I have recently watched this rather old TED presentation - A philosophical quest for our biggest problems.

The first big problem is considered death:

death is a big problem. If you look at the statistics, the odds are not very favorable to us. So far, most people who have lived have also died. Roughly 90 percent of everybody who has been alive has died by now.

These are facts and also from an economical point of view this looks like a terrible waste.

However, biologic evolution is possible due to presence of death. This also seem to be true for scientific evolution (Max Planck):

Science advances one funeral at a time.

Question: Why is death considered a big problem?

  • 3
    1) Because of experience and knowledge lost 2) because people generally find life kind of neat and worth holding on to and the notion that this neat and worthwhile condition may go away at any time and eventually will go away with utmost certainty is upsetting to most.
    – MichaelK
    Apr 27 '18 at 9:22
  • @MichaelK - yes, these are certainly true. However, pretty all knowledge (actually its current complexity) seems possible only when death is present. Solving this big problem seems to create other big problems.
    – Alexei
    Apr 27 '18 at 9:31
  • I have no idea what you meant by that. Try again please?
    – MichaelK
    Apr 27 '18 at 9:35
  • @MichaelK - I feel that the loss is greater as the knowledge is greater. Having a greater knowledge is possible due to evolution. Yet, evolution (at least until genetics become much more evolved) relies on people to be replaced.
    – Alexei
    Apr 27 '18 at 9:37
  • I am sorry but at best you are talking about two completely different things here. At worst I still have no idea what you are talking about. Evolution is a very long-term process, stretching over billions of years, and over billions of individuals. For evolution to work you need to breed and then make room for the new generations, yes. That still does not make death any more appealing to the individual. Also a fear of, and an aversion to, death is evolutionary advantageous for the individual's own lineage.
    – MichaelK
    Apr 27 '18 at 9:44

If you are speaking about the death of others, it does matter to people due to common ethics. Since the start of our lives , we have been taught by either religion or culture, that the worst thing that you can do to a man is taking his life and the best you can do to him is saving his life. This is part of the world (all the cultures) scheme of things.

Now speaking about the individual's death: It all comes from the self-preservation instinct which ensures that the individuals preserve their own existence. This is the cause of the fear of death which nobody is free from. There is not a single rational reason to fear death. All the reasons that people claim that they fear death because, are from the perspective of the living (Ex: My family needs me, while dead people do not get worried about others). Matter fact, dead people do not have a perspective. This proves that this fear comes from our flesh as an instinct.


-The death of others has been purposed throughout the history as an ethical problem by religion, which extended to all cultures even secular ones.

-The death of the individual is a problem due to the fear of death, which is irrational due to being an instinct.

  • Actually I think some time when I was 8, knowing that I was going to die, I got the feeling of being afraid of it instinctively.
    – Timothy
    Oct 30 '20 at 19:53

I agree with Themobisback that the fear of death is an instinct, ultimately with a biological origin. Most animals instinctively run from predators, even if they don't really understand what death is.

Another problem with death is that it brings us face to face with the unknown, which is always scary. One of the biggest philosophical debates regards the existence of God (as well as the nature of God). Many people don't know if they're going to Heaven or Hell or if they're simply going to cease to exist. That can be very scary.

Yet another problem is one of transition. When a loved one dies, we can feel a terrible sense of loss. And if you're about to die, you might similarly fear being separated from your loved ones more than death itself.

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