According to Leibniz, there is no death in the sense that the human being or animal is destroyed completely. This is due to his metaphysical pluralism which would suffer if the number of substances decreased. While animals transform into other animals after “death”, human beings are rewarded or punished of their behavior in this life. This paper presents a comprehensive account of how Leibniz thought the “death” to take place and discusses his often unclear views on the (...) life after death. I will also present a new, naturalistic reading of Leibniz’s views on afterlife. (shrink)
This paper—written for nonspecialist readers—asks whether life after death is in any sense possible given the apparent fact that after we die our remains decay to the point where only randomly scattered atoms remain. The paper argues that this is possible only if our remains are not in fact dispersed in this way, and discusses how that might be the case. -/- 1. Life After Death -- 2. Total Destruction -- 3. The Soul -- 4. Body-Snatching -- 5. (...) Radical Resurrection -- 6. Irreversibility -- 7. Atomic Reassembly -- 8. The Transporter -- 9. Replicas and Originals -- 10. Survival and Causal Connections. (shrink)
In Plato’s Apology (29a-b), Socrates agues that he does not fear death; indeed, to fear death is a sign of ignorance. It is to claim to know what one in fact does not know (Ap. 29 a-b). Perhaps, Socrates suggests, death is not a great evil after all, but “the greatest of all goods.” At the end of the dialogue, after the judges have voted on the final verdict and Socrates has received the death penalty, the (...) philosopher considers two common views of death: that death is a long dreamless sleep and that death is a journey to another place - Hades. According to Socrates, either of these views of death would be acceptable to him; the one, because he would receive a wonderful rest with no dreams to disturb him; the other, because he would be able to talk philosophy with those who had gone before with impunity. In this paper, I will examine Socrates’ view of death, and I will argue that, according to Socrates, there could be a third perspective on death that will not only make him truly immortal in a certain way, but will also immortalize the practice of Socratic philosophy. Hence, Socrates embraces his sentence because dying at the right time and dying in the right way provides him the possibility of a good death. <br><br>. (shrink)
The strongly resilient are able to quickly get over the loss of their beloved. This is not an entirely attractive capacity. In this paper, I argue that it is appropriate to be distressed about the fact that we might, quickly or slowly, get over the death of our loved ones. Moller argues that the principal problem with resilience is that it puts us in a defective epistemological position, one where we are no longer able to appreciate the significance of (...) what we have lost. Although I think this is a genuine concern, it does little to capture the source of our dismay at the prospect. The problem is not that not caring will make us blind to our beloved's past importance, but that we simply will no longer care for our beloved. The source of our dismay is captured nicely in a passage from Proust that Moller cites but quickly dismisses in two separate papers. My goal here is to defend something akin to the Proustian view that resilience amounts to a death of self. (shrink)
The philosophy of our proposal are as follows: (1) Various ideas of life and death, including that of objecting to brain death as human death, should be guaranteed. We would like to maintain the idea of pluralism of human death; and (2) We should respect a child’s view of life and death. We should provide him/her with an opportunity to think and express their own ideas about life and death.
In previous work we have defended the deprivation account of death’s badness against worries stemming from the Lucretian point that prenatal and posthumous nonexistence are deprivations of the same sort. In a recent article in this journal, Fred Feldman has offered an insightful critique of our Parfitian strategy for defending the deprivation account of death’s badness. Here we adjust, clarify, and defend our strategy for reply to Lucretian worries on behalf of the deprivation account.
