96. The philosophy of old age. Back in June, some dude named “Anthony Bourdain” died, apparently by suicide.
I gathered from friends and the internet that he was a big deal—some sort of celebrity chef and Hunter S. Thompson-esque media personality and writer, with a twist of existentialism and a dash of progressive politics—but believe it or not, I’d never actually heard of him before the day he died.
This is probably because I haven’t watched TV for the last 20 years or so—as you know, I mostly just shelter in my barrel.
But I did notice that Bourdain was “only” 61, namely, the same age I am now.
And maybe he simply couldn’t deal with getting old; or perhaps he had early-onset Alzheimer’s: who knows?
In any case, all that set me thinking about old age and its depredations, slings, and arrows—not for the first time, of course.
Is there a philosophy of old age?
Well, there is now.
97. I’m going to start with T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas.
Here’s what Eliot wrote in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
And here’s what Thomas wrote in “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”:
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
98. Old age, senescence, old-fart-dom, whatever you want to call it, is all about the natural and subjectively experiential human life-process during the advanced stages of our personal development, dying, and death.
So that’s what I’m going to focus on in these notes.
No, I’m not going to complain about young people (I mean anyone under 60) and how shallow they all are these days, especially the really good looking and talented ones.
Nor am I going to whinge about my aches and ailments, as fascinating as that might otherwise be.
99. It is simply a brute fact of human life that we are always getting closer to what Kant aptly called “the end of all things,” in a 1794 essay of the same name—he was born in 1724 and died in 1804, so he was in his 70s at the time—whether this will be a purely natural ending to everything human, or a man-made Apocalypse, like something out of Neville Shute’s grim 1957 novel, On the Beach.
But at a first-person level, it is also a brute fact that from the very moment I begin to live as the conscious subject of my own real personal life, I am always getting closer to the cessation or end of that life.
Therefore, I am always getting closer to my own death.
In that sense, my life-process is identically the same as the process of my dying.
My own life is also my own death.
This recognition, as they say, concentrates the attention.
100. What is death?
Minimally, the English natural language term “death,” and correspondingly the concept of death, mean “the cessation or end of life.”
But unfortunately for those of us who live and die, who are also conscious and self-conscious, and who are autonomous intentional agents, therefore able to think about our own lives and deaths—that is, all rational minded human animals, that is, all normal adult real human persons—the concept of death is crucially ambiguous, in at least five different ways.
101. The first crucial ambiguity about the concept of death concerns the type of life we are talking about when we say that life ceases or ends:
(i) inorganic life,
(ii) organic life,
(iii) minded animal life, and
(iv) real personal life.
Correspondingly, there are four different sub-types of death:
(i*) inorganic death,
(ii*) organic death,
(iii*) minded animal death, and
(iv*) real personal death.
102. Many things have inorganic lives.
This includes artificial or humanly-fabricated machines like automobiles, dishwashers, and refrigerators—indeed, these are often sold along with a legally binding “lifetime warranty”—but also more or less large scale non-artificial natural mechanisms like weather systems, tropical storms, mountains, mountain ranges, planets, stars, and galaxies.
Principles of complex systems dynamics and evolutionary theory apply to their cosmic emergence, development, and eventual destruction.
Such things therefore all encounter inorganic deaths at the end or cessation of their inorganic lives.
Indeed, even the universe as a whole can, at least in principle, have an ultimate inorganic “heat-death,” via entropy.
In this sense, death is the cessation or end of something’s characteristic mechanical operations or, more generally, the cessation or end of its inorganic complex thermodynamics.
103. Let us suppose that organic activity, as not only complex thermodynamic, but also self-organizing, hence purposive and self-guiding, and minimally spontaneous, hence underdetermined by what has preceded it and creative or productive, is not only epistemically or conceptually distinct, but also metaphysically distinct, from the activity of natural mechanisms.
As Kant compactly puts it in the Critique of the Power of Judgment, “a mere machine … has only a motive power, while the organized being possesses in itself a formative power” (CPJ 5: 374).
Then all organisms have categorically and specifically organic lives, including micro-organisms, plants, and animals.
It is not inconceivable that there could even be entire planets possessing organic lives, like the one imagined in Stanislaw Lem’s brilliant science fiction novel Solaris, and represented visually in Andrei Tarkovsky’s equally brilliant science fiction film Solaris, the eponymous Solaris.
104. In any case, all minded animals, as living organisms, have categorically and specifically organic lives.
And since all real human persons are also minded animals, so too do all real human persons have such organic lives.
But, obviously, not everything that has an organic life—say, a unicellular micro-organism, or a plant—has either a minded animal life or a real human personal life.
So there is an important difference between, on the one hand, the cessation or end of an organic life, per se, and on the other hand, the cessation or end of either a minded animal life or a real human personal life.
In particular, the real human personal life of a creature can temporarily or permanently cease or end, while its organic life or minded animal life continues:
(i) temporarily, for example, in cases of fainting, unconsciousness, or a coma;
(ii) permanently in one sense, while organic life but not minded animal life continues, for example, in cases of persistent vegetative states produced by an artificially-induced or disease-based brain-trauma, as in the famous Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and Terry Schiavo cases; and
(iii) permanently in another sense, while organic life and minded animal life both continue, for example, in cases of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, as in the famous case of the philosopher Iris Murdoch.
