It is a commonplace that the initial framing of an inquiry determines the form of the conclusions, and may even determine the conclusions themselves. When contemplating death this is as true as it is elsewhere, and given the importance of confusion on this point we may need to clear the matter of obstacles. – To be concerned with the unknowable afterlife is a failure of objectivity; it results from pressing the question in the form “How will feel when I am dead?” which cannot be answered; as if to say “What colour will this yellow flower be when it is blue?” The question is superfluous and its manifest redundancy is self-answering. Similarly, in answer to the former question we could say You won’t feel, you will be dead. Such a response will fail to satisfy, of course, since the question was posed in such a manner as to impart a sense of mystery that forbids clear resolution. By approaching death from the viewpoint of your own subjectivity and its demise, we seem to see death as a barrier to knowledge. Death becomes a veil, and we become confused.
But let us triangulate upon this position: – How will the difference between me living and me dead be perceived by a third person? On this view life and death are both visible. Here is JC living (his body maintains its net aggregate complexity and prosecutes its interests); here is the body which we termed JC (this body no longer maintains its net aggregate complexity or prosecutes its interests), it is dying or already dead.
Thus, the puzzle of death is the result of carelessly framing the investigation from the point of view of an individual wondering about his own death, a framing which prevents an answer and creates a vacuous mystery. On this view, the veil of death is a logical artefact which we can sweep aside by thinking in terms of other’s deaths or of their view of your death. Life and death are both equally ascertainable for a third party. Living is this set of activities. Death is the cessation of those activities. In the midst of life we are in death. Yes, indeed, and the more so when we consider that death in this view is not so much a sudden change, but rather the culmination of a process which started some time earlier. The organism is in a sense dying as soon as it is born, only at that time and for most of its adult life it is living as much and a little bit more than it is dying.