Introduction: "meaning in life and death : our stories" -- John Martin Fischer and Anthony B rueckner, "Why is death bad?", Philosophical studies, vol. 50, no. 2 (September 1986) -- "Death, badness, and the impossibility of experience," Journal of ethics -- John Martin Fischer and Daniel Speak, "Death and the psychological conception of personal identity," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 24 -- "Earlier birth and later death : symmetry through thick and thin," Richard Feldman, Kris (...) McDaniel, Jason R. Raibley, eds., The good, the right, life and death (Aldershot : Ashgate Publishing, 2006) -- "Why immortality is not so bad," International journal of philosophical studies, vol. 2, no. 2 (September 1994) -- John Martin Fischer and Ruth Curl, "Philosophical models of immortality in science fiction," in George Slusser et. al., eds., Immortal engines : life extension and immortality in science fiction and fantasy (Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, 1996) -- "Epicureanism about death and immortality," Journal of ethics, vol. 10, no. 4 -- "Stories," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 20 -- "Free will, death, and immortality : the role of narrative," Philosophical papers (Special issue : meaning in life) volume 34, number 3, November 2005 -- "Stories and the meaning of life," revised and expanded version of "A reply to Pereboom, Zimmerman, and Smith," part of a book symposium on John Martin Fischer, my way : essays on moral responsibility, philosophical books, vol. 47, no. 3. (shrink)
Abstract According to the Deprivation Approach, the evil of death is to be explained by the fact that death deprives us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had lived longer. But the Deprivation Approach confronts a problem first discussed by Lucretius. Late birth seems to deprive us of the goods we would have enjoyed if we had been born earlier. Yet no one is troubled by late birth. So it’s hard to see why we should (...) be troubled by its temporal mirror image, early death. In a 1986 paper, Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer appealed to a version of Derek Parfit’s “Bias toward the Future”; they claimed that early death deprives us of future goods that we care about, while late birth deprives us of past goods that we don’t care about. In this paper I show that the Brueckner–Fischer principle is open to several possible interpretations, but that it does not solve the Lucretius problem no matter how we understand it. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-9 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9766-6 Authors Fred Feldman, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
Thinking about death -- Dualism vs. physicalism -- Arguments for the existence of the soul -- Descartes' argument -- Plato on the immortality of the soul -- Personal identity -- Choosing between the theories -- The nature of death -- Two surprising claims about death -- The badness of death -- Immortality -- The value of life -- Other aspects of death -- Living in the face of death -- Suicide -- Conclusion: an invitation.
What is death? Do people survive death? What do we mean when we say that someone is "dying"? Presenting a clear and engaging discussion of the classic philosophical questions surrounding death, this book studies the great metaphysical and moral problems of death. In the first part, Feldman shows that a definition of life is necessary before death can be defined. After exploring several of the most plausible accounts of the nature of life and demonstrating their (...) failure, he goes on to propose his own conceptual scheme for death and related concepts. In the second part, Feldman turns to ethical and value-theoretical questions about death. Addressing the ancient Epicurean ethical problem about the evil of death, he argues that death can be a great evil for those who die, even if they do not exist after death, because it may deprive them of the goods they would have enjoyed if they had continued to live. Confrontations with the Reaper concludes with a novel consequentialist theory about the morality of killing, applying it to such thorny practical issues as abortion, suicide, and euthanasia. (shrink)
Over the centuries, the idea of the self has both fascinated and confounded philosophers. From the ancient Greeks, who problematized issues of identity and self-awareness, to Locke and Hume, who popularized minimalist views of the self, to the efforts of postmodernists in our time to decenter the human subject altogether, the idea that there is something called a self has always been in steady decline. But for Richard Sorabji, one of our most celebrated living intellectuals, this negation of the self (...) is dispiriting. In Self , he sets out to recover the rich variety of positive accounts of the self from Antiquity right up to the present, while offering his own inspiring view of what precisely the self might be. Drawing on Eastern religion, classical antiquity, and Western philosophy, Sorabji proceeds to tackle a number of thematic debates that have preoccupied philosophers over the ages, including the concept of the self, its sameness and mutability, the idea of the resurrection of the body and spirit, and the fear of death. According to Sorabji, the self is not an undetectable soul or ego, but an embodied individual whose existence is plain to see. It is also neither a linguistic creation nor a psychological fiction, but something that owns both a consciousness and a body. Ultimately, Sorabji argues, the demise of a positive idea of the self stems from much older and more pervasive problems of identity than we realize. Through an astute reading of this tradition, he helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about the subject in an account that will be at the forefront of philosophical debates for years to come. (shrink)
Personal time, as opposed to external time, has a certain role to play in the correct account of death and immortality. But saying exactly what that role is, and what role remains for external time, is not straightforward. I formulate and defend accounts of death and immortality that specify these roles precisely.
