Eternal oblivion

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In philosophy, eternal oblivion (also referred to as non-existence or nothingness) [1] [2] [ page needed ] is the permanent cessation of one's consciousness upon death. This concept is often associated with religious skepticism and atheism. [3]

Philosophy intellectual and/or logical study of general and fundamental problems

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Consciousness state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself

Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness or of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined variously in terms of sentience, awareness, qualia, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something "that it is like" to "have" or "be" it, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. As Max Velmans and Susan Schneider wrote in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness: "Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives."

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According to contemporary scientific theories of consciousness, the brain is the basis of subjective experience, agency, self-awareness, and awareness of the surrounding natural world.[ citation needed ] When brain death occurs, all brain function permanently ceases. Many people who believe that death is a permanent cessation of consciousness also believe that consciousness is dependent upon the functioning of the brain. Scientific research has discovered that some areas of the brain, like the reticular activating system or the thalamus, appear to be necessary for consciousness, because damage to these structures or their lack of function causes a loss of consciousness.[ citation needed ]

Subjectivity is a central philosophical concept, related to consciousness, agency, personhood, reality, and truth, which has been variously defined by sources. Three common definitions include that subjectivity is the quality or condition of:

Agency is the capacity of an actor to act in a given environment. The capacity to act does not at first imply a specific moral dimension to the ability to make the choice to act, and moral agency is therefore a distinct concept. In sociology, an agent is an individual engaging with the social structure. Notably, though, the primacy of social structure vs. individual capacity with regard to persons' actions is debated within sociology. This debate concerns, at least partly, the level of reflexivity an agent may possess.

Self-awareness capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. It is not to be confused with consciousness in the sense of qualia. While consciousness is being aware of one's environment and body and lifestyle, self-awareness is the recognition of that awareness. Self-awareness is how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires. There are two broad categories of self-awareness: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.

Through a naturalist analysis of the mind (an approach adopted by many philosophers of mind and neuroscientists), it is regarded as being dependent on the brain, as shown from the various effects of brain damage. [4]

Mind combination of cognitive faculties that provides consciousness, thinking, reasoning, perception, and judgement in humans and potentially other life forms

The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, imagination, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity's thoughts and consciousness. It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions.

In philosophy

In the Apology of Socrates (written by Plato), after Socrates is sentenced to death, he addresses the court. He ponders the nature of death, and summarizes that there are basically two opinions about it. The first is that it is a migration of the soul or consciousness from this existence into another, and that the souls of all previously deceased people will also be there. This excites Socrates, because he will be able to conduct his dialectic inquiries with all of the great Greek heroes and thinkers of the past. The other opinion about death is that it is oblivion, the complete cessation of consciousness, not only unable to feel but a complete lack of awareness, like a person in a deep, dreamless sleep. Socrates says that even this oblivion does not frighten him very much, because while he would be unaware, he would correspondingly be free from any pain or suffering. Indeed, Socrates says, not even the great King of Persia could say that he ever rested so soundly and peacefully as he did in a dreamless sleep.

The Apology of Socrates, by Plato, is the Socratic dialogue that presents the speech of legal self-defence, which Socrates presented at his trial for impiety and corruption, in 399 BC.

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Socrates classical Greek Athenian philosopher

Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the Western ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the only source to have written during his lifetime.

Cicero, writing three centuries later in his treatise On Old Age , in the voice of Cato the Elder, similarly discussed the prospects of death, frequently referring to the works of earlier Greek writers. Cicero also concluded that death was either a continuation of consciousness or cessation of it, and that if consciousness continues in some form, there is no reason to fear death; while if it is in fact eternal oblivion, he will be free of all worldly miseries, in which case he should also not be deeply troubled by death.

Cicero 1st-century BC Roman philosopher and statesman

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.

Cato Maior de Senectute is an essay written by Cicero in 44 BC on the subject of aging and death. The Latin title of the piece is Cato Maior de Senectute. To lend his reflections greater import, Cicero wrote his essay such that the esteemed Cato the Elder was lecturing to Scipio Africanus and Gaius Laelius Sapiens.

Cato the Elder politician, writer and economist (0234-0149)

Cato the Elder, born Marcus Porcius Cato and also known as Cato the Censor, Cato the Wise, and Cato the Ancient, was a Roman senator and historian known for his conservatism and opposition to Hellenization. He was the first to write history in Latin.

Similar thoughts about death were expressed by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius in his first-century BC didactic poem De rerum natura and by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus in his Letter to Menoeceus, in which he writes; [5] [6]

Roman Republic Period of ancient Roman civilization (509–27 BC)

The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Poet person who writes and publishes poetry

A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience.

Lucretius Roman poet and philosopher

Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem De rerum natura, a didactic work about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things. Lucretius has been credited with originating the concept of the three-age system which was formalised from 1834 by C. J. Thomsen.

"Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore, a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer."

