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2016/12/05 Why do we celebrate birthdays?

A philosopher once asked me why we celebrate birthdays. He went on to say that a birthday is what we all have and that's the reason for his question.

Implicit in his argument seems to be the following syllogism:

  1. What can be celebrated is a rare thing.
  2. A birthday is common, not rare.
  3. Therefore, a birthday cannot be celebrated

What do you think about this? The premises appear correct. If so, the syllogism is inevitably correct. Then, does it mean that we should stop celebrating birthdays?

A way to respond could be to point out what we truly celebrate when we seem to celebrate our birthday. What we celebrate on our birthdays is not the birhtdays themselves but our births, the fact that we have been born and live with significant others.

The philosopher would reply. "But we are all of us born. So, birth is not rare." To this, my rejoinder would be, "No. You cannot infer from the fact we are all born that birth is common, for I was not simply born, but I was born me. The fact that I was born as me is no common. My birth cannot be shared with anyone." Therefore, we can celebrate our birhtdays as a means to make sure the importance of our births.

No callower argument could have ever been devised than this. If this is correct, it seems to follow that I must celebrate every single person's birthday. And this is impossible. So, this argument is not so helpful. How can we make the case that we can celebrate our birthday without at the same time having to celebrate all the birthdays?