The new commandments according to Rethinking Life and Death . --If you must take human life, take responsibility for the consequences of your decisions. --All human life is not of equal worth treat beings in accordance to the ethical situation at hand. --Respect a person's desire to live or die. A profound and provocative work, Rethinking Life and Death , in the tradition of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World , examines the ethical dilemmas that confront us as we (...) near the twenty-first century. (shrink)
Our digital technologies have inspired new ways of thinking about old religious topics. Digitalists include computer scientists, transhumanists, singularitarians, and futurists. Digitalists have worked out novel and entirely naturalistic ways of thinking about bodies, minds, souls, universes, gods, and life after death. Your Digital Afterlives starts with three digitalist theories of life after death. It examines personality capture, body uploading, and promotion to higher levels of simulation. It then examines the idea that reality itself is ultimately a system (...) of self-surpassing computations. On that view, you will have infinitely many digital lives across infinitely many digital worlds. Your Digital Afterlives looks at superhuman bodies and infinite bodies. Thinking of nature in purely computational terms has the potential to radically and positively change our understanding of life after death. (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.
Because the fauna of the world possess a blood-driven vitality so comparable to that of people, they serve as an unwitting resource in the anthropocentric quest to ward off the ravages of death and decay, to create a cornucopia of human life amid the caprices of the cosmos. Fueled by the human fear of the grave, the “Gilgamesh complex” is the ensemble of beliefs and desires underlying a spectrum of zoocidal practices ranging from religious immolation to scientific experimentation. The (...) name of the complex draws its textual inspiration from the Babylonian epic of the warrior-king Gilgamesh, who lays waste to beasts of forest and field in his quest for immortality. From a psychological perspective, the epic of Gilgamesh pierces the veil of submerged desires and muddled behaviors that most people in modern society are loath to recognize. The Gilgamesh complex is also among the most culturally and historically encompassing of psychological complexes, penetrating to the barest of human existential concerns—the preoccupation with death. (shrink)
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)
In this article I defend innocuousism– a weak form of Epicureanism about the putative badness of death. I argue that if we assume both mental statism about wellbeing and that death is an experiential blank, it follows that death is not bad for the one who dies. I defend innocuousism against the deprivation account of the badness of death. I argue that something is extrinsically bad if and only if it leads to states that are intrinsically (...) bad. On my view, sometimes dying may be less good than living, but it is never bad to die. (shrink)
In death penalty debates, advocates on both sides have advanced a staggering number of arguments to defend their positions. Many of those arguments fail to support retaining or abolishing the death penalty, and often this is due to advocates pursuing a line of reasoning where the conclusion, even if correctly established, will not ultimately prove decisive. Many of these issues are also interconnected and shouldn’t be treated separately. The goal of this paper is to provide some clarity about (...) which specific issues really determine whether the institution of capital punishment is morally permissible. The issues can be broadly grouped into three categories: substantive; procedural (comparative); and procedural (noncomparative). Substantive debates regard the inherent moral status of the death penalty, while procedural debates regard how the death penalty is applied in practice, with two types of injustice that can result. Substantive issues have the potential to be the most decisive, for if the death penalty is inherently immoral there’s no need to even raise procedural questions. However, it appears difficult for either side to make a clearly compelling argument on substantive grounds. In regards to the procedural arguments, the concerns of noncomparative justice lead to stronger arguments than the comparative concerns, for the irrevocable nature of the death penalty can play a role in the former but not the later. Overall, abolitionists have a clear advantage in this debate, as they only have to make their case on one of these fronts, while supporters must defend themselves on all three fronts. (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)
This paper argues that Immanuel Kant’s practical philosophy contains a coherent, albeit implicit, defense of the legitimacy of capital punishment, one that refutes the most important objections leveled against it. I first show that Kant is consistent in his application of the ius talionis. I then explain how Kant can respond to the claim that death penalty violates the inviolable right to life. To address the most significant objection – the claim that execution violates human dignity – I argue (...) that motives of honor, as Kant conceives it, require a rational person to will her own execution, were she to commit murder. (shrink)
