Consciousness and Death

Death is a complicated, and disconcerting, thing that we must all eventually face in the end. After all, there is no escaping from the Grim Reaper, merely delaying his arrival. However, what if there is some way that death isn’t…… permanent? In today’s entry we’ll be discussing what death really entails for consciousness and the loss thereof.

When people often talk about “death” they often speak of an “eternal oblivion,” but such speak implies that there is an objective you to experience that eternal oblivion, when we all know that the very word “death” implies the cessation of existence, of nonbeing; nothing can experience the state of not existing because you don’t exist, it’s not a state you are in. This ties back into my earlier forays into discussing antinatalism wherein I explained how some of the arguments for antinatalism are flawed because they presuppose an objective you existing to experience nonexistence, see those other posts for more detail, linked above.

Death is more akin to a mere interruption in consciousness, a bit like sleep really, except that in the traditional naturalistic view of death you don’t wake up. However, with recent advancements in our understanding of nature, as well as technological advancements in the near future that could theoretically enable you to emulate entire human minds, that might not necessarily be the case.

Even if we don’t find a way to emulate entire human minds on computers there always exists the possibility of a Boltzmann brain, which is essentially a thought experiment revolving around how the universe we live in isn’t as chaotic as thermodynamics says it should be, and how the possibility of a single consciousness, or “brain,” arising from random quantum flunctuations is more plausible than the current phase of the universe we find ourselves in, which itself spends most of eternity in a state of thermal equilibrium. If true, this thought experiment holds enormous consequences, but that’s a topic for another time entirely.

It’s entirely plausible, indeed even probable, that over a long enough period of time something with the same memories and thoughts and feelings as you have will arise out of mere random quantum flunctuations, this being a Boltzmann brain, and without delving into the “swamp man” thought experiment of the late and great American philosopher Donald Davidson, is you for all intents and purposes, and henceforth you’d “wake up” from the incredibly long slumber that is death.

Hence, even if it takes a really long time to “wake up,” not even the grim reaper himself can hold on to you forever. So if the inevitable prospect of death frightens you, think of the bright side, for you will wake up eventually, even if it takes a long-ass time to do so.


A Purposeless Universe

It should go without saying that our universe has no intent, if such a vast universe were made solely for us, a meek species of ape that can only inhabit a small portion of the surface of one average planet, in one average solar system, in an average, minor even, arm of an unextraordinary galaxy that is merely one out of hundreds of billions of galaxies in our own universe alone, why is it that the vast majority of that universe is deadly, far and wide, to humanity. Indeed, the universe is trying to kill us every day. To think that we are special, that this universe was made just for us, is absurd, and it is not only absurd, but arrogant and foolish as well.

One could accuse me of being a nihilist, but I am merely stating objective reality, and if one were to continue reading further, you will see that is not the case at all. Just because the universe is without purpose doesn’t mean you, the reader, are without purpose, or I, the author, am without purpose. It would be absurd to say otherwise. But we weren’t “created” with any divine plan in mind, the fact that we exist at all is statistically unlikely, the result of a chance encounter between one sperm and one egg, which itself is the result of a chance encounter between one man and one woman. Your parents. If one were to roll back the clock, would your parents still get together and have sex on that particular night that that particular sperm and egg happened to combine? I don’t know, but I don’t think the universe is deterministic, so if I were a betting man, I would bet that the probability of that chance encounter happening again would be effectively nil.

But what does give us purpose, then, if no one intended for us to even exist? Well, you see, the answer is simple. We ourselves give our lives whatever purpose we desire within our own limited time here on Earth. So don’t lament that fact, embrace it instead. You can be out there, creating a legacy that will far outlast your death, if you only cared enough. We ourselves determine if we will be remembered or not by future generations based off of our actions, and in that respect, only we can give ourselves purpose.