Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life and Death

In Unamuno’s Tragic Sense of Life, he talks a lot about the paradoxes of life. Unamuno asserts that the ones that yearn immortality the most, deserve it the most and claims that life must be lived with a passion for immortality against all reason and rationality. On the other hand, he acknowledges the paradoxical lives we live and the subjectivity that dooms one man to commit suicide, while reaffirms another’s will to live. He emphasizes this point and beats it across the reader’s head and then to prove his point suggests that we live our lives as if we are going to die tomorrow, but only to survive and become eternal. This is an oxymoron, how can one live life knowing he will die in the near future, with the intent to survive? It is impossible, it defies reason – if you know your death is a certainty, you cannot possibly survive, so the scenario must be placed back in realm of individual subjectivity, with each of us adopting it as our own and making meaning out of it.
He mentions that the objective belief systems that are rampant in our society are all merely used to justify actions and should not be followed as the objective truths, because they aren’t and often times they are shaken to their core and no longer true as they once were believed to be. A personalized combination of many ethics that an individual can adapt and thus regard as true is what should happen and it is all that matters. Thus, this slight mistrust of any moral or ethic as the objective truth causes much despair and anguish.
Maybe we need this constant state of limbo, where no ethic is objectively certain, where there is a lot of unknown, in order to continue living in the bliss that we do now. How would our lives turn out if we knew everything? What if we knew where, how, and when we will die, or (just to appeal back to Unamuno) that we will continue this existence of constant contradiction forever, attaining immortality in the literal sense? Our ignorance in this regard offers a way out and promotes a more proactive life, because it adds the despair of not knowing and the anxiety of possibility to our consciousness.
Unamuno’s paradox of living as if we will soon die in order to survive, makes it harder to postpone our end, because we are thinking of it constantly, but at the same time we know it, or at least believe it to be false, that we have much more to live than just one more day. It also leaves us wondering, not knowing when our death will happen, trying to subjectively accept that it will happen, but also empowers us with choices and that we are in control, until of course we die. Our ignorance makes us think we are immortal and act accordingly.


  1. I like this post. It's true that if when knew the facts of our own death ahead of time it would take much of the thrill of life. On this same line of thinking, if we knew about death or god beyond what faith tells us, then life would lose all of its charm. The best thing about life is all of the paradoxes and uncertainties that keep it interesting.

  2. The point in which you ask about knowing the exact details of our death is something this class has provoked me to think about relatively often (as weird as that sounds). Many of the philosophers say that we live in anxiety/anguish toward our death. We make decisions knowing that we will eventually die, so we try to live meaningfully. However, I personally feel that knowing when, where, how we are going to die would create severe anxiety as well. If we know all of these things, we would feel pressured to find meaning before our "deadline."It is extremely difficult to appease the anxiety towards death, because it is inevitable either way despite our ignorance.

  3. I disagree, I think that the reason anxiety exists is because there is so much unknown and that anything can happen. If everything was known in advance and all one could do was drift through life, without any actions affecting death, the only thing that may arise is a sense of urgency to find meaning before death, but not anxiety. I also think that being anxious isn't necessarily a negative thing and creates much of the meaning that we seek in life.


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