Death: Good or Bad

“…if we realize that death is not an unimaginable condition of the persisting person, but a mere blank, we will see that it can have no value whatever, positive, or negative.” – Thomas Nagel (Death)

The topic of death ruffles many feathers. It is one of two certainties in life, the other being time’s consistency, but yet it is a severely under-discussed state of the human condition. The most popular contributor to this fact is fear. This is not uncommon though. We, as a species, use fear as an excuse for many things, mainly religion. Amongst the multitude of happenings and such within this life, we developed fear and religion to explain these oddities of occurrence – death being included.

Philosopher Thomas Nagel tackles the goodness of death in an essay entitled “Death” that I just recently read in a book on applied ethics. This proposal to delve into whether death was good or bad was provocative to my mind. I hadn’t really thought of whether death was good or bad. Upon reflection, I guess one realizes that, for the most part, that you are generally avoiding death at every corner. One waits to cross the street. One does not jump from building tops. One avoids activities, for the most part, that will ultimately end in their own end as a living being. Why?

Most peoples’ responses would revolve around some formulation of the statement, “Because… life is good.” (This statement leaves out the possible religious formulation involving god’s goodness and his creation of you as a human. That is for another discussion.) This statement makes a claim about the innate goodness of life, i.e. the life is in and of itself good. Nagel points out that things can happen in life that pose stress and make one feel badly, and such is the same for positive sentiments. However, Nagel asserts that once all influences are removed from life, that it is naturally good without a single influence, it remains positive. Thus, he argues death is bad due to it ending the ultimately positive life.

I am confused as to why there must be a qualification to begin with. I like life. I enjoy the mystery of what each day will bring. I like the freedom I have to work to create the life I want. I like a many things about the life I have. But, this discussion revolving around why death might be good or bad, seems to simply spur from the mystery of it. However, I find this somewhat odd, due to the fact that each day is a mystery. There are virtually and infinite list of things that could happen to an individual each and every day, one never knows. Though this mystery is different from death, I understand and accept that, it seems to fall under that same ultimately mysterious and unknowable realm of discussion though.

Death is the end of one’s physical existence on this planet. (End of Story). Whether it be good or bad is nothing more than speculation with no factual support for any assertion in favor of either qualification.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by UA Tweets, Tyler Quillin. Tyler Quillin said: Death: Good or Bad: […]

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