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This maybe just a question thought while drinking a coffee at a balcony. But it caught me defenseless. Just as how it caught those who committed suicide.

With all our efforts to find meaning in life, just as the time that we have found it in our old age, then is the time that we face death, and realize that these meanings in living are all just for nothing.

Or are they?

What if the belief of an eternal life is just a scapegoat to the terror of nonexistence? What if it is just a comfort? Should one still want to live amidst all of these sufferings and pain, where in non-existing, we cant be experiencing any more pain or suffering?

We can find answers in Norris Clarke's Book on Thomas Aquinas' Summa theologica. Yes, We experience suffering because we have free will, we experience pain(which is a positive being) because we are not robots, and we are all interacting with each others, all in an encompassed community of self relating, self actualizing beings, each with unique experiences.

But what if these are all just comforting arguments or lies in order to hide the terror(or the comfort) of death? What would morals or ethics say regarding this?

I haven't read any of Nietzshe's books regarding these. Please enlighten me.

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    On the other hand, why not make the most of it while we're here? That's the counterargument. The lives of the greats inspire us in this direction. – user4894 Mar 22 at 2:32
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    And what does ethics or morals has to say when one is oriented in "making the most out of it while we're here"? – neil bulan Mar 22 at 2:40
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    Wonderful question! Most of the world's greatest beings became great by cracking the mystery of death – Jesus, Socrates, Buddha... I will not pretend any answers since I am not in that bracket! Just try to open the window a bit wider. In Hindi the word for dead is nidhan which literally means money-less (pennyless). Think of how this changes a (presumably?) western/christian sense of death=nonexistence to death=ultimate impoverishment. [Note: This is not a suggestion to explore hinduism so much as one to explore the sense of death in cultures widely disparate from your default norm] – Rusi Mar 22 at 2:53
  • Life is not simply the opposite of death. The opposite of death is birth. To live, is not simply to exist, or at least, it shouldn't be. – Richard Mar 22 at 10:27
  • Of course you can read Nietzsche. Personally I don't think he will offer much help for your problem. I think many of us have had the same thoughts as you have had. – Gordon Mar 22 at 16:06
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The desire to not only survive (or live) but to perpetuate one's species is one of the foundations of biology. You could argue that it transcends philosophy because it's shared by countless species that aren't intelligent enough to engage in philosophy.

None of us have any control over our birth. We are alive due to circumstances beyond our control, and we have innate (biological) instincts that are designed to keep us alive.

Of course, both rational and irrational thought - along with philosophy - can override biology. Thus, people commonly resort to suicide in order to escape unbearable pain. The terminally ill may request "death with dignity."

It sounds like you're suggesting that we go one step further and just eliminate pain by escaping life altogether.

This can probably be seen as a matter of individual choice. Some religions consider suicide immoral and argue that it will condemn you to Hell.

I don't hold such a belief, and I have no problem with people ending their lives on a whim, as long as they don't make such a choice under pressure or the influence of drugs, mind control, etc.

But life is such a miraculous thing, and the biological imperative to survive so strong, many people will undergo unbelievable torment without opting for suicide.

In the end, suicide is an individual choice that can be influenced by countless factors. One such factor is a sense of purpose, the belief in a cause bigger than yourself.

In summary, I don't know whether any notable philosophers considered suicide moral, immoral or amoral. But, given the fact, that their views on ethics are all over the map, I wouldn't necessarily care what they think; it's my choice.

Socrates apparently didn't think suicide is unethical, though he did have some powerful persuasion. But he still could have refused to drink the poison hemlock (or whatever it was) and forced his critics to kill him. He opted for suicide.

I haven't yet had a chance to study Nietzsche, but he is certainly credited with some interesting comments...

The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.

and...

The man who does away with himself performs the most estimable of deeds.

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    "Socrates opted for suicide" sounds strange to me to say the least. You could say the same of Jesus : If he had toed the Sanhedrin line and stopped being a trouble maker they would have let him go. So it could be said of every revolutionary that opposes tyranny. In fact you would find that tyrants invariably justify their murders (and wars) with a "What to do? He/they asked for it!" – Rusi Mar 22 at 6:13
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    I think Socrates did opt for "suicide". To make a moral point. From my reading of the history of the period, people such as Socrates were actually expected to escape and go into exile. It was not hard for such people to escape the clutches of the law after they were condemned. – Gordon Mar 22 at 17:46
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    @Gordon - Good point. – David Blomstrom Mar 22 at 23:10
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    @Rusi - As you suggested, Socrates made TWO choices. First, he chose to continue shooting off his big mouth, rather than take the safe option and maintain an obedient silence. When his critics finally came after him, his options were more limited. However, he still could have refused to drink the poison, if only on principle. But he freely chose to end his own life, perhaps to make a moral point, as Gordon suggests. I don't understand your last two sentences at all. – David Blomstrom Mar 22 at 23:12
  • The moral choice to end life, surely lies with the author of life. Perpetuating life is not the same a creating it ex nihilo or sustaining it. Perpetuating life is meaningless if it’s author is randomness and has no intelligence. And if there is no creator then there is no moral reason to sustain or perpetuate life because it’s all meaningless without morality. It’s only possible to find meaning in a creator, randomness has no meaning, rhyme or purpose. – Autodidact Mar 29 at 5:59
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Person A: "I want to live forever. Why can't I live forever?"

