In his essay on “Death”, Thomas Nagel analyzes the issue of death and how people think of it. He examines if people are afraid of it and why, as well as what specifically it is and what sort of condition it brings about.
Essay on “Death” Thomas Nagel
First of all, Nagel defines what death is and what characteristics he will be attributing to this state. He decides to look at death as becoming a state of non-existence without further immortal continuation of life, individual or soul. This point is extremely valid because many people believe that death brings about a darkness that is not followed by anything. Usually, these are people who do not believe in God and do not follow any religion, as all religions suppose continuation of life in another form.
Thomas Nagel’s point is rather valid, as it looks at one possible condition. No one has been able to prove or show that there is some form of existence after death, so it would be logical and reasonable to examine all possible outcomes. Nagel goes on to say that death is not welcomed by most people, as it deprives an individual of all the enjoyable things in life but also of life itself. Even if all the bad things are considered, people still prefer to be alive than not.
Thomas Nagel mentions that even if all the good and bad qualities of life are taken away and life is viewed as being neutral, people would still choose life. This is very true because people prefer life to anything else. No one is aware of what will follow and this lack of knowledge and uncontrollable imagination creates pictures that are both positive and negative.
No matter how much a person tries to imagine Heaven or another beautiful world, the conscious mind still reminds about the chance for suffering or total darkness. edubirdie yelp Everyone has respect and feelings towards their personality and when they think that it will disappear they feel sad and sorry for themselves.
A counterargument made by Nagel to this, is that before people are born there is also non-existence and total darkness but people are not afraid of that. This happens because a person is not able to have imagination and reasoning prior to being born and the darkness that was before they came to life they do not remember.
In a way, it can be seen as a positive darkness because it leads to life and existence, whereas death will lead to absence of life and non-existence. Nagel compares this to create a perspective in people, “If death is a disadvantage, it is not easy to say when a man suffers it (Nagel, 3), hoping they realize that absence of feelings, imagination and ability to realize this absence is not evil or fearful.
Another major point Nagel discusses is the human perception and understanding of what is good or bad in life. He gives an example of a person who has suffered brain damage and returned to a state of a 3 month old infant. The fact that the brain is unable to realize the loss of intellect means that the individual does not really suffer. Everyone else, his friends and relatives, suffer due to the fact that the person who existed before is no longer in existence.
This makes pleasures and suffering very relational to personal circumstances and time. Nagel then leads into the argument about the quality of a feeling that a person will have if they compare the “negative” aspects of being deprived of life by death, to the time before birth and what was the future person deprived off. “I confess to being troubled by the above argument, on the ground that it is too sophisticated to explain the simple difference between our attitudes to prenatal and posthumous nonexistence” (Nagel, 8).
The human inability to imagine what it would be like to lack consciousness and a state where an individual is deprived of all “benefits” of life is what limits the possibility of answering to this paradox. The life a person experiences is defined and framed by what they feel and see. Someone who was born blind would not truly feel deprivation of sight, if all the conditions for their comfortable existence were created.
They would not be able to compare what sort of stimuli and visual experiences they have lost, so the fact that other people have the ability to see, would not truly life determining. Thomas Nagel ends with a comparison between a person dying at a young and of old age. The deprivation of future possible experiences and life is what is most devastating. The fact that a person might go on living, thus receiving more positive and negative sensations, is a reality everyone strives towards.
But then, the difference in perspective reencounters with a personal experience, in relation to an individual’s understanding of time, good and evil and existence. Nagel ends saying that: “if there is no limit www.trustpilot.com/review/edubirdie.com to the amount of life that it would be good to have, then it may be that a bad end is in store for us all” (Nagel, 10). In a way, this contradicts his above reasoning that if there is no one to experience the loss of good life, then the absence of suffering and realization is not bad at all.