We normally take it for granted that other people will live on after we ourselves have died. Even if we do not believe in a personal afterlife in which we survive our own deaths, we assume that there will be a "collective afterlife" in which humanity survives long after we are gone. Samuel Scheffler maintains that this assumption plays a surprising - indeed astonishing - role in our lives.
The biophilosophic justification for the idea that “brain death” is death needs to support two claims: that what dies in human death is a human organism, not merely a psychological entity distinct from it; that total brain failure signifies the end of the human organism as a whole. Defenders of brain death typically assume without argument that the first claim is true and argue for the second by defending the “integrative unity” rationale. Yet the integrative unity (...) rationale has fallen on hard times. In this article, I give reasons for why we should think of ourselves as organisms, and why the “fundamental work” rationale put forward by the 2008 President’s Council is better than the integrative unity rationale, despite persistent objections to it. (shrink)
The debate over whether brain death is death has focused on whether individuals who have sustained total brain failure have satisfied the biological definition of death as “the irreversible loss of the integration of the organism as a whole.” In this paper, I argue that what it means for an organism to be integrated “as a whole” is undefined and vague in the views of those who attempt to define death as the irreversible loss of the (...) integration of the organism as a whole. I show how what it means for a living thing to be integrated as a whole depends on the sortal concept by which it is identified. Since interests, values, and ontological considerations besides strictly biological ones affect the concepts by which we individuate and identify living things, those non-biological considerations have a bearing on what it means for a particular kind of living thing to exist as a whole and thus what it means for one of us to die. Even if our bodies may remain organically integrated in some sense despite total brain failure, this fact should not lead us to reject brain death as death. Artificially sustained brain-dead human bodies are not human beings, but the remains of them. While such bodies may be alive in some sense, they are not human beings or human persons. They are not one of us. (shrink)
Most philosophers in the death literature believe that death can be bad for the person who dies. The most popular view of death’s badness—namely, deprivationism—holds that death is bad for the person who dies because, and to the extent that, it deprives them of the net good that they would have accrued, had their actual death not occurred. Deprivationists thus face the challenge of locating the time that death is bad for a person. This (...) is known as the Timing Problem, which is thought to be one of the biggest challenges facing views holding that death can be bad for the person who dies. Every possible answer to this question has been defended in the literature, yet each answer can seemingly be shown to be subject to compelling objections. In this paper, I argue that the force of the Timing Problem is illusory. Specifically, I argue that the problem, as formulated in the literature, is underspecified. Any adequately precise form of the question ‘When is death bad for the person who dies?’ is one to which there is a clear, decisive, and unproblematic answer. (shrink)
There is one thing we can be sure of: we are all going to die. But once we accept that fact, the questions begin. In this thought-provoking book, philosophy professor Shelly Kagan examines the myriad questions that arise when we confront the meaning of mortality. Do we have reason to believe in the existence of immortal souls? Or should we accept an account according to which people are just material objects, nothing more? Can we make sense of the idea of (...) surviving the death of one’s body? If I won’t exist after I die, can death truly be _bad_ for me? Would immortality be desirable? Is fear of death appropriate? Is suicide ever justified? How should I _live_ in the face of death? Written in an informal and conversational style, this stimulating and provocative book challenges many widely held views about death, as it invites the reader to take a fresh look at one of the central features of the human condition—the fact that we will die. (shrink)
This is the earliest critical discussion in the context of modern/contemporary philosophy in the analytical tradition arguing that somebody with a reasonably stable character and the company of the right people would be able to enjoy eternity .
