An examination of the Scientific Revolution that shows how the mechanistic world view of modern science has sanctioned the exploitation of nature, unrestrained commercial expansion, and a new socioeconomic order that subordinates women.
Well-Being and Death addresses philosophical questions about death and the good life: what makes a life go well? Is death bad for the one who dies? How is this possible if we go out of existence when we die? Is it worse to die as an infant or as a young adult? Is it bad for animals and fetuses to die? Can the dead be harmed? Is there any way to make death less bad for us? (...) Ben Bradley defends the following views: pleasure, rather than achievement or the satisfaction of desire, is what makes life go well; death is generally bad for its victim, in virtue of depriving the victim of more of a good life; death is bad for its victim at times after death, in particular at all those times at which the victim would have been living well; death is worse the earlier it occurs, and hence it is worse to die as an infant than as an adult; death is usually bad for animals and fetuses, in just the same way it is bad for adult humans; things that happen after someone has died cannot harm that person; the only sensible way to make death less bad is to live so long that no more good life is possible. (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)
When does a human being cease to exist? For millennia, the answer to this question had remained largely unchanged: death had been diagnosed when heartbeat and breathing were permanently absent. Only comparatively recently, in the 1950s, rapid developments in intensive-care medicine called into question this widely accepted criterion. What had previously been deemed a permanent cessation of vital functions suddenly became reversible. -/- A new criterion of death was needed. It was suggested that the destruction of the brain (...) could indicate the death of the organism in the presence of external life support. Soon the so-called brain death became the new worldwide standard. In recent years, however, doubts about this neurological criterion have been growing. Is brain death really our death? -/- This is the question that this thesis seeks to answer. To this end, we shall connect the medical debate about the definition of death to the philosophical debate about personal identity. While we will find that the destruction of its brain does in fact not correspond to an organism’s death, we shall also ask whether the assumption that we are essentially organisms is correct. May brain death be the ceasing to exist of a different entity? -/- Substituting clinical case reports and considerations about human physiology for the use of thought experiments, the thesis takes a novel and philosophically unconventional approach to the problem of what we essentially are. We shall analyse various pathological conditions and their respective effects on the bodily and mental characteristics of our existence. We will conclude that brain death is indeed our death – but for reasons entirely different from those cited in the original justification of this criterion. (shrink)
"There are seven chapters, addressing philosophical issues pertaining to death, the badness of death, time and death, ideas on immortality, near death experiences, and extending life through medical technology. The book is shorter, and less elaborate, than Kagan's Death. And it goes into more depth about a selection of central issues related to death and immortality than May's book. It gives an original take on various basic puzzles pertaining to death, and integrates a (...) discussion of these philosophical issues with an analysis of near-death experiences, as well as an exploration of contemporary efforts to extend life by heroic medical means"--. (shrink)
’Death’ and ’Furniture’ are emblems for two very common (predictable, even) objections to relativism. When relativists talk about the social construction of reality, truth, cognition, scientific knowledge, technical capacity, social structure and so on, their realist opponents sooner or later start hitting the furniture, invoking the Holocaust, talking about rocks, guns, killings, human misery, tables and chairs. The force of these objections is to introduce a bottom line, a bedrock of reality that places limits on what may be treated (...) as epistemologically constructed or deconstructible. There are two related kinds of moves: Furniture (tables, rocks, stones, etc. - the reality that cannot be denied) and Death (misery, genocide, poverty, power - the reality that should not be denied). Our aim is to show how these ’but surely not this’ gestures and arguments work, how they trade off each other, and how unconvincing they are, on examination, as refutations of relativism. (shrink)
Many subscribe to an Ethic of Life, an ethical perspective on which all living things are deserving of some level of moral concern. Within philosophy, the Ethic of Life has been clarified, developed, and rigorously defended; it has also found its strongest critics. Currently, the debate is at a standstill. This book ends this stalemate by proving that the Ethic of Life must be abandoned.
