Is there a reason why death could be final? Is there some law that prevents something from ever existing again after it is dead? Why are there supposedly entities that are able to cease existing and never exist again?

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    DJ, it might be that the folks around here might like you less than they like me (and that's not an empty observation). two things: 1. i would say that this is a metaphysical (and, at least for me, eventually religious) question, at least regarding what it is that our consciousness or "souls" (whatever the heck that is) are about. physics won't speak to that. 2. if something ever existed again after it ceased existing, is that something a copy or the same something? – robert bristow-johnson Jun 10 '16 at 15:54

Death may be final because it can be defined to be as such. One of the most powerful aspects of death is its finality. Once something dies, it can not be brought back.

However, this is only part of the story. How do we know something really died? We used to declare something dead when it's heartbeat ceased, but modern medicine has since demonstrated that it can bring someone back from beyond that point. The medical definition of dead is a nuanced definition that science is constantly refining.

Maybe it is the trickiness of these definitions that lead people to use phrases like "you will always live on in my heart." Perhaps people seek a more refined concept to describe what they experience while they are alive.

  • Death is not a logical convention, but an observation -- we watch things lose cohesion and become other things. No observed fact is true because 'it is defined as such'. Surely you mean something else by that phrase. – user9166 Jun 5 '16 at 7:25
  • @jobermark Your phrasing would define a continuous process, which is an unusual definition for death that I don't see often. People say "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," but very few people die by instantaneously turning to dust. Perhaps the process of dying is an observation of a dynamic loss of cohesion, but the death itself is merely a line in the sand? – Cort Ammon Jun 5 '16 at 13:16
  • I would agree with your last characterization. Death is generally not the cessation of life, whatever eats you is still life, and you become part of it. But that life no longer takes on the cohesive pattern that constitutes 'you'. But that does not mean his process happens 'by definition' as a mere convention, just because we can't cleanly define the point of any given death. Observed phenomena often cannot be assigned a precise point in time (when an elastic ball hits the ground, at exactly what point has it 'bounced'?) That does not lead us to say they didn't happen. – user9166 Jun 5 '16 at 15:00
  • @jobermark Ahh, I think i see where you are coming from. If you note, my answer starts with "Death may be final because it can be defined as such." Really, the only reason death must be final is because we choose to define death to be something final. If we define death to be something that is not final, then that frees us from the conclusion that it is final. Thus, in reference to the OP's question, there is no law to say it must be final, but we can define it as such. I then point out over the next two parts of the answer reasons to question the validity of such an assumption. – Cort Ammon Jun 5 '16 at 16:23
  • That all being said, in my second sentence, I do point out that most people find the powerful facet of the definition of death to be how final it is. I have not met anyone whose definition does not contain a substantial degree of finality, even amongst those who believe in reincarnation or other similar beliefs. I felt this was strong enough to use "is" in that sentence, as opposed to "may" and "can be" from the first sentence. – Cort Ammon Jun 5 '16 at 16:24

You may want to look at Paul Edwards' book on the afterlife Immortality.

The evidence for the contrary is scant.

The evidence for there being no afterlife is obvious, bodies die, turn into something unrecognizable as a human being, and we are our bodies.

I like his rebuttal of Husserl (who personally, I do believe, thought he was immortal): no proof at all.

He also authored a book Heidegger's Confusions.

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    "did he prove it" nice idea. @DJSims unfortunately i can't leave it behind – user6917 Jun 4 '16 at 14:09
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    like i said "the evidence to the contrary is scant" – user6917 Jun 4 '16 at 14:10
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    it's just not a live question, unless you have something to the contrary ? – user6917 Jun 4 '16 at 14:12
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    long story short you don't uhh categorically prove anything in philosophy – user6917 Jun 4 '16 at 14:13
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – user6917 Jun 4 '16 at 14:16

IMHO the best reason to believe in an afterlife are Kantian on space (we cannot destroy the space that an object seems to take up) and based in time (see McTaggart on time).

I mean that very broadly, a jumping off point to why people might intuitively hold the belief; it seems that Kant didn't believe in an afterlife anyway.

The reasons to not believe that there is an afterlife are just everywhere. I used to think I know grandpa, and it seems that the mind is the body.

  • Eternal recurrence is way better than either of those FYI – D J Sims Jun 4 '16 at 15:30

Death could be final because there is no concrete evidence to believe otherwise. Yes, it is certainly possible that it isn't final, but how do we test this? With the current information we have, and observing that everyone who has died in the past has never returned, it is simply logical to assume that these people cease to exist and haven't existed since their death. Yes, our dataset is limited since we cannot say with with certainty that everyone who has died in the past can't suddenly wake up and start existing again 1.5 million years in the future.