We know that animals are harmed in plant production. Unfortunately, though, we know very little about the scale of the problem. This matters for two reasons. First, we can’t decide how many resources to devote to the problem without a better sense of its scope. Second, this information shortage throws a wrench in arguments for veganism, since it’s always possible that a diet that contains animal products is complicit in fewer deaths than a diet that avoids them. In this paper, (...) then, we have two aims: first, we want to collect and analyze all the available information about animal death associated with plant agriculture; second, we try to show just how difficult it’s to come up with a plausible estimate of how many animals are killed by plant agriculture, and not just because of a lack of empirical information. Additionally, we show that there are significant philosophical questions associated with interpreting the available data—questions such that different answers generate dramatically different estimates of the scope of the problem. Finally, we document current trends in plant agriculture that cause little or no collateral harm to animals, trends which suggest that field animal deaths are a historically contingent problem that in future may be reduced or eliminated altogether. (shrink)
The ancient philosophical school of Epicureanism tried to argue that death is "nothing to us." Were they right? James Warren provides a comprehensive study and articulation of the interlocking arguments against the fear of death found not only in the writings of Epicurus himself, but also in Lucretius' poem De rerum natura and in Philodemus' work De morte. These arguments are central to the Epicurean project of providing ataraxia (freedom from anxiety) and therefore central to an understanding of (...) Epicureanism as a whole. They also offer significant resources for modern discussions of the value of death--one which stands at the intersection of metaphysics and ethics. If death is the end of the subject, and the subject can not be benefited nor harmed after death, is it reasonable nevertheless to fear the ceasing-to-be? If the Epicureans are not right to claim that the dead can neither be benefited nor harmed, what alternative models might be offered for understanding the harm done by death and do these alternatives suffer from any further difficulties? The discussion involves consideration of both ethical and metaphysical topics since it requires analysis not only of the nature of a good life but also the nature of personal identity and time. A number of modern philosophers have offered criticisms or defences of the Epicureans' views. Warren explores and evaluates these in the light of a systematic and detailed study of the precise form and intention of the Epicureans' original arguments. Warren argues that the Epicureans also were interested in showing that mortality is not to be regretted and that premature death is not to be feared. Their arguments for these conclusions are to be found in their positive conception of the nature of a good and complete life, which divorce the completeness of a life as far as possible from considerations of its duration. Later chapters investigate the nature of a life lived without the fear of death and pose serious problems for the Epicureans being able to allow any concern for the post mortem future and being able to offer a positive reason for prolonging a life which is already complete in their terms. (shrink)
_Death, Posthumous Harm, and Bioethics_ offers a highly distinctive and original approach to the metaphysics of death and applies this approach to contemporary debates in bioethics that address end-of-life and post-mortem issues. Taylor defends the controversial Epicurean view that death is not a harm to the person who dies and the neo-Epicurean thesis that persons cannot be affected by events that occur after their deaths, and hence that posthumous harms are impossible. He then extends this argument by asserting (...) that the dead cannot be wronged, finally presenting a defence of revisionary views concerning posthumous organ procurement. (shrink)
Johnston presents an argument for a form of immortality that divests the notion of any supernatural elements. The book is packed with illuminating philosophical reflection on the question of what we are, and what it is for us to persist over time.
It is an old philosophical idea that if the future self is literally different from the current self, one should be less concerned with the death of the future self. This paper examines the relation between attitudes about death and the self among Hindus, Westerners, and three Buddhist populations. Compared with other groups, monastic Tibetans gave particularly strong denials of the continuity of self, across several measures. We predicted that the denial of self would be associated with a (...) lower fear of death and greater generosity toward others. To our surprise, we found the opposite. Monastic Tibetan Buddhists showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group. The monastics were also less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life in order to extend the life of another. (shrink)
In 1968, the Harvard criteria equated irreversible coma and apnea with human death and later, the Uniform Determination of Death Act was enacted permitting organ procurement from heart-beating donors. Since then, clinical studies have defined a spectrum of states of impaired consciousness in human beings: coma, akinetic mutism, minimally conscious state, vegetative state and brain death. In this article, we argue against the validity of the Harvard criteria for equating brain death with human death. Brain (...)death does not disrupt somatic integrative unity and coordinated biological functioning of a living organism. Neurological criteria of human death fail to determine the precise moment of an organism’s death when death is established by circulatory criterion in other states of impaired consciousness for organ procurement with non-heart-beating donation protocols. The criterion of circulatory arrest 75 s to 5 min is too short for irreversible cessation of whole brain functions and respiration controlled by the brain stem. Brain -based criteria for determining death with a beating heart exclude relevant anthropologic, psychosocial, cultural, and religious aspects of death and dying in society. Clinical guidelines for determining brain death are not consistently validated by the presence of irreversible brain stem ischemic injury or necrosis on autopsy; therefore, they do not completely exclude reversible loss of integrated