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What is the rational, or most rational, response to finding out you're about to die? Not just to mortality, but that there's little more you can do in your life, and you're soon going to be, or are, dying? What would atheist existentialists say?

There is this from Nietzsche: that it doesn't (his interpreter claims) matter at all.

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Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life, edited by Vanessa Lemm, p243. But does the dying man's attitude tell us anything about how we should live with the thought of death? Heidegger says that we should relate to our death as our own most possibility. Does that change if there's nothing, or very little, left we can do? Does it matter if one responds with despair, does this show we've somehow lived wrong? Or could that be a good, absurdist, response?

I would like a response from any of the major so called existentialist philosophers, rather than e.g. a Buddhist, which has its own stackexchange where I may ask the same question.

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    Put their affairs in order? Have a farewell party? Apologize to those they hurt? Why should this be determined by specific philosophy and not by personal sensibilities and circumstances? – Conifold Feb 14 at 17:30
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    It's opinion based because atheism isn't a religion, it's not an established set of beliefs that has its own moral structure which would be used to give an answer to this question. Atheism is the belief that there does not exist a god, nothing else follows from that in terms of ethics, besides maybe something like "it'd be wrong to promote the belief that a god does exist even though I believe it doesn't", maybe? Either way, "how should I live my life" is not something that atheism gives any insights into. – Not_Here Feb 14 at 17:47
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    What everyone alse does.. – Richard Feb 14 at 18:48
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    I think it is conceptually interesting to work out the rational implications, if there are any, of the belief that there is no God for the belief (or knowledge) that one is about to die. – Geoffrey Thomas Feb 14 at 18:49
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    @confused In light of the extended commentary, I recommend revising the question and making it more precise. Buddhism does not have a deity, nor does Marxism. But the adherents' reactions to the prospect of their death would be quite different. – Mark Andrews Feb 14 at 19:05
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Atheists should just accept it. There's no rituals or anything for them to do. They could cry, and do similar things, but they shouldn't really do anything else. I don't know what else you need to know. I'm just making the comments into an answer.

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If, as an atheist believes (but doesn't know) God does not exist, there is no reason for him to act out his last days any differently from those when he knew he still had time to live; excepting the natural consideration of time left in ones judgements.

Deo Gratias et Ave Maria!

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Here is the question:

What is the rational, or most rational, response to finding out you're about to die? Not just to mortality, but that there's little more you can do in your life, and you're soon going to be, or are, dying? What would atheist existentialists say?

Ronald Aronson cites Ablert Camus, an atheist existentialist, in The Myth of Sisyphus, “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide”.

Camus' Sisyphus faces a life without ultimate meaning which might be close to the OP's characterization of someone approaching death with "little more you can do in your life". Aronson writes:

What then is Camus’s reply to his question about whether or not to commit suicide? Full consciousness, avoiding false solutions such as religion, refusing to submit, and carrying on with vitality and intensity: these are Camus’s answers. This is how a life without ultimate meaning can be made worth living. As he said in Nuptials, life’s pleasures are inseparable from a keen awareness of these limits. Sisyphus accepts and embraces living with death without the possibility of appealing to God. “All Sisyphus’s silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing” (MS, 123).

The answer would be to carry "on with vitality and intensity" with "full consciousness" that "refuses to submit" and doing so in "silent joy".


Aronson, Ronald, "Albert Camus", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/camus/.

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