Person B: "You can live another 20 years."

Person A: "Is that all? Then why don't I just kill myself right now?"

Even setting aside questions of an immortal soul, it is pure irrationality to want to die now, simply because you are going to die eventually.

If there is any value in living, for life's own sake, then of course you would chose to go on living, even knowing that you will someday die. If there is any value of living for the sake of the good that you can do for others, then of course you would choose to go on living. If there is any value in the passing on of your thoughts and ideas to future generations, children, strangers - then of course you would choose to go on living.

If the terror of your eventual end is unendurable, and you would rather settle down now into a dark and dreamless sleep... Well, that seems rather short-sighted and maybe a little selfish, doesn't it? And wasn't that same dark and dreamless sleep the very thing you claimed to fear?

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Many if not most of us at some point or other in life begin to entertain serious doubts about why being alive matters. It is an important question and indicates a level of seriousness in the questioner and deserves a response which might help to illuminate our predicament as humans with a somewhat constrained perspective on life.

In Spinoza's psychology, [parts 3-4-5 in his "Ethics"] he details the difference between 'imagination' and 'understanding'. Imagination is a state of mind where our emotions which he terms 'passions' exert a powerful negative influence on our thinking and self-image. These powerful 'impressions' which are stored in our memory come at us in a flurry of daydreams and nightmares. Their power consists in the fact that they involve no time element and more importantly that we essentially have no control over when or in what concatenation they will appear before our mind's-eye; once they become part of our memory they are stored there for as long as we are alive.

Spinoza urges us to learn to recognize these 'externally derived' influences and to learn to 'see' through them and to become self-initiated, not controlled by external forces. This involves a long, slow process and is not easy. I have become convinced that understanding the nature and origin of our daydreams, nightmares and basic fears, is in itself a comfort of a sort. Think of it as taking a bus-ride through a bizarre Fellini movie, try not to take them too seriously. Sometimes talking through this with a trained Counselor can help.

But if we can become successful we reach a tipping point where we begin to see life as a gift and being alive an honor. Life is difficult but please be assured we all have doubts and fears.

Spinoza said that the person who understands life does not fear death. Yes, this is a challenging proposition. But we need to give ourselves some slack and take each day slowly, focusing on the things that are important to us and beginning to believe in a potential future. CS

  • Thanks for the imagination Vs understanding poles. The Vedanta teacher Nisragadatta often railed against our "concepts". Now concept is a poor translation of the Marathi kalpana, which can mean "concept". Or "imagination". One of his characteristic quote ‹You give reality to (your) concepts whereas concepts distort reality›. So putting together Spinoza and Nisargadatta we get «The spiritual path is one of burning up our (mostly imaginary) concepts to come to (real) understanding» – Rusi Mar 30 at 8:32
  • Thank you, I will need to research your reference. @rusi – Charles M Saunders Mar 30 at 12:09
  • I've seen (maybe on this SE site) that Spinoza made a deep distinction between "idea" and "thought". Same point from different angle? – Rusi Mar 30 at 12:59
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From a biological perspective we live to reproduce. We live to reproduce but that's kind of a boring answer...

The way I view it is that having a finite existence forces us to reproduce. Which allows us to make more finite lives, and those finite lives can create more finite lives and so on. So although we might die. We can still be arguably be alive in the form of future generations generations... in the form of genetic code.

So you are allowed to die once you reproduce and pass on behaviors to you children to assure that you live on.

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The most rational reason is that, if you are alive, you can always choose to die, but if you are dead, you can never choose to be alive. This makes being alive favorable over being dead.

There is at least some evidence suggesting that living organisms are defined by their ability to optimize their own global entropy. In other words, we evolved to be able to maximize the number of choices that we will be able to make in the long term. For example, when you have very little money, and you are deciding where to eat, you can only make a few choices, because there are only a few restaurants within your price range. But when you have a lot of money, you can pretty much decide to eat wherever you want. So we favor having money over not having money because it opens up more possibilities, it allows us to have more things to choose from.

Death is exactly contrary to this. When we die, we can never make any choices ever again.

From this perspective, there is never a good reason to kill oneself. From the perspective of entropy, one can simulate the same effect by simply not making any more choices, while still leaving open the option to start making choices again.

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People thinking about this might be interested in an article by Schaerer, Alec "Conceptual Conditions for Conceiving Life – a Solution for Grasping its Principle, not Mere Appearances" in: G. Palyi, C. Zucchi, L. Caglioti (Hrsg.) Fundamentals of Life; Paris: Elsevier pp. 589-624. This article won much praise. The author distinguishes the law or principle of death from the process of dying. Life can on principle not do without death because otherwise it would sufficate in its own discharge. Death does not exclude awareness, but that requires overcoming one's fundamental fears. One always has the free choice of what one likes to think and believe, but one cannot escape the consequences. In the last resort one always is compelled to abandon one’s illusions (another word for ‘mere beliefs’), but depending on one’s choice this occurs on two opposite paths: either by actively cognizing the nature of reality to the very end, developing adequate categories and conceptual instrumentation in what could be called a ‘mental death’, or by having to abandon the illusions through physical death as a result of the missed insights and thereby having harmed the material sphere (one’s own body, or the body of the planet, or now also the rest of the universe).

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