And on the other hand, at least in principle, real human personal life can continue across even very long temporary gaps in organic life and minded animal life, for example, in cryogenic re-animation.
105. Inorganic death, organic death, and the death of the minded animal, while philosophically important for various reasons, and by no means irrelevant to morality, nevertheless are not of primary moral importance.
Only the deaths of real persons are of primary moral importance.
Moreover, at the very center of what I’ve called The Web of Mortality, are the lives and deaths of rational human minded animals and real human persons.
Furthermore, and even more radically, I hold that all meanings, truths, reasons, principles, and values of any kind, whether merely relative values or absolute values, are in the world just because rational human minded animals or real human persons are in the real world—or at least just because rational minded animals or real persons really can be in the world.
Let us call this the real-human-person-centered metaphysics of moral value.
Now of all the minded animals and real persons we know, we ourselves are the only ones we have encountered, so far, that are also what I’ll call Kantian human minded animals.
I am talking about precisely the sort of human minded animals that are capable of actively reading and understanding these sentences, who are self-conscious, who are autonomous intentional agents, and who in turn are precisely those human minded animals that are also capable of reflecting on the meaning of their own lives.
Insofar as the real-human-person-centered metaphysics of value is true, then since conscious, self-conscious, autonomous agential human minded animals are at the very center of the class of real human persons, it follows that Kantian real human persons like us are at the very center of everything that really and truly matters: in that special metaphysical sense, the Universe revolves around us.
By sharp contrast, as regards caring, value, and what really and truly matters, the Universe has no point of view.
For the rest of this set of notes on the philosophy of old age, then, I will focus exclusively on the deaths of Kantian human minded animals—real human persons like us.
106. The deaths of such real human persons are categorically distinct from organic deaths per se and also from the deaths of minded animals per se—in the dual sense
(i) that both organic life and minded animal life can continue even though the life of the Kantian real human person like us has permanently ceased or ended, and
(ii) that both organic life and minded animal life can temporarily end or cease without the death of the real human person like us—even though, of course, every Kantian real human person is necessarily also a living organism and a minded animal.
107. The second crucial ambiguity about the concept of death concerns the temporal duration of the cessation or end of life, and in particular, whether it is
(i) temporary, or
108. Now it is obvious that there can be temporary cessations or endings of rational consciousness—for example, fainting, unconsciousness, or a coma—that are not also permanent.
Correspondingly if, as seems easily conceivable, were the technology and science of cryogenics to be developed somewhat further, then there could be even very long temporary cessations or ends of the organic lives of Kantian real human persons—the temporary deaths of their living bodies—that are neither the permanent deaths of their minded animals nor the permanent deaths of the Kantian real human persons they are.
For in these easily conceivable scenarios, when the body of the dead real human person is reanimated, then the Kantian real human person’s life is also resumed, just as it would be after a fainting fit, unconsciousness, or coma.
What seems far less easily conceivable is the supposed possibility of reincarnation, that is, the possibility of a Kantian real human person’s body’s suffering a permanent organic death, therefore also being temporarily dead as a real human person, but then resuming their real human personal life in a new body.
According to the Minded Animalist theory of the nature of personhood and personal identity that I’ve worked out and defended in Deep Freedom and Real Persons, reincarnation is strongly metaphysically (and more precisely, synthetic a priori) impossible.
This is because preserving the diachronic identity of a minded human animal’s living body is a constitutively necessary condition of real human personal identity.
But in order to keep things relatively simple here, I do not want to re-argue these somewhat controversal claims now; so for the purposes of these notes, I will simply bracket any further discussion of reincarnation.
In any case, the basic point I am making here is secured by the real possibility of reanimation.
109. Again for the purposes of these notes, I am going to concentrate almost exclusively on the permanent deaths of real human persons like us; that is, I am going to concentrate almost exclusively on the annihilation or extinction of any such person as a rational, conscious, and self-conscious subject, forever.
I say “almost exclusively,” because a little later on I will briefly critically consider the concept of immortality, or more precisely, the concept of an sempiternally endless or infinite real human personal life.
But aside from that brief discussion, and unless otherwise specified, I will be talking only about the permanent deaths of real human persons like us.
110. The third crucial ambiguity about the concept of death is in many ways the most important one.
This concerns the moral-metaphysical distinction between
(i) the state of my actually being dead (which I will call “deaths”), and
(ii) the process of my dying (which I will call “deathp”).
111. The state of my actually being dead, my deaths, necessarily occurs immediately after the process of my dying, my deathp.
Now since I am concentrating almost exclusively on the permanent deaths of Kantian real human persons, then my kind of deaths, once it has occurred, lasts forever.
The process of my dying, my deathp, by sharp contrast, necessarily occurs during my life as a real human person.
Otherwise put, deathp is necessarily infra-life, whereas deaths is necessarily post-life.
112. Many serious philosophical, existential, and moral confusions have been created by failing to distinguish between deaths and deathp.
For example, Lucretius famously wrote this:
Look back at time … before our birth. In this way Nature holds before our eyes the mirror of our future after death. Is this so grim, so gloomy?
In many other words, Lucretius asserted in his sub-compact, poetic way that
since (i) the time prior to the beginning of my life and the time after the permanent cessation or end of my life are perfectly symmetrical and in effect metaphysical mirrors of one another, and
since (ii) we are never (or at least almost never) concerned about the fact that we did not exist before we were born,
then (iii) we should not be concerned about the time after we die, that is, we have no good reason to fear our own deaths.
