Epicurus argued that the good life is the pleasurable life. He also argued that ‘death is nothing to us’. These claims appear in tension. For if pleasure is good, then it seems that death is bad when it deprives us of deeply enjoyable time alive. Here, I offer an Epicurean view of pleasure and the complete life which dissolves this tension. This view is, I contend, more appealing than critics of Epicureanism have allowed, in part because it assigns (...) higher value to pleasures that we produce by exercising our rational capacities and by establishing control over our lives. (shrink)
I begin by sketching the Epicurean position on death - that it cannot be bad for the one who dies because she no longer exists - which has struck many people as specious. However, alternative views must specify who is wronged by death (the dead person?), what is the harm (suffering?), and when does the harm take place (before death, when you’re not dead yet, or after death, when you’re not around any more?). In the second (...) section I outline the most sophisticated anti-Epicurean view, the deprivation account, according to which someone who dies is harmed to the extent that the death has deprived her of goods she would otherwise have had. In the third section I argue that deprivation accounts that use the philosophical tool of possible worlds have the counterintuitive implication that we are harmed in the actual world because counterfactual versions of us lead fantastic lives in other possible worlds. In the final section I outline a neo-Epicurean position that explains how one can be wronged by being killed without being harmed by death and how it is possible to defend intuitions about injustice without problematic appeal to possible worlds. (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)
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)
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.
It is commonly thought that there is a connection between love and death. But what can be said philosophically about the nature of that connection (if indeed it exists)? Plato's Symposium suggests at least three possible ways in which love and death might be connected: first, that love entails (or ought to entail) a willingness to die for one’s beloved; second, that love is a desire for (or perhaps itself is) a kind of death; and third, that (...) love is linked to human mortality and the desire for immortality. I argue that each of these three suggestions is problematic, and should not be accepted at face value. I am ultimately skeptical as to whether any one, overriding connection—be it moral or causal or metaphysical—between love and death exists. At the very least, the matter deserves more nuanced and multi-faceted reflection than what we find in the Symposium. (shrink)
The Black Lives Matter movement has called for the abolition of capital punishment in response to what it calls “the war against Black people” and “Black communities.” This article defends the two central contentions in the movement’s abolitionist stance: first, that US capital punishment practices represent a wrong to black communities rather than simply a wrong to particular black capital defendants or particular black victims of murder, and second, that the most defensible remedy for this wrong is the abolition of (...) the death penalty. (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)
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).
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)
Many believe that the ethical problems of donation after cardiocirculatory death (DCD) have been "worked out" and that it is unclear why DCD should be resisted. In this paper we will argue that DCD donors may not yet be dead, and therefore that organ donation during DCD may violate the dead donor rule. We first present a description of the process of DCD and the standard ethical rationale for the practice. We then present our concerns with DCD, including the (...) following: irreversibility of absent circulation has not occurred and the many attempts to claim it has have all failed; conflicts of interest at all steps in the DCD process, including the decision to withdraw life support before DCD, are simply unavoidable; potentially harmful premortem interventions to preserve organ utility are not justifiable, even with the help of the principle of double effect; claims that DCD conforms with the intent of the law and current accepted medical standards are misleading and inaccurate; and consensus statements by respected medical groups do not change these arguments due to their low quality including being plagued by conflict of interest. Moreover, some arguments in favor of DCD, while likely true, are "straw-man arguments," such as the great benefit of organ donation. The truth is that honesty and trustworthiness require that we face these problems instead of avoiding them. We believe that DCD is not ethically allowable because it abandons the dead donor rule, has unavoidable conflicts of interests, and implements premortem interventions which can hasten death. These important points have not been, but need to be fully disclosed to the public and incorporated into fully informed consent. These are tall orders, and require open public debate. Until this debate occurs, we call for a moratorium on the practice of DCD. (shrink)
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.
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)
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)
This paper aims at bringing a new philosophical perspective to the current debate on the death penalty through a discussion of peculiar kinds of uncertainties that surround the death penalty. I focus on laying out the philosophical argument, with the aim of stimulating and restructuring the death penalty debate. I will begin by describing views about punishment that argue in favour of either retaining the death penalty (‘retentionism’) or abolishing it (‘abolitionism’). I will then argue that (...) we should not ignore the so-called “whom-question”, i.e. “To whom should we justify the system of punishment?” I identify three distinct chronological stages to address this problem, namely, “the Harm Stage”, “the Blame Stage”, and “the Danger Stage”. I will also identify four problems arising from specific kinds of uncertainties present in current death penalty debates: (1) uncertainty in harm, (2) uncertainty in blame, (3) uncertainty in rights, and (4) uncertainty in causal consequences. In the course of examining these four problems, I will propose an ‘impossibilist’ position towards the death penalty, according to which the notion of the death penalty is inherently contradictory. Finally, I will suggest that it may be possible to apply this philosophical perspective to the justice system more broadly, in particular to the maximalist approach to restorative justice. (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.
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)
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)
I discuss various questions concerning secular hopes in the face of death, that is, hopes other than the hope for eternal life. What is it to hope that one has lived a worthwhile life? Is there some contemporary analogue to Aristotle claim that death on the battlefield is the most desirable death? “After me the downfall” said Louis XV—what interest should we take in the world in which we are no more? In her poem “Song” Christina Rossetti (...) asks her beloved not sing sad songs when she dies. What kind of attitudes do we hope others will have toward us after we are dead? (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)
_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)
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.
