An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all

7 Replies, 810 Views

An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all?’

By the time of his death, the US philosopher Herbert Fingarette (1921-2018) had lived what most would consider a full and meaningful life. His marriage to his wife, Leslie, was long and happy. His career as professor of philosophy at the University of California, Santa Barbara was both accomplished and controversial – his book Heavy Drinking (1988), which challenged the popular understanding of alcoholism as a progressive disease, was met with criticism in the medical and academic communities. In a later book, Death: Philosophical Soundings (1999), Fingarette contemplated mortality, bringing him to a conclusion that echoed the Epicureans: in non-existence, there is nothing to fear. But as Being 97 makes evident, grappling with death can be quite different when the thoughts are personal rather than theoretical. Filmed during some of the final months of Fingarette’s life, the elegiac short documentary profiles the late philosopher as he reflects on life, loss, the many challenges of old age, and those lingering questions that might just be unanswerable.

An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all?’ | Aeon Videos

Thanks to nbtruthman for pointing me towards this site because I don't remember ever seeing it before. Maybe I have but I'd forgotten. This is a rather poignant glimpse into the ultimate existential question. What is the point of it all ? Herbert Fingerette a famous philosophy professor from the university of California, allows us to see a day in his life at an advanced age, which has now ended (2018) and to hear his most honest and profound thoughts about his predicament. 

I would warn anyone who is not in the mood to watch something like this, to pass. I personally found it rather fascinating, not because I derive any satisfaction from seeing someone suffering (effectively) like this, I don't of course, it's a tale of woe. A hopeless and sad reflection on the tragic success materialist philosophy and science has had, 'scouring' away' any smidgen of the 'notion' that death is not the end, for no good reason. 

Herbert doesn't want to live because he's ancient and has to suffer all the indignities that old age brings. But he also doesn't want to die either, because even in this state, he thinks it is still preferable to death. But he doesn't know why. And he is kind of surprised that he doesn't know why. The gist of it is...what was the point of it all? This is surely one (at least) of the most commonly expressed laments from people facing death, who sincerely believe it is the end. 

I'm not going to try and sell Herbert (retrospectively) a different perspective. My only real question is...where has he been since 1975. Surely, he must have become aware of the opinions of some other academics (who are not actually fools) that death might not be the end of everything after all. 

I mean at the very least, even if you don't believe in life after death (or continuing consciousness) no one can deny that death itself seems to be extremely pleasant and that whether they are really there or not, your dead relatives appear to be waiting for you. A big pat on the back to materialists ! They certainly appear to have done a great job on Herbert ! And if that's not the case, why did he feel so hopeless?

(I really hope in fact I'm sure he will have had a wonderful reunion with his dear wife)         
(This post was last modified: 2022-10-04, 06:12 PM by tim. Edited 5 times in total.)
[-] The following 2 users Like tim's post:
  • Raimo, Sciborg_S_Patel
(2022-10-04, 03:50 PM)tim Wrote: An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all?’

By the time of his death, the US philosopher Herbert Fingarette (1921-2018) had lived what most would consider a full and meaningful life. His marriage to his wife, Leslie, was long and happy. His career as professor of philosophy at the University of California, Santa Barbara was both accomplished and controversial – his book Heavy Drinking (1988), which challenged the popular understanding of alcoholism as a progressive disease, was met with criticism in the medical and academic communities. In a later book, Death: Philosophical Soundings (1999), Fingarette contemplated mortality, bringing him to a conclusion that echoed the Epicureans: in non-existence, there is nothing to fear. But as Being 97 makes evident, grappling with death can be quite different when the thoughts are personal rather than theoretical. Filmed during some of the final months of Fingarette’s life, the elegiac short documentary profiles the late philosopher as he reflects on life, loss, the many challenges of old age, and those lingering questions that might just be unanswerable.

An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all?’ | Aeon Videos

Thanks to nbtruthman for pointing me towards this site because I don't remember ever seeing it before. Maybe I have but I'd forgotten. This is a rather poignant glimpse into the ultimate existential question. What is the point of it all ? Herbert Fingerette a famous philosophy professor from the university of California, allows us to see a day in his life at an advanced age, which has now ended (2018) and to hear his most honest and profound thoughts about his predicament. 

