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The four categories (according to Tolstoy)

Date: 7.11.2021

Death Method Epistemology

If there exists a result of the whole life, it becomes apparent only outside of the time span between birth and death (in particular, after life, that is death; see in detail End of Life). Moreover, any reasonable activity, such as life, must have such a goal, necessarily defined through belief (Importance of goal and End of life and belief) [1].

So, how do they live, those who reckon life as having no ends? Is there any reasonable activity throughout life that justifies it given its imminent destruction?

Whatever the reason some people continue to live denying the necessity to acknowledge anything live after death, these reasons cannot be but absurd and sheer illogic (see in detail End of Life.

Here, we put some popular views on the subject for the sake of example. These examples highlight the general rules derived from the simple fact of death and serve as generalizations more or less common universally throughout cultures and ages.

Leo Tolstoy [2] puts the following four categories:

  1. Ignorance. This does not even realize the question of life.
  2. Epicureanism. This realizes hopelessness of life and tries to enjoy all the blessings we have without asking where to and what for.
  3. Weakness. This realizes the question but waits. It does not have enough strength to act rationally.
  4. Strength. This realizes the question and chooses death. Unusually strong and logically consistent people choose this path.

It is obvious that weakness as well as strength solve the problem logically correctly, if one does not assume or believe in the ends after life. The only difference is in practical consistency, rather than in the intellectual honesty.

It is true further that ignorance does not see the problem and ignores it (see also Note 1 below).

Therefore, only Epicureanism is seemingly happy with life, but is it logically so? Can we call it rational?

The true epicureanism tries to enjoy everything it does. In this case, pleasure is the aim of every activity in life and cannot be the aim of the whole life (as shown before). However, if the maximal enjoyment is the goal of the whole life, then this conclusion must be justified by means of beliefs (see earlier), because whether one succeeded in having maximal pleasure of life or not is to be known after life, earliest at death. Therefore, the true epicureanism either believes in something after life, or falls into ignorance about the question of life and thus becomes illogical.

Note 1: More recently, there is a movement of "positive thought" which holds that if you think positively ignoring negative thoughts, such as thoughts about diseases, bad luck, failures, you will be safe from them. Naturally, such positive thinking extends to death, yet empirically whether one thinks or not about it, death reaches everyone.

[1] Note that even if one thinks that life does not necessarily have a goal, they do it out of belief. In other words, they believe that life has no goals. Thus, it is a sheer belief, for example, that there is no life after death.

[2] Confession, Leo Tolstoy.

See also:
End of life | Death | Confession