I'm trying to dissolve all these ridiculous pseudo questions about death, that I have, which all seem to be variants of stamping my foot and demanding qualia for everything. So why not Wittgenstein?

Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

I reread this, and wondered if part of the confusion here is that this is a subtle dig at hedonism, or something like that. If we don't lose anything when we die, isn't that deplorable?

Seems so, unless we assume that what is present is trivially in eternity, and so worthless, dwarfed by that (like Nagel's view from nowhere).

So what is he saying?

Is his "eternal life" a good thing and does it already obtain?

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    Why not Heidegger? "Of course, only as long as Dasein is, that is, the ontical possibility of the understanding of being is, 'is there' being. If Dasein does not exist... such a thing is then neither understandable nor not understandable". Perhaps, they are both saying that the meaningful "immortality" is already there, living in the present philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/30172/…
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


One interpretation is that given we don't get to experience death, we don't die. Consciousness doesn't die but is locked in time, from its conception to when we become unconscious. So to be free of this bondage to time, we can live in the present, take each moment as it arrives, ignoring the past and the future, living with no regard to time in order to lead an eternal/timeless life.

I think its a thumbs up for living in the present, as the words "eternal life" have strong positive and not negative connotations.


I can't see this as criticism of hedonism. If anything, favoring being in the moment is moving us closer to hedonism, splitting the difference between religiosity and hedonism: We are not obsessing over duties, but we are not looking forward to the next treat, either. So, if this is a dig at someone, it is Christianity, which, by this logic actively undermines its own stated goal, by giving people explicit, unnecessary things to think about, and placing too many of those things in the future. Hedonism is at least consistent.

Wittgenstein seemed to many to want to maintain and broaden what is currently our "mystical" religious sensitivity, but extricate it from religion. I think this is a use of logic in the service of practical mysticism.

To some degree, I think he is arguing for pursuing a stereotype of Zen Mushin or the Chinese Taoist 'doing in not doing' thinking. This is not alien to a Western perspective, and shows up in mystical exhortations like "The Cloud of Unknowing", is an aspect of many uses of both the rosary and the 'Jesus Prayer', and has been adopted by un-ministered Christian sects, like Quaker meetings, as the basic form of worship.

If you want eternal life, where 'eternal' does not mean 'forever', but 'beyond time', then future-focussed cultures like ours have the whole approach wrong. Eternal life simply does not mean immortality, which is impossible. It means putting aside time.

One should not focus on the future, and God's future judgment of Mankind, or on your own state after death, but should instead learn to step outside of time in the present. People naturally do this when they suspend concern about the past or future. So we often all have eternal life, in the form of 'flow' or other partial suspensions of consciousness. We just don't value it. And unless we cultivate it, we find it elusive.

One part of the equanimity one pursues in mastering that state, in many traditions that teach it, is the awareness that your own death is a specific, unique event only for other people, and not for you. After all, by their logic, when your consciousness ceases, it should be very much like other times when you have escaped explicit conscious thought. This time, you just won't be returning back to consciousness. Taking away its uniqueness makes it more approachable and less scary.

Psychologically, we pay a price for not valuing and cultivating this state of mind. Practitioners of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy find the ability to regulate emotion is improved by undirected meditation over time. And various hallucinogens that purposely shut down or thwart different aspects of logical thought have been shown to work similar changes.

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