neurological functions in donors. The questionable reliability and varying compliance with these guidelines among institutions amplify the risk of determining reversible states of impaired consciousness as irreversible brain death. The scientific uncertainty of defining and determining states of impaired consciousness including brain death have been neither disclosed to the general public nor broadly debated by the medical community or by legal and religious scholars. Heart-beating or non-heart-beating organ procurement from patients with impaired consciousness is de facto a concealed practice of physician-assisted death, and therefore, violates both criminal law and the central tenet of medicine not to do harm to patients. Society must decide if physician-assisted death is permissible and desirable to resolve the conflict about procuring organs from patients with impaired consciousness within the context of the perceived need to enhance the supply of transplantable organs. (shrink)
"There are seven chapters, addressing philosophical issues pertaining to death, the badness of death, time and death, ideas on immortality, near death experiences, and extending life through medical technology. The book is shorter, and less elaborate, than Kagan's Death. And it goes into more depth about a selection of central issues related to death and immortality than May's book. It gives an original take on various basic puzzles pertaining to death, and integrates a (...) discussion of these philosophical issues with an analysis of near-death experiences, as well as an exploration of contemporary efforts to extend life by heroic medical means"--. (shrink)
It is commonly asserted that “death is not a welfare issue” and this has been reflected in welfare legislation and policy in many countries. However, this creates a conflict for many who consider animal welfare to be an appropriate basis for decision-making in animal ethics but also consider that an animal’s death is ethically significant. To reconcile these viewpoints, this paper attempts to formulate an account of death as a welfare issue. Welfare issues are issues that refer (...) to evaluations concerning an animal’s interests. This includes evaluations that refer only to comparisons between the presence and absence of states, including positive states. This means that an animal’s death may be a welfare issue insofar as it leads to the exclusion of relevant positive states. This allows us to deny that death is necessarily not a welfare issue. (shrink)
This book contributes to current bioethical debates by providing a critical analysis of the philosophy of human death. Bernard N. Schumacher discusses contemporary philosophical perspectives on death, creating a dialogue between phenomenology, existentialism, and analytic philosophy. He also examines the ancient philosophies that have shaped our current ideas about death. His analysis focuses on three fundamental problems: (1) the definition of human death, (2) the knowledge of mortality and of human death as such, and (3) (...) the question of whether death is "nothing" to us or, on the contrary, whether it can be regarded as an absolute or relative evil. Drawing on scholarship published in four languages and from three distinct currents of thought, this volume represents a comprehensive and systematic study of the philosophy of death, one that provides a provocative basis for discussions of the bioethics of human mortality. (shrink)
Requiring family authorization for apnea testing subtracts health professionals control over death determination, a procedure that has traditionally been considered a matter of clinical expertise alone. In this commentary, we first provide evidence showing that health professionals’ (HPs) disposition to act on death determination without family’s prior consent could be much lower than that referred to by Berkowitz and Garrett (2020). We hypothesize that HPs may have reservations about their own expertise as regards death, and may thus (...) hesitate to impose their views on patients’ families. We then address the theoretical question of clinical expertise in death determination by distinguishing judgments about facts (e.g., the presence or absence of spontaneous breathing) from interpretations given of these facts (i.e., their meaning for the vital status of an individual). We argue that, while clinicians may claim some expert authority on the former, they hold no particular authority on the latter. (shrink)
Some have argued (following Epicurus) that death cannot be a bad thing for an individual who dies. They contend that nothing can be a bad for an individual unless the individual is able to experience it as bad. I argue against this Epicurean view, offering examples of things that an individual cannot experience as bad but are nevertheless bad for the individual. Further, I argue that death is relevantly similar.
Since the 1980s, Islamic scholars and medical experts have used the tools of Islamic law to formulate ethico-legal opinions on brain death. These assessments have varied in their determinations and remain controversial. Some juridical councils such as the Organization of Islamic Conferences' Islamic Fiqh Academy (OIC-IFA) equate brain death with cardiopulmonary death, while others such as the Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences (IOMS) analogize brain death to an intermediate state between life and death. Still other (...) councils have repudiated the notion entirely. Similarly, the ethico-legal assessments are not uniform in their acceptance of brain-stem or whole-brain criteria for death, and consequently their conceptualizations of, brain death. Within the medical literature, and in the statements of Muslim medical professional societies, brain death has been viewed as sanctioned by Islamic law with experts citing the aforementioned rulings. Furthermore, health policies around organ transplantation and end-of-life care within the Muslim world have been crafted with consideration of these representative religious determinations made by transnational, legally-inclusive, and multidisciplinary councils. The determinations of these councils also have bearing upon Muslim clinicians and patients who encounter the challenges of brain death at the bedside. For those searching for ‘Islamically-sanctioned’ responses that can inform their practice, both the OIC-IFA and IOMS verdicts have palpable gaps in their assessments and remain clinically ambiguous. In this paper we analyze these verdicts from the perspective of applied Islamic bioethics and raise several questions that, if answered by future juridical councils, will better meet the needs of clinicians and bioethicists. (shrink)
