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    Thread: Fear of death - A rational fear?

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      Fear of death - A rational fear?

      Q: Is the fear of death a rational fear?

      I think most people can agree that there are rational and irrational fears in life. An example of an irrational fear might be that of spiders or mice or snakes that we know are harmless. An example of a rational fear might be that of walking in a dark alley at night.

      The latter fear is rational because we fear that something bad will happen. We don't know how walking in that dark alley will turn out, and fear the possible negative consequences (like pain, death and robbery). But a fear of spiders is primal. We don't fear anything happening to us, we just have a biological aversion from them called arachnophobia.

      I'm not bringing up the fear of dying, only that of your consciousness ceasing to exist. You can't really be afraid of something you won't be around anymore to experience. Is the fear of death just something our brains produce for no rational reason, like the fear of spiders? It's tempting to say that it isn't. We fear not being anymore, because we like our own minds and don't want to lose them. But, since there would no longer be an 'I' to experience the loss, does that make any sense? Would our fears of death be eliminated if we were to fully consciously realize that it doesn't?

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      You're trying to argue the purpose of death from the perspective of someone who has no belief in an afterlife.

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      I would argue that, based on the OP's apparent belief, death is not a rational fear, but a source of motivation to make the most our life in the limited amount of time we're given.

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      This is a really hard one and at first I thought it would be Rational, but then Again....

      Either way whether you believe in the afterlife or not I think the fear of death would be a Rational because we are not only worried about our own consciousness we would lose, but we are also fearing everything we will be leaving behind in this reality, even if we don't believe that we are moving into anything else.


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      Quote Originally Posted by greenhavoc View Post
      You're trying to argue the purpose of death from the perspective of someone who has no belief in an afterlife.
      Whether or not it's a rational fear, not the purpose. But you're right in that I am assuming an atheistic perspective, as I assume most people here hold.

      Quote Originally Posted by Phion View Post
      I would argue that, based on the OP's apparent belief, death is not a rational fear, but a source of motivation to make the most our life in the limited amount of time we're given.
      I agree that it can be used as a source of motivation. But why exactly is the fear itself rational? And do you believe differently about death?

      Quote Originally Posted by ZeraCook View Post
      Either way whether you believe in the afterlife or not I think the fear of death would be a Rational because we are not only worried about our own consciousness we would lose, but we are also fearing everything we will be leaving behind in this reality, even if we don't believe that we are moving into anything else.
      But why would we fear leaving anything behind, while we wouldn't be around anymore to experience the loss? Something similar I've considered is that I'd fear the feelings of loss I know the people who loved me would feel. But even that... I wouldn't be around anymore to care about them. I'm not sure exactly what to think about that actually.
      Last edited by Dianeva; 05-17-2012 at 03:43 AM.

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      Like I said Its really hard I kept jumping back and forth trying to decide, and I feel that right now we have these things and we feel and so we know the feeling of lost, and even if we didn't move on, we don't really know, but if your set on the end is the end nothing more then yes the fear would be irrational for that person, to an extent, but we would still fear it because right now we are attached to it, IDK this is a really hard question.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Phion View Post
      I would argue that, based on the OP's apparent belief, death is not a rational fear, but a source of motivation to make the most our life in the limited amount of time we're given.
      I agree that it can be used as a source of motivation. But why exactly is the fear itself rational? And do you believe differently about death?
      Well, in the sense that self-preservation is important, a healthy fear of death is definitely rational, but when you look at the "big picture" I tend to believe that worrying about germs on my front door knob giving me cancer is a little irrational, if you catch my drift.

      Death is not something I look forward to or glorify or find meaning in, because once this life is over I don't think I'll ever be manifest exactly this way ever again. I would like to feel fulfilled in this life and enjoy it as much as possible, but by no means would I want to accomplish that at the expense of anyone else, or without having deserved whatever happens to me while I'm alive.
      Last edited by Phion; 05-17-2012 at 04:13 AM.