But Lucretius was simply wrong about the symmetry or mirroring thesis, so his argument is unsound.
The pre-natal non-existence of a real human person is essentially different from her deaths, precisely because her deaths is necessarily post-life, and therefore it inherently presupposes her actual deathp, whereas her pre-natal non-existence is necessarily not post-life, and therefore it does not moral-metaphysically include her actual deathp.
113. But that’s by no means the worst of the confusions that have been created by failing to distinguish between deaths and deathp.
Most non-philosophers who think about death, and many or even most philosophers who have written about death, have consistently failed to draw the distinction between the state of actually being dead and the process of dying, and have therefore fallen into serious confusions about whether death is a always a bad thing for the one who died, or not.
Sometimes they are talking about deaths; sometimes they are talking about deathp; and sometimes it is crucially unclear precisely which kind of death they are talking about.
In any case, as we will also see, it is entirely possible and perfectly coherent to hold
(i) that a real human person’s deaths, by its very nature, is necessarily neither a good thing nor a bad thing for the one who dies (hence never a good thing and never a bad thing for the one who dies),
while at the same time also holding
(ii) that a real human person’s deathp, by its very nature, is sometimes a good thing for the one who dies and also sometimes a bad thing for the one who dies.
114. These points lead on naturally to the fourth crucial ambiguity about the concept of death.
This concerns the fact that a Kantian real human person’s permanent death, whether this is her deaths or her deathp, can be considered and/or evaluated
either (i) from the inside, that is, from the first-person point of view,
or (ii) from the outside, that is, from the third-person point of view.
Following David Suits, who originally discovered this deeply important distinction—or in any case, who first formulated it clearly—I will say that whenever a Kantian real human person’s deaths or her deathp is considered and/or evaluated from the first-person point of view, then this is considering or evaluating some fact that is for the one who died, and therefore an intrinsic or internal fact with respect to that Kantian real human person.
But by sharp contrast, whenever a Kantian real human person’s deaths or her deathp is considered or evaluated from the third-person point of view, then this is considering or evaluating some fact that is only about the one who died, and therefore at best an extrinsic or external fact with respect to that Kantian real human person.
The main reason this distinction is so important is that although a Kantian real person’s deaths or deathp can involve various good or bad facts about her, from the third-person point of view, it does not follow that any of these facts is a good or bad fact for her.
So apart from Suits, few philosophers who have discussed the nature of death have been able to recognize that although there may be good arguments showing that the permanent deaths of a Kantian real human person is always, or almost always, a bad thing about that person—because, had she lived, she would have had more good experiences, hence her permanent deaths, in a certain sense, is a “deprivation” for a counterfactual counterpart of that person—it does not follow that the permanent deaths of a Kantian real person is ever a bad thing for that person.
This is simply because deaths has no personal subject for whom anything can ever be a good thing or a bad thing.
Moreover, not even Suits has recognized that although it is quite true that the permanent deaths of a Kantian real human person is never either a good thing or a bad thing for the one who dies, simply because deaths has no personal subject, nevertheless it does not follow that the deathp of that very person is not also a good thing or a bad thing for that very person.
By its very nature, deathp has a living personal subject who is also in the process of dying; and, as I will argue later, very often or even usually the deathp of a Kantian real human person is, tragically, a bad thing for that very person.
115. And this brings me to the fifth and final crucial ambiguity about the concept of death.
This concerns the question of whose death is at issue, and in particular whether it is
(i) my own death, or
(ii) someone else’s death,
that is at issue.
116. The difference between my own death and the death of another Kantian real human person is fundamental, whether we are thinking about deaths or deathp.
This, in turn, is because although we necessarily have first-person access to the contents of our own lives, we necessarily do not have first-person access to the contents of the lives of other Kantian real human persons.
Otherwise, we would be those other persons.
Differently put, “the problem of other minds” applies every bit as directly to the deaths of Kantian real human persons as it applies to the lives of such persons.
Necessarily, by the nature of my essentially embodied mind, I am both pre-reflectively consciously aware and also self-consciously directly aware of my own real personal life, but not of anyone else’s real personal life.
It follows that my own death, whether it is my deaths or my deathp, necessarily is no one else’s death.
In this sense, we necessarily die alone, just as we necessarily live our lives alone.
116. We are, to be sure, always living our lives alongside others’ real human personal lives, and in more or less direct interaction and solidarity with others’s real human personal lives.
So in that sense, we always live our lives with other real persons’ lives.
But we do not live those lives, only our own.
Mutatis mutandis, we are always dying alongside the deaths of other real human persons like us, in more or less direct interaction and solidarity with those others’ deaths, and in that sense we are always dying with the deaths of others.
But we do not die those deaths, only our own.
117. Deaths, the state of being dead, is the same as the permanent cessation or end of a Kantian real human person’s consciousness.
The answer is that, since consciousness is necessarily and completely neurobiologically embodied in a suitably complex living organismic system, the permanent cessation or end of organismic life in our own animal bodies necessarily entails the permanent cessation or end of our consciousness, which in turn necessarily entails the permanent cessation or end of our personal lives.
In short, deaths is a three-way thanatological identity:
The end of my living animal body = the end of my essentially embodied consciousness = the end of my life.