The Dead Donor Rule holds that removing organs from a living human being without their consent is wrongful killing. The rule still prevails in most countries, and I assume it without argument in order to pose the question: is it possible to have a metaphysically correct, clinically relevant analysis of human death that makes organ donation possible? I argue that the two dominant criteria of death, brain death and circulatory death, are both empirically and metaphysically inadequate (...) as definitions of human death, and therefore of no epistemic value in themselves. I first set out a neo-Aristotelian theory of death as separation of soul and body, which is then fleshed out as loss of organismic integrity. The brain and circulatory criteria are shown to have severe weaknesses as physiological manifestations of loss of integrity. Given the mismatch between what death is metaphysically speaking, and the dominant criteria accepted by clinicians and philosophers, it turns out that only actual bodily decomposition is a sure sign of death. In this I differ from Alan Shewmon, whose important work I discuss in detail. (shrink)
Both Martin Heidegger and Harry Frankfurt have argued that the fundamental feature of human identity is care. Both contend that caring is bound up with the fact that we are finite beings related to our own impending death, and both argue that caring has a distinctive, circular and non-instantaneous, temporal structure. In this paper, I explore the way Heidegger and Frankfurt each understand the relations among care, death, and time, and I argue for the superiority of Heideggerian version (...) of this nest of claims. Frankfurt claims that we should conceive of the most basic commitments which practically orient a person in the world and define his identity (“volitional necessities”) as naturalistic facts, foundational for and located completely without the normative space of reasons. In support of this he appeals to the supposedly foundational role played in human life by the instinct for self-preservation, what Frankfurt calls the “love of living.” The claim is that in questions of practical identity there is a definite priority of the factual over the normative. Frankfurt’s naturalistic model of volitional necessity is motivated by a misunderstanding of the temporal structure of care, a misunderstanding that helps lead him to an implausible conception of the basic structures of human identity. Heidegger advances an anti-naturalistic conception of caring, one bound up with his way of understanding how human beings relate to their own future. I argue that the existential, temporal, and normative significance that Frankfurt attributes to the naturalized “love of living” is better captured by the Heideggerian claim that human identity is defined by being “for-the-sake-of” certain projects and commitments, a way of being lived out in the way Heidegger calls “being-towards-death.”. (shrink)
Saṃvega is a morally motivating state of shock that -- according to Buddhaghosa -- should be evoked by meditating on death. What kind of mental state it is exactly, and how it is morally motivating is unclear, however. This article presents a theory of saṃvega -- what it is and how it works -- based on recent insights in psychology. According to dual process theories there are two kinds of mental processes organized in two" systems" : the experiential, automatic (...) system 1, and the rational, controlled system 2. In normal circumstances, system 1 does not believe in its own mortality. Saṃvega occurs when system 1 suddenly realizes that the "subjective self" will inevitably die (while system 2 is already disposed to affirm the subject's mortality). This results in a state of shock that is morally motivating under certain conditions. Saṃvega increases mortality salience and produces insight in suffering, and in combination with a strengthened sense of loving-kindness or empathic concern both mortality salience and insight in suffering produce moral motivation. (shrink)
Deprivationism cannot accommodate the common sense assumption that we should lament our death iff, and to the extent that, it is bad for us. Call this the Nothing Bad, Nothing to Lament Assumption. As such, either this assumption needs to be rejected or deprivationism does. I first argue that the Nothing Bad, Nothing to Lament Assumption is false. I then attempt to figure out which facts our attitudes concerning death should track. I suggest that each person should have (...) two distinct attitudes toward death: one determined by agent’s reasonable expectations about when she will die and one determined by the amount of metaphysically possible good one reasonably believes death precludes. (shrink)
In its October 2001 issue, this journal published a series of articles questioning the Whole-Brain-based definition of death. Much of the concern focused on whether somatic integration - a commonly understood basis for the whole-brain death view - can survive the brain's death. The present article accepts that there are insurmountable problems with whole-brain death views, but challenges the assumption that loss of somatic integration is the proper basis for pronouncing death. It examines three major (...) themes. First, it accepts the claim of the "disaggregators" that some behaviors traditionally associated with death can be unbundled, but argues that other behaviors (including organ procurement) must continue to be associated. Second, it rejects the claims of the "somaticists," that the integration of the body is critical, arguing instead for equating death with the irreversible loss of "embodied consciousness," that is, the loss of integration of bodily and mental function. Third, it defends higher-brain views against the charge that they are necessarily "mentalist," that is, that they equate death with losing some mental function such as consciousness or personhood. It argues, instead, for the integration of bodily and mental function as the critical feature of human life and that its irreversible loss constitutes death. (shrink)
The Philosophy of Death is a discussion of the basic philosophical issues concerning death, and a critical introduction to the relevant contemporary philosophical literature. Luper begins by addressing questions about those who die: What is it to be alive? What does it mean for you and me to exist? Under what conditions do we persist over time, and when do we perish? Next, he considers several questions concerning death, including: What does dying consist in; in particular, how (...) does it differ from ageing? Must death be permanent? By what signs may it be identified? Is death bad for the one who dies? If so why? Finally he discusses whether, and why, killing is morally objectionable, and suggests that it is often permissible; in particular, suicide, euthanasia and abortion may all be morally permissible. His book is a lively and engaging philosophical treatment of a perennially fascinating and relevant subject. (shrink)
