so long. After all, who would put up with all life’s humiliations—the abuse from superiors, the insults of arrogant men, the pangs of unrequited love, the inefficiency of the legal system, the rudeness of people in office, and the mistreatment good people have to take from bad—when you could simply take out your knife and call it quits? Who would choose to grunt and sweat through an exhausting life, unless they were afraid of something dreadful after death, the undiscovered country from which no visitor returns, which we wonder about without getting any answers from and which makes us stick to the evils we know rather than rush off to seek the ones we don’t? Fear of death makes us all cowards, and our natural boldness becomes weak with too much thinking. Actions that should be carried out at once get misdirected, and stop being actions at all.
So what you’re saying is that all this hullabaloo against suicide is much ado about nothing? :)
Humans are naturally biased to think that being alive is better than being dead. To some, the idea of not wanting to live is so instinctually repugnant that they literally cannot understand suicide. I do not think that is hyperbole; I think they literally are incapable of grasping it.
What is life, and why is it valuable? Personally, I’m of the opinion that life isn’t great. That may be, and hopefully is, just an empirical contingency, and in some way, at some time, in a distant universe, there may one day be life that is great, that is worth living. However, that’s not the life we have now, so our only option is to cope with what we have. Ending life is one way of coping — not one that could be universally recommendable, but also not one that I can find a reason to condemn outright. Who am I to judge, or blame? Only the sheltered could do so ingenuously.
Some people have genetics and life experiences which make living life a wonderful thing. For others though the reality of life is much sadder and many wish that they were never born. It is unethical to force someone to stay alive who never had a choice on whether to be born or not and who does not want to live. We should make assisted suicide accessible for people who do not want to live.
Life is a personal responsibility and not everyone is able (or cut out) to cope with the pressures of this difficult life.
Agreed on all points!
I’ve been reading a lot of Schopenhauer, especially his Essays on Pessimism. They are fascinating, and extremely beautifully (and of course provocatively) written. Here’s a cheery and lovely passage: “Could we foresee it, there are times when children might seem like innocent prisoners, condemned, not to death, but to life, and as yet all unconscious of what their sentence means. Nevertheless, every man desires to reach old age; in other words, a state of life of which it may be said; ‘It is bad to-day, and it will be worse tomorrow; and so on till the worst of all.”
Hmm. Later, he says, “… you may look upon life as an unprofitable episode, disturbing the blessed calm of non-existence.” Take that, Lucretius!
What I’m wondering is this (and it is of course not original with me). In present times, Schopenhauer would probably see a therapist of some sort, who would give him some kind of anti-depressant medication and “talk-therapy” — perhaps cognitive therapy or psychodynamically informed therapy. The combination might be “effective” — but then we would lose this brilliant curmudgeon, or at least his delightfully curmudgeonly writing.
Would Schopenhauer have been better off undepressed?
Would the world have been better off?
Does anyone here think the following statement is true in most cases?
“The aspects of suicide that stir us so deeply, in addition to the experience of loss, are found in its suddenness and finality…. Few acts, if any, carry the weight or PROFOUNDNESS of this sad statement of despair”
Yes, I agree!
Switching to the topic of Aesthetics for a moment – I would really like to get your take on the following extracts from James Morrison’s paper titled ‘Why Spinoza Had No Aesthetics’
Do you know anyone who would agree with what he says?
The reasons for Spinoza’s lack of interest in aesthetics are not solely or primarily due to a merely personal indifference to art and beauty. Nor does he openly express his reasons for his indifference or hostility to art and beauty. Rather, his reasons are philosophical and must be inferred from what he explicitly says. The general character of Spinoza’s philosophy, as well as some of his central doctrines, not only provide no adequate philosophical basis for an aesthetics but lead to the neglect of aesthetics altogether. That is, I shall argue that Spinoza’s philosophy represents a certain type of philosophy and “cast of mind” which is fundamentally alien to, even hostile towards, art and beauty.
