— Bertrand Russell (link)
— George Mallory
— Will Durant from “Fallen Leaves – Last words on Life, Love, War and God.” P. 39
By the soul, as distinct from the mind, I mean an inner directive and energizing force in every body, and in every cell and organ of a body. It is closely associated with breath (which, like the soul, was once termed spiritus), and it gradually dies if breathing permanently stops; but it is more than respiration, for it can rise from mere breathing to the subtlest functions of the body or the mind. When I introspect I perceive not merely sensations and ideas but desire, will, ambition, and pride as vital phases of me. Spinoza was right — desire is the very essence of man. We are living flames of desire until we admit final defeat. Will is desire expressed in ideas that become actions unless impeded by contrary or substitute desires and ideas. Character is the sum of our desires, fears, propensities, habits, abilities, and ideas.
I do not know what modest measure of freedom and origination I enjoy, but when I introspect I see no mechanism, but ambition, desire, will. Desire, not experience, is the essence of life; experience becomes the tool of desire in the enlightenment of mind and the pursuit of ends.
Though I am fond of my unique soul, I do not expect it to survive the complete death of my body. Death is the breakup of the human soul — i.e., of the life-giving, form-molding force — of an organism into the partial souls that animate individual parts of the body; so these lesser souls can for a time continue the growth of hair and nails on a corpse. And when the corpse completely disintegrates there will be souls, or inner energizing powers, even in the ‘inorganic’ fragments that remain. But my soul as me is bound up with my organized and centrally directed body, and with my individual memories, desires, and character; it must suffer disintegration as my body decays.
I am quite content with mortality; I should be appalled at the thought of living forever, in whatever paradise. As I move into my nineties my ambitions moderate, my zest in life wanes; soon I shall echo Caesar’s Jam satis vixi– “I have already lived enough.” When death comes in due time, after a life fully lived, it is forgivable and good. If in my last gasps I say anything contrary to this bravado, pay no attention to me. We must make room for our children.”
— Kwame Anthony Appiah
From Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
One sunny afternoon, when he wasn’t feeling well, Jobs sat in the garden behind his house and reflected on death. He talked about his experiences in India almost four decades earlier, his study of Buddhism, and his views on reincarnation and spiritual transcendence.
“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.”
He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife.
“I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”
He fell silent for a very long time.
“But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch,” he said. “Click! And you’re gone.”
Then he paused again and smiled slightly.
“Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”