: Although "brain death" and the dead donor rule—i.e., patients must not be killed by organ retrieval—have been clinically and legally accepted in the U.S. as prerequisites to organ removal, there is little data about public attitudes and beliefs concerning these matters. To examine the public attitudes and beliefs about the determination of death and its relationship to organ transplantation, 1351 Ohio residents ≥18 years were randomly selected and surveyed using random digit dialing (RDD) sample frames. The RDD (...) telephone survey was conducted using computer-assisted telephone interviews. The survey instrument was developed from information provided by 12 focus groups and a pilot study of the questionnaire. Three scenarios based on hypothetical patients were presented: "brain dead," in a coma, or in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Respondents provided personal assessments of whether the patient in each scenario was dead and their willingness to donate that patient's organs in these circumstances. More than 98 percent of respondents had heard of the term "brain death," but only one-third (33.7%) believed that someone who was "brain dead" was legally dead. The majority of respondents (86.2%) identified the "brain-dead" patient in the first scenario as dead, 57.2 percent identified the patient in a coma as dead (Scenario 2), and 34.1 percent identified the patient in a PVS as dead (Scenario 3). Nearly one-third (33.5%) were willing to donate the organs of patients they classified as alive for at least one scenario, in seeming violation of the dead donor rule. Most respondents were not willing to violate the dead donor rule, although a substantial minority was. However, the majority of respondents were unaware, misinformed, or held beliefs that were not congruent with current definitions of "brain death." This study highlights the need for more public dialogue and education about "brain death" and organ donation. (shrink)
The concept of brain death has become deeply ingrained in our health care system. It serves as the justification for the removal of vital organs like the heart and liver from patients who still have circulation and respiration while these organs maintain viability. On close examination, however, the concept is seen as incoherent and counterintuitive to our understandings of death. In order to abandon the concept of brain death and yet retain our practices in organ transplantation, we (...) need to either change the definition of death or no longer maintain a commitment to the dead donor rule, which is an implicit prohibition against removing vital organs from individuals before they are declared dead. After exploring these two options, the author argues that while new definitions of death are problematic, alternatives to the dead donor rule are both ethically justifiable and potentially palatable to the public. Even so, the author concludes that neither of these approaches is likely to be adopted and that resolution will most probably come when technological advances in immunology simply make the concept of brain death obsolete. (shrink)
Nietzsche famously proclaimed the “death of God,” but in so doing it was not God’s death that was really notable—Nietzsche assumes that most reflective, modern readers realize that “the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable” —but the implications of that belief becoming unbelievable, namely, “how much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined,” in particular, “the whole of our European morality”. What is the connection between the death of God and the death (...) of morality? I argue that Nietzsche thinks the death of God will undermine the “moral egalitarianism” that is central to modern morality, in both its deontological and utilitarian forms. I offer an account of how Nietzsche sees the connection, arguing that no one has yet offered a nontheistic defense of moral egalitarianism. I conclude with some skeptical considerations about whether Nietzsche was right that atheism would, in fact, undermine morality. (shrink)
With the help of medicine and technology we are living longer than ever before. As human life spans have increased, the moral and political issues surrounding longevity have become more complex. Should we desire to live as long as possible? What are the social ramifications of longer lives? How does a longer life span change the way we think about the value of our lives and about death and dying? Christine Overall offers a clear and intelligent discussion of the (...) philosophical and cultural issues surrounding this difficult and often emotionally charged issue. Her book is unique in its comprehensive presentation and evaluation of the arguments—both ancient and contemporary—for and against prolonging life. It also proposes a progressive social policy for responding to dramatic increases in life expectancy. Writing from a feminist perspective, Overall highlights the ways that our biases about race, class, and gender have affected our views of elderly people and longevity, and her policy recommendations represent an effort to overcome these biases. She also covers the arguments surrounding the question of the "duty to die" and includes a provocative discussion of immortality. After judiciously weighing the benefits and the risks of prolonging human life, Overall persuasively concludes that the length of life does matter and that its duration can make a difference to the quality and value of our lives. Her book will be an essential guide as we consider our social responsibilities, the meaning of human life, and the prospects of living longer. (shrink)