I would warn anyone who is not in the mood to watch something like this, to pass. I personally found it rather fascinating, not because I derive any satisfaction from seeing someone suffering (effectively) like this, I don't of course, it's a tale of woe. A hopeless and sad reflection on the tragic success materialist philosophy and science has had, 'scouring' away' any smidgen of the 'notion' that death is not the end, for no good reason. 

Herbert doesn't want to live because he's ancient and has to suffer all the indignities that old age brings. But he also doesn't want to die either, because even in this state, he thinks it is still preferable to death. But he doesn't know why. And he is kind of surprised that he doesn't know why. The gist of it is...what was the point of it all? This is surely one (at least) of the most commonly expressed laments from people facing death, who sincerely believe it is the end. 

I'm not going to try and sell Herbert (retrospectively) a different perspective. My only real question is...where has he been since 1975. Surely, he must have become aware of the opinions of some other academics (who are not actually fools) that death might not be the end of everything after all. 

I mean at the very least, even if you don't believe in life after death (or continuing consciousness) no one can deny that death itself seems to be extremely pleasant and that whether they are really there or not, your dead relatives appear to be waiting for you. A big pat on the back to materialists ! They certainly appear to have done a great job on Herbert ! And if that's not the case, why did he feel so hopeless?

(I really hope in fact I'm sure he will have had a wonderful reunion with his dear wife)         

I remember watching this and I agree with you on the point: If you are certain there's nothing more....it may be a very tough watch.

I found a Q&A that was done with the filmmaker (Herbert's grandson) to be quite nice:

How did this film come about?

Herb was my maternal grandfather. I've been close with him throughout my entire life, but our relationship deepened after my grandmother, Leslie, passed away in 2011. As you can see in the film, he was truly heartbroken after she died, and needed a lot of emotional support from me and the rest of the family, especially in the first few years of adjusting to life on his own.

My grandfather was a prolific writer—I have a big box full of reprints of articles, lectures, and of course all of his books. But after Leslie died, he couldn't write anything, except for notes that he never developed into anything finished. This is because my grandmother was basically his editor—he would write, show it to her, and she would help him simplify and clarify the language (she was editor of her high school paper and on a champion on the debate team, a sharp intellect as well).

So the film emerged as a way to help my grandfather voice his thoughts since he wasn't able to write them down. We would have long conversations about many things, including death, a topic which he was adamant about treating openly and honestly. I wanted to record some of these conversations for myself, and he had ideas that he wanted to share with the world about being old and facing death, so we decided to do it. The film also presented an opportunity for us to collaborate together, which we both thoroughly enjoyed.

How much time did you spend with Herbert during filming?

The filming took place over about a month, probably 14 days of filming little segments—we only did a few hours at a time. But I also spent a lot of time with him where we weren't filming. I made sure to see him every day or at least every other day for the last six months of his life.

Did he get to see the final film? If so, what were his thoughts?

He did see it, and he was very moved by it. He said it was a "great film" (although I'm sure there's a bit of grandfather-ly bias in there.) I was worried he might think it was too dark, but he said it depicted his situation accurately. I asked him if he thought anything should be changed, and he said it was just right the way it was. He marveled at how all the little snippets that we'd filmed over the course of the month came together to tell a story and paint a picture. He said he learned something about filmmaking through that process, which was meaningful to both of us, since he'd seen and supported my development as a filmmaker since I began at age 11.

What went through your mind when you learned of his passing?

I was with him when he died. I was happy to be with him in his last moments, which were relatively peaceful, but it was a very intense, cathartic experience for both of us.

Has any part of your worldview changed at all because of this film?

I think the piece that's not in the film, but that's very present for me, relates to his spiritual outlook. Although he was interested in dreams, mythology, religion and the spirit, he was fundamentally an existentialist, a material rationalist, who had the firm belief (as is made clear in the film and in his book on death) that after you die, there's nothing. Whether this is true or not, I don't think that it's necessarily the best strategy for meaning-making when you get to that age. He was limited in many ways because of his age, and his world shrank down from what it was when he was in his prime (he said he didn't start feeling his age until his mid 80s.) I think that without my grandmother and without his philosophical work, he wasn't left with much meaning in his life. Of course he had me and my mother and my brother and the constant companionship of his caregiver and close friend, Sheryl Pontis, who appears in the film. But obviously that wasn't enough to give his life a sense of purpose. So as I move forward in my own life and look towards eventual death, I do so with an open mind, uncertain of what comes after life, as I don't think there's any real way to know what does or doesn't happen until you get there and experience it first hand.