The utilitarian construct of two alternative criteria of human death increases the supply of transplantable organs at the end of life. Neither the neurological criterion (heart-beating donation) nor the circulatory criterion (non-heart-beating donation) is grounded in scientific evidence but based on philosophical reasoning. A utilitarian death definition can have unintended consequences for dying Muslim patients: (1) the expedited process of determining death for retrieval of transplantable organs can lead to diagnostic errors, (2) the equivalence of brain (...) class='Hi'>death with human death may be incorrect, and (3) end-of-life religious values and traditional rituals may be sacrificed. Therefore, it is imperative to reevaluate the two different types and criteria of death introduced by the Resolution (Fatwa) of the Council of Islamic Jurisprudence on Resuscitation Apparatus in 1986. Although we recognize that this Fatwa was based on best scientific evidence available at that time, more recent evidence shows that it rests on outdated knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon of human death. We recommend redefining death in Islam to reaffirm the singularity of this biological phenomenon as revealed in the Quran 14 centuries ago. (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)
In 1959 two French neurologists, Pierre Mollaret and Maurice Goullon, coined the term coma dépassé to designate a state beyond coma. In this state, patients are not only permanently unconscious; they lack the endogenous drive to breathe, as well as brainstem reflexes, indicating that most of their brain has ceased to function. Although legally recognized in many countries as a criterion for death, brain death has not been universally accepted by bioethicists, by the medical community, or by the (...) public. I this paper, I defend brain death as a biological concept. I challenge two assumptions in the brain death literature that have shaped the debate and have stood in the way of an argument for brain death as biological. First, I challenge the dualism established in the debate between the body and the brain. Second, I contest the emphasis on consciousness, which prevents the inclusion of psychological phenomena into a biological criterion of death. I propose that the term organism should apply both to the functioning of the body and the brain. I argue that the cessation of the organism as a whole should take into account three elements of integrated function. Those three elements are: 1) the loss of integrated bodily function; 2) the loss of psychophysical integration required for processing of external stimuli and those required for behavior; and, 3) the loss of integrated psychological function, such as memory, learning, attention, and so forth. The loss of those three elements of integrated function is death. (shrink)
In his recent book, Death, Posthumous Harm, and Bioethics (Routeledge 2012), James Stacey Taylor challenges two ideas whose provenance may be traced all the way back to Aristotle. The first of these is the thought that death (typically) harms the one who dies (mortal harm thesis). The second is the idea that one can be harmed (and wronged) by events that occur after one’s death (posthumous harm thesis). Taylor devotes two-thirds of the book to arguing against both (...) theses and the remainder to working out the implications of their falsity for various bioethical concerns, including euthanasia, suicide, organ procurement, etc. In this brief article, I concentrate on Taylor’s case against the mortal harm thesis and suggest that his main argument against this claim begs the question. (shrink)
This study examined health professionals’ (HPs) experience, beliefs and attitudes towards brain death (BD) and two types of donation after circulatory death (DCD)—controlled and uncontrolled DCD. Five hundred and eighty-seven HPs likely to be involved in the process of organ procurement were interviewed in 14 hospitals with transplant programs in France, Spain and the US. Three potential donation scenarios—BD, uncontrolled DCD and controlled DCD—were presented to study subjects during individual face-to-face interviews. Our study has two main findings: (1) (...) In the context of organ procurement, HPs believe that BD is a more reliable standard for determining death than circulatory death, and (2) While the vast majority of HPs consider it morally acceptable to retrieve organs from brain-dead donors, retrieving organs from DCD patients is much more controversial. We offer the following possible explanations. DCD introduces new conditions that deviate from standard medical practice, allow procurement of organs when donors’ loss of circulatory function could be reversed, and raises questions about “death” as a unified concept. Our results suggest that, for many HPs, these concerns seem related in part to the fact that a rigorous brain examination is neither clinically performed nor legally required in DCD. Their discomfort could also come from a belief that irreversible loss of circulatory function has not been adequately demonstrated. If DCD protocols are to achieve their full potential for increasing organ supply, the sources of HPs’ discomfort must be further identified and addressed. (shrink)
Heidegger, like Kierkegaard, has recently been claimed as a narrativist about selves. From this Heideggerian perspective, we can see how narrative expands upon the psychological view, adding a vital teleological dimension to the understanding of selfhood while denying the reductionism implicit in the psychological approach. Yet the narrative approach also inherits the neo-Lockean emphasis on the past as determining identity, whereas the self is fundamentally about the future. Death is crucial on this picture, not as allowing for the possibility (...) of a final meaning to our lives, but as determining Dasein as ‘pure unactualizable possibility.’ Ultimately, therefore, narrative is not what constitutes selfhood – but this does not mean that narrative is not relevant to personal identity, because narrative allows identity to be expressed in action. (shrink)
