If there is a person who died at the age of 90 and a baby who died at one year old, what is the difference between them afterwards? They are both in a state of nothingness, they cannot remember or enjoy anything, so by this view does the way they lived matter?

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    You seem to have skipped over the part where the people were alive.
    – Sandejo
    Jan 21, 2023 at 17:51
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    that's not the concern @user64280 which is that even if all dead people are the same (and you didn't prove that) the fact is they weren't, and so the life of living people may still matter
    – user64361
    Jan 21, 2023 at 23:54
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    If you watch the movie "Arrival", it basically deals with exactly what you are asking about. At the end I sit there calmly agreeing, and someone else I know is raging mad (we accidentally watched it twice). So, let me know what your reaction is.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 22, 2023 at 4:55
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    Sounds like you're in a difficult place. Living a meaningful life can't be just about thinking. Please take what you face seriously, & think & work hard on finding meaning. Research says helping others helps us feel useful & needed, & is beneficial for mental health. This answer introduces the core ideas of Buddhism, which I find helpful grounding in the face of nihilism: 'Which discipline of philosophy is most interested in the nature of change?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/77279/…
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 22, 2023 at 8:47
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    Thank you @CriglCragl will do
    – Rttr
    Jan 23, 2023 at 1:12

3 Answers 3


This question is an excellent way to start philosophy. Which is to say, it will need a lot of philosophy to answer it.

Really you are asking, what meaning does a life have, after it's ended? And you can extend that, we know the cosmos will unravel its entropy, in the long Heat Death or Big Rip, leaving nothing behind as far as we know. So what will have been the point, in the long run?

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death.

Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing."

-Shakespeare, MacBeth, Scene 5

It is an old problem.

And, I would describe it as a key engine of the need, rather than choice, for philosophy. We learn the history of thinkers, the names of schools and argumentative positions. But the real purpose is: answering this.

I argue here that the prominance of this problem is an artifact of our focus on individualism, and a shift towards recognising what we inherit and will pass on can be therapy: Is Death a Feature or a Bug? Stewardship, rather than ownership, of our world, as the proper view.

I argue here that the social apportioning of symbolic immortality is critical to how we structure societies and shape behaviour: What are some philosophical works that explore constructing meaning in life from an agnostic or atheist view?

The brute wrestling with the meaningless and irrelevance of our lives in the wider scheme of the world are central topics for Existentialism and Absurdism. Essentially, we are forced to recognise that meaning involves subjectivity, we cannot find it out there, we must make it out of the strands of our own lives, and accept what we make may only matter to us, in our brief strut and fret on a stage where we are really the only audience.

Stoicism takes the view of focusing on what we can change and accepting what we cannot. Much like Buddhism. Death is inevitable, it is healthy to recognise that, to face it, to meditate on it. Yet, what we have come to define as meaning, has always coexisted with that.

So, what is meaning? What does it mean? I give my answer here: According to the major theories of concepts, where do meanings come from?

No one can answer this question for you. That is the nature of subjectivity. Philosophy can point you towards tools for a meaningful life. But, you must be the one to use them. Good luck.

  • It might take a lot of philosophy, but a nondual answer is one word: particularity.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 22, 2023 at 4:59
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    @ScottRowe: We cannot reason our way out of what we did not reason our way into. Meaning is a felt need, and our answer must be - lived.
    – CriglCragl
    Jan 22, 2023 at 5:03
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    Thank you very much on your efforts this really uplifting
    – Rttr
    Jan 22, 2023 at 5:25

I've felt this way much of my life, so forgive the lack of research.

It's true that without happiness my life is bad, if not entirely worthless. Add that my past happiness - and when I'm dead it's only in the past - is not relevant to whether I am happy now (it may seem like little consolation that I was happy if we're sad or indeed dead) and you have the beginning of some puzzle.

One simple way to solve it is to say that happiness that is forever (are we happiness addicts?) isn't what we mean by happiness and a well lived life (or at least that not having it is OK).

Another alternative is to say that not being at all happy now (which includes dead people) does not mean we miss out on all happiness (and dying can only rob us of some happiness). The latter is a legitimate concern, but it is illegitimately extended if only my happiness now counts as happiness.

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    I've often drawn on past happiness to help me get through difficult times. We should also remember what it says in Ecclesiastes: "As for the dead, they know nothing at all." So, they can't be 'less' happy than they were, because they can't be... anything.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 21, 2023 at 19:23
  • True @ScottRowe but I think it's meaningless to say that dead people are happy
    – user64361
    Jan 21, 2023 at 19:25
  • I would have thought so anyway, that nothing exists to be happy just as much as nothing to suffer the harm of death. But jstor.org/stable/3750216
    – user64361
    Jan 21, 2023 at 19:31
  • it's scary to think that dead people can still be happy and unhappy, especially as that "forever" is contingent on other people (unlike religious hells etc.). so i prefer to think of those ideas in other ways @ScottRowe
    – user64361
    Jan 21, 2023 at 20:02
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    it wasn't meant as as dismissal of your question @user64280 I think it's better to not want to die, and that wanting to die can mask a fear/aversion/denial of the harm of death. that's all. again, i'm not calling you inauthentic, just suggesting you may have confused yourself
    – user64361
    Jan 21, 2023 at 23:47

If you had examined your own question you could have certainly found the answer.

Why do you think of the life after death to find the answer to this question? Do you think the life of all 90-year-old men and all 1-year-old children are alike? Aren't there any ages in between these two ages?

That will definitely make you think this: “What would be the life on the earth like if all lives were alike?” The problem with your question is that before posting this question you didn’t think about more aspects of life.

If you see any differences in the lives of the two mentioned here, there must be some reason behind it. If there is a difference, that difference would never be one that emerged abruptly.

Without thinking too much about one's posthumous life, one must make one's present life meaningful. This is never impossible. When one gets the answer to this doubt while alive, he will never ask about this 'posthumous doubt'.

The purpose of life is to endure in the Self and to stay in the Sahaja state by the jnana marga(knowledge road). The meaning of the present birth is to turn within and realize the self. All other purposes in life are secondary. The highest goal of man is to enquire “Who am I” and realize the self.

  • Hi can you please tell what I’m missing and how can I go over this question in my mind
    – Rttr
    Jan 21, 2023 at 23:09
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    i think there are two ways @user64280 you can either decide that the happiness of living people exists after they die, or that life matters despite no-one being happy when they're dead. i can't see how you're inferring your nihilism. it may be true that dead people aren't happy, but denying that anyone is ever happy in any sense whatsoever seems trivially mistaken and ruled out by the way the world is populated by happy and unhappy people.
    – user64361
    Jan 22, 2023 at 0:16

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