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      I do look forward to death in a way, Its the last great adventure, thats why I don't watch 1000 ways to die or things like that, i want to only experience it once. It's something we all share in common yet i want to feel unique when it happens, I certainly don't want one of my last thoughts to be, hey I saw this on some T.V. show or some movie... I think we all really in some part of ourselves crave it because its something we only experience once in life at least true death.
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      Whether or not it's a rational fear, not the purpose.
      Your entire argument is based on purpose of fear, though. That purpose being rational, or irrational. You can't have one without the other, so wtf are you even talking about, here?
      But you're right in that I am assuming an atheistic perspective, as I assume most people here hold.
      Then you're not looking for an answer at all, you're simply looking for an excuse to explain why other people are wrong. Every single response you've made so far has been defensive, why is that?

      Is it that you want to believe that our fear of death is irrational, or perhaps you need to believe it for reasons other?
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      Knowledge that I'll lose whatever I consider my identity is actually very liberating.
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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Knowledge that I'll lose whatever I consider my identity is actually very liberating.
      Do you mean Losing your self Identity and continuing on as something without self-awareness?


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      You say that it is rational to fear walking in a dark alley at night because it might lead to negative consequences, one of which you specifically mention to be death. So haven't you then already committed yourself to saying that it is rational to fear death?
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      Quote Originally Posted by ZeraCook View Post
      Do you mean Losing your self Identity and continuing on as something without self-awareness?
      I mean losing the construct I have of an identity. It's not necessary I lose self-awareness in order to be free of identity.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      I think that once you isolate the state of death itself from the circumstances that surround it, which might be quite painful for yourself and the people you love, than there is no reasonable reason to fear it, and maybe some reason to embrace it as some have suggested. Just try to imagine what it felt like before you were born... nothing to worry about.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Phion View Post
      Well, in the sense that self-preservation is important, a healthy fear of death is definitely rational
      Why is the self-preservation of yourself, as an individual, important?

      I suppose that's an unfair question, because ultimately nothing is objectively important. Every single state we ever try to achieve (like not feeling hungry, feeling love, having money), we never really have a reason for wanting to achieve it beyond "I want this to happen because it will make me feel good." But I guess that's why I'm wondering whether we really should fear death. The state of living is different from all the other states, because if we didn't achieve it, we wouldn't experience any negative consequences.

      Quote Originally Posted by Phion View Post
      but when you look at the "big picture" I tend to believe that worrying about germs on my front door knob giving me cancer is a little irrational, if you catch my drift.
      You mean because germs don't cause cancer?

      Quote Originally Posted by ZeraCook View Post
      I do look forward to death in a way, Its the last great adventure, thats why I don't watch 1000 ways to die or things like that, i want to only experience it once. It's something we all share in common yet i want to feel unique when it happens, I certainly don't want one of my last thoughts to be, hey I saw this on some T.V. show or some movie... I think we all really in some part of ourselves crave it because its something we only experience once in life at least true death.
      Do you think that craving might be an extension of the desire to live? To live on after death and be remembered. While exiting the world you want your last moments to be as life-filled as possible, because after that you'll be lifeless?

      Quote Originally Posted by greenhavoc View Post
      Your entire argument is based on purpose of fear, though. That purpose being rational, or irrational. You can't have one without the other, so wtf are you even talking about, here?
      That this topic involves the purpose of the fear of death makes more sense. But not the purpose of death itself, which is what you originally said.

      Quote Originally Posted by greenhavoc View Post
      Then you're not looking for an answer at all, you're simply looking for an excuse to explain why other people are wrong. Every single response you've made so far has been defensive, why is that?
      I'm seeking an answer and haven't made up my mind. I started this thread to help clarify it for myself by exciting discussion about it. It's intuitive to think that the fear is rational, so I want to hear if anyone can come up with reasons for why it is, or further reasons why it isn't. I feel there must be reasons for why it is rational but can't seem to come up with them myself, so I don't have much to respond to people who simply reiterate the reasons I've already explained for it being irrational.

      Quote Originally Posted by greenhavoc View Post
      Is it that you want to believe that our fear of death is irrational, or perhaps you need to believe it for reasons other?
      What other reasons would those be?