The most common way of dealing with the fear of death is denying death. Such denial can take two and only two forms: strategy 1 denies the finality of death; strategy 2 denies the reality of the dying subject. Most religions opt for strategy 1, but Buddhism seems to be an example of the 2nd. All variants of strategy 1 fail, however, and a closer look at the main Buddhist argument reveals that Buddhism in fact does not (...) follow strategy 2. Moreover, there is no other theory that does, and neither can there be. This means that there is no tenable theory that denies death. There may be no universally psychologically acceptable alternative, however, which would mean that if denying death is incoherent, this is an unavoidable incoherence. (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)
As of 2009, the number of donors in Japan is the lowest among developed countries. On July 13, 2009, Japan's Organ Transplant Law was revised for the first time in 12 years. The revised and old laws differ greatly on four primary points: the definition of death, age requirements for donors, requirements for brain- death determination and organ extraction, and the appropriateness of priority transplants for relatives.In the four months of deliberations in the National Diet before the new (...) law was established, various arguments regarding brain death and organ transplantation were offered. An amazing variety of opinions continue to be offered, even after more than 40 years have elapsed since the first heart organ transplant in Japan. Some are of the opinion that with the passage of the revised law, Japan will finally become capable of performing transplants according to global standards. Contrarily, there are assertions that organ transplants from brain- dead donors are unacceptable because they result in organs being taken from living human beings.Considering the current conditions, we will organize and introduce the arguments for and against organ transplants from brain- dead donors in contemporary Japan. Subsequently, we will discuss the primary arguments against organ transplants from brain- dead donors from the perspective of contemporary Japanese views on life and death. After introducing the recent view that brain death should not be regarded as equivalent to the death of a human being, we would like to probe the deeply-rooted views on life and death upon which it is based. (shrink)
The President's Council on Bioethics has recently released a report supportive of the continued use of brain death as a criterion for human death. The Council's conclusions were based on a conception of life that stressed external work as the fundamental marker of organismic life. With respect to human life, it is spontaneous respiration in particular that indicates an ability to interact with the external environment, and so indicates the presence of life. Conversely, irreversible apnoea marks an inability (...) to carry out the necessary work of life, an inability which the Council considers an indicator of death. This conception has been conceived to circumvent criticisms of the previous model of loss of somatic integration, a model the Council admits that, in the presence of evidence of continuing functional integration in brain dead patients, was looking less than convincing. Nevertheless, by focusing on external work and ignoring the more essential work of integrative unity, the Council's conception of the nature of life is untenable, and of no assistance in supporting a relation of equivalence between the concepts of brain death and death. Consequently, the Council's conclusions do little to advance the definition of death debate, a potentially intractable debate that may necessitate the investigation of alternate ethical justifications for organ harvesting. (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)
Surveys in different countries (e.g. the UK, Belgium and The Netherlands) show a marked recent increase in the incidence of continuous deep sedation at the end of life (CDS). Several hypotheses can be formulated to explain the increasing performance of this practice. In this paper we focus on what we call the ‘natural death’ hypothesis, i.e. the hypothesis that acceptance of CDS has spread rapidly because death after CDS can be perceived as a ‘natural’ death by medical (...) practitioners, patients' relatives and patients.We attempt to show that the label ‘natural’ cannot be unproblematically applied to the nature of this end-of-life practice. We argue that the labeling of death following CDS as ‘natural’ death is related to a complex set of mechanisms which facilitate the use of this practice. However, our criticism does not preclude the view that CDS may be clinically and ethically justified in many cases. (shrink)
The Epicurean view is that there is nothing bad about death, and we are wrong to loathe it. This paper distinguishes several different such views, and shows that while some of them really would undermine our loathing of death, others would not. It then argues that any version that did so could be at best vacuously true: If there is nothing bad about death, that can only be because there is nothing bad about anything.