What’s next for you?

I'm continuing on the theme of family, working on a short doc about my father, who died 15 years ago. The logline is: an archaeological excavation of family secrets, in search of lost feelings for my father. I'm also working on a feature length documentary about adaptations to climate change.
[-] The following 2 users Like Silence's post:
  • Raimo, tim
(2022-10-04, 03:50 PM)tim Wrote: An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all?’

By the time of his death, the US philosopher Herbert Fingarette (1921-2018) had lived what most would consider a full and meaningful life. His marriage to his wife, Leslie, was long and happy. His career as professor of philosophy at the University of California, Santa Barbara was both accomplished and controversial – his book Heavy Drinking (1988), which challenged the popular understanding of alcoholism as a progressive disease, was met with criticism in the medical and academic communities. In a later book, Death: Philosophical Soundings (1999), Fingarette contemplated mortality, bringing him to a conclusion that echoed the Epicureans: in non-existence, there is nothing to fear. But as Being 97 makes evident, grappling with death can be quite different when the thoughts are personal rather than theoretical. Filmed during some of the final months of Fingarette’s life, the elegiac short documentary profiles the late philosopher as he reflects on life, loss, the many challenges of old age, and those lingering questions that might just be unanswerable.

An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all?’ | Aeon Videos

Thanks to nbtruthman for pointing me towards this site because I don't remember ever seeing it before. Maybe I have but I'd forgotten. This is a rather poignant glimpse into the ultimate existential question. What is the point of it all ? Herbert Fingerette a famous philosophy professor from the university of California, allows us to see a day in his life at an advanced age, which has now ended (2018) and to hear his most honest and profound thoughts about his predicament. 

I would warn anyone who is not in the mood to watch something like this, to pass. I personally found it rather fascinating, not because I derive any satisfaction from seeing someone suffering (effectively) like this, I don't of course, it's a tale of woe. A hopeless and sad reflection on the tragic success materialist philosophy and science has had, 'scouring' away' any smidgen of the 'notion' that death is not the end, for no good reason. 

Herbert doesn't want to live because he's ancient and has to suffer all the indignities that old age brings. But he also doesn't want to die either, because even in this state, he thinks it is still preferable to death. But he doesn't know why. And he is kind of surprised that he doesn't know why. The gist of it is...what was the point of it all? This is surely one (at least) of the most commonly expressed laments from people facing death, who sincerely believe it is the end. 

I'm not going to try and sell Herbert (retrospectively) a different perspective. My only real question is...where has he been since 1975. Surely, he must have become aware of the opinions of some other academics (who are not actually fools) that death might not be the end of everything after all. 

I mean at the very least, even if you don't believe in life after death (or continuing consciousness) no one can deny that death itself seems to be extremely pleasant and that whether they are really there or not, your dead relatives appear to be waiting for you. A big pat on the back to materialists ! They certainly appear to have done a great job on Herbert ! And if that's not the case, why did he feel so hopeless?

(I really hope in fact I'm sure he will have had a wonderful reunion with his dear wife)         

Fingarette evidently even to the end remained firmly in the grip of materialism - his intellect totally dominant. I think possibly to the point that even if he experienced a powerful spiritual experience he would have remained a materialist and mightily try to explain away his experience. Ego, lifelong investments in a career, etc. etc. were the stakes.

This brings to mind the painful issue of what of the final days and moments of life even for those convinced of the afterlife based only on examination of the evidence? 

It seems to me that what will be crucial here for a graceful and non-fearful transition is whether one has had actual strong and vivid personal spiritual transformative experiences or not, like an NDE in particular. If so, one likely will be convinced viscerally and deeply of survival. No worries. 

If not, no matter how strong the intellectual conviction based on extensive study of the evidence, there will remain niggling doubts, leading to some worry about the possibility of utter annihilation. I'm in the latter category. I can only wonder why; presumably it relates to soul choices of personality characteristics, that the human I certainly didn't participate in.
(This post was last modified: 2022-10-04, 08:50 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
[-] The following 3 users Like nbtruthman's post:
  • Larry, Raimo, Sciborg_S_Patel
(2022-10-04, 07:24 PM)Silence Wrote: I remember watching this and I agree with you on the point: If you are certain there's nothing more....it may be a very tough watch.