In the contemporary context of environmental crises and the degradation of resources, certain habitats become unliveable, leading to the death of individuals and species extinction. Whilst bioscience emphasises interdependency and relationality as crucial characteristics of life shared by all organisms, Western cultural imaginaries tend to draw a thick dividing line between humans and nonhumans, particularly evident in the context of death. On the one hand, death appears as a process common to all forms of life; on the (...) other, as an event that distinguishes human from other organisms. Against this background, this article explores how contemporary art—in particular, the series of works The Absence of Alice by Australian new-media and bioartist Svenja Kratz—challenges the normative and human-exceptionalist concept of death. By employing queerfeminist biophilosophy as a strategy that focuses on relations, processes and transformations instead of ‘essences’, the article examines the ways Kratz’s works deterritorialise the conventional concept of death. In this way, it hopes to attend to the intimacies between materialities of a human and nonhuman kind that form part of the processes of death and dying, and what follows, to reframe ethico-ontology of death as material and processual ecologies of the non/living. (shrink)
From Odysseus' seduction by the song of the Sirens to Oscar Moore's 1991 novel A Matter of Life and Sex , whose protagonist courts death through sex and dies of AIDS, the frustrated relationship between death and desire has fixated the Western imagination. Philosophers have grappled with it and poets have told of its beauty and pain. In this strikingly original work, cultural critic Jonathan Dollimore once again demonstrates his remarkable ability to take on the complex and reveal (...) its relevance with eloquence and grace. Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture is a rich testament to our ubiquitous preoccupation with the tangled web of death and desire. In these pages we find nuanced analysis that blends Plato with Shelley, Hölderlin with Foucault. Dollimore, a gifted thinker, is not content to summarize these texts from afar; instead, he weaves a thread through each to tell the magnificent story of the making of the modern individual. An immensely important book, Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture is a challenge to the way we understand desire, sexuality, and the very notion of identity. (shrink)
Despite widespread support for the claim that death can harm the one who dies, debate continues over how to rescue this harm thesis (HT) from Epicurus’s challenge. Disagreements focus on two of the three issues that any defense of HT must resolve: the subject of death’s harm and the timing of its injury. About the nature of death’s harm, however, a consensus has emerged around the view that death harms a subject (when it does) by depriving (...) her of the goods life would’ve afforded had she continued living. This deprivation view of death’s harm (DV) derives some of its credibility from the general deprivation theory of which it is an instance: mortal harm is subject to the same kind of analysis plausibly given of other non-mortal harms. Furthermore, note that the weak formulation of HT—asserting only that death can inflict harm, not that it always or necessarily does—accommodates the intuition that instances of rational suicide and justifiable euthanasia present cases in which death fails to harm. DV is equipped to explain how in these cases the harms involved in continued existence outweigh the goods of which death deprives the subject. I agree that suicide can be rational and that euthanasia can be justifiable. Likewise I accept both HT and DV as far as they go. But they do not go far enough. Specifically, I argue here that death harms even those who die as a result of rational suicide or justifiable euthanasia; that death’s harm is neither undifferentiated nor wholly contingent, but multifaceted and partly necessary; that the necessary part of death’s harm is distinctive, inflicting a peculiar restriction on the autonomy of one who dies; and, regarding the timing and subject issues, that this restriction harm is inflicted on the antemortem subject prior to her death. (shrink)
What is death and why does it matter to us? How should the knowledge of our finitude affect the living of our lives and what are the virtues suitable to mortal beings? Does death destroy the meaningfulness of lives, or would lives that never ended be eternally and absurdly tedious? Should we reconcile ourselves to the fact of our forthcoming death, or refuse to "go gently into that good night"? Can death really be an evil if, (...) after death, we no longer exist as subjects of goods or evils? How should we respond to the deaths of others and do we have any duties towards the dead? These, and many other, questions are addressed in Geoffrey Scarre's book, which draws upon a wide variety of philosophical and literary sources to offer an up-to-date and highly readable study of some major ethical and metaphysical riddles concerning death and dying. (shrink)
The concept of brain death was recently described as being “at once well settled and persistently unresolved.” Every day, in the United States and around the world, physicians diagnose patients as brain dead, and then proceed to transplant organs from these patients into others in need. Yet as well settled as this practice has become, brain death continues to be the focus of controversy, with two journals in bioethics dedicating major sections to the topic within the last two (...) years.By way of background, the Uniform Determination of Death Act states that “[a]n individual who has sustained either: irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.” In other words, death can be defined by either cardiorespiratory or neurological criteria, with “brain death” representing the loss of all brain function. This standard, or closely related variants, has become the accepted approach throughout the United States and in many parts of the world. (shrink)
The controversy over brain death and the dead donor rule continues unabated, with some of the same key points and positions starting to see repetition in the literature. One might wonder whether some of the participants are talking past each other, not all debating the same issue, even though they are using the same words (e.g., “death”). One reason for this is the complexity of the debate: It’s not merely about the nature of human life and death. (...) Interwoven into this debate are deep philosophical issues on realism, the normative/descriptive distinction, the relation of thought and language to the world, the mind–body problem, personhood, moral status, and the ethics of killing. There are also social and legal .. (shrink)
Legally defining “death” in terms of brain death unacceptably obscures a value judgment that not all reasonable people would accept. This is disingenuous, and it results in serious moral flaws in the medical practices surrounding organ donation. Public policy that relies on the whole-brain concept of death is therefore morally flawed and in need of revision.
