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I presume that, after death, there would not be any afterlife or any remains of the soul.

while I am alive, I have a certain perception or concept of the universe. I have a sense of space, time, distance, angle, solid-angle, dihedral angle, etc. that consists my meaning of reality.

But what would happen after my death? Would this reality collapse? Would I see pitch black dark? Isn't pitch black dark itself a perception? And would there still be the sense of space? If yes, then in absence of my body (suppose after cremation), "who" is perceiving that darkness???

Additional question: While I will be dead, and reality will collapse to me, (that is everything is pitch black and silent, nothing has existence) there will be other alive people who would have their reality. What determines which reality I have? Or what determines "I am not one of them"? What connects "me" and "my experience" to the particular body or the particular individual person or organism? Is it probability? Like I could be you, a molecular clusture in USA, and You could be I, a molecular clusture in India, going through completely different life experiences, different set of friends, different schools, such and such.

My question is basically who is this "I" or "You" connecting to specific bodies (and NOT otherwise), and how can we have so many versions of the reality?

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    Your assumption „there won’t be any afterlife after death“ already answers your question of what happens after death. I would disagree with that assumption however - it comes from a naturalistic standpoint and is as unprovable as other assumptions that come from theistic standpoints, like that you have (better, are) a soul that cannot go out of existence. Commented Mar 6 at 9:15
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    For some reason you mention "reality" (which usually means something like "the universe") in a question about "your perceptions". In the first four sentences, you correctly talk about your perceptions. (Your perceptions are like a smartphone, recording an mpeg movie.) In the fifth sentence, you suddenly use the word "reality". There's simply no connection, at all, in any way, between your perceptions and reality.
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 6 at 13:08
  • If you want to imagine what your post-death experiences might be like, it might help to try to remember what it was like for you before you were conceived. All those billions of years really flew by, eh? :) Commented Mar 9 at 2:31

8 Answers 8

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You start with the assumption that there is no afterlife beyond the death of a person, and there are no remains of the person's soul.

To avoid the problematic and burdened word “soul” I translate your assumption into

After the dead of a person his/her brain does not work any longer. All mental processes expire.

Under this assumption your question

Would I see pitch black dark?

makes no sense after death: Because there is no person any longer who can see. Notably there are no conscious processes. Conscious processes are a good approximation for what you call this "I".

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    @CitizenandSociety Could you please express your statement without double negation. What do you mean?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 5 at 19:59
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    @AlistairRiddoch After loosing the ability to sense warm and cold I have no sensation for temperature. That's nearly a tautology.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 5 at 20:16
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    @CitizenandSociety -- have you ever lost consciousness? Or were put under general anesthesia? If you have, imagine that you never woke up from it. That would be death. Commented Mar 5 at 23:08
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    A much easier comparison is to compare being dead (non existence) to not being yet born (non existence). So, how did the 13 billions years felt when you weren't born ? Pretty chill no ?
    – Jemox
    Commented Mar 6 at 15:52
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    @CitizenandSociety Do you remember seeing/experiencing pitch black darkness, or is there just a gap in your memory where there were no experiences at all? That's what Yuri's trying to get at: there's no "you" to do the experiencing. The fact that we can talk about "when you're dead" is a quirk of the language. Saying "A is dead" is just shorthand for "A doesn't exist, but previously did (and was a living being)". That's the only way in which death differs from not being born yet (excellent comparison, Jemox): one is the nonexistence before you exist and one is the nonexistence after.
    – Ray
    Commented Mar 7 at 21:29
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This is one of the fundamental questions of existence, and one to which different philosophical and religious traditions have given quite different and incompatible answers. It's also an open question, since a full understanding of consciousness remains elusive.

With that said, given your stated assumptions--that neither immortal soul nor afterlife exists, (a position consistent with the dominant current modern scientific worldview) the answer would be personal nonexistence for you, like a flame that has gone out, or a song that has ended, with no surviving perceptions, senses or identity. Under that same worldview, the rest of reality would soldier on, neither affected nor impacted in anything other than relatively minor ways.

That is the answer that goes along with the idea that consciousness is something entirely generated within the physical substrate composed by the brain, and furthermore that physical reality is external, valid, and largely as we perceive it. Not everyone believes that (I don't), but if you do believe it, it is difficult to reach any other conclusion than death as a decisive, comprehensive terminal point.

