Wednesday, 19 May 2010

On Death, Descartes and Exam Times

My Modern exam is on Friday so I have been sat here attempting revision.

I took this picture before my Religion exam the other day. Sat getting those last-minute moments of greatness when I figured if I didn't know it by now, a last stab wasn't going to change anything. Luckily, it was Religion and I love the subject so it all went pretty well I guess. The best so far. 
I've gone for colour co-ordinating stuff this year, in the hopes of my brain being able to store things better. I think it's working. 

In yesterdays Phenomenology exam I was writing about Heidegger and Being-towards-death which hit a nerve a bit. On the way home my bus stopped for an unusual length of time at a bus stop with one of those 'don't let your friendship die on the road' posters, which made me think about Carrie and Chelsea (the friends hit by a car on Jan 1st) and remind me how much I hate the world sometimes. It's unfair and cruel and I have no idea how people are meant to deal with it. Heidegger said something along the lines of death being the one thing we're always moving towards but can never understand. It's the only thing we cannot understand through somebody else's experience; someone else dying doesn't help me understand what death is. It's this abstract idea that we're constantly surrounded by but will never get our heads around. 

Theists posit ideas of an Afterlife. I imagine theories on what happens next were created to make the whole process seem less scary. It means the end doesn't have to be an end. It means when you lose someone they don't have to be gone. It offers peace of mind to some degree. 

Let's take the resurrection approach to an Afterlife: On the last day we are all brought back. Our bodies are resurrected and continue in an afterlife with a god or something. For materialists all we are, are our bodies. There is no soul. So for a resurrection to be possible our bodies would have to remain in tact. Van Wagenen said only those whose bodies were not destroyed would make it; this implies our ancestors wont. Humans decompose, everything does; that's how it works. Chances are on this version, we wont make it either... 

Then he offered some crazy theory of God in his omnipotence storing the dead bodies in a magical freezer until it was time but replacing the bodies with look a likes so nobody got suspicious. Obviously for a materialist the Afterlife, though not impossible, seems unlikely. 

Then there is more of a common idea on the matter that we all have souls and when we die these immaterial entities rise up from our bodies and head to paradise. This makes an Afterlife more plausible; if you believe in the soul.

I remember when I believed in all this. I remember thinking that maybe Heaven was different for everyone and that it didn't matter what you believed, 'cause it would be moulded around that. Different religions weren't in conflict and everyone would get a happy ending. Looking back I can't help but think I was a little naive. 

But then people die. And people start talking about them watching over you and waiting for you and being happy and all this stuff that I can't relate to. I hold my tongue out of respect, because why the fuck should I try to take the little bit of comfort they get from such ideas because I'm sceptical. I don't think we could possibly know anything about any sort of supernatural or any immaterial existence or being based on our material, natural existences. 

Maybe there is something, but theists all fall in their theories in my opinion. Mostly because they think they have the answer before they begin. The answer is always God. They then commence to prove why they are right. They're not looking for what the answer could be because if it's anything other than what they want it to be they don't want to know. 

I'm agnostic about it all. 

There are so many different theories and gods and rules that all came about to suit the time they are found in. Religion offers people what they need. Take the ancient religions for example, they offered answers that science hadn't found yet. They were replaced by an all powerful being, because it sounded scarier and followers of the old religions converted just incase this new angry, jealous god took vengeance on them for believing in the lesser gods. 

None of this matters right now though, 'cause I'm looking at Descartes. He feigned scepticism to break down everything we know just so he could build it all back up again and prove that there must be a god. The God. But it's like he gave up. In fact, it's like he never even tried. All he wanted was to show there had to be God and there had to be a physical world, so when he got to the part about explaining how we know anything he rested it all on the fact that God wouldn't lie to us. 

But I realise, instead of getting angry at him I should just make notes and move onto Spinoza and Hume, 'cause regardless of any of this, I have an exam on Friday. I have three exams left before I finish. I have been working towards this for such a long time that I shouldn't just give up in the last leg. The world around me is a reminder than none of this matters much in the grand scheme of things, but it used to matter so much. £20K in debt or however much it is, shouldn't be in vein. I guess. And I'd be so disappointed in myself if I didn't do what I should be capable of doing. So I'm going to push for the last couple of weeks until it's over and I have to start working out what to do next. 

Socrates constantly echoes in my ears reminding me the only thing I know is that I don't know anything.

Oh and to the guys who's blogs I've not checked out in a while, I apologise! I have a lot to catch up on when all this revision and such is over with!


  1. This was really really interesting! Death etc is definitely a thing that people should think about and whether there is God of not, as the only thing that is certain is that we die. Plus you don't loose anything by searching...Good luck with the revision xxx

  2. This post reminds me of one quote from Bertrand Russell, "What science cannot tell, humans cannot know." The invention of a supernatural being can just explain away pretty much everything. I think religions should be studied as a cultural phenomena rather than things so sacred that should close off to criticisms.

    I hope you will like Hume more since he is very critical of religions. Don't get mad at Descartes though I heard he did that to get away from religious persecution.

    I think only social & political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of religions, and aesthetics matter most in this practical world. Metaphysics seems wholly unrelated to this world. That's why I don't think we should waste too much time on the academic side of philosophy. Philosophy should aim at solving our daily problems such as how to be a good friend or how to make love last etc.

    Yeah, my blog has been missing your "wisdom" for quite a while!

    Good luck with your exams.


  3. i take your point, SuperP.

    but isn't the nub of the question "Is Life is an entree or the main course?"

    let the boffins answer that one and it will follow IPSO FACTO that we will know whether Paradise is really wholesome and filling and intended for everyone, or whether it is just a sticky date pudding only for all the boys and girls who have been good.

    (TIP: always good to thow in a bit of Latin during philosophical cut and thrust - drives the chicks wild)

    How do i know these things, Glasshopper?

    Well, forget your Nietschean Ubermensch.

    I am more your Nitschkean Untermensch.

    I come from the island down under the Land Downunder (Das Land Unter-unter) and the antarctic breezes whisper their secrets into my ears. (TIP: always good to throw a bit of German etc etc)

    they also carry a lot of bad penguin breath to my nostrils, which is why i have searched and searched for ... A Way.

    and so, behold, i stand at your door and knock, SuperP.

    for do not all roads lead to where we stand?