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5/22/12

How to Whistle Through the Graveyard

Woody Allen said he has nothing against death. He just doesn't want to be there when it happens. He also said he didn't want to achieve immortality through his work... He wanted to achieve it through not dying.

So what is all this fear of death? Why should we fear it so much?
Among others Lucretius and William Hazlitt shared an idea about death. Lucretius expressed it something like this about the prospect of death as so upsetting: "Yes, as the deprivation account points out, after death we can't enjoy life's pleasures. But wait a minute, says Lucretius. The time after I die isn't the only period during which I won't exist. What about the period before my birth? If nonexistence is so bad, shouldn't I be upset by the eternity of nonexistence before I was born? But that's silly, right? Nobody is upset about that. So, he concludes, it doesn't make any sense to be upset about the eternity of nonexistence after you die, either"

In "On The Fear of Death," William Hazlitt (1778-1830) ) had other words: "There was a time when we were not: this gives us no concern—why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? I have no wish to have been alive a hundred years ago, or in the reign of Queen Anne: why should I regret and lay it so much to heart that I shall not be alive a hundred years hence, in the reign of I cannot tell whom?"

 Shelly Kagan has a different take and presents us with two scenarios, or "stories" as he calls them.

Story 1. Your friend is about to go on the spaceship that is leaving for 100 Earth years to explore a distant solar system. By the time the spaceship comes back, you will be long dead. Worse still, 20 minutes after the ship takes off, all radio contact between the Earth and the ship will be lost until its return. You're losing all contact with your closest friend.

Story 2. The spaceship takes off, and then 25 minutes into the flight, it explodes and everybody on board is killed instantly. Story 2 is worse. But why? More
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