Along with the growing utilization of the total artificial heart comes a new set of ethical issues that have, surprisingly, received little attention in the literature: How does one apply the criteria of irreversible cessation of circulatory function given that a TAH rarely stops functioning on its own? Can one appeal to the doctrine of double effect as an ethical rationale for turning off a TAH given that this action directly results in death? And, On what ethical grounds can (...) a physician turn off a TAH in view of the fact that either the intent of such an action or the outcome is always, and necessarily, death? The aim of this article is not to answer these questions but to highlight why these questions must be explored in some depth given the growing use of TAH technology. (shrink)
In this essay, I will look closer at the death of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who committed suicide in 1995. I will scrutinize his death in concordance with his philosophical thoughts, but frame my gaze within Albert Camus’ well-known opening- question from The Myth of Sisyphus: “Judging whether life is worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy” (Camus, 2005:1).
Death and Philosophy presents a wide ranging and fascinating variety of different philosophical, aesthetic and literary perspectives on death. Death raises key questions such as whether life has meaning of life in the face of death, what the meaning of "life after death" might be and whether death is part of a narrative that can be retold in different ways, and considers the various types of death, such as brain death, that challenge (...) mind-body dualism. The essays also include explorations of Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan perspectives on death and why death in some cultures, such as in Mexico's day of the dead, is celebrated. (shrink)
If pressed to identify the philosophical foundations of contemporary bioethics, most bioethicists would cite the four-principles approach developed by Tom L Beauchamp and James F Childress,1 or perhaps the ethical theories of JS Mill2 or Immanuel Kant.3 Few would cite Aristotle's metaphysical views surrounding death and posthumous harm.4 Nevertheless, many contemporary bioethical discussions are implicitly grounded in the Aristotelian views that death is a harm to the one who dies, and that persons can be harmed, or wronged, by (...) events that occur after their deaths. The view that death is a harm to the one who dies infuses, for example, the debates over abortion and euthanasia, while the view that persons could be harmed or wronged after their deaths informs much of the debate over, for example, policies for the posthumous procurement of transplant and the ethics of research on the dead.In Death, Posthumous Harm, and Bioethics, I argue that we should reject this cluster of influential Aristotelian thanatological claims, and instead endorse a trio of views that together constitute what I term full-blooded epicureanism: That death is not a harm to the person who dies, and that persons can neither be harmed nor wronged by events that occur after their deaths. …. (shrink)
Advances in life-saving technologies in the past few decades have challenged our traditional understandings of death. Traditionally, death was understood to occur when a person stops breathing, their heart stops beating and they are cold to the touch. Today, physicians determine death by relying on a diagnosis of ‘total brain failure’ or by waiting a short while after circulation stops. Evidence has emerged, however, that the conceptual bases for these approaches to determining death are fundamentally flawed (...) and depart substantially from the established biological conception of death. We argue that the current approach to determining death consists of two different types of unacknowledged legal fictions. These legal fictions were developed for practices that are largely ethically legitimate but need to be reconciled with the law. The considerable debate over the determination of death in the medical and scientific literature has not informed the public that vital organs are being procured from still-living donors and it seems unlikely that this information can remain hidden for long. Given the instability of the status quo and the difficulty of making the substantial legal changes required by complete transparency, we argue for a second-best policy solution: acknowledging the legal fictions involved in determining death to move in the direction of greater transparency. This may someday result in more substantial legal change to directly confront the challenges raised by life-sustaining and life-preserving technologies without the need for fictions. (shrink)
Evidential Decision Theory and Causal Decision Theory are the leading contenders as theories of rational action, but both face counterexamples. We present some new counterexamples, including one in which the optimal action is causally dominated. We also present a novel decision theory, Functional Decision Theory, which simultaneously solves both sets of counterexamples. Instead of considering which physical action of theirs would give rise to the best outcomes, FDT agents consider which output of their decision function would give rise to the (...) best outcome. This theory relies on a notion of subjunctive dependence, where multiple implementations of the same mathematical function are considered to have identical results for logical rather than causal reasons. Taking these subjunctive dependencies into account allows FDT agents to outperform CDT and EDT agents in, for example, the presence of accurate predictors. (shrink)
