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4: Death

I’m excited to present you with the outline for chapter 4 of Being & Death. Please read it over and let me know your thoughts! If you missed the opening post, you can read the outline comment guidelines and my overall purpose statement here.


I: The Respiratory Process

Chapter 1’s outline can be found here.

II: Queer Vision

Chapter 2’s outline can be found here.


III: Being

Chapter 3’s outline can be found here.

IV: Death

Chapter purpose: To present death in a new light by taking seriously the understanding that ‘death’ is the opposite of ‘life’. In the last chapter, ‘life’ or ‘Being’ was defined as the realm of language, duality, selves, and consciousness. Thus, ‘death’, as the opposite, is the realm of non-duality, non-selves, and the unconscious. This understanding is then deepened through an exploration of what empty space looks like in science, what the void does in philosophy, and the role of the unconscious in psychology. Such abstract claims are made salient by exploring common human experiences of ‘non-self’.

Main take-away: “Death is the creative ocean of the unconscious, which is not ‘outside’ of life, but rather at its very heart.”


1) “DYING OF THE LIGHT” – Section purpose: to present the commonly held, unbalanced view of death, which holds death as something that is to be feared and raged against.

  • Rage against the night
    • Via Dylan Thomas’s poem, a look at how the West rages against death in its one-sided war of light vs. dark.
  • The war on death
    • Using a section from Ishmael as a jumping-off point, a further discussion on the implications of the war on death.
    • Revisit God vs. Devil split (both God).
  • Doing what death does
    • Intro/summary of the whole chapter to come, re: Death’s old story, re-looking at what dies, stripping away the construct of the self to see what’s left, the void, new stories on truth, a robust model of what death means, and the return of respiration to our system.

2) “WHAT DIES?” – Section purpose: to pay homage to the lived experience of emotional loss and tragedy that the death of loved ones brings, as told through other people’s personal stories. Using the conceptual journaling of a predominate consciousness researcher (explored in the last chapter) who lost his wife, as a transition point from emotional tragedy to wellspring of conceptual mystery.

  • Mourning loved ones lost
    • Explore the raw grief of loss-based emotions via C.S. Lewis and Joan Didion. Death is a tragedy for the living.
    • Work through the story of Doug and Carol via ch. 16 of Strange Loop. Make sure to change their names in my example thought-experiment.
    • Discuss the survivor’s role of remembering the dead.
  • Living on in us
    • A series of thought experiments fueled by Doug and Carol’s story re: comparing and contrasting the strange-loop of the other that lives on in us with the one that lived in them.
  • Beyond dead images
    • An exploration of the “deadness” of ossified symbols, and the question of “What gave those symbols life?” Looking for an answer in Lacan’s statement, “That which is in me more than myself.”

3) “DECONSTRUCTING SELVES” – Section purpose: to attempt to arrive at ‘non-self’ by undoing the work of ‘selves’ we did in the last chapter. Doing this presents us with a strange, empty space.

  • Un-doing the work of identity
    • Death is certainly a tragedy for the living. But what is death from the perspective of the dead? Relate the story of the Sadhu. How might we even ask this question? And what might the experience of “being dead” do to our living relationship to death?
    • Re-cap and then question the work of selves done in our “Being” chapter, re: negative difference, separateness via language, lack and desire and consumerism, categories, cultural constructs of power and ideology, loopy self-models and tunnels, consciousness, and the question of the self.
    • If the work of “self” is Being, then is “non-self” Death?
  • Plus or minus 1, that is the question
    • If “self” is a virtual construct of language and consciousness, then is it possible to “un-do” that work and become something we might call a “non-self”?
    • Pick Lacan’s notion of identity from the last chapter “n+1” as our jumping-off point. If we un-do all those “1’s” of identity construction we get at the “n”. But what is that “n”? It seems like it’s just death, but maybe there’s another way to think about it?
  • Thinking with rhizomes
    • Explore Deleuze’s idea of “rhizomatic thought” via “n-1”. This seems easier said than done. What does it mean to “think the null?”
    • If the “+1’s” were the digital samplings of our PSM’s, then is the “n” the infinite richness of the Real? What would that even mean?
    • Introduce the Kantian split between “things as they are to us” and “things as they are in themselves.” Is access to “things in themselves” a fantasy?

4) “RECONCEPTUALIZING EMPTY SPACE” – Section purpose: to gain a new understanding of what ‘empty space’ is by how it is handled in physics, quantum mechanics, and set theory math. These other ways of thinking ‘the void’ gives us mental imagery of this hard to understand concept via well-established science and math metaphors.

  • Staring into the abyss
    • Re-visiting the empty space that we named “lack” in the last chapter. Re-looking at that void diagram.
    • Question all the presuppositions we made that led to desire and consumption.
    • One must have wings, if one loves the abyss.
  • Is emptiness empty?
    • Questioning the emptiness of “empty space” via advances in physics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics.
    • A look at the etymology of the numeral “0” as both the empty hole in the center (nothing) and the loop of the circle (infinity, everything).
  • Enter the Void
    • Exploring the concept of the Void via set-theory math and Badiou. Re-thinking the void diagram as not a “lack” but as a “void” and asking what this new conception can do for us.
    • Positing the thing that was “in us more than ourselves” as the Void.
    • Re-visit “things in themselves” as not something to know, but rather something to unspeakably encounter. We know it indirectly through its effects on us.

5) “EVENTAL SPACE” – Section purpose: now that we know how to think about ‘the void’, this section explores what ‘the void’ actually does (it produces truths), via the philosophy of Alain Badiou.

