Nov 7, 2022Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

"The concept of the zero seems pretty basic to us moderns... The Romans, the Maya, the Indians, the Chinese, and other cultures all struggled with the notion of nothingness in their own way, until eventually everyone agreed that it was practical to define nothingness as a number like the others, because it allowed some useful operations... Meanwhile, the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., whether they were written I, II, III, IV or 一, 二, 三, 四 or ٤,٣,٢,١, were completely uncontroversial."

Those statements are either glaring howlers, or else very sloppily put. I can say so not only from personal experience, having in my 20s ten years ago worked through some mathematical classics with about 450 other 17-30ish non-math students who were very much "moderns", but also (off the top of my head) from Nicomachus's *Introduction to Arithmetic*, Dedekind's and Cantor's essays from the late 19th century, Frege's *The Foundations of Arithmetic*, Russell's *Principles of Mathematics* and (with Whitehead) *Principia Mathematica*, Gödel's *On Formally Undecidable Propositions*, Klein's *Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra*... I note the two fat volumes of Ewald's *From Kant to Hilbert : A Source Book in the Foundations of Mathematics*, full of "controversy" about "numbers" other than 0.

On the contrary, 0 still puzzles moderns (even if they know how to balance their checkbooks), and the other "numbers" were controversial, too--and indeed still are controversial, in some respects. And "nothingness," too, is still controversial--for an amusing recent dust-up, see for example the hatchet-jobs written by philosophers like David Albert (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html) and Edward Feser (https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/02/forgetting-nothing-learning-nothing.html) after physicist Lawrence Krauss pretended to show how the universe came from "nothing".

I point all this out because of course it is rich to criticize "Oblivion" as a "shoddy foundation for philosophical takes", by way of... using confusion about numbers as a shoddy foundation for philosophical takes. You make some good points in this post--but also are hobbled from the start by not minding that "The danger with any analogy is to stretch it too far."

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Seems to me negative numbers are very real to financial institutions

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Nov 4, 2022Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

There's a sense in which the preference for experiencing death doesn't make sense. An actual person cannot experience death.

But the preference to die (or not) seems coherent. Actual people die. So one can make meaningful claims about whether it's good to die or not. Because of this we can meaningfully talk about the goodness / badness of killing selves or others.

The goodness or badness of dying is largely instrumental. Living is instrumentally necessary for most good and bad things in the world.

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Nov 3, 2022Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

I think a better analogy than sleep is general anaesthesia. In my experience, “after-sleep” has a felt continuity with “before-sleep”; general anaesthesia, on the other hand, seems to be completely discontinuous. One completely disappears, and then re-appears. It’s not an “experience” of non-existence, but it _is a pretty visceral experience of the boggling impossibility of comprehending non-existence. Well, it boggles me, anyway.

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Non-existence is a super interesting subject as you can say whatever you want about non-existence , no non-existing entity will come to tell you you're wrong ;-)

I think that as soon as a brain is capable of thinking 'I exist' the same brain will very soon think 'What if I didn't exist'.

Maybe a poor person suffering from total amnesia thinks she never existed ... this must be a stressful experience.

BTW I'm living in a european country (Belgium) where euthanasia is a legal right (under strict conditions of course) and we, the citizens, are very happy to have that right !

Thanks Etienne !

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