In this extraordinary book, Mark Johnston sets out a new understanding of personal identity and the self, thereby providing a purely naturalistic account of surviving death. Death threatens our sense of the importance of goodness. The threat can be met if there is, as Socrates said, "something in death that is better for the good than for the bad." Yet, as Johnston shows, all existing theological conceptions of the afterlife are either incoherent or at odds with the (...) workings of nature. These supernaturalist pictures of the rewards for goodness also obscure a striking consilience between the philosophical study of the self and an account of goodness common to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism: the good person is one who has undergone a kind of death of the self and who lives a life transformed by entering imaginatively into the lives of others, anticipating their needs and true interests. As a caretaker of humanity who finds his or her own death comparatively unimportant, the good person can see through death. But this is not all. Johnston's closely argued claims that there is no persisting self and that our identities are in a particular way "Protean" imply that the good survive death. Given the future-directed concern that defines true goodness, the good quite literally live on in the onward rush of humankind. Every time a baby is born a good person acquires a new face. (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 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)
Desire satisfaction theories of well-being and deprivationism about the badness of death face similar problems: desire satisfaction theories have trouble locating the time when the satisfaction of a future or past-directed desire benefits a person; deprivationism has trouble locating a time when death is bad for a person. I argue that desire satisfaction theorists and deprivation theorists can address their respective timing problems by accepting fusionism, the view that some events benefit or harm individuals only at fusions of (...) moments in time. Fusionism improves on existing solutions to the timing problem for deprivationism because it locates death’s badness at the same time as both the victim of death and death itself, and it accounts for all of the ways that death is bad for a person. Fusionism improves on existing solutions to the problem of temporally locating the benefit of future and past-directed desires because it respects several attractive principles, including the view that the intrinsic value of a time for someone is determined solely by states of affairs that obtain at that time and the view that intrinsically beneficial events benefit a person when they occur. (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)
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)
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)
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)
As is clear in the 2008 report of the President's Council on Bioethics, the brain death debate is plagued by ambiguity in the use of such key terms as ‘integration’ and ‘wholeness’. Addressing this problem, I offer a plausible ontological account of organismal unity drawing on the work of Hoffman and Rosenkrantz, and then apply that account to the case of brain death, concluding that a brain dead body lacks the unity proper to a human organism, and has (...) therefore undergone a substantial change. I also show how my view can explain hard cases better than one in which biological integration is taken to imply ontological wholeness or unity. (shrink)
This paper addresses five questions: First, what is trajectory of Western liberal ethics and politics in defining life, rights and citizenship? Second, how will neuro-remediation and other technologies change the definition of death for the brain injured and the cryonically suspended? Third, will people always have to be dead to be cryonically suspended? Fourth, how will changing technologies and definitions of identity affect the status of people revived from brain injury and cryonic suspension? I propose that Western liberal thought (...) is working towards a natural end, a “telos.” In response to a variety of biotechnologies, law and public opinion in liberal democracies will be forced to make explicit that the rights of a living thing are determined by its level of consciousness. I discuss the way that technology will force three clarifications about the value of consciousness, at the beginning, the end and boundaries of human life. Sentience and personhood will become the basis of moral concern, regardless of its media. Just as human rights have become independent of race, gender and property, rights will become independent of being a breathing human being. But even as we make this transition, the cryonically preserved are still likely to be considered dead for pragmatic reasons, albeit with gradually increasing rights as technology makes their reanimation increasingly probable. I suggest that it could be acceptable to cryonicists that the frozen continue to be defined as dead if assisted suicide can be legalized. Under a liberal assisted suicide policy cryonicists might be allowed to carry out suspension before a declaration of death, preserving the maximum amount of neural information. The gradual redefinition of life and personal identity in terms of psychological continuity will also have consequences for the legal status of the reanimated. If, due to information loss, the reanimated do not meet a threshold of psychological continuity, they may be considered new persons. Cryonicists may therefore wish to specify ahead of time whether they are still interested in being reanimated if pre-animation assessment suggests that the result will not meet the necessary threshold of continuity. Finally, I touch on the way that neural technology will fundamentally problematize the separate, autonomous self on which liberal democratic values are based, leading to a legal and political Singularity. It is this looming neural Singularity that makes the proposed liberal democratic telos a final stage in humanistic thought, before it is superceded by something radically different. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Implicit in our everyday attitudes and practices is the assumption that death ordinarily harms a person who dies. A far more contested matter is whether death harms sentient individuals who are not persons, a category that includes many animals and some human beings. On the basis of the deprivation account of the harm of death, I argue that death harms sentient nonpersons. I next consider possible bases for the commonsense judgment that death ordinarily harms persons (...) more than it harms sentient nonpersons. Contrary to what some philosophers believe, it is doubtful that the familiar resources of prudential value theory can vindicate this judgment. I show that the approach that at first glance seems most promising for supporting this judgment – namely, invoking an objective account of well-being – faces substantial challenges, before arguing that McMahan's time-relative interest account supplies the needed theoretical basis. I then go on to extract a significant practical implication of the first thesis, that death ordinarily harms sentient nonpersons: We should find a way to discontinue the routine killing of animal subjects following their use in experiments. (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)
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.
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)
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)
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)