The immensely influential work of Jacques Lacan challenges readers both for the difficulty of its style and for the wide range of intellectual references that frame its innovations. Lacan’s work is challenging too, for the way it recentres psychoanalysis on one of the most controversial points of Freud’s theory – the concept of a self-destructive drive or ‘death instinct’. Originally published in 1991, _Death and Desire_ presents in Lacanian terms a new integration of psychoanalytic theory in which the battery (...) of key Freudian concepts – from the dynamics of the Oedipus complex to the topography of ego, id, and superego – are seen to intersect in Freud’s most far-reaching and speculative formulation of a drive toward death. Boothby argues that Lacan repositioned the theme of death in psychoanalysis in relation to Freud’s main concern – the nature and fate of desire. In doing so, Lacan rediscovered Freud’s essential insights in a manner so nuanced and penetrating that prevailing assessments of the death instinct may well have to be re-examined. Although the death instinct is usually regarded as the most obscure concept in Freud’s metapsychology, and Lacan to be the most perplexing psychoanalytic theorist, Richard Boothby’s straightforward style makes both accessible. He illustrates the coherence of Lacanian thought and shows how Lacan’s work comprises a ‘return to Freud’ along new and different angles of approach. Written with an eye to the conceptual structure of psychoanalytic theory, _Death and Desire_ will appeal to psychoanalysts and philosophers alike. (shrink)
Introduction : death, metaphysics, and morality / John Martin Fischer Death knocks / Woody Allen Rationality and the fear of death / Jeffrie G. Murphy Death / Thomas Nagel The Makropulos case : reflections on the tedium of immortality / Bernard Williams The evil of death / Harry S. Silverstein How to be dead and not care : a defense of Epicurus / Stephen E. Rosenbaum The dead / Palle Yourgrau The misfortunes of the dead (...) / George Pitcher Harm to others / Joel Feinberg Reasons and persons / Derek Parfit Why is death bad? / Anthony L. Brueckner and John Martin Fischer Death and the value of life / Jeff McMahan Annihilation / Steven Luper-Foy Epicurus and annihilation / Stephen E. Rosenbaum Some puzzles about the evil of death / Fred Feldman Well-being and time / J. David Velleman. (shrink)
What is the meaning of life? In the post-modern, post-religious scientific world, this question is becoming a preoccupation. But it also has a long history: many major figures in philosophy had something to say on the subject, as Julian Young so vividly illustrates in this thought-provoking book. Part One of the book presents an historical overview of philosophers from Plato to Hegel and Marx who have believed in some sort of meaning of life, either in some supposed 'other' world or (...) in the future of this world. Part Two looks at what happened when the traditional structures that provided life with meaning ceased to be believed. With nothing to take their place, these structures gave way to the threat of nihilism, to the appearance that life is meaningless. Julian Young looks at the responses to this threat in the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Foucault and Derrida. This compelling and highly engaging exploration of fundamental values will captivate anyone who's ever asked themselves where life's meaning really lies. It also makes a perfect historical introduction to philosophy. (shrink)
What is the meaning of life? In today's secular, post-religious scientific world, this question has become a serious preoccupation. But it also has a long history: many major philosophers have thought deeply about it, as Julian Young so vividly illustrates in this thought-provoking second edition of _The Death of God and the Meaning of Life_. Three new chapters explore Søren Kierkegaard’s attempts to preserve a Christian answer to the question of the meaning of life, Karl Marx's attempt to translate (...) this answer into naturalistic and atheistic terms, and Sigmund Freud’s deep pessimism about the possibility of any version of such an answer. Part 1 presents an historical overview of philosophers from Plato to Marx who have believed in a meaning of life, either in some supposed ‘other’ world or in the future of this world. Part 2 assesses what happened when the traditional structures that give life meaning began to erode. With nothing to take their place, these structures gave way to the threat of nihilism, to the appearance that life is meaningless. Young looks at the responses to this threat in chapters on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Foucault and Derrida. Fully revised and updated throughout, this highly engaging exploration of fundamental issues will captivate anyone who’s ever asked themselves where life’s meaning really lies. It also makes a perfect historical introduction to philosophy, particularly to the continental tradition. (shrink)