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    the best answer
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 6 at 4:14
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What do you perceive when you're sleeping and not dreaming? You don't perceive darkness, there is just an absence of experience.

You go to bed, and hours pass while you experience nothing, and then you wake up feeling roughly as if no time at all has passed.

I expect death will be like that, except you don't wake up on the other side.


I'm not quite sure I'm getting your other question, but under a reductionist perspective, your conscious experience is generated by your brain, so that's how and why "you" are attached your body and not to someone else.

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  • What if you do experience something but don't remember it later on?
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 6 at 0:46
  • @Mark There is an interesting question of distinguishing lived experience from memory. But we can't reasonably distinguish something you experienced but can't remember from something you didn't experience, without corroborating evidence. And without corroborating evidence, Occam's razor probably says we should stick with: you didn't experience it (although there's a lot more to say about sleep experiences). (Side note: I don't really see why anyone would want to get too drunk to remember anything, as a way to enjoy themselves, because if you can't remember it, what's the point.)
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Mar 6 at 5:11
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    I dream at night, that’s not nothing. Commented Mar 6 at 9:11
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The inconsistency in what you suppose is that on the one hand you assume there will be no afterlife, but on the other you assume that you will experience the sensation of darkness and space. Those two assumptions are self-contradictory. If you have ever experienced a general anaesthetic, you will know that while you are under its influence you do not experience blackness or a neutral temperature- your experience stops altogether. To judge by your comments on other answers, that is, perhaps, what you are struggling to imagine.

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It seems the question you're asking is contradictory to your initial assumption. If there is no afterlife or "soul", then the idea that you may continue to perceive doesn't make sense because, just as you're pointing out, what would you perceive? If you have no soul, then it ought to follow that you cease perceiving. And if there's no afterlife, then it ought to follow that there is nothing to perceive, even if you still could. So, the answer is that you would perceive nothing, not because there "is" nothing, but because you wouldn't perceive. What would it mean to no longer perceive? We can't know. It's an inherently unknowable, unanswerable question, because we would have to describe something which is necessarily unperceivable, which in turn begs the question of how we could even describe it in the first place. And, of course, the answer is that we can't, by the definition of perception.

Your question touches on the key question of epistemology: "what can and can't we know?" For more information, I'd suggest looking into epistemological texts (in particular, Kant and post-Kant texts). I hope I've answered your question!

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It is only under soul theories of consciousness and selfhood that there would be any "you" to experience anything.

If one is interested in discovering what our world is like, it is far better to NOT start with any presumptions, nor ask the posters here what they think would happen after death -- too many will just respond with whatever theoretical or ideological view they have.

The more useful approach is to examine whether there IS any data about what happens after death. This is to apply empiricism to the question, rather than theory, or ideology.

And there is. The studies of near death experiences have been extensive, and there are consistent reports of post-death experiences by those who have had them. Here is one good reference to get you started: https://www.nderf.org/

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  • Amazing answer, using science to try to get an understanding of what may happen after death. Commented Mar 6 at 12:47
  • The problem with nde is that your memories are being written by active physiological processes that are stopped while you are dead. So even if you (whatever that means when you're dead) experienced something, you wouldn't remember them when you wake up. And whatever you remember when you do, is much more probably the experience of waking up instead of the one of being dead.
    – Jemox
    Commented Mar 6 at 16:00
  • @Jemox -- You are presuming the physicalist assumption about memories, and physicalism is not the only ontology that is viable. See philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/110276/… When one looks for test cases of the physicalist presumption on memories, there are refuting examples out there. Perhaps the best documented are the spontaneous past life memories of children. Here is a good reference. med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/our-research/…
    – Dcleve
    Commented Mar 6 at 17:08
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How do you know after you went to sleep last night you died in your sleep and everything you see now and experience including sleeping from that day on is "death"? Maybe the "reality" you experience right now is death? Is this current reality "death"?

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If you believe that conciseness ends with the death of the body, that there is no afterlife, then, you have to believe the following statements:

  1. Your life and lives of other people contain random and isolated conciseness not connected to the lives before or after you.

  2. Newborn people don't inherit the experience, achievements and development of their ancestors.

  3. You never feel a connection to your dead relatives/friends, and you don't believe that someone or something (outside of the physicals world) was helping you through your life.

My personal opinion, is that the majority of people after age 50 would not agree with the three statements above.

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