We don’t live in metaphysical times, but life itself is as metaphysical as it ever was. We mourn people we love, when they die; who are we mourning? Death seems to be the end of us; but if we cease to be when we die—if death is, as Sartre would say, a matter of nothingness—then it follows that on the death of someone we love we mourn nothing at all; we miss nothing, pity nothing, remember nothing, honor nothing.
In this extraordinary book Palle Yourgrau tries to find a better way to think about these fundamental questions. Along the way, he offers a deeper understanding of the nature of existence and nonexistence (not just as these categories apply to people, but quite generally); of time; of reference; of possibility and necessity; and of ethics. Much of the most famous philosophical work on death and nonexistence (Heidegger, Sartre, etc.) is conducted in extremely obscure prose. If you ask those philosophers why they write like that, they would say that it is required by the subject matter; Yourgrau's luminously clear and elegant discussions show that this is not true. (Which invites the thought that Heidegger and company are hiding behind their obscurity.) It takes courage to write clearly--it allows other people to understand you, and thus to challenge you.
But the courage doesn't end there. Wittgenstein once said that “You could attach prices to thoughts. Some cost a lot, some a little. And how does one pay for thoughts? The answer, I think, is: with courage.” Reading this book, I was reminded of that quote. As the discussions in the book demonstrate, a number of able philosophers have come close to Yourgrau’s account of death—but at the last minute they lose heart, and avoid facing up to the conclusions that their own reasoning is urging on them. I was struck by the courage it must have taken to write this book.
- Hardcover: 232 pages
- Publisher: OUP USA (22 August 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0190247479
- ISBN-13: 978-0190247478
- Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 2.5 x 15 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 372 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)