Above us, Only Sky

Politics, Philosophy, Science, and Everything Else.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


A morbid mood is upon me, so the topic is death. I'm not facing it so I can't actually comment on what my visceral reaction to the prospect would be, but I have been thinking about it for reasons both morbid and unimportant.

My thoughts about the nature of life are such that death doesn't pose much of a threat. This is because I think that our existence as beings through time is basically an illusion. Lets take a step back. Imagine a boat (this is a stolen thought-experiment, and the boat is from the original, which I can't credit because I can't remember the source). This boat is made of lumber. Now, due to wear and tear, parts of the boat are occasionally replaced. If you take up one plank of the boat and replace it with a new plank, is it still the same boat? If, after a period of years, original material is present, is it still the same boat? The answer is that it is if people thionk it is- the idea 'boat' is merely a way of understanding the world, it doesn't impose anything on to the stuff from which the vessel is made. If some mysterious evil power were to come along one night and replace every fibre of the boat with totally new- but effectively identicle- material, it would still be the same boat (to the ignorant sailors) because thats how they would percieve it. identity is a matter of perception.
Take this idea and place it on people: the stuff of my body is being constantly replaced, and the (possibly urban-myth) whole thing is replaced evry seven years or so, so my identity doesn't come from my STUFF, and also, the pattern changes, my body changes appearance, size, and behavior. My personality changes, sometimes slowly, sometime drastically. I feel that I am the person who created all the memories in my head, because they are framed that way for me, but how do I know I wasn't created 3 seconds ago with all the memories already pre-made? The fact is, in a sense, I was. I don't pretend to understand the muniutia of neurobiology, but I know it's a constantly changing thing of connections and chemicals and energy. What I am right now just came into existence and will go out of existence by... now. Over a period of hours, or in the space of a decent sleep, all the particular bits that were 'me' have been replaced by similar bits. So in effect we all die all the time, only to be replaced by very similar beings who look and act a lot like we did, who will disappear and be replaced in turn.
So, according to this, actual death shouldn't be that scary, because it's not like we were going to last that long anyway.

I'll still run if I see a tiger chasing me, though.


At 9:12 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Swell bit of rationalizing dude! Wait till the tiger is chasing you and then we'll see what you say - the boat illustration = too many philosophy classes. Anyway, it's late, I'm tired and good luck with the blog.


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