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Knowledge that I'll lose whatever I consider my identity is actually very liberating.
      Really? Are you not plagued with the natural need to preserve your identity, as most humans are? Or have you overcome it?

      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      You say that it is rational to fear walking in a dark alley at night because it might lead to negative consequences, one of which you specifically mention to be death. So haven't you then already committed yourself to saying that it is rational to fear death?
      I used the death consequence on purpose. But I meant ti imply the opposite actually, to suggest that it's irrational to fear walking in dark alleys (if the only possible consequence were death).

      Quote Originally Posted by IndieAnthias View Post
      I think that once you isolate the state of death itself from the circumstances that surround it, which might be quite painful for yourself and the people you love, than there is no reasonable reason to fear it, and maybe some reason to embrace it as some have suggested. Just try to imagine what it felt like before you were born... nothing to worry about.
      I'm starting to lean this way too. But it's hard to stop feeling there must be some reason, as the fear of the loss of my consciousness is so strong.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Do you think that craving might be an extension of the desire to live? To live on after death and be remembered. While exiting the world you want your last moments to be as life-filled as possible, because after that you'll be lifeless?
      I never thought of it that way, but I really think that the craving of death is not so much an extension of life as it is an extension of experience, We really only crave it because it is an experience we all share, and is inevitable. Sure we fear it on a level because we don't want to let go of this life, but we crave it because it is something that must happen. as for the second question, I want it to be as life-filled as possible, because I do fear what will happen, I don't know wether it will be lifeless or even more life filled then this one. Coming into this life I have no prior memories, maybe I will gain them back, maybe it just ends to nothingness. I really won't know for sure till I die, and that makes death a mystery, the last mystery as far as I can tell.


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      Do you fear having your arm cut off? Well if your arm is cut off there is no pain because your arm doesn't exist. That is what your argument sounds like to me. The fear of death is the most rational fear there is. Everything we do is to avoid death.

      Why do we eat? To avoid starving to death. Why do we drink water? To avoid dehydration which leads to death. Why do we sleep, because if we don't get sleep our brains get messed up and eventually you die. Why do we have religion? Because people fear death and they need hope there is something after death. Why do we have children? Because some part of us hopes if we leave something behind we will not be fully dead. Why do we work, because we need so much stuff or we will die.

      Most people fear death, and I think they very well should.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Really? Are you not plagued with the natural need to preserve your identity, as most humans are? Or have you overcome it?
      Overcome implies something happened that did not. I surrendered to the knowledge that I never had an identity to begin with, I merely constructed a bunch of stuff together and started calling it me. Once I realized this "me" is a fictitious concept anyways, I could either run from the realization or face it.

      Besides, I'm sort of mentally disfigured. It is liberating to know I won't be stuck with these qualities for ever. It is liberating to know it's just skin, and it will not last, nothing does. One day this heart will stop. And that's not just a philosophical statement. That's something we can imagine, right now. We can imagine our body dying and rotting. We can test our emotional response. The body is easy. The mind is more difficult to imagine ending. But I imagine it to be a very peaceful feeling.

      And Alric, I have to disagree with you. Avoiding harm is not the same thing as fearing death. For one thing, harm avoidance is automatic. You can call it a fear, sure, but its nothing one need identify with. When you note danger, there's no part of your self that thinks "Because I fear death, I avoid this." You have that conditioning in play. This is different from joining some religion or delving into transhumanism in order to pursue immortality.
      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 05-17-2012 at 10:29 PM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Alric View Post
      Do you fear having your arm cut off? Well if your arm is cut off there is no pain because your arm doesn't exist. That is what your argument sounds like to me. The fear of death is the most rational fear there is. Everything we do is to avoid death.
      Having your arm cut off doesn't hurt huh? No Pain? The arm still exists too. Try to think of it from the atheist view, which I'm not anyway, where once you die thats it nothing more, it should really change how the argument looks.
      Last edited by ZeraCook; 05-17-2012 at 10:28 PM. Reason: Misspelled words


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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Phion View Post
      Well, in the sense that self-preservation is important, a healthy fear of death is definitely rational...
      Why is the self-preservation of yourself, as an individual, important?
      Pragmatically speaking, self-preservation is important because I value life and have a modicum of self-worth, but if your asking me to compare that worth to someone else than the question might become a bit overwrought and subject to opinion and "subjective perception," which can be pretty vague and contradictory slope.