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)
Integrating theory with case studies, this book examines the practical application of moral theory in clinical decision-making through 40 composite cases based on actual clinical experience. Complex, realistic, and challenging, these examples contain the multiplicity of factors faced in clinical crises, making this a superb exploration of the ways in which theory relates to actual life-or-death situations.
Most organized religions have indicated a level of support for organ donation including the diagnosis of death by the brain criterion. Organ donation is seen as a gift of love and fits within a communitarian ethos that most religions embrace. The acceptance of the determination of death by the brain criterion, where it has been explained, is reconciled with religious views of soul and body by using a notion of integration. Because the soul may be seen as that (...) which integrates the human body, in the absence of any other signs of human functioning, loss of integration is considered to be an indication that soul and body have separated. To some extent this view would seem to be informed by an Aristotelian notion of the soul, but it fits well enough with religious notions of the person continuing after death. There have been several developments internationally that indicate that the acceptance of so-called ‘brain death’ by organized religions has been challenged by new developments including the acceptance of a lesser standard than loss of all brain function and a rejection by the US President's Council on Bioethics of the notion of loss of integration as an explanation of death by the brain criterion. (shrink)
Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Egypt focused on organ transplantation, this paper examines the ways in which the “scientific” criteria of determining death in terms of brain function are contested by Egyptian doctors. Whereas in North American medical practice, the death of the “person” is associated with the cessation of brain function, in Egypt, any sign of biological life is evidence of the persistence, even if fleeting, of the soul. I argue that this difference does (...) not exemplify an irresolvable culture clash but points to an unsettling aspect of cadaveric organ procurement that has emerged wherever organ transplantation is practiced. Further, I argue that a misdiagnosis of the problem, as one about “religious extremism” or a “civilizational clash,” has obfuscated unresolved concerns about fairness, access, and justice within Egyptian medical spheres. This misdiagnosis has led to the suspension of a cadaveric procurement program for over 30 years, despite Egypt’s pioneering efforts in kidney transplantation. (shrink)
Brain death or determination of death based on the neurological criterion has been an enduring source of controversy in academic and clinical circles. The controversy chiefly concerns how death is defined, and it also bears on the justification of the proposed criteria for death determination and their interpretation. Part of the controversy on brain death and death determination stems from disputed crucial medical facts, but in this paper I formulate another hypothesis about the nature (...) of ongoing controversies. At stake is a misunderstood relationship between, on the one hand, the nature of our lay views about death and, on the other hand, the nature of scientific insights into death and its determination. The misunderstanding of this relationship has partly anchored the controversy and continues to fuel it. Based on a perspective inspired by pragmatism, which stresses the positive contribution of science to ethical and policy debates but also challenges different forms of scientism in science and philosophy found in foundationalist interpretations, I scrutinize three different stances regarding the relationship between lay and scientific perspectives about the definition of death: foundational lay views, foundational expert views, and co-evolving views. I argue that only the latter is sustainable given recent challenges to foundationalist interpretations. (shrink)
The University of Michigan conference “Where Religion, Policy, and Bioethics Meet: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Islamic Bioethics and End-of-Life Care” in April 2011 addressed the issue of brain death as the prototype for a discourse that would reflect the emergence of Islamic bioethics as a formal field of study. In considering the issue of brain death, various Muslim legal experts have raised concerns over the lack of certainty in the scientific criteria as applied to the definition and diagnosis (...) of brain death by the medical community. In contrast, the medical community at large has not required absolute certainty in its process, but has sought to eliminate doubt through cumulative diagnostic modalities and supportive scientific evidence. This has recently become a principal model, with increased interest in data analysis and evidence-based medicine with the intent to analyze and ultimately improve outcomes. Islamic law has also long employed a systematic methodology with the goal of eliminating doubt from rulings regarding the question of certainty. While ample criticism of the scientific criteria of brain death (Harvard criteria) by traditional legal sources now exists, an analysis of the legal process in assessing brain death, geared toward informing the clinician’s perspective on the issue, is lacking. In this article, we explore the role of certainty in the diagnostic modalities used to establish diagnoses of brain death in current medical practice. We further examine the Islamic jurisprudential approach vis-à-vis the concept of certainty (yaqīn). Finally, we contrast the two at times divergent philosophies and consider what each perspective may contribute to the global discourse on brain death, understanding that the interdependence that exists between the theological, juridical, ethical, and medical/scientific fields necessitates an open discussion and active collaboration between all parties. We hope that this article serves to continue the discourse that was successfully begun by this initial interdisciplinary endeavor at the University of Michigan. (shrink)
