Death and Philosophy

By Jeff Malpas; Robert C. Solomon | Go to book overview

6

DEATH, THE BALD SCENARIO 1

Betty S. Flowers

He kept on pointing out things that had to do with learning, and he did say that I was going to continue learning, and he said that even when he comes back for me (because by this time he had told me that I was going back) that there will always be a quest for knowledge. He said that it is a continuous process, so I got the feeling that it goes on after death. I think that he was trying to teach me, as we went through those flashbacks.

near-death survivor as reported by Raymond Moody 2

The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.

Wallace Stevens 3


The questions

Death occupies a special position in our fictions about the future. We may fantasize about being married or not, having children, visiting Florence, or growing old; or we may invent any of a number of other futures—but the stark fact of our death appears to be the only ‘real’ future scenario, even though we may embellish this bald story with many fictional details about how or when we might die. The basic story, though, goes like this: The end of life is death—and nothing more.

This bald scenario is not the only possible death story, of course: we have heaven and hell with levels (justice); heaven and no hell (equality); afterlife as a cultural myth (the Grand Inquisitor); reincarnation/karma (exact and continuing justice); life as school with graduate school to follow (the story as told by near-death survivors).

Why does our public culture embrace the bald scenario? Need the philosophical scenario be bald, too? Why do we pride ourselves on its baldness? (Is there a relation between baldness and increased rates of suicide?) What do we lose when we abolish other kinds of death scenarios? In the past, for example, post-

-50-

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Death and Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Death and Philosophy 1
  • 2 - My Death 5
  • 3 - Against Death 16
  • 4 - On the Purported Insignificance of Death 22
  • 5 - Death and the Skeleton 39
  • 6 - Death, the Bald Scenario 50
  • 7 - Death as Transformation in Classical Daoism 57
  • 8 - Death and Enlightenment 71
  • 9 - Death and Detachment 83
  • 10 - Death and Metaphysics 98
  • 11 - Death and Authenticity 112
  • 12 - Death and the Unity of a Life 120
  • 13 - The Antinomy of Death 135
  • 14 - Death Fetishism, Morbid Solipsism 152
  • Notes 177
  • References 198
  • Index 203
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