118. To be sure, there are some real-world cases of full resuscitation after bodily processes have actually shut down, when the overall complex dynamic system of the human organism remains temporarily in a hiatus-state, capable of reactivation.
And a temporary life after the deaths of the body—say, a reanimation after the cryogenic preservation of one’s corpse—is indeed not only conceptually or logically possible, and synthetically or really possible, but also nomologically possible.
Furthermore, it may also seem that a sempiternally endless or infinite Kantian real human person life after the actual deaths of the human body, or even without any actual deaths of the body—immortality—is conceptually or logically possible.
But even so, that appearance of conceptual or logical possibility has nothing directly to do with the real metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics of Kantian real human persons.
Indeed, and sharply to the contrary, the appearance of the possibility of human immortality is nothing but a powerfully deceptive cognitive illusion: the very idea of human immortality is incoherent and a priori impossible.
Then it a priori necessarily flows from the nature of a Kantian real human person’s life that she will die, and that her deaths will be, just like her personal life and her deathp, once and forever:
O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.
119. One striking consequence of this conception of death is that my own deaths cannot be subjectively experienced by me.
My own conscious, intentional, caring, rational human life will permanently cease or end, but I will never subjectively experience the state of being dead.
For deaths has no personal subject.
As Wittgenstein puts it in these two propositions from the Tractatus:
6.431 [I]n death … the world does not change, but ceases.
6.4311 Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through. If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present. Our life is endless in the way that the visual field is without limit. 
In other words, our own conscious, intentional, caring, self-conscious, rational human minded animal lives will go on and on and on—until they simply end forever.
Full stop, and “the rest is silence.”
Each such forever-silencing full stop on a conscious, intentional, caring, self-conscious, rational human minded animal life will be essentially unique, and thus my own deaths will be essentially unique: it will be my very own deaths.
In that sense, as I mentioned already, each of us necessarily dies alone.
This does not mean that other people and loved ones cannot be gathered around us as we finish the process of dying, or that things cannot positively or negatively affect us in an extrinsic or third-person sense after we die—both of these are really possible, and frequently actual.
It means only that my deaths, just like my deathp, and just like my own life, is necessarily my very own.
Out of the materials given me, over which I had little or no control, in a highly-structured, thoroughly nonideal world that I did not choose or create, I freely shaped my life and my death, using just those materials and within just those constraints.
So it is my very own, no one else’s, and nothing else’s.
Hence my deaths has a “my very own-ness” in essentially the same sense that necessarily a single-authored book written by me is my very own book, even despite all the grateful acknowledgments to others who helped it come into existence, and even despite its readers, who can think about my book in ways over which I have no control, and who can keep my book alive even when I am not.
120. In any case, my very own essentially unique deaths cannot be subjectively experienced by me either as an intentional content or as an intentional object.
For if my deaths were either an intentional content or an intentional object of my subjective experience—as in so-called “after-death experiences”—then obviously that would imply the existence of my subjective experiences, and thus imply the existence of my own conscious, intentional, caring, rational human minded animal life.
On the contrary, however, my permanent deaths is my permanent annihilation and non-existence.
121. Similarly a full stop, or period, is the end of a sentence and inherently belongs to the sentence as a proper part of its syntactic structure, but is not itself one of the words or phrases in the sentence.
Punctuation formally or structurally terminates what is said by a sentence, but by itself does not say anything.
So too, my very own essentially unique deaths will be a termination that is cognitive, affective, practical, and vital syntax, but not cognitive, affective, practical, and vital semantics.
Thus my very own deaths will belong to the immanent structure of my conscious, intentional, caring, rational human minded animal life, but not to its vital stuffing, or occurrent mental content and objects.
122. Or in other words, my deaths is nothing more and nothing less than the immanent terminating form of my very own life.
It confers a definite, defining constraint and limit on the scope and shape of my entire life.
It permanently fixes that very scope and that very shape.
It makes my entire life whatever it was for me, once and forever.
123. These points all hold as much for one’s own natural death, for example, one involving the gradual decline of my powers and well-being in old age, as they do for the various possible strange deaths arising from the well-known personal identity considerations and thought-experiments that professional academic philosophers know and love—fictional “transporter” cases, fictional “pseudo-Napoleon” cases, and fictional “Lefty” and “Righty” fission cases—that is, simultaneous left-brain and right-brain transplants from real persons with split-brains/neocommissurotomy, into two new recipient bodies—and so-on, and so forth.
Thus when I am the split-brain case who is replaced by Lefty and Righty, my very own life ceases, full stop, and their lives begin.
I do not subjectively experience my own deaths, because death is necessarily never subjectively experienced, yet it is a definite limit on my life just the same, at some definite time t.
Lefty and Righty, both living at time t + n, each share all my memories, together with further and different present conscious experiences in different living animal bodies.
124. But neither of them is me, because my very own life ended at t and thus all of my subjective experiences full-stopped right there.
The spatiotemporal, neurobiological, and phenomenological structures of my very own life are all intrinsic to my real human personhood.
Indeed, I am just my complete, finite, and unique life—so when it full-stops, necessarily I full-stop too.
The natural or objective time of my deaths, necessarily occurring after my deathp,is the literal end of my personal or subjective time, the literal end of my “having the time of my life.”
So finite durations of time and my death, whether it is my deathp or my deaths, are a priori necessarily connected.