I guess the more interesting question is: is death real? But the problem with along such questions is that death in itself is not an experience in life, so no one can claim to actually know anything about death.

To answer your first question directly: death could be final because we have never observed someone who is dead come back to life, but like all such questions, the is no definitive answer. And ad for your second question: no, there is no known law, but we can say with a great degree of certainty that it is unlikely that something dead can come back to exist again since we have never observed it before and all living things seem to follow this paradigm. But it is not guaranteed to not happen in the future. For your third question: what entities are you talking about?

  • Your first sentence is wrong because it is not sufficient to prove that final death is possible. Not accepting this answer. – D J Sims Jun 4 '16 at 12:54
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    Well, we die because our organs lose functionality as we get closer to death (natural causes). The most well known hypothesis as to why this is true is attributed to evolution. The argument is that death actually has a comparative advantage for the species as a whole. – athul777 Jun 4 '16 at 13:01

The second law of thermodynamics insists that the level of disorganization increases over time, always has, and always will. Since 'an entity' to be recognizable as itself requires a certain level of organization, not all entities can continue to exist, or to recur, endlessly throughout time.

A life form requires quite a high level of organization to continue to be recognized as itself. Ultimately no single entity with any high degree of organization will be able to exist at all. So eventually, no individual's life, nor any recognizable remnant of it, will be able to exist, unless time itself ends.

The overall level of organization does not seem likely to stop decreasing or to return to a higher level, since the expansion of our universe is not slowing down over time, but is increasing instead.

  • I think that's a misunderstanding of physics – D J Sims Jun 5 '16 at 8:24
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    @DJSims That is an assertion with no support... "If the topology of the universe is open or flat, or if dark energy is a positive cosmological constant (both of which are supported by current data), the universe will continue expanding forever and a heat death is expected to occur," from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe (emphasis mine). The heat death would require no continued organized life – user9166 Jun 5 '16 at 14:45
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    Your assertion would require support, if you want it to mean anything. I gave you my reference, and my reasoning. What is yours? Either put up or shut up. – user9166 Jun 9 '16 at 17:01
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    Philosophy must either account for, or disprove science, or it is not being honest. – user9166 Jun 9 '16 at 17:05
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    No, I do not think I have proven that time does not repeat. I have suggested that it goes through periods where life would be virtually impossible. Whether or not time itself repeats is not part of this question. – user9166 Jun 9 '16 at 17:08

The question "is death final" may be rephrased as "is life finite". In this case, the answer seems to be "yes" for humans, while some other living things may live indefinitely long (or just much longer than we do)

So why is our life limited? A short explanation would be that our species is a result of evolutionary process, and immortality is one of the traits that we didn't evolve. Natural selection favors those who produce viable offspring; longevity, beneficial as it is for a single living organism, is of second priority. And there is simply no conceivable way to evolve something that may be called a soul. Though who knows, maybe we may eventually find a way to transfer our consciousness to computer system or another medium.


It depends on how the word final is to be understood. If it is to be understood temporally and chronologically, as is seemingly always understood, death may be final or it may not be final, again, depending on the cultural type of temporality and chronology its finality is "measured" against (e.g. if it is a Christian type of temporality / chronology, death's finality may not be as final as originally thought after all).

However, I prefer saying that death is final in a strictly teleological way: for, indeed, the ultimate purpose (or finality) of death seems to be that of no longer allowing life to be active.

In denying life its centrality in the universe, I would say that, yes, death is (teleologically) final.

  • There might be something in here, but I'm finding it dizzying to read the answer. Maybe you could put the different modes of finality at the top and then examples of each and then state why you think death is final in the teleological sense (only?) – virmaior Apr 2 '17 at 23:04
  • @virmaior May I know why you find my comment "dizzying" to read? – ΥΣΕΡ26328 Apr 3 '17 at 8:09
  • How many senses of final do you think exist ? How are they differentiated? How do chronology and temporality differ? Is the purpose you proposed for death mere opinion?? – virmaior Apr 3 '17 at 10:32
  • @virmaior Then perhaps I should have written an essay on the subject, not a mere comment below a mere question. But your observations are, of course, quite valid if ever I am going to "essay up" my modest and glossarian thoughts. – ΥΣΕΡ26328 Apr 3 '17 at 10:40

For philosophers such as Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, Socrates, and many others, death is not the end because human kind is shaped by the soul and the soul is immortal because it is spiritual and because it has his own operation (according to Thomas Aquinas).

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