For Spinoza, works of art do not constitute a special domain of beings. He regards them merely as physical objects with physical predicates. Art and beauty belong to the “manifest image” of the world, the world as it appears to the imagination and senses. Spinoza persistently denigrates the latter in favor of reason (ratio) and intellect (intellectus). This elevation of reason and intellect over the imagination and the senses has a metaphysical and epistemological motive, namely, the doctrine that reality is knowable only by thought. This doctrine, which may be called “rationalism” or “intellectualism”, is present in another form as well, namely, in Spinoza’s moral teaching. There it means that the way one ought to live — freedom, virtue, and happiness — can be known only by thought. Reason alone prescribes those activities which constitute a free, virtuous, and happy life. For Spinoza, such a life is one in which reason dominates the passions. Now the passions are linked to the imagination and senses. These form a trilogy bound together by passivity. For when we imagine, sense, and have passions we are acted upon or determined by things other than ourselves. By contrast, when we reason and understand we are active, self-determined. ‘Imagination, sense, and passion’ all involve a lowering of the degree or level of vitality, a decrease in our power over ourselves and other things. The alternative is to master the passions by reason, to change passions into actions, to be active and self-determined. For Spinoza, only reason and understanding can accomplish this. Art and beauty, however, belong to the life of imagination, sense, and passion. If the goal is to free ourselves from bondage and misery we must turn away from art and beauty, which are inseparable from them. Nevertheless, Spinoza allows that art and beauty do have a limited “medicinal” value. In a brief passage dealing with the negative and harmful emotions, Spinoza says:
‘It is part of a wise man, I say, to refresh and restore himself in moderation with pleasant food and drink, with scents, with the beauty of green plants, with decoration, music, sports, the theatre, and other things of this kind, which anyone can use without injury to another.’
“For” he says “the human Body” has many parts with different “natures, which constantly require new and varied nourishment.” The restoration of the body is in turn important “so that the Mind also may be equally capable of understanding many things”… This implies that the arts and beauty have no intrinsic worth, but merely instrumental value. By directly affecting the body — restoring and maintaining its health — they indirectly contribute to the well being of the mind, namely, its capacity to know. Art and beauty are thus given an auxiliary role to play in reason’s struggle with the passions. The making and enjoyment of works of art and beautiful things are neither constituent parts of, nor a direct means for, achieving freedom, virtue, and happiness. Aside from their instrumental and medicinal value they are at best distractions from the serious business of life; at worst, they are an indulgence in the very things which lead to bondage, vice, and unhappiness.
Nor does the pleasure which accompanies the enjoyment of art and beauty give them an important place in the good life. Although Spinoza defines pleasure in terms of an increase in activity, according to him, mental activity results only from adequate ideas. The passions and other affects, however, are inadequate, confused ideas. This suggests that the only “true pleasures” are those arising from intellectual activity. Spinoza contrasts what he calls “the true good” (verum bonum) to what “men think to be the highest good, namely, wealth, honor, and sensual pleasure” (libidinem). The latter goods are defective because they involve “the love of those things that can perish”. The love one feels for them is therefore itself perishable. By contrast, the true good is “permanent,” for it involves the love of something which is “eternal and infinite.” But the eternal and infinite are accessible only through knowledge. Only knowledge can provide permanent and unmixed happiness because only through knowledge can the mind unite with what is permanent. From the point of view of Spinoza, who seeks “something which, once found and acquired, would continuously give me the greatest joy, to eternity,” the delights afforded by art and beauty would have seemed little different from other counterfeit pleasures.
The problem is not just that Spinoza’s philosophy offers a “barren soil” for cultivating an aesthetics. Rather, the ground it supplies is too hard and intractable to motivate anyone from even attempting to sow it. In other words, Spinoza’s basic philosophical position, especially what I have called his naturalism and rationalism, together with their reductionist implications, provide no motivation for taking art and beauty seriously as themes of philosophical aesthetics. Naturalism means that works of art have no special metaphysical status (i.e., are not irreducible to physical objects) and that beauty is not a real (objective and absolute) quality of things. Rationalism means that only by thought (not the imagination or senses) can we know the true nature of things. Now it can be objected that none of these doctrines logically implies that art and beauty cannot be the subject-matter of a philosophical aesthetics. I am willing to grant this. But I maintain that when these metaphysical and epistemological doctrines are combined with moral rationalism the implications for aesthetics become more evident. For, as we have seen above, Spinoza’s moral rationalism means that the emotions, which are linked to the imagination and senses, are the source of unfreedom, vice, and unhappiness. This implies that the good life is possible only if the passions are mastered; and this, Spinoza holds, can only be done by reason and the intellect. Herein lies, I believe, the ultimate basis of Spinoza’s philosophical neglect of aesthetics. For once the good life is identified with the life of reason, and reason is opposed to emotion, imagination, and sense….. art and beauty become suspect. They are regarded as either irrelevant or hostile to man’s highest and deepest interests.
I have no idea if anyone would agree or not. Also, wouldn’t it have been shorter for you to summarize it instead of posting the whole thing?
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