Paraphrasing philosopher Paul Edwards, Keith Augustine and Yonatan I. Fishman note that "the greater the damage to the brain, the greater the corresponding damage to the mind. The natural extrapolation from this pattern is all too clear — obliterate brain functioning altogether, and mental functioning too will cease". [7]

Contemporary atheist scientists Steven Pinker and Sean Carroll assert that death is equivalent to eternal oblivion, as physical theories based on scientific materialism allow for no mechanism to continue consciousness after death. [8] [9]

Oblivion and subjectivity

Thomas W. Clark, founder of Center for Naturalism, wrote a paper titled "Death, Nothingness, and Subjectivity" (1994). [10] [11] He critiqued what he saw as a flawed description of eternal oblivion as a "plunge into darkness". When some imagine their deaths (including the non-religious), they project themselves into a future self which experiences an eternal silent darkness. This is wrong, because without consciousness, there is no awareness of space and no basis for time. For Clark, in oblivion there isn't even an absence of experience, as we can only speak of experience when a subjective self exists.

According to neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, consciousness is "all we are and all we have: lose consciousness and, as far as you are concerned, your own self and the entire world dissolve into nothingness." [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

Epicurus ancient Greek philosopher

Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who founded a highly influential school of philosophy now called Epicureanism. He was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. Influenced by Democritus, Aristotle, and possibly the Cynics, he turned against the Platonism of his day and established his own school, known as "the Garden", in Athens. He and his followers were known for eating simple meals and discussing a wide range of philosophical subjects, and he openly allowed women to join the school as a matter of policy. An extremely prolific writer, he is said to have originally written over 300 works on various subjects, but the vast majority of these writings have been lost. Only three letters written by him—the Letters to Menoeceus, Pythocles, and Herodotus—and two collections of quotes—the Principle Doctrines and the Vatican Sayings—have survived intact, along with a few fragments and quotations of his other writings. His teachings are better recorded in the writings of later authors, including the Roman poet Lucretius, the philosopher Philodemus, the philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and the biographer Diogenes Laërtius.

Soul essence of an individual

The soul, in many religious, philosophical, and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal essence of a living being. Soul or psyche are the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc. Depending on the philosophical system, a soul can either be mortal or immortal. In Judeo-Christianity, only human beings have immortal souls. For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed "soul" (anima) to all organisms but argued that only human souls are immortal.

Epicureanism (philosophy) philosophical movement developed by Epicurus

Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom very little is known—Epicurus believed that what he called "pleasure" (ἡδονή) was the greatest good, but that the way to attain such pleasure was to live modestly, to gain knowledge of the workings of the world, and to limit one's desires. This would lead one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear as well as an absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states constitutes happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, the concept that the absence of pain and fear constitutes the greatest pleasure, and its advocacy of a simple life, make it very different from "hedonism" as colloquially understood.

Mind–body dualism philosophical theory that mental phenomena are non-physical and that matter exists independently of mind

Mind–body dualism, or mind–body duality, is a view in the philosophy of mind that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct and separable. Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, and between subject and object, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism and enactivism, in the mind–body problem.

Eudaimonia, sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing or prosperity" has been proposed as a more accurate translation. Etymologically, it consists of the words "eu" ("good") and "daimōn" ("spirit"). It is a central concept in Aristotelian ethics and political philosophy, along with the terms "aretē", most often translated as "virtue" or "excellence", and "phronesis", often translated as "practical or ethical wisdom". In Aristotle's works, eudaimonia was used as the term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider what it really is, and how it can be achieved.

<i>Being and Nothingness</i> book by Jean-Paul Sartre

Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, sometimes published with the subtitle A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, is a 1943 book by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, in which the author asserts the individual's existence as prior to the individual's essence and seeks to demonstrate that free will exists. While a prisoner of war in 1940 and 1941, Sartre read Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927). Heidegger's work, an ontological investigation through the lens and method of Husserlian phenomenology, initiated Sartre's own philosophical enquiry.

<i>De rerum natura</i> didactic poem by Lucretius

De rerum natura is a first-century BC didactic poem by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius with the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. The poem, written in some 7 400 dactylic hexameters, is divided into six untitled books, and explores Epicurean physics through poetic language and metaphors. Namely, Lucretius explores the principles of atomism; the nature of the mind and soul; explanations of sensation and thought; the development of the world and its phenomena; and explains a variety of celestial and terrestrial phenomena. The universe described in the poem operates according to these physical principles, guided by fortuna ("chance"), and not the divine intervention of the traditional Roman deities.

According to divine illumination, the process of human thought needs to be aided by divine grace. It is the oldest and most influential alternative to naturalism in the theory of mind and epistemology. It was an important feature of ancient Greek philosophy, Neoplatonism, medieval philosophy, and the Illuminationist school of Islamic philosophy.

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why sentient organisms have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how and why it is that some internal states are felt states, such as heat or pain, rather than unfelt states, as in a thermostat or a toaster. The philosopher David Chalmers, who introduced the term "hard problem" of consciousness, contrasts this with the "easy problems" of explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc. Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set and that the problem of experience will "persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained".

