Sunday, April 17, 2005

Tormenting dizziness? Naaa... It's simple.

"This brings us to death. The psychologist Jesse Bering believes we will never get our heads around the idea. He calls it 'Unamuno's paradox,' after the Spanish existentialist Miguel de Unamuno, who was troubled not so much by the prospect of his own death as by his inability in life to get any kind of imaginative purchase on what the state of being dead would be 'like.' 'The effort to comprehend it causes the most tormenting dizziness,' he lamented. And you can't get out of this by saying that 'it is like nothing at all' to be dead, because the point is precisely that we are incapable of imagining absolute nothingness. Our mental apparatus is tuned to states of being in the world. Non-being is simply beyond our ken. All of this is of no concern to those who believe in an afterlife. The conscious personality just floats on elsewhere. That most people hold to this bizarre belief is not simply due to religious indoctrination. The separateness of body and mind is a primordial intuition. It has sprung from our evolution as social beings and coalesced into the hardware of the central nervous system. Human beings are natural born soul makers, adept at extracting unobservable minds from the behaviour of observable bodies, including their own. Taking the next, false step, if mind and body are conceived as separate entities, it is easy to see the possibility of a mental life after physical death."

I don't understand the difficulty described here. It's really very simple.

Your life is punctuated by birth and death. What lay before birth, and what lies after death, are the same damned thing: non-existence.

You were "dead" before you were born. You remember that, don't you? and their annual questions are wonderful.

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