In this way, one’s own deaths is nothing more and nothing less than an immanent structural and inherently temporal terminating constraint and limit on the occurrent mental content of one’s own complete, finite, and unique rational human minded animal life, again like punctuation at the end of a sentence, but also with a metaphysical time-stamp that completes and rounds off all the events of a single personal life.
As they say, time is of the essence.
125. Failing to recognize this, however, we naively imaginatively project a first-person standpoint on deaths from the other side of this time-stamped limit, thereby generating the strong impression that deaths somehow strangely belongs to the content of our lives, like a ghostly afterword or postscript.
But this is a psychological illusion with serious existential and moral implications.
This strong naïve impression that deaths is a ghostly “event of life” that is, or anyhow can be, “lived through,” in turn, gives rise to the even more serious conceptual illusion that Kantian real human personal immortality is a coherent notion.
But in fact, we do not have the slightest idea how the concept of sempiternally endless temporal extension or infinity applies to the concept of the life of a Kantian real human person, far less to the concept of the life of any other sort of real human person.
So it also turns out that immortality is a priori impossible for creatures like us.
126. Here are three theses about the morality of one’s own death.
First, the concept of an untimely deathp is fully meaningful and also has actual instances.
Second, an untimely deathp is necessarily an inherently bad thing for the Kantian real human person who dies in this way, regardless of the other ways in which it might also be bad—for example, in an intrinsic or first-person way, by way of its bodily painfulness, or, in an extrinsic relational or third-person way, by way of its being contrary to the person’s self-interest, or its having bad consequences for others.
This is precisely because, in the process of dying, that Kantian real human person fails to achieve or realize what I call principled authenticity (that is, an emotionally and cognitively coherent Kantian real human person, over time, whose agency is inherently guided by non-hedonistic, non-egoistic, non-consequentialist principles) at least partially or to some degree.
Hence by dying in this way she has, tragically, to that extent, wasted her life.
Third and corresponding to the other two theses, I also hold a thesis I will call Death’s Excluded Middle:
All deathsp of Kantian rational human minded animals are either untimely, in that they are inherently bad for the Kantian real human person who dies, or else they are timely, in that they are inherently good for the Kantian real human person who dies, and they are never both untimely and timely.
127. If these three theses are correct, then necessarily there are no deathsp that are neutral or null with respect to intrinsic moral value, understood in terms of principled authenticity.
This is precisely because the subject of deathp is necessarily always a Kantian real human person, and such creatures are necessarily never neutral or null with respect to intrinsic moral value, understood in terms of principled authenticity.
From these three theses, then, it follows immediately that either
(i) all deathsp are untimely and thus inherently bad for the Kantian real human person who dies,
or else (ii) only some deathsp are untimely, because some other deathsp are, on the contrary, timely deaths and thus an inherently good thing for the Kantian real human person who dies.
As I have indirectly indicated already, my view is that (i) is false and (ii) is true.
Hence we should all be endeavoring with all our hearts, throughout our lives, to have timely deathsp.
That is the core thought of what I call The Rage-Against-the-Dying-of-the-Light Theory of the nature and moral value of one’s own death.
128. And here is more of the rationale behind that core thought.
The process of a real human person’s life is identically the same as the process of her dying.
Hence a real human person’s life is also her own deathp.
Now the ultimate meaning or purpose of a Kantian real human personal life is to achieve or realize principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
Therefore, to the extent that one fails to achieve or realize principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree, then deathp is a bad thing for the person who dies.
129. Many people’s natural deathsp are untimely in the sense that they occur in lives that do not exemplify principled authenticity at all.
But this is not necessary, it is merely widespread.
For not every natural deathp is an untimely one.
One’s own natural deathp, that is, one’s own life up to the very moment of the beginning of the permanent condition of one’s own deaths, can exemplify principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
Thus we have no sufficient reason to fear an untimely natural deathp, because as long as we are wholeheartedly trying to achieve or realize principled authenticity, then in fact we are already achieving or realizing principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
Then we are already on the way, already embarked, on the achievement or realization of principled authenticity.
And as long as you are alive, sentient, and sapient, you can always change your life.
So as long as you are alive, sentient, and sapient, then there is always enough time left for everything that really matters.
Therefore, you ought to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
130. This is shown by the very obvious fact that someone can have-a-life and be-the-subject-of-a-life, yet fail ever to choose or do anything meaningful or that achieves or realizes principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree, and either just drift listlessly towards deaths or (what is perhaps even worse) busily busy-bee towards deaths.
—Always making more and more money, more and more honey, always embodying the Spirit of the Beehive, always being the good little capitalist boss, professional, or worker do-bee of the modern neoliberal democratic state.
In other words, it is really possible to waste your life.
And that is a tragedy, in the specifically modern sense of that classical Greek and Aristotelian notion, which typically involves the actuality or real possibility of greatness of character in a certain Kantian real human person, a correspondingly great character flaw in that real person like us, a terrible downfall for that real person as a direct result of that great character flaw, and some sort of cathartic experience for the witnesses of this downfall, and so-on.
Perhaps the most vivid literary expression of this is Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.
As Hamlet’s fictional case shows, it is possible, tragically, to lack all purity of heart, lack all wholeheartedness, and lack all single-mindedness, and yet also to be fully self-conscious of this very lack.