New mysterianism—or commonly just mysterianism—is a philosophical position proposing that the hard problem of consciousness cannot be resolved by humans. The unresolvable problem is how to explain the existence of qualia. In terms of the various schools of philosophy of mind, mysterianism is a form of nonreductive physicalism. Some "mysterians" state their case uncompromisingly ; others believe merely that consciousness is not within the grasp of present human understanding, but may be comprehensible to future advances of science and technology.

Christof Koch American neuroscientist

Christof Koch is a German-American neuroscientist best known for his work on the neural bases of consciousness. He is the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. From 1986 until 2013, he was a professor at the California Institute of Technology.

Phædo or Phaedo, also known to ancient readers as On The Soul, is one of the best-known dialogues of Plato's middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The philosophical subject of the dialogue is the immortality of the soul. It is set in the last hours prior to the death of Socrates, and is Plato's fourth and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days, following Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito.

Biological naturalism

Biological naturalism is a theory about, among other things, the relationship between consciousness and body, and hence an approach to the mind–body problem. It was first proposed by the philosopher John Searle in 1980 and is defined by two main theses: 1) all mental phenomena from pains, tickles, and itches to the most abstruse thoughts are caused by lower-level neurobiological processes in the brain; and 2) mental phenomena are higher-level features of the brain.

Tetrapharmakos

The Tetrapharmakos (τετραφάρμακος) "four-part remedy" is a summary of the first four of the Κύριαι Δόξαι in Epicureanism, a recipe for leading the happiest possible life. They are recommendations to avoid anxiety or existential dread.

The argument from consciousness is an argument for the existence of God based on consciousness. The best-known defender of the argument from consciousness is J. P. Moreland.

Giulio Tononi Italian neuroscientist and psychiatrist

Giulio Tononi is a neuroscientist and psychiatrist who holds the David P. White Chair in Sleep Medicine, as well as a Distinguished Chair in Consciousness Science, at the University of Wisconsin.

Neural correlates of consciousness Bodily components, such as electrical signals, correlating to consciousness and thinking

The neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) constitute the minimal set of neuronal events and mechanisms sufficient for a specific conscious percept. Neuroscientists use empirical approaches to discover neural correlates of subjective phenomena; that is, neural changes which necessarily and regularly correlate with a specific experience. The set should be minimal because, under the assumption that the brain is sufficient to give rise to any given conscious experience, the question is which of its components is necessary to produce it.

A sage, in classical philosophy, is someone who has attained the wisdom which a philosopher seeks. The first to make this distinction is Plato, through the character of Socrates, within the Symposium. While analyzing the concept of love, Socrates concludes Love is that which lacks the object it seeks. Therefore, the philosopher does not have the wisdom sought, while the sage, on the other hand, does not love or seek wisdom, for it is already possessed. Socrates then examines the two categories of persons who do not partake in philosophy:

  1. Gods and sages, because they are wise;
  2. Senseless people, because they think they are wise.
Consciousness after death

Consciousness after death is a common theme in society and culture in the context of life after death. Scientific research has established that the mind and consciousness are closely connected with the physiological functioning of the brain, the cessation of which defines brain death. However, many believe in some form of life after death, which is a feature of many religions.

References

  1. Clark, Thomas W. "Death, Nothingness, and Subjectivity". Naturalism.org. Center for Naturalism. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  2. Schell, Jonathan (2004). The Jonathan Schell Reader: On the United States at War, the Long Crisis of the American Republic, and the Fate of the Earth. New York: Nation Books. ISBN   9781560254072.
  3. Heath, Pamela; Klimo, Jon (2010). Handbook to the Afterlife. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. p. 18. ISBN   9781556438691 . Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  4. Hallquist, Chris (20 January 2013). "Neuroscience and the Soul". The Uncredible HallQ. Patheos.com. Retrieved 14 February 2015. Quoting neuroscientist Sam Harris (video).
  5. Cook, Vincent. "Epicurus - Letter to Menoeceus". www.epicurus.net. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  6. "Epicurus and Lucretius against the dear of death". www2.gsu.edu. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  7. books.google.com, Augustine & Fishman, 2015, p. 206.
  8. Brockman, John (4 July 1999). "Is science killing the soul?". Edge. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  9. Carroll, Sean M. (2016). The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. Penguin. p. 218. ISBN   9780698409767.
  10. Benjamin Libet; Anthony Freeman; Keith Sutherland (8 June 2000). The Volitional Brain: Towards a Neuroscience of Free Will. Imprint Academic. pp. 293–. ISBN   978-0-907845-11-9.
  11. "death". www.naturalism.org. Archived from the original on 2014-02-08.
  12. Tononi, Giulio (2008). "Consciousness as Integrated Information: A Provisional Manifesto". The Biological Bulletin. 215 (3): 216–42. doi:10.2307/25470707. JSTOR   25470707. PMID   19098144 . Retrieved 14 February 2015.

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