  • Being & rupture
    • An intro into Badiou’s thought via situations (Being) and their rupture by the Void (Event).
    • Dive into some non-philosophical examples to flesh out this model and these ideas.
  • A new vision of truth
    • A philosophical exploration of the history of “Truth” and Badiou’s re-definition of it as radical newness.
  • Fidelity to the Void
    • Present and discuss Badiou’s ethics of the event, truth process, fidelity to the Void, and his new definition of subjectivity.
    • Then present Badiou’s ethics in light of the Void Mandala. What would it mean to dive into the Void?

6) “EXPLORING THE CAVE” – Section purpose: to dive head first into the ‘void space’ by linking death to the unconscious, which is not ‘outside’ of us, but deep at our very core.

  • Spelunking, anyone?
    • Recap of Plato’s cave and the “dreams of death” section in the last chapter. Since Badiou re-defined Truth, then where can we now find it in Plato’s cave?
    • Present Sebastian Heim’s new reading re: dive into the belly of the cave. Describe the cave diagram and its relation to the Void Mandala.
  • The depths of the unconscious
    • Present via psychoanalysis (among other sources) a picture of what the unconscious is and the work it does.
    • Discuss the process of spiritual introspection as the process of diving into the unconscious waters. Show the Void Mandala. Touch upon creativity and inspiration. Maybe even talk about deep, dreamless sleep.
  • Inclusively excluded
    • An exploration of the complicated idea of “the inclusive exclusion” via Agamben. Use the example of the labyrinth.
    • This helps us better understand the weird notion of “the outside is on the inside.” Maybe talk about The Shade?
    • When the outside is on the inside, is this then what it means for something to be “in us more than ourselves”?
  • Nearness to death
    • Discuss the “death drive” as an “excess of life” drive. What does it mean to “do what death does”?
    • Talk about non-self being perceived as a threat to self, and the unconscious being perceived as a threat to consciousness (just as death is seen as a threat to life). Our goal here is to show how these terms are not antagonistic, but rather mutually supportive. From there: respiration.

7) “MODELING DEATH” – Section purpose: to give emotional, conceptual, and experiential salience to the concept of ‘death is non-self’ by exploring a series of titillating metaphors.

  • Pointing at the Thing
    • Via Watt’s metaphor of the finger pointing at the thing, re-present an analogical chain of metapattern re: death and non-self experiences. The divine beauty of ephemerality.
    • The void of truth / death / non-self is hard to talk about, so let’s circulate around it to sketch its contours with metaphor. My goal is to present, via analogy, a more robust and fruitful model for death.
    • Present an overview of this section to-come, since it’s big.
  • Swimming in the Real
    • Re-visiting Lacan’s Triangle and diving further into the idea of “The Real”. Linking the idea of the real as “that which is outside of symbolization” – the unspeakable goop.
    • Linking the Real to the Void, and thus to Badiou’s truth via his talk on “in search of the lost Real”.
    • Death is our plunge in the Real.
  • Physical death as access to God
    • Via Plato’s cave, we have an analogy of sun to Truth to God. Since we saw above that exiting the cave was death, we suddenly add the term “death” to our analogy. What does it mean to posit death as God?
    • Explore the film “Martyrs” as an example.
  • Sex as the little death
    • Explore the idea of orgasm as “the little death”.
    • Explore Bataille’s Erotism and the links between sex, death, and what he terms “continuity.”
    • The “Too Much Fun” from Infinite Jest
  • Limit-experience
    • Discuss what a “limit-experience” is via Foucault, especially in light of Badiou and the Event.
    • Limit-experience and the Void; arriving at the “open the Void” diagram.
    • Discuss the film “Black Swan” as an example.
  • Unbounded love
    • Exploring the writings and relationship of Salome and Rilke, and her notion of “reciprocity.” This is the space of non-dualism that we’ll explore more in the next chapter.
    • Also de Beauvoir and “reciprocity.”
  • Ego-death as access to God
    • A look at mysticism and meditation as practices of non-self and ego-death as a way to get to God. What Nirvana means.
    • Looking at the crucifix as a perfect example of ego-death.
    • Cosmic-self read through the PSM
  • Tasting ego-death with drugs
    • An exploration of drugs, ego-death experiences on drugs, and what we can learn from alternate forms of consciousness re: Huxley, Metzinger, and Haidt.
  • Non-self as landscape
    • Ego-death explored via thought experiments, specifically E-Prime and then “self as landscape.”
    • Discuss “thinness” and “Nearness to Things.”
    • Re-visit the rhizome, and look at rhizomatic sexuality.
    • Discuss emptiness and interdependence.

8) “RESPIRATION RETURNED” – Section purpose: to conclude and summarize all you just read in this chapter, and present our ‘new story of death’ as one of balance. Then transition us to the next chapter.

  • What is death?
    • Conclusion: death is ego-death, death is an exit from being, which entails the dissolving of identity and self-models, exiting consciousness, language, and negative difference, and being plunged in the ocean of the Real, the Void, the place of God and truth. This space is not outside, but inside. The unconscious is our very core.
    • If self was virtual, then is non-self actual? What do you “identify” with? (Talk about making art and identifying with the space between C and U). This question can be tasted via non-self experiences, giving us a nearness to death. Death is not just outside but inside.
  • Death’s creativity
    • Coming back to the Ishmael story from the beginning, we can see the vast creative potential death holds for life.
  • Telling a new story about death
    • Changing our cultural story about death leads us away from antagonism and towards balance and respiration, giving us a full breath of the one process that is life/death.
    • Just as signs (de Sausseur) were cuts through the two-sided paper of signifier/signified, so too is a human being a cut through the two-sided paper of life/death.
  • The space between
    • Re-visiting the Doug and Carol story to ask “where does the Thing reside?” In being? In death? Or in the very space between the two?


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