D. Alan Shewmon has advanced a well-documented challenge to the widely accepted total brain death criterion for death of the human being. We show that Shewmon's argument against this criterion is unsound, though he does refute the standard argument for that criterion. We advance a distinct argument for the total brain death criterion and answer likely objections. Since human beings are rational animals – sentient organisms of a specific type – the loss of the radical capacity for (...) sentience involves a substantial change, the passing away of the human organism. In human beings total brain death involves the complete loss of the radical capacity for sentience, and so in human beings total brain death is death. (shrink)
In this article I rethink death and mortality on the basis of birth and natality, drawing on the work of the Italian feminist philosopher Adriana Cavarero. She understands birth to be the corporeal event whereby a unique person emerges from the mother’s body into the common world. On this basis Cavarero reconceives death as consisting in bodily dissolution and re-integration into cosmic life. This impersonal conception of death coheres badly with her view that birth is never exclusively (...) material but always has ontological significance as the appearance of someone new and singular in the world of relations with others. This view of birth calls for a relational conception of death, which I develop in this article. On this conception, death is always collective, affecting all those with whom the one who dies has maintained relations: As such, our different deaths shade into one another. Moreover, because each person is unique in virtue of consisting of a unique web of relations with others, death always happens to persons as webs of relations. Death is relational in this way as a corporeal, and specifically biological, phenomenon, to which we are subject as bodily beings and as interdependent living organisms. I explore this with reference to Simone de Beauvoir’s memoir of her mother’s death from cancer. Finally I argue that, on this relational conception, death is something to be feared. (shrink)
Notwithstanding these wise pronouncements, my project here is to characterize the biological phenomenon of death of the higher animal species, such as vertebrates. My claim is that the formulation of “whole- brain death ” provides the most congruent map for our correct understanding of the concept of death. This essay builds upon the foundation my colleagues and I have laid since 1981 to characterize the concept of death and refine when this event occurs. Although our society's (...) well-accepted program of multiple organ procurement for transplantation requires the organ donor first to be dead, the concept of brain death is not merely a social contrivance to permit us to obtain the benefits of organ procurement. Rather, the concept of whole- brain death stands independently as the most accurate biological representation of the demise of the human organism. (shrink)
In his recent book, Death and the Afterlife, Samuel Scheffler argues that it matters greatly to us that there be other human beings long after our own deaths. In support of this “Afterlife Thesis,” as I call it, he provides a thought experiment—the “doomsday scenario”—in which we learn that, although we ourselves will live a normal life span, 30 days after our death the earth will be completely destroyed. In this paper I question this “doomsday scenario” support for (...) Scheffler’s Afterlife Thesis. In particular, I suggest that Scheffler has underestimated the importance of a good ending. (shrink)
In this paper I revisit a dispute between Mikel Burley and Robin Le Poidevin about whether or not the B-theory of time can give its adherents any reason to be less afraid of death. In ‘Should a B-theoretic atheist fear death?’, Burley argues that even on Le Poidevin’s understanding of the B-theory, atheists shouldn’t be comforted. His reason is that the prevalent B-theoretic account of our attitudes towards the past and future precludes treating our fear of death (...) as unwarranted. I examine his argument and provide a tentative defense of Le Poidevin. I claim that while Burley rightly spots a tension with a non-revisionary approach to our ordinary emotional life, he doesn’t isolate the source of that tension. The real question is how to understand Le Poidevin’s idea that on the B-theory, we and our lives are ‘eternally real’. I then suggest that there is a view of time that does justice to Le Poidevin’s remarks, albeit a strange one. The view takes temporal relations to be quasi-spatial and temporal entities to exist in a totum simul. (shrink)