Flickr

  • www.flickr.com
    Abiola_Lapite's photos More of Abiola_Lapite's photos

« Regression to the Mean | Main | T. Rex »

March 24, 2005

Comments

dearieme

You respect the wishes of the dead so that the living may reasonably assume that their wishes will be honoured when they are dead, because that will influence their behaviour, and that of others, in a way that is beneficial for the society in question.

Frank McGahon

Dennett had some thoughts on this in "Consciousness Explained". As I recall one of his arguments was that it wasn't a bad idea to treat corpses with a little respect as it was likely that a more cavalier attitude towards bodies that were just dead would result in a more cavalier attitude to those which were almost dead.

Frank McGahon

Ok, I now realise that I am conflating "respect the wishes of the dead" and "respect the dead". Scratch that!

Jim

People respect the wishes of the dead as a gesture of love.

Abiola Lapite

It's a meaningless gesture, as the dead are in no position to appreciate it.

Andrew

"Ok, I now realise that I am conflating "respect the wishes of the dead" and "respect the dead"."

Well, most people want respect both when they're alive and dead. (That is to say, when they are alive, they want those who survive them to respect them after they die.) But I guess theoretically someone could put in their will that the corpse is to be mutilated and burned in public, or something, and then we'd have to do it (or would we?).

Jim

It's not meaningless; love is circular. People make the gesture for their own sake.

But your main point not only is obviously sensible and consistent with an atheistic worldview, it is also a necessary limit on the prerogatives of the (dead)individual. People have no right to expect to rule from beyond the grave.

Laurence Caromba

People have a strong emotional reaction against anything that constitutes "disrespect" for the dead. It's in the freakin' Illiad - nobody objects when Achilles kills Hector (he was just doing his job after all). But when he dragged his corpse around, suddenly everyone hates him.

You can find plenty of examples from contemporary warfare. What shocked the Americans out of Somalia was not seeing their rangers get killed - it was seeing their corpses mutilated afterwards. Same for those three American contractors killed in Fallujah. Their deaths would have probably gone unnoticed had it not been for what happened to their bodies afterwards.

Abiola is correct in a purely rational sense. And personally, I couldn't care less what happens to me after I die. But most people don't think in purely rational terms. Anybody who wants to disrespect the dead does so at their peril.

Andrew

Richard Chappell posted a comment on my post - http://universalacid.blogspot.com/2005/03/why-should-we-respect-wishes-of-dead.html#comments - "I think a person can be harmed even after they are no longer (presently) existing. We just need to understand the harms as retroactive: your present actions are making the earlier person worse off. We are better off when our desires are fulfilled, but it doesn't matter *when* they are fulfilled.

"Suppose you dedicate your life to preserving ancient works of art. Then, after your death, someone burns down the gallery where all your preserved work was stored. They have made it so that your life went worse, since you failed in your primary goal. The exact timing of the failure doesn't matter.

"I think that those who dismiss the wishes of the dead tend to have a crudely hedonistic conception of wellbeing. But as you rightly note, we often feel that we can be harmed without our knowing (e.g. by people on the other side of the world). Why should a separation in time be any more significant than one in space?"

So, what do people think of that idea? Is the goodness of one's life outside of time? Can harm be retroactive?

Or to put it another way - assuming that it's already true what will happen in the future (even though we don't know what happens yet; this is realism about the future, not fatalism or determinism), does it make sense to say that it's already true that you are worse off because someone after your death will betray your dreams, or better off because someone will fulfill them?

Abiola Lapite

"does it make sense to say that it's already true that you are worse off because someone after your death will betray your dreams, or better off because someone will fulfill them?"

I think it's a load of nonsense. Death is the end of everything, including dreaming, so there'll be nothing to "betray" at that point. To quote Nietzsche, let us be faithful to the earth, and not allow ourselves to be seduced by otherworldly hopes.

eoin

As the living are a dictatorship in time, they should not betray the dead, nor should they betray the yet to be born, as Burke pointed out

"Society is indeed a contract . . . [but] as the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. . . . Changing the state as often as there are floating fancies, . . . no one generation could link with the other. Men would be little better than the flies of a summer"

Betray the dead with fickle ideologies which ignore their place in time and wishes, and rest assured that the future generations will not just ignore you as an individual - but your generation and it's ideologies. You and all you know may as well have never lived.

Not that all that matters these days anyway, the ahistorical generations of hegmonic capitalism remember nothing - most , not even World War II - and men *are* little better than the flies of Summer. Libertarians can comfort themsleves in pointing out that the shopping is good, and I am sure you will.

Abiola Lapite

"As the living are a dictatorship in time, they should not betray the dead, nor should they betray the yet to be born, as Burke pointed out"

1 - What makes you think replacing the "dictatorship" of the living with the dictatorship of those who no longer exist is somehow an improvement?

2 - So what if Burke said something or other? Who made him the final word on anything? It's just plain stupid to talk of a "partnership" between the living and those who either don't yet exist or have ceased to exist, and as for his crack that " Men would be little better than the flies of a summer", well guess what? They already are! A man's life is nothing at all compared to the age of the earth or the vastness of the universe, scarcely of more note in the grand scheme of things than that of a housefly or an amoeba.

"Betray the dead with fickle ideologies which ignore their place in time and wishes, and rest assured that the future generations will not just ignore you as an individual - but your generation and it's ideologies. You and all you know may as well have never lived."

And why should I care about this, exactly? Reread the title of my post - "after me, the deluge": I don't give a stuff what the living do or think after I'm gone, as I'll be just that, GONE.

"Libertarians can comfort themsleves in pointing out that the shopping is good, and I am sure you will."

No, I prefer to leave such vacuous insults to braindead reactionaries who think the world owes them a duty to stand still.

eoin

"Libertarians can comfort themsleves in pointing out that the shopping is good, and I am sure you will."


"No, I prefer to leave such vacuous insults to braindead reactionaries who think the world owes them a duty to stand still."

I am hardly a reactionary in believing that social systems should stay relatively static, and gradually change, from generation to generation. That is the liberal democratic position.

I must apologise for the snide remark about shopping however. I dislike libertarian ideologies but, of course, they can't be reduced to such simple slogans.
I must learn to read before i post.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Notes for Readers