Death

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Death

Post  Sean Anglin on Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:58 pm

If death is absolute, can it be so absolute that all life in the universe is simultaneously dead, i.e. there is no life? Then would death cease to exist, just as life did? Or would we consider it to persist to exist as an absolute in the universe (even for objects such as stars, etc.) to the extent that something may once again arise and be accordantly bound to the inevitability of its own death?

Is death absolute?

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Prophylaxis

Post  John on Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:15 pm

Premise: Death has an ontological status independent of the natural world where death is the opposite of life, and the natural world is taken as what living things experience when alive.
(1) First, if death has an ontological status which is independent of the natural world, then how does it interact with the natural world?
(2) Second, if death is the opposite of life, and independent, then this seems to imply that life is also independent. Tenable?
(3) Third, is there a way to draw the line between life/death, that is non-arbitrary? Biologists disagree in many cases on what life is, and consequently, on what death is. Assuming there is such a discrete thing as 'life' though, then would death merely be the cessation of that? In that case, would everything that is not 'life' already be dead? Is death then to be described as merely inanimate matter?
(4) Fourth, to clarify three, assume all life in the universe is extinguished, then from three above it would seem that everything is dead (Some set S composed of all and only living things is a proper subset of U, the universe, and has the property of life @ t, and death @ t+1). Then it seems that death is merely an intrinsic property of the natural world since living things experience an inanimate (dead) world by hypothesis, but this conflicts with independence since independence implies extrinsic-ness, not intrinsic-ness. Or does it?! At best though this merely implies that the Premise is potentially inconsistent, but then what should we give up, independence or the natural world? Historically it seems to have been the latter, as indicated here as well:

...would we consider it [death] to persist to exist as an absolute in the universe...
Who? By hypothesis, the universe is dead. By the above premise this means that there is no experience of the natural world, and consequently no consideration. If you mean to imply that we consider death from some ethereal plane, on the other hand, then this stacks the deck a bit, and raises several additional questions. Though, to be sure, if there is such a realm of, say, souls, then it might explain (1)-(4), though it still seems a bit ad hoc (not that this is always a bad thing!).
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Define Death

Post  Becker on Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:38 pm

Suppose death is to mean strictly the opposite of life (the cessation of life). Then it would seem to follow that it is dependent on the existence of life. Simple enough, but what if death is to mean something other than the negation of life - perhaps the last occurrence of existence where the identity (whatever that may be; however we may define it) is preserved. So, for example, at time t an object has an identity I, and then we can suppose death as being the gap of time between t and t+1, where at time t+1 the object possesses a new identity.

Death then would not be a state of being, rather a relational duration which allows for the distinguishing of identity among objects in existence. If we suppose the latter case, then it would seem to follow that death is solely dependent on the existence of objects (whether organic or non-organic in nature). With regards to its absoluteness... I don't see how it could possess this property if it is simply a relational duration which all objects experience (its absolute in the sense that all objects experience it, but not absolute as being a state of being).

Personally, I prefer the secondary definition due to the fact of the arbitrary nature of "life". As John mentioned, we often times treat it as a vague attribute or state of being which leads to much confusion when considering the term "death" in relation to "life". Interesting topic though.

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Final Distinct-ation

Post  John on Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:40 pm

New Premise: Death is the last occurrence of existence where identity is preserved where identity is taken in its weakest sense (X is equal to itself), and existence is taken as ontologically committing.
...at time t an object has an identity I, and then we can suppose death as being the gap of time between t and t+1, where at time t+1 the object possesses a new identity.
That is, death is the last moment between objects moving across a continuum of existence, into a new identity. So, for instance, when we say John is dead what we really mean is there was a moment t after which John did not exist but was replaced by something, call it John2 at t2. Death then, is that transition period between John and John2.

Note 1: I think it would be best as arguing that t and t+1 cannot be divided into smaller units, however, since if there is some time t(sub1) which we call death that is not, to be clear, instantaneous, then it is at least conceivable that Sean's claim that everything could be dead is unproblematic, but if this is so, then at some point everything in the universe at some time t(sub) could be dead, that is, between one identity and another. Sean's question then, "Is death absolute," is reasonable in this situation though I am still not sure who would answer it!

Note 2: Another analytic reason for supposing that t(sub) should not be allowed. Assume t(sub) and that John(t) is not identical with John(t2), then John(t)=John(t) and John2(t2)=John2(t2) but at t(sub), John(t)=John(t(sub)) and John2(t2)=John(t(sub)) for suppose otherwise, then there would be some moment t(sub2) at which John(t)=John(t(sub2) and John2(t2)=John(t(sub2)) and so forth. Thus there would be some t(subn) at which John(t)=John(t(subn)) and John2(t2)=John(t(subn)). But the weakest form of identity is closed under transitivity, so @ t(subn), John(t)=John2(t2) contradicting the assumption.

So, on the stronger reading there is no divisible unit of time between the transitions which, to be sure, is fine. We see this all the time. It merely entails a discrete notion of time, and one with which we are quite familiar. Hydrogen @ t has one proton but @ t2 has one proton and one neutron. These atoms are quite different and under study are often given different names during reaction analysis (protium and deuterium, respectively). But what is the analogue with our topic? If death is defined as that transition for, say, John to John2, what distinguishes the Johns? In the case of Protium and Deuterium, there is good reason to make such a distinction. The former comprises most of the Hydrogen in the atmosphere while the latter is often used as label in spectroscopy. Let's first try out a few distinguishing possibilities:

Identical: John is identical to himself and no identical to anything else. But if John loses a limb, then John is no longer identical to himself since John is missing a part of what was previously defined as "John."
Consciousness: Specifically for human beings, John is identical with himself iff his consciousness remains intact from one time to another. To make this stronger, exclude the possibility that some brain damage makes John non-identical with himself (so no Phineas Gage scenarios where Gage turns out to be not Gage). But this entails that the difference between John and John2 is consciousness where John is conscious and John2 is not, i.e. a typical necessary requirement for death.
Animated: John is animated and John2 is not, but again, this seems to be more in line with traditional definitions of death, but this cannot be, since death is defined as that transition between John and John2...

Let's tally up since my hands are getting tired:
Under pain of contradiction, t must be distinct from t+1 and there is no time between them. This transition is death. Distinguishing features between John and John2, however, seem to lead to something similar to life and death, call them slife and sdeath. Mechanism through time: slife->death->sdeath. But then this does not seem to have added anything to our conceptual understanding....

This is great, by the way, I don't think I have ever had the opportunity to discuss this topic in any kind of depth before. It is so interesting...

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