Thanks for posting that, Silence ! Everyone of course must believe/accept or not as they wish. But I do find it odd to witness such a pessimistic outlook bearing in mind the mountain of clues out there. I suppose he would have said that's not evidence and you can't have evidence for something that's impossible. 

I felt a lot of sympathy for him, but it was also darkly 'satisfying' to hear his confession at the end...what was the point of it all. No point, if what he believes is true. But at least he didn't seccumb to the feeble minded, sentiment of believers like me  Halo
(This post was last modified: 2022-10-06, 01:40 PM by tim. Edited 4 times in total.)
[-] The following 2 users Like tim's post:
  • Raimo, Typoz
(2022-10-04, 08:38 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: there will remain niggling doubts, leading to some worry about the possibility of utter annihilation. 

Naturally but what we can say for certain now scientifically (and we couldn't before) is that death, even if it is an end, will not feel like it's the end. I'm not sure if anything else really matters, in one sense.
[-] The following 3 users Like tim's post:
  • nbtruthman, Silence, stephenw
(2022-10-05, 12:56 PM)tim Wrote: Naturally but what we can say for certain now scientifically (and we couldn't before) is that death, even if it is an end, will not feel like it's the end. I'm not sure if anything else really matters, in one sense.

I understand your meaning, and it makes sense.

But it does matter in another, a big way. Like, 'What shall I do today?'. How to live, does anything matter? To be cruel or to be kind, to kill or to rescue, so many possibilities. I'm not talking about reward and punishment, heaven or eternal damnation. I'm only thinking of the significance, the relevance of continuity. If we continue to exist, and how we live becomes a part of us, then what we do today affects who we are tomorrow. And if it doesn't end at the grave, then that becomes a reason to consider how we want to be, when we look in the mirror, who will we see?
[-] The following 4 users Like Typoz's post:
  • Sciborg_S_Patel, Silence, tim, Raimo
I watched this video a long time ago and I always found it especially beautiful in a sad way. I've had an interest in philosophy for a long time, especially in the way humans see the world, life and death, both from a more spiritual and atheistic perspective ever since discovering NDEs. I don't think materialists did a number on him, or his fear of death was driven by the belief that nothing came after. I think he was old, drawn back into nostalgia and hiding away from the world like so many old people tend to be. I think his view of life and death had become narrow and he hadn't had the opportunity to branch out and see all the different avenues that people can use, whether they be spiritual, other branches of philosophical, or even medicinal, to approach death in a more healthy way. That's the saddest part of it to me, even if nothing comes after it doesn't mean we have to be scared of dying, but he never gave himself the opportunity to learn that because he was so set in his ways to try. 

Here's a man who's spend his whole life trying to understand existence, but when he's finally at the end of his rope all he can do is admit to himself that he never really knew much of anything. Definitely something that hit home for me, bit of a tragedy of a philsopher's existence.

https://aleteia.org/2020/02/26/this-97-y...new-light/

The ending is also something that might be of interest to you lot. 

Quote:Despite its confrontation with the power and difficulty of the question of death, Being 97 doesn’t seem to go much further than the answer of Fingarette’s younger days: “I think the answer may be the silence answer,” Fingarette admits. “There is no point.” But The Atlantic offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes detail from the filmmaker Andrew Hasse, who is also Fingarette’s grandson, that you wouldn’t otherwise get from the film:

The day before he died, Fingarette uttered his final words. After spending many hours in silence with his eyes closed, Hasse said, his grandfather suddenly looked up and said, “Well, that’s clear enough!” A few hours later he said, “Why don’t we see if we can go up and check it out?”
(This post was last modified: 2022-10-22, 01:14 PM by Smaw. Edited 1 time in total.)
[-] The following 2 users Like Smaw's post:
  • Ninshub, Typoz
Those are certainly more intriguing last words than "Either that wallpaper goes or I do".
[-] The following 1 user Likes Typoz's post:
  • Ninshub

  • View a Printable Version
Forum Jump:


Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)