Potentiality, Possibility, and the Irreversibility of Death

Review of Metaphysics 62 (1):61-77 (2008)
Abstract
This paper considers the issue of cryopreservation and the definition of death from an Aristotelian-Thomistic perspective. A central conceptual focus throughout this discussion is the purportedly irreversible nature of death and the criteria by which a human body is considered to be informed by a rational soul. It concludes that a cryopreserved corpse fails to have “life potentially in it” sufficient to satisfy Aristotle’s definition of ensoulment. Therefore, if the possibility that such a corpse may be successfully preserved and resuscitated comes to fruition, one would have to conclude that the person’s rational soul, which had separated from its body at death, has literally reanimated its resuscitated body. Obviously, this conclusion has theological implications that go beyond the scope of this discussion if we regard bodily resuscitation in this manner as a form of technologically induced resurrection. Another apparent implication of the paper’s argument is that, in a limited sense, death loses its irreversible nature
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