Hamlet is the ultra-self-conscious Prince of Denmark, the ultra-self-conscious Prince of Double-Mindedness, and the ultra-self-conscious Prince of Losing Heart alike.
It is self-evident that Hamlet’s sort of life and Hamlet’s sort of deathp are both inherently bad and tragic, not inherently good.
Thus it is self-evident, by practical negation as it were, that what I will call a Contra-Hamlet’s sort of life and a Contra-Hamlet’s sort of deathp would both be inherently good and sublime, not inherently bad and tragic.
131. The life of a Contra-Hamlet is a life in which principled authenticity is achieved or realized, at least partially or to some degree.
Correspondingly, in order to make the very idea of a life of principled authenticity more concrete, we can think here of Socrates as represented by Plato in the Dialogues; of the heroically absurd “Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance,” Don Quixote, in Cervantes’s Don Quixote; of Kierkegaard’s “Knight of Faith” in Fear and Trembling; of the “Idiot” Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot; of Renée Falconetti’s brilliant portrayal of Joan of Arc in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc; of Takashi Shimura’s equally brilliant portrayal of the dying civil servant Kanji Watanabe in Kurosawa’s Ikiru; and also of the real-life, therefore “human, all too human,” and thus “sinner-saints,” but still genuine moral heroes Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa.
And there are many, many unsung others just like them.
In my opinion, all of these Contra-Hamlets and sinner-saints, whether fictional or real-life, died deathsp that were inherently good, sublime, and timely, just as they lived.
So we should all be trying with all our hearts to live and die like them, in our own unique contexts and in our own unique ways, in the time remaining to us.
132. What I hold, then is that not all deathsp are untimely, and that at least some deathsp are timely and therefore an inherently good thing for the Kantian real human person who dies.
So too, I hold that a Kantian real human person’s deathp D is timely if and only if
either (i) D is an inherently good thing for the Kantian real human person who dies, because continued life would be in some way personhood-destroying for him (and perhaps this was Anthony Bourdain’s rationale for suicide—who knows?),
or (ii) D is not only an inherently good thing for the Kantian real human person who dies, but also a supremely good thing for her, because by means of her process of dying she achieves or realizes principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
133. In cases that fall under (i), death is an intrinsically good thing for the Kantian rational human minded animal who dies, precisely because his dignity as a real human person is thereby preserved in the face of the real threat of its loss or irrevocable degradation.
Again, this might have been true in Bourdain’s case, for all I know.
134. In cases that fall under (ii), death is also the highest inherently good thing for the Kantian real human person who diesp, precisely because her ultimate end or purpose as a real human person with dignity is thereby achieved or realized, at least partially or to some degree.
This, in turn, is because principled authenticity is the Highest or Supreme Good for every Kantian real human person.
135. The basic idea behind The Rage-Against-the-Dying-of-the-Light Theory of the nature and moral value of death, then, is this.
Although deaths, the state of being dead, is nothing for us, nevertheless deathp, the process of dying, is of overriding importance for us.
The ultimate significance of one’s own deathp is contained necessarily and completely immanently within the essentially embodied, intentionally active, life-process of the Kantian real human person whose deaths provides a unique, permanent closure on her entire life-process.
Thus the ultimate significance of one’s own deathp lies entirely and exclusively in what one actually chooses and does with one’s own Kantian real human personal life.
The ultimate meaning of one’s own life, which is identical to one’s own process of dying, in turn, is just the global pattern or shape of the total set of specific diachronic and synchronic profiles of her Kantian real human life-process and death-process—a global pattern or shape that is dynamically emergent from her active pursuit of principled authenticity, within the necessarily finite limits of the complete, unique, permanent, full-stop, time-stamped structural closure provided by her own deaths.
And the rest, really and truly, is nothing but silence.
136. Hamlet’s central and tragic, passively nihilistic mistake lay precisely in his thinking that there could be something for him after deathp, some sort of ghostly tag-end of his life viewed from the non-existent standpoint of his deaths.
Otherwise he would not have put off endlessly till tomorrow what he could only ever have done eternally in the present.
Single-mindedness, purity of heart, or wholeheartedness—in a word, authenticity—is living as if Nietzschean eternal recurrence were true, and as if everything always really mattered right here and now.
On the contrary, however, whether ultra-self-conscious, only ordinarily self-conscious, or even mostly un-self-conscious, Hamletian double-mindedness, impurity of heart, half-heartedness, or lack of heart—in a word, inauthenticity, or passive nihilism—is living as if Nietzschean eternal recurrence were impossible, as if there could somehow be something more than a finite, unbounded life and deathp, something after deathp, the ghostly realm of deaths, an “undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns.”
This is also to live as if nothing ever really mattered right here and now because you yourself are, for example, nothing but a fleshy deterministic or indeterministic and indestructible Turing machine eternally programmed for endlessly yielding the same result—presumably, ‘42’—in a spaceless and timeless After-Life created and ruled by an infinitely distant all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God, The Divine Commander.
So there is a set of very deep-running connections, essential analogies, and thus elective affinities between
(i) the belief in immortality,
(ii) existential inauthenticity,
(iii) passive nihilism,
(iv) the belief in universal natural determinism,
(v) the belief in theism combined with Divine Command Ethics, and
(vi) mindless obedience to the inherently rationally unjustified authority of the State and other State-like institutions.
But here I am verging on fundamental issues in what I call political theology, that I discuss in detail in Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism.
