Monday, December 19, 2005


Children, death & immortality

"A group of children who were tested on death comprehension reflected on what it might be like to be dead with references to 'sleeping,' feeling 'peaceful,' or simply 'being very dizzy....' Younger children are more likely to attribute mental states to a a dead agent than are older children.... It seems that the default cognitive stance is reasoning that human minds are immortal..." -- Jesse Bering in John Brockman's "What We Believe But Cannot Prove"

I've been fascinated for quite some time by the way the notion of immortality "feels" right -- thus this post particularly caught my attention.

The notion could feel right because it is -- though I think there's a certain danger in making this assumption, kind of like saying "I can't imagine that I haven't been able to find a needle in this haystack -- hence, there must not be a needle here."

For what it's worth, my own thought on the matter is that immortality feels intuitively right because we can't step outside of ourselves to see where we begin and where we end. Wittgenstein pointed out that the visual field isn't shaped like a kind of balloon against a background of darkness or emptiness -- we can't see it's limits, we don't see its edges. Similarly, I don't think my self-awareness can directly comprehend its own limits -- that is, the notion that my self-awareness is finite, has a beginning and an end, has "edges", a "shape" . . . on some level, this will never make sense to me. Hence positing immortality seems like the only way of resolving this cognitive dissonance.
One could spend a hundred years discussing whether-or-not elephants exist or one could take a trip to Africa and see for oneself.

Various traditions, like Yoga and Buddhism, offer techniques for seeing more stuff- maybe even religiousy stuff. Speaking from personal experience, they work.

I gotta say, if one is serious, one pursues these techniques. The talk- the philosophy- the theorizing- it's just a lot of brain-wanking.
At 62, I think death will be a relief.

Not this month, not this year,

but a good escape from bullshit, nonetheless.

It's innappropriate to imprint immature minds
with sex
or death

Don't you dare ever take this tack again.
Fascinating. I think that is why we find the death if loved ones so upsetting frankly. I agree with you.
I've been staring out the window trying to figure out the methods of this research & how they expected to get anything worthwhile. Who would fund this methodology?

What could anyone possibly glean from asking young children what it would feel like to be dead?

The only research remotely like this & would condone is NDE's of children. In those cases, they are not asked, they offer what they saw & heard & want to talk about it.

Could this research come under the heading of inappropriate?
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