“…in truth there only atoms and the void” – Democritus.
In continuing the review of our preparatory work, we now move to two additional special topics.
Death and Immortality
The certainty and blunt fact of our inevitable death belies the complexity of analysis of mortality and immortality. Literal biologic and personal spiritual immortality appear implausible at best and undesirable at worst. Rather the inescapability of death imposes on life a focal point and provides an impetus for action. Transcendental immortality is found in the infinite moments composing a lifetime, existential continuity with being, and participation in space-time. More tangible is metaphorical immortality via offspring, effects on others, and our works; and the ripple effect of mental energy and chains of causation. While not demonstrable, if there is an afterlife it most likely takes the form of impersonal spiritual continuance within a greater being.
Existential anxiety may be one of the greatest forces affecting humans, but paradoxically we appear to be unique participants in the two eternal aspects of the universe – materially via the body’s indestructible subatomic particles and immaterially through knowledge of the eternity of the universe as a whole. We also uniquely participate in the two poles of being – nothingness and ultimate being – and thereby attain the existential summit within the universe. In truth our fear of death is not justified and the best means to overcome it is by preparation. All reasoning converges on this conclusion: the best response to our mortality is for us to live fully and thoughtfully, appreciate our apparent uniqueness in the cosmos, prepare for physical death, and recognize that at worst our immortality is instantiated in having existed at all.
Free Will, Fate, and Human Destiny
While arguments are inconclusive, most of us accept free will, intellectually or de facto, based on our experiences of deliberation and morality. Still we attribute outcomes to fate because of feelings of helplessness and unpredictability of action in a world of uncontrollable circumstances and personal limitations. Existentialists reasonably assert that we define our basic nature and life course, and are thus responsible for erroneous choices and unable to avoid guilt from inaction, even if fortune, chance, and outside circumstances impact the outcome. Taoism and Stoicism teach us that disinterested acceptance of the reality of the unfolding world imparts equanimity. The Bhagavad Gita suggests that acting without undue concern for the results allows tranquility and connection to ultimate reality. For Christians, predestination by the grace of the divine may devalue action in this life, but feelings of freedom and fate will still need to be acknowledged. Religious authorities advise believers that the love of God trumps one’s concern for salvation and impels action consistent with the plan of the divine.
Human destiny remains largely conjecture, but it makes sense to hope for eventual evolution to a higher form while supporting the parallel goals of preservation of other species and our home planet. We must avoid self-destruction and drive human destiny forward ala Kant’ s a priori choice with attempts at moral perfection, learning, and global cooperation, directed at a unity of mankind, a unity of life, and ultimately a cosmic mind.