137. Finally, we arrive at the moral-existential sticking-point in the philosophy of old age.
By a natural deathp, I mean a deathp that is neither the result of mercy-killing, nor the result of self-sacrifice, nor the result of suicide, nor an accidental deathp, nor a not-unexpected deathp.
The prime example of a natural deathp is dying in old age from the deleterious natural effects of aging.
This can include dying from one or more of the same causes that, at an earlier stage in one’s life, would have classified a deathp as accidental—for example, diseases such as cancer, or a heart-attack.
So the “naturalness” of a natural deathp is determined, in part, relative to the normal life-expectancy for real human persons like us under the particular environmental, historical, and social conditions obtaining in that context.
138. Now given Death’s Excluded Middle, all natural deaths are either timely and inherently good for the person who dies (aka “dying with dignity”) or else untimely and inherently bad for the person who dies, and never both.
Moreover, a natural death NDp is timely if and only if
either (i) NDp is an inherently good thing for the higher-level or Kantian real human person who dies, because continued life would be personhood-destroying for her,
or (ii) NDp is not only an inherently good thing for the Kantian rational human animal who dies, but also a supremely good thing for her, because by means of the process of dying she thereby achieves or realizes principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
Otherwise, all other natural deaths are untimely.
Or in other words, all natural deaths for lives in which principled authenticity has not been manifested in any way are inherently bad for the Kantian real human person who dies, precisely because she has thereby failed to satisfy the high-bar moral norm of achieving or realizing principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
In short, in a moral sense, such lives have been wasted.
139. Granting that, and taking a realistic but not cynical view of rational “human, all-too-human” nature, and of the rational human condition, it seems very likely that in the natural course of things, sadly, a great many natural deathsp have been, are, and will be untimely.
In this way, a very obvious but also very important moral question arises at the egocentric center of The Web of Mortality: Should I—should we—fear an untimely natural deathp?
My answer to this question, from the standpoint of existential Kantian ethics and The Rage-Against-the-Dying-of-the-Light Theory of the nature and moral value of death, is: No, we ought not to fear an untimely natural death.
140. There are three reasons for this.
First, I think that a reasonable (i.e., non-foolhardy) level of bravery is morally obligatory with respect to the statistically low but still non-trivial prospect of an accidental deathp for any ordinary Kantian real human person.
But natural deathp adds nothing to accidental deathp that would give us a new sufficient moral reason for fear.
Hence reasonable bravery is also morally obligatory with respect to all natural deathsp, including the untimely ones.
Second, although it is true, as both Aristotle and also Nagel have correctly argued, that it is possible for people to be harmed in a extrinsic relational sense after their natural deathsp and during the finite or sempiternal time of their deathss—for example, by the post-mortem revelation of awful secrets about them, by the bad post-mortem consequences of their choices or acts, or by the post-mortem misfortunes of their loved ones, friends, families, or larger social communities, etc.—nevertheless this is always something that is only ever a bad thing about them, from the third-person point of view, and never something that is a bad thing for them, from the first-person point of view.
Intrinsic or first-personal harms require a living Kantian real human person who is harmed in the actual course of her real human personal life-process, that is, in the actual spatiotemporal and causal sequence of her complete, finite, and unique life.
Furthermore, the only intrinsic, first-personal harms that we morally have sufficient reason to fear are those that harm us by violating our dignity.
Since, like all real persons, all Kantian real human persons are literally identical with their complete, finite, and unique life-processes or lives, then they have dignity just as long as they are alive, and at no other times.
Hence Kantian real human persons cannot be harmed by violating their dignity after their natural deathsp, hence during the finite or sempiternally infinite time of their deathss.
And for the same reason, they cannot be harmed by violating their dignity before they are born.
This moral fact about us is quite easy to see with respect to the natural time prior to the beginning of our lives, when we did not yet exist; but the very same moral fact applies just as much to the finite or sempiternally infinite time following our own deaths, when we no longer exist.
So on the one hand, in this specific regard Lucretius was absolutely right: There is indeed at least one metaphysical and moral symmetry or mirroring between the time prior to our births and the finite or sempiternally infinite time during our deathss, in that we cannot be intrinsically morally harmed during either time.
Therefore we should not fear being intrinsically morally harmed after our own untimely natural deathsp, any more than we do or should fear being intrinsically morally harmed before our lives begin.
On the other hand, however, as I noted earlier, Lucretius was as it were “dead wrong” about the symmetry or mirroring thesis with respect to deathp.
The pre-natal non-existence of a Kantian real human person is essentially different from her deaths, precisely because her deaths is necessarily post-life, and therefore it inherently presupposes her actual deathp, whereas his pre-natal non-existence is necessarily not post-life, and therefore it does not metaphysically include her actual deathp.
Third, and most importantly of all, the second individually sufficient (but not individually necessary) condition for a timely natural deathp ND says that ND is not only an inherently good thing for the Kantian rational human minded animal who dies, but also a supremely good thing for her, because by means of the process of dying she achieves principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
141. What I want specifically to highlight with respect to this second criterion is that it is really possible to achieve principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree, even only at the very end of one’s life, by means of dying a natural deathp.
One way of seeing this is to double-underline a remarkable moral-existential-bootstrapping feature of the pursuit of principled authenticity.
If you really and truly are wholeheartedly trying to achieve or realize principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree, then you are thereby already really and truly achieving or realizing principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree.
