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Death Questions

Updated: Oct 27, 2018

Philmblog’s recent post, The Ultimate Question, served as an introduction to the Philosophy of Film part of the site – a part of the blog that asks ‘why?’ questions on cinema history. But that’s not all Philmblog will be talking about! It’s time to introduce section two: Philosophy of Character Deaths .

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Philosophy of Film | Death Questions

Yes, that’s right, Philmblog will be tackling the morbid subject of cinema mortality.

"But what is cinema mortality?" You ask.

Good question. The Philosophy of Character Deaths section of Philmblog will question all manner of character deaths throughout the history of cinema: from the infamous Jack death scene in Titanic, to the incompetent nanny in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom who was half eaten by a pterodactyl before mosasaurus finished the job – nice! Philmblog will look at the impact of these deaths on their story’s narrative, what the implications are for the theme of the film and all other questions these deaths flag up.

So that’s the Philosophy of Character Deaths segment introduced!

But this got Philmblog thinking: why do humans find questions on mortality so fascinating? Maybe because, along with birth, it’s the one thing we’ll all have in common? Maybe because, even though we all go through it, no one who’s completed it can tell us what it’s like?

Or maybe it's because questions themselves are inherently linked to death?

And what on earth do you mean by that, Philmblog?

Well, let us explain...

Questions arise whenever we have a gap in our knowledge. We ask questions because we don’t already have the answers, and we seek answers so we can form conclusions which lead us to new understandings.

In this way, questions unlock answers that enable us to go through life with the information other people have gained – through them we gain what is essentially the hindsight of others. Don’t know what the weather is usually like in Majorca in June, when you’re hoping to travel there? Knowledge built by experts studying weather patterns can help give you an idea. Don’t know the recipe to make a Victoria Sponge Cake? A chef will have written one down to guide you. Don’t know what the optimum pressure for your car’s tyres should be? A mechanic will have created a user manual for you to consult.

So questions and their answers provide us with the hindsight of others.

But why does that make questions inherently linked to death?

Because, by asking questions and gaining this hindsight, we gain invaluable knowledge of our surroundings that keeps us safe:

Imagine an early-man nomad wandering into a new territory and needing to forage for food. Some berries would have been safe to eat and others not, but our newcomer on his own would have had no safe way of knowing which was which. What would he have done? He’d have asked a local who already knew which berry was poisonous.

The newcomer used a question to gain the local’s knowledge and built himself a kind-of hindsight, thus avoiding death.

Therefore questions are inherently linked to death because they are how we navigate ourselves away from it. They are part of an instinctual quizzical nature within humans that forms a tool allowing us to understand our surroundings and keep us away from dangers.

They are, quite literally, death-defying instinctual queries.

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