Discussion by: jsnmf
Recently I underwent surgery and was deeply sedated for more than an hour. Before going under, I resolved to try to experience the black void that the superstitious are always worrying about in the afterlife and/or the "warmth and light" claimed by some who say they have had near death experiences, giving them a preview of “heaven”. As expected, none of that happened; I experienced no lapse between going under and waking up. I concluded that unconsciousness can’t be experienced (duh?). What implications, if any, does that have for the after death “experience” for someone like me who rejects all the ancient but still widespread superstitions of gods, souls, heaven and hell. Might there be any difficulties in permanently escaping consciousness?
After doing some research to find out who else on the internet might be thinking about unconsciousness, I found lots of people thinking about consciousness but very few pondering unconsciousness. I did find a thought-provoking article at http://www.naturalism.org/death.htm which seems secular enough. In the synopsis it says “By degrees, the reader is supposed to see that the notion of a blank or emptiness following death is incoherent, and that therefore we should not anticipate the end of experience when we die.” Alright, but if we do not “experience” eternal sedation after death, then is there any hope of identifying a range of possibilities of what does happen? For example, a commentary on the above paper suggests that “The last experience of a man who will die in the year 2050 will be followed by the first experience of an arbitrary individual of an arbitrary species in an arbitrary location at an arbitrary future time.” Random re-incarnation is problematic but incarnation is not. We have all experienced it. Can we say that this life is not an example of an afterlife? After all it has come after 13.8 billion years – we have clearly come in in the middle of this movie rather the beginning or the end. Superstition can’t answer these questions and science probably can’t either, but they are worthy of serious thought.