PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Thursday, January 24, 2013

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Death + Important NEWS

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Death.

Not necessarily one's favourite subject, and certainly it does not seem to be a very productive
subject in philosophy given that the outcome is very predictable. However, this does not mean that
the subject is not of philosophical interest as Miguel and myself have tried to demonstrate in our
short essays. You can read our essays at the end of this email.

In the meantime two important news items.

1) Last Sunday we discussed the possibility of organising a lunch at the centro and I asked Encarna
for details. However, we still have to organise the date so you can think about this lunch and find
a gap in your busy diary. I also have a pending appointment at the hospital and won't know the dates
until next week. What is sure is that we start lunch at 3:30pm and then start the meeting as usual.
In the meantime we can think about the menu:

-Starters (frituras variadas), Entrecot o Cochinillo con ensalada, Postre- cafe-bebida. 25 euros per

-Alternative option 1: fish or vegetarian but you will have to speak to Encarna about this, I've got
her number so please ask me or her when you come to the meeting. 25 euros per person

-Alternative option 2: cochido completo (plus the extras above) 20 euros per person.

(Looking at the menu you might think this is a challenge to this week's subject, but I am assured
that the food is very good!!!)

2) Tertulia de Matemáticas by Miguel

Las Matemáticas del siglo XX

La influencia de David Hilbert

Sábado 26 de Enero de 2013 a las 12 del mediodía La Gat

c/ Fuencarral nº 148, 28010 Madrid

See you Sunday,

Take care


PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao

Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)


Death by Miguel

It's a curious fact: it is not easy for me to ponder over this topic without noticing the bearing of
theories proposed by open religions or by disguised forms of religion like atheism.

However, once this influence has been detected and overcome, the answer to questions like: What is
death? Why we die? What happens after death? appears to be surprisingly simple: I don't know.

At our last gathering we mentioned our inner desire to draw conclusions about everything, to "reason
our way through" in order to produce a "solution-in-a-phrase" to the issue being raised. This
impulse, like many others, has its origin in a more primordial one: survival, although expressed
this time through cognitive abilities that appeared in the course of evolution.

Nevertheless, while recognising its usefulness in many cases, we see that it might not be universal.
In the same way that the need to eat is at the root of eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia,
the need to reach conclusions can be a major obstacle to certain issues, today's for example. I
remember the time when we discussed that life could be a joke, a solid hypothesis when one notices
the stark contrast between the strong desire to live and the truth of death. It involved also some
sort of conclusion though.

There is thus ground to make a couple of personal experiments. The first one has both the idea of
death and "I don't know" as a basis, and it involves a conscious and disciplined avoidance to draw
conclusions other than incontrovertible ones: "I will die some day", "The people I see every day
will die someday", "In the course of recorded history, 100,000 million humans have lost their
lives", "Life is the leading cause of death in people" and the likes.

What happens to a mind that feeds on facts about death instead of on speculation? To a mind kept
silent when confronted to non-facts?

Even if there is no response in the short term, this first experiment brings about something
surprising: a truly appreciation of the sensation of being alive. Once past the anguish caused by
the instinct of survival, the presence of death and its mystery make life more intense. Knowing that
I am going to die makes every day special and unique. By recognising the certainty of death, every
event, just by pure contrast, acquires an unheard of character. Respect for life is thus naturally
enhanced. For this alone is worth the try.

The second experiment is the generation of respect towards death. This may need some effort given
the accumulated apprehension towards the issue. One can get help from the idea that death has always
being there, that it has the quality of being immutable amidst universal change, that it partakes of
the beauty inherent to natural processes.

Respect for both life and death curbs the polarisation between the two and helps seeing more clearly
what is happening here. Then the answers to the questions arrive, not as conclusions but as sensations.


Philomadrid January 24th 2013


Death by Lawrence

Death is that part of life that does not make sense. Of course, we know why we have to die and that
we have to die. And in many cases we know how we die, but the issue is why do we have to die?

Looking at the very physical structure of biological system, we know about the decay of atoms and
the destructive forces of gravity that play a central role in the structure of the universe. But
within the same chaos we also understand that matter itself does not simply disappear into thin air,
as it were. Therefore, assuming that the universe is a closed system then the law of conservation of
energy should hold. Unfortunately we are not a closed system.

Can we be a closed system, or is the universe the only closed system that does not die? Of course,
as part of the universe our matter does not die. But this is stretching the meaning of –does not
die- a bit. The matter we are made of does not disappear, but it certainly goes through irreversible
changes that have no link with previous forms of that matter.

When I say that death does not make sense, I do not necessarily want to imply that we should live
for ever. Death is a de facto aspect of an open systems. But that death is so contrary to the logic
of life that it just does not fit in with the programme of life. We can safely assume that there are
more "dead" things in the universe than living things. And we can go further and suggest that dead
things are the norm and living things the exception.

Ironically, death is also one of the biggest challenges for modern science: challenge to evolution
in particular. There is no question here that the basic principles of evolution function well.
However, whether we use the vulgar definition of evolution, survival of the fittest, or a more
scientific one, natural selection, the end result is always the demise of the system. It seems no
matter how successful a system is in selecting the fittest, even if we exclude unlucky events, it is
not able to overcome the hurdle of death.

An interesting question we, therefore, have to ask is, what's the point of having living system, if
death is the norm?

Best Lawrence

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Death + Important NEWS

1 comment:

Ruel F. Pepa, Ph.D. said...


A SOBER LOOK AT “DEATH” [A Repost from]

January 23, 2013 by ruelfpepa

“Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.” ~Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.4311


Let’s talk about death this time. But can we really talk about death? Well, perhaps as a concept: “death”. But death as “death” isn’t death at all, existentially. But can we get existential about death? Let’s get experiential about this issue. But can we really get experiential about death? Death cannot be experiential at all. But death is supposed to be experiential as a matter of human event. Now, the question is, can we really talk about “experiential” death when actually, death is the cessation of experience? Even the dying moment in the experience of a human being is not death yet and no one lived to tell that experience. Funny to even consider this matter at all.

We don’t get sad, much less terrorized, when we start to reflect about “our own death” because such is not reality as yet. But can one’s death be a reality to her/him? It is what I call “death”. We even tend to get philosophical about it in the existential sense. We can only imagine the sadness; not our sadness but the sadness of those who love us. When we die, such sadness is the “unique” experience precluded to us. It is the death of another that makes death saddening and even terrifying in certain tragic cases.

Death is not within the purview of the subjective experience of the living. Death as a matter of experience is “death” for it is the death of another person that we experience. And “death” as such makes us sad depending on the degree of our closeness to the departed.

“Death” is the only possible way whereby we can talk about death

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 3 September 2011


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