Is Death Bad For You?

Death is a topic we don’t commonly discuss with anyone other than family and friends. It’s an interesting topic in philosophy seeing as it is something we never have had any experience of. However, there are various philosophies which say we have had experience of death such as reincarnation. Regardless death is something defined as the end of life, in particular this life. Whether or not there are other lives or other kinds of life we experience is of another question. One of the questions of death which has been thought about is whether or not death is a bad thing for you.

Whether or not death is bad depends much on your conception of what death is like. For example in the Christian religion death could be envisioned as some sort of judgement where you’re eternal life is in heaven or hell. So whether or not death is bad for you depends on where you’re headed, which itself depends on what you believe earns you the golden ticket. The first example here is before Christianity, and even before Christ, about 300 years B.C. In this time period, a Greek philosopher named Epicurus had his own view on the badness of death.

Epicurus primarily believed that we didn’t exist when we die. Therefore, death is not bad for us. It’s a pretty good argument if the first premise is true. What makes things bad for us is that they happen, well, to us. The one that the bad things are happening to, in death, no longer exists. This “not existing” is not really imaginable though. Which brings me to the next point of what its like to not exist.

A lot of the fear of death has to do with the imagining of what not existing would be like. This typically consists of a sort of blackness forever. That’s really unreasonable though because blackness forever would be an experience that you have after you’re dead, which is impossible if you didn’t exist. We can’t imagine what non-existence is like. Blackness forever is a representation of the limit of our imagination. Even still, there are other ways to think about death because not everyone agrees that we no longer exist.

In various theological views, death is the conclusion to a human life. What it is like depends on what the human’s life was like. If you were a ‘good’ person, accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, or were predetermined to have a seat in heaven then death was good for you. Earth can be something of a grim place and death is a relief because, well, heaven is better I suppose. There are good and bad things about this view for us as we are alive. It is dangerous in that earth can be seen as a stepping stone rather than a destination. The planet we live on currently may be less appreciated, resembling the difference between a job to a career.

The last common view of death is that of reincarnation. Most of the time reincarnation is a package deal with that of karma, that your deeds in this life determine what kind of life you live in the next life. In theory if people believed in reincarnation then they would be outstanding individuals, over time we’d all be doing pretty good for ourselves. The majority of wealth primarily belonging to a small population is a little odd in this view. Kings and Queens inherited their fortune from deeds done in a former life, CEO’s were once moral beings with high virtues, who knows what the fortunate did to earn what looks like luck to us. Death could also be a good thing for us. If we were starving for most of our lives, maybe another draw would be better for us.

Beliefs about death are interesting in that they provide us explanations for a potential beyond. Knowledge about death however should always be subject to skepticism. You know things most often through experience. That is not to say that things cannot be reasoned, or that you can learn from someone else. Or maybe someone has been hospitalized and classified as ‘dead’ for a period of time and been resuscitated. That doesn’t mean they know anything about it though. If anyone attempts to sell you something about death, it’s convenient for the seller as it cannot be proven. If it is proven, the one who proves it is no longer around to tell the story.


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