The Irreconcilability of Death

They say that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. Since I’m not much of an expert on accounting, that leaves me with death. My goal in this article, then, is to explain why I think, contrary to a lot of opinion on the subject, that our deaths are events we fundamentally cannot come to terms with. In the first section, I’ll argue that it is impossible to (truly) imagine our deaths, before arguing in the second section that the only possible attitude towards death is one of anxiety. Finally, I’ll outline a couple of possible exceptions (one more possible than the other) to my first argument.

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Concealment in Art and Life

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Is more clarity always better? Is the ideal perfect knowledge? Ought we (at least try to) banish mystery and the unknown to remnants of a bygone, pre-scientific era? Now, I’m not talking about morality here; the somewhat cliched, “Everyone is trying to figure out how to do X, without asking if we should do it” (the suggestion being that we should deliberately restrict our knowledge in certain ways), nor am I talking about that last bastion of religious and mystical types who bemoan the loss of wonder and enchantment, as if a) understanding a sunset makes it somehow less magnificent to behold, and b) ignorance is something to be cherished. Rather, in this article, we are going to discuss the unknown as it pertains to art and life (and by the term ‘life’, I mean human (i.e. conscious, self-aware) existence). Specifically, I want to ask whether there is any room left for mystery, or the unknowable, in the modern, optimistic, scientific era in which we live.

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The Being of History

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What is history? Is it just a record of a series of objective events? Do we somehow discover, or ‘unearth,’ history in these events? Is the historian just an impartial recorder of events from the past? Of course, with these questions I don’t mean to ask if history can be biased or deliberately falsified – of course it can – nor am I asking if history is necessarily incomplete because we never have perfect knowledge of what and why something happened – of course it is. In this article, I want to aim a little deeper, and see if we can’t uncover something more substantial about history by approaching the topic from a direction somewhat less travelled, but one that will hopefully leave us with a more illuminated understanding of history than the one we started with.

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Nothingness – Four Perspectives

Nothingness haunts being - Thank you for watching, kind regards,  Christophe. | Minimalist photography, Dark photography, Abstract canvas  wall art

What is the nothing? Can we even talk about nothing meaningfully, or does the very act of making ‘nothing’ the subject of a discussion turn it into something? In this article, I take up the question of the nothing through the eyes of three philosophers (one is not Hegel, although he would have been a natural inclusion – Hegel is still a glaring blind spot in my philosophical knowledge), and one religion. All of the approaches to nothingness I look at (bar the very last one), despite being quite different and often reaching different conclusions, are equally valid, and rather than clashing in an either/or merge quite satisfyingly in a both/and.

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Time in Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty

Your Mind in Time

In this article, I plan to explore how Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty attempted to understand time in their respective magnum opuses, Being and Time and Phenomenology of Perception. Both philosophers discuss time at the end of the above treatises, where it appears as the ultimate ground for the phenomenological/ontological issues they raise in earlier chapters. However, despite this formal similarity, and the significant similarities in their philosophical projects as a whole, I have come to see their interpretations of time as quite divergent. Exactly how they differ, and the relative success of each is what will concern us in what follows.

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The Metaphysics of Da-sein

A Guide to the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger

Heidegger deliberately eschewed the term ‘consciousness’ (a strategy for which I have developed the utmost sympathy of late), and even coined his own word to describe human beings; Da-sein, literally: there-being. In Being and Time, ‘Da-sein’ didn’t really go beyond a synonym for human being, although the idea was to emphasise human being; specifically denoting the way our mode of being is considerably different from that of other objects, and even other living beings. In Heidegger’s post-B&T work, however, Da-sein gets a fuller treatment, where it is revealed as the ground, or site, for the opening up of Being.

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Taking A God’s Eye View

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Let’s imagine, just for the sake of argument, that all of us atheists are wrong and God actually exists. What would He see when He looks at the universe? What would He think? Before you dismiss me and my hubris (something along the lines of, “How dare you presume to know the mind of God (puny mortal)?”), we supposedly know something about the answer to these questions; after all, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” So, at the very least, we know God is capable of perceiving things, and thinking about them (in this case, making a judgement). That is all I am going to assume in this article, but it’s enough for us to draw a problematic conclusion about the perspective of a being like God.

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The Delusion of Consciousness

True nature of consciousness: Solving the biggest mystery of your mind |  New Scientist

I’ve talked a lot recently about consciousness, vaguely complaining about the vacuity of the term as it is used by almost everyone these days; philosophers, scientists, and laypeople alike. For me personally now, my frame of mind concerning consciousness is such that every time I hear people using the word, it’s almost like a black hole opens up in the sentence, only instead of sucking in light, it sucks in meaning, turning what might otherwise have been a valid, meaningful sentence into nonsense. In this article, I want to flesh out my uneasiness with this word, and, in the process, see if I can’t maybe convince you that it’s not me who’s crazy; it’s everyone else (or, if I’m wrong, at least find a few people to share in my craziness)!

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Brains in Vats

Brain in a vat - Wikipedia

Could it be possible that you, as you are right now, sitting there reading this article, are nothing more than a brain floating in a vat, hooked up to a super computer which is generating electrical signals that perfectly simulate sensations received from sensory organs interacting with an external world, and capable of detecting and responding perfectly to your willed movements and behaviours? That’s the brain in a vat thought experiment in a nutshell, and our task in this article is to determine whether or not it’s possible. Begin challenge…

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Moving Beyond the Absurd

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Human life is meaningless, absurd; so said Albert Camus (1913-1960), the philosopher novelist who made the notion of the absurd the centrepiece of his philosophy. It’s hard to fault Camus for thinking this way considering the tumultuous times in which he lived, and yet, there is something about the absurd that resonates with people from all eras and all walks of life. When we stop to think about this life we are living (and particularly the death we will all ‘be dying’ at some point), it becomes clear that the absurd isn’t just referring to an unfortunate string of events that may or may not befall a particular individual; rather, it goes straight to the heart of human existence. It isn’t that this or that life or circumstance is absurd; it’s that life itself is absurd. In this article, we’ll investigate exactly what this means, and see if, or to what extent, it is possible to go beyond the absurd.

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