A Regional Thanatology: Hegel, Heidegger, and Death

Dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago (2002)

My dissertation Confrontations with Death: Hegel and Heidegger , is an examination of the role of death in G. W. F. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Martin Heidegger's Being and Time. Both Hegel and Heidegger argue for the importance of death for understanding human experience. However, both conceive of death and the nature of its importance very differently. This dissertation traces the contours of this difference and the implications that this difference has for thinking about death in general. ;After arguing, based on an analysis of Epicurus, that space, time, and death are inextricably related, I examine the relation that these terms might have to one another. This examination shows that death may precede space and time as a transcendental category, or space and time may precede death and thus condition it. These two possibilities are best exemplified in Heidegger's Being and Time and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. I argue that for Heidegger death is one of the conditions for the possibility of Dasein's spatiality and temporality. I argue that for Hegel death is constituted by the spatial and temporal relations of a community and its history. ;I argue in the final chapter that Hegel's subordination of death to history and community represents an important corrective to Heidegger's transcendental account of death. In place of Heidegger's transcendental account of death I propose a "regional thanatology" in which conceptions of death are delimited by the historical, social, economic, and political circumstances within which they arise. A regional thanatology precludes the possibility of thinking of human existence in ontologically transcendental terms, and requires the analysis of human finitude within the context of community and history
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