I just heard that good ol' statement in a song and I automatically started wondering, since what's more logical to me is that death implies life? Any thoughts?

  • 2
    Depends on definition of life. AFAIK there are unaging species, who can only die to accident (being harmed, for example).
    – rus9384
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 13:50
  • Clearly some folks equate death with dead. Not true.
    – user33399
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 11:12
  • 1
    should be closed as it is opinion based. Commented May 23, 2018 at 9:46
  • As it stands, this answer is clearly asking for opinions. It reflects in the answers given. This is no blog or forum where you discuss philosophical thought, it should be a knowledge database on philosophy (for the difference, see here). Please have a look here to learn how you should not ask. Please try to reformulate the question accordingly, e.g. asking for references of philosophers turning the usual implication upside down.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 11:29

7 Answers 7


I see that death implies life, in that anything that's dead was alive before.

I don't suppose that life implies death, because who knows? Maybe you will be frozen in a black hole time sink and never actually die by virtue of getting stuck in a moment forever!

Also, classical notions of God/god imply that he/she/He/etc is eternal, meaning never dying. So at least one life doesn't imply death, classically.

  • 1
    black holes dont last forever. they "evaporate" over time and cease to exist including whatever became part of the black hole (hawking radiation). what is a non-classical notion of God?
    – michael
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 6:10
  • @m.r. people may think of god as of anything, especially non-relegious people. But that depends on whether god and creator are synonyms. Then we might assume our universe was created by some scientists, programmers, etc. and is running on the computer [network]. And those creators then could be mortal.
    – rus9384
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 11:19
  • I've heard of hawking radiation before but I forgot about it. Intuitively, does that happen with planets, too? Commented May 22, 2018 at 13:06

I am guessing the "song" is the video of Alan Watts reading from his 1960 book The Nature of Consciousness (renamed into What Is Reality? in 1989):

"If you awaken from this illusion, and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death — or shall I say, death implies life — you can feel yourself. Not as a stranger in the world, not as something here on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke, but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental."

As the context suggests, the idea is not that life has to end in death (or not), but rather that every notion presupposes its opposite. Not in the narrowly logical but in a holistic, conceptual sense, in the spirit of outlook that Watts is promoting, "implies" applies only very loosely. This is an old idea, omnis determinatio est negatio (every determination is a negation), that Hegel attributed to Spinoza:

"...he who says that he apprehends a figure, thereby means to indicate simply this, that he apprehends a determinate thing and the manner of its determination. This determination therefore does not pertain to the thing in regard to its being; on the contrary, it is its non-being. So since figure is nothing but determination, and determination is negation, figure can be nothing other than negation."

To understand, to determine anything we must conceive of its negative, to understand life we must understand death, and vice versa. See also What philosopher said that knowledge is about discerning differences? But perhaps Watts's self-correction to "death implies life" indicates that he also felt that the latter better accords with the usual order of concepts, and the sense of "implies".


If one defines death as a process that occurs to something living, then the existence of death, by definition, implies the existence of life. Without life there would be no death. To get around this, one may be able to define death so that it is not related to life.

If one defines life as including the process of dying then life would also imply death.

It is possible to define some forms of life as everlasting or eternal. If that is the case then such life would not imply death.


It seems to not matter which way it goes. It's ambiguous in that both of the ways you say it mean the same thing. I'll assume you're referring to British philosopher, Alan Watts; where he states that it could be the other way round. This implies it could be the other way without changing the meaning.

Putting it into perspective, you can analyse both anyway. Can a being live without dying or can a being die without living? They do sound very similar and would have the same discussions going around. What does "death" mean? What does "life" mean?.

They both revolve around life and death and they can be defined and put into the question. So if death means you lose function of your body and life means you are given that body, then you cannot die without living as you haven't even been given the body to die in yet.

Seems more like a discussion topic but here's my two pennies. I'm sure more professional people have a better say than me. Don't accept mine yet for petes sakes :)

  • I've just found out that in the song, that line was his quote but they edited out the 'or should I say death implies life', rofl seems that I unknowingly had the same idea as him :) Thanks for your input, I'll leave the question open for bit longer though, let's see what others think Commented May 18, 2018 at 14:42
  • It's still interesting to consider! Wonders of philosophy baffles many
    – L_Church
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 14:44
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    “Really, the fundamental, ultimate mystery -- the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets -- is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together.” - Alan Watts
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 4:22

I won't go wrong if I say that your starting point is: Death implies life, right?

At a first glance it seems reasonable and understandable. But I want to move to another perspective. What if we consider life as the unique "status"? I mean: what is death? Is it the absence of life? But what is life? To me, life is all that exists. Animals, plants, rocks, oceans, landscapes... there is nothing but life. I would not go through the biological side. And in this sense death is merely transformation to something else. We, as human beings, are condemned to become dust. I don't think we can even talk about death because no one has seen, touched, smelt, eaten, heard death... no one has ever "lived" death.

It maybe a naive point of view but I think, in the end, death does not imply life as well as life does not imply death. IF we assume that life is essentially the only "thing" in place


My first reaction is that while anything that's dead must have been alive, it's not clear that anything that's alive must die (maybe something can remain alive forever). Thus: death implies life, but life does mot imply death.

On the other hand, maybe 'life' would be meaningless without death? That is, if everything would be alive forever, i.e. in the absence of death, would we even have a concept of life? Well, maybe so: rocks aren't alive ... but they're not dead either. That is, even in the absence of death, we can still separate life from non-life.

So yes, I stick to my first reaction: death implies life, but life does not imply death.


all biological life as we know it implies death. For all known living organisms originate and are constructed from parts (atoms), and whatever is constructed eventually disintegrates. even black holes evaporate over time. everything disintegrates to greater entropy.

as to the question of whether there is some sort of non-physical life after death, there is some scientific evidence of this, though it is not generally accepted.

the Lancet Journal, one of the world's oldest medical journals, published a scientific study in 2001 of the phenomenon documenting several verifiable cases and concluded "Our results show that medical factors cannot account for occurrence of NDE" [src]

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