And your natural deathp cannot change this essential moral fact about you and your life.
Indeed, for someone who is really and truly wholeheartedly trying to achieve or realize principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree, his natural deathp is precisely the intrinsic closure of such an inherently morally good life, at least to that extent.
Therefore it is a timely natural deathp, and “dying with dignity.”
142. Here I am not talking about “Stoicism,” as that notion is commonly understood.
It seems to me self-evidently true that if one were to achieve principled authenticity even , at least partially or to some degree, even only at the very end of one’s life, by dying a natural deathp, then a proper part of this achievement would not be to accept the beginning of one’s own deaths with passive and emotionless rational resignation in the face of overwhelming natural forces, but on the contrary to affirm both one’s own natural deathp and also one’s own deaths wholeheartedly as the intrinsic closure of one’s own complete, finite, and unique life, and the terminating form or immanent structure of one’s own life.
What is needed, then, is a thoroughly active and passionate Kantian Stoicism.
Furthermore, as should be obvious by now, it also seems to me that the moral-emotional core of this thoroughly active and passionate Kantian Stoicism about deathp and deaths alike, is captured precisely by Dylan Thomas’s famous poetic rant, at once Dionysian and Thanatosian:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
143. I will assume, now, that The Rage-Against-the-Dying-of-the-Light Theory of the nature and moral value of death is true.
It follows that since our own states of being dead, our deathss, inherently cannot be subjectively experienced, then at the very moment of deathp, our process of dying, which brings us up to the very beginning of our permanent deathss, we will still be alive and subjectively experiencing.
Now also suppose also that at that time we are lucky enough to have suffered no personhood-destroying accident or disease, and are also still Kantian real human persons, in possession of our basic capacities for intentionality, caring, and rationality.
In all such cases, then even if someone has not yet achieved or realized principled authenticity at all, nevertheless there is always enough time left for her wholeheartedly to affirm her own natural death as the intrinsic closure of her own complete, finite, and unique life—or more generally, wholeheartedly to choose or do something or another for the sake of any of her own moral principles and the Categorical Imperative—since this can be chosen at any time right up to and including the very moment of the beginning of her own deaths.
In so choosing or so doing, she can thereby achieve principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree, by freely conferring timeliness and “dying with dignity” on her own natural deathp.
144. In this way, seemingly paradoxically, even only at the very end of your life, your own natural deathp can also be a way of changing your life.
And if we can achieve principled authenticity, at least partially or to some degree, at any time right up to and including the very moment of the beginning of our own deathss, by freely conferring timeliness and “dying with dignity” on them, by changing our lives, and by converting them from ongoing projects into completed projects, like finishing a book or creating a work of art, then there is no sufficient moral reason for us to fear our own untimely natural deathsp.
For every such natural deathp will necessarily be timely and dignified, not untimely and undignified.
On the contrary, then, there is instead a sufficient moral reason for each and every one of us wholeheartedly to affirm his own natural deathp as the intrinsic closure of his complete, finite, and unique life, or more generally, wholeheartedly to choose or do something or another for the sake of any of her own moral principles and the Categorical Imperative, through respect for the dignity of real persons, whether others’ dignity or one’s own, at any time right up to and including the very moment of the beginning of his deaths, provided that it constitutes a genuine change-of-heart.
So no matter how wrong everything else has been in your life, as long as you are still alive, sentient, and sapient, then there is always enough time left for getting it at least partially or some degree right.
145. And that thought provides us all with some genuine rational, moral, and existential hope for our old age.
 T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” in T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems: 1909-1962 (London: Fabe and Faber, 1974), pp. 13-17, at p. 17, available online at URL = <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/44212/the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock>.
 D. Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” in O. Williams (ed.), The Pocket Book of Modern Verse (New York: Washington Square, 1973), p. 486, available online at URL = <https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/do-not-go-gentle-good-night>.
 See for example, R. Hanna, Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics, THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 2 (New York: Nova Science, forthcoming in 2019), ch. 2.
 See R. Hanna, Kantian Ethics and Human Existence: A Study in Moral Philosophy, THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 3 (New York: Nova Science, forthcoming in 2019), chs. 3-6.
 Hanna, Deep Freedom and Real Persons, chs. 6-7.
 Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, as quoted in S. Luper, “Death,” section 3.2, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), E.N. Zalta (ed.), available online at URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/death/>.
 D. Suits, “Why Death is Not Bad for the One Who Died,” American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (2001): 69-84.
 W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, act V, scene ii.
 L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. C.K. Ogden (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), p. 185.
 W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, act III, scene i.
 See, for example, R. Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell (London: Penguin, 2009); and L. MacFarquhar, Strangers Drowning (New York: Penguin Books, 2016).
 See D. Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (New York: Ballantine/Del Rey, 2002). The digit ‘42’ is the justly famous answer provided by the supercomputer Deep Thought, after 7.5 million years of computing, to the Ultimate Question of the Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Sadly, however, the Ultimate Question itself remains unknown.
 R. Hanna, Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise, THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 4 (New York: Nova Science, forthcoming in 2019).
 See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1100a10-32 and 1101a11-1101b9 ; and T. Nagel, “Death,” in T. Nagel, Mortal Questions (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979), pp. 1-10, at pp. 4-7.
 See note 2 above.
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