      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Phion View Post
      ...but when you look at the "big picture" I tend to believe that worrying about germs on my front door knob giving me cancer is a little irrational, if you catch my drift.
      You mean because germs don't cause cancer?
      Cancer is primarily a genetic predisposition, or caused by some lasting trauma like scar tissue, tumors, or infection via indigestible substances. While viruses are a contributing factor of cancerous growth, I would not venture to say that everyday germs are remotely likely to give one cancer, but I suppose there is a possibility. Cancer is not contagious, but there are certain things that might increase the risk of getting cancer, "germs" included.

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      I am looking at it from an atheist view, which I think is also a very practical way of looking at it. If you die your consciousness and everything you are is lost forever. The fact that you cease to exist should be terrifying. It takes a fairly pessimistic view to say that your life is totally worthless to you and that its okay if you die at any time.

      If you think life has any value at all, then of course you are going to fear losing it. I personally think a persons life is the most valuable thing they have, and so losing it is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. So fearing it is very rational.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Alric View Post
      I am looking at it from an atheist view, which I think is also a very practical way of looking at it. If you die your consciousness and everything you are is lost forever. The fact that you cease to exist should be terrifying. It takes a fairly pessimistic view to say that your life is totally worthless to you and that its okay if you die at any time.

      If you think life has any value at all, then of course you are going to fear losing it. I personally think a persons life is the most valuable thing they have, and so losing it is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. So fearing it is very rational.
      Losing your life means you lose everything valuable and everything you stake value in. It means it no longer matters whether or not you thought life was valuable. Because it's over and there's nothing you can do about it.

      To me, it's irrational to attempt to control what you have no control over, so there's nothing rational about fearing death. It may be rational to protect your life as long as you have it, but there's nothing terrifying about ceasing to exist. When you cease existing, you cease caring.

      Just because you exist doesn't mean existence is more valuable than not existing.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Alric View Post
      I am looking at it from an atheist view, which I think is also a very practical way of looking at it. If you die your consciousness and everything you are is lost forever. The fact that you cease to exist should be terrifying. It takes a fairly pessimistic view to say that your life is totally worthless to you and that its okay if you die at any time.

      If you think life has any value at all, then of course you are going to fear losing it. I personally think a persons life is the most valuable thing they have, and so losing it is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. So fearing it is very rational.
      I value life and of course I fear death a bit, but I also look forward to it regardless, and I don't think anyone said there life was worthless,and I do not think that it is worthless but I already accept that we all have to die, so it is ok for me to die at anytime, but that doesn't mean I'm just gonna give up and quit, maybe Dianeva's whole point was that It is foolish to fear it because once its done you won't care either way, and If this is so then it is very Irrational to fear it since it won't matter once it happens. Why should ceasing to exist be terrifying, when everyday is a battle in its own way, I think ceasing to exist would be the most peaceful thing ever. and I still don't understand your point about losing an arm.


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      We die and are reborn every day, every minute.
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      Terror Management Theory: very interesting social psychology theory (See book "The Denial of Death" or the documentary "Flight From Death", both great sources for basics of the theory, and how it applies. Or you could just look on Wikipedia, but you'll retain more if you read the book or watch the documentary.)

      Basically, most of what we do, we do due to our fear of death. We're the only known species who experiences this fear in ways that aren't simply primal survival skills. Why are great monuments built, why are books written, why do people do so many things? The explanation given by Terror Management Theory is we do these things to leave our mark, because we're afraid of our own mortality. Some of the researchers had experiments where thoughts of death were provoked in test subjects, seeing how it affected their actions in various circumstances. I highly recommend the documentary if you can find it.

      While it may be a rational fear in some senses, it does make us do some very... peculiar things.
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