One of Jacques Derrida’s richest and most provocative works, Life Death challenges and deconstructs one of the most deeply rooted dichotomies of Western thought: life and death. Here Derrida rethinks the traditional philosophical understanding of the relationship between life and death, undertaking multidisciplinary analyses of a range of topics, including philosophy, linguistics, and the life sciences. In seeking to understand the relationship between life and death, he engages in close readings of Freudian psychoanalysis, the philosophy of (...) Nietzsche and Heidegger, French geneticist François Jacob, and epistemologist Georges Canguilhem. Derrida gave his “Life Death” seminar over fourteen sessions between 1975 and 1976 at the École normale supérieure in Paris as part of the preparation for students studying for the agrégation, a notoriously competitive qualifying exam. The theme for the exam that year was “Life and Death,” but Derrida made a critical modification to the title by dropping the coordinating conjunction. The resulting title of Life Death poses a philosophical question about the close relationship between life and death. Derrida argues that death must be considered neither as the opposite of life nor as the truth or fulfillment of it, but rather as that which both limits life and makes it possible. Through these captivating sessions, Derrida thus not only questions traditional understandings of the relationship between life and death, but also ultimately develops a new way of thinking about what he calls “life death.”. (shrink)
The Philosophy of Death is a discussion of the basic philosophical issues concerning death, and a critical introduction to the relevant contemporary philosophical literature. Luper begins by addressing questions about those who die: What is it to be alive? What does it mean for you and me to exist? Under what conditions do we persist over time, and when do we perish? Next, he considers several questions concerning death, including: What does dying consist in; in particular, how (...) does it differ from ageing? Must death be permanent? By what signs may it be identified? Is death bad for the one who dies? If so why? Finally he discusses whether, and why, killing is morally objectionable, and suggests that it is often permissible; in particular, suicide, euthanasia and abortion may all be morally permissible. His book is a lively and engaging philosophical treatment of a perennially fascinating and relevant subject. (shrink)
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)
If pressed to identify the philosophical foundations of contemporary bioethics, most bioethicists would cite the four-principles approach developed by Tom L Beauchamp and James F Childress,1 or perhaps the ethical theories of JS Mill2 or Immanuel Kant.3 Few would cite Aristotle's metaphysical views surrounding death and posthumous harm.4 Nevertheless, many contemporary bioethical discussions are implicitly grounded in the Aristotelian views that death is a harm to the one who dies, and that persons can be harmed, or wronged, by (...) events that occur after their deaths. The view that death is a harm to the one who dies infuses, for example, the debates over abortion and euthanasia, while the view that persons could be harmed or wronged after their deaths informs much of the debate over, for example, policies for the posthumous procurement of transplant and the ethics of research on the dead.In Death, Posthumous Harm, and Bioethics, I argue that we should reject this cluster of influential Aristotelian thanatological claims, and instead endorse a trio of views that together constitute what I term full-blooded epicureanism: That death is not a harm to the person who dies, and that persons can neither be harmed nor wronged by events that occur after their deaths. …. (shrink)
From Odysseus' seduction by the song of the Sirens to Oscar Moore's 1991 novel A Matter of Life and Sex , whose protagonist courts death through sex and dies of AIDS, the frustrated relationship between death and desire has fixated the Western imagination. Philosophers have grappled with it and poets have told of its beauty and pain. In this strikingly original work, cultural critic Jonathan Dollimore once again demonstrates his remarkable ability to take on the complex and reveal (...) its relevance with eloquence and grace. Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture is a rich testament to our ubiquitous preoccupation with the tangled web of death and desire. In these pages we find nuanced analysis that blends Plato with Shelley, Hölderlin with Foucault. Dollimore, a gifted thinker, is not content to summarize these texts from afar; instead, he weaves a thread through each to tell the magnificent story of the making of the modern individual. An immensely important book, Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture is a challenge to the way we understand desire, sexuality, and the very notion of identity. (shrink)
What is the meaning of life? In the post-modern, post-religious scientific world, this question is becoming a preoccupation. But it also has a long history: many major figures in philosophy had something to say on the subject, as Julian Young so vividly illustrates in this thought-provoking book. Part One of the book presents an historical overview of philosophers from Plato to Hegel and Marx who have believed in some sort of meaning of life, either in some supposed 'other' world or (...) in the future of this world. Part Two looks at what happened when the traditional structures that provided life with meaning ceased to be believed. With nothing to take their place, these structures gave way to the threat of nihilism, to the appearance that life is meaningless. Julian Young looks at the responses to this threat in the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Foucault and Derrida. This compelling and highly engaging exploration of fundamental values will captivate anyone who's ever asked themselves where life's meaning really lies. It also makes a perfect historical introduction to philosophy. (shrink)
Death and Philosophy presents a wide ranging and fascinating variety of different philosophical, aesthetic and literary perspectives on death. Death raises key questions such as whether life has meaning of life in the face of death, what the meaning of "life after death" might be and whether death is part of a narrative that can be retold in different ways, and considers the various types of death, such as brain death, that challenge (...) mind-body dualism. The essays also include explorations of Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan perspectives on death and why death in some cultures, such as in Mexico's day of the dead, is celebrated. (shrink)
We normally take it for granted that other people will live on after we ourselves have died. Even if we do not believe in a personal afterlife in which we survive our own deaths, we assume that there will be a "collective afterlife" in which humanity survives long after we are gone. Samuel Scheffler maintains that this assumption plays a surprising - indeed astonishing - role in our lives.
In this paper, I investigate backward-looking accounts of death's badness. I begin by reviewing deprivationism—the standard, forward-looking account of death's badness. On deprivationism, death is bad for its victims when it deprives them of a good future. This account famously faces two problems—Lucretius’s symmetry problem and the preemption problem. This motivates turning to backward-looking accounts of death's badness on which death is bad for its victim when it involves a decline from a good life. I (...) distinguish three different backward-looking accounts of death's badness in terms of decline, and I argue for the attractiveness of one in particular. I conclude by considering how the backward-looking consideration of decline might factor into our overall account of death's badness. (shrink)
What is the meaning of life? In today's secular, post-religious scientific world, this question has become a serious preoccupation. But it also has a long history: many major philosophers have thought deeply about it, as Julian Young so vividly illustrates in this thought-provoking second edition of _The Death of God and the Meaning of Life_. Three new chapters explore Søren Kierkegaard’s attempts to preserve a Christian answer to the question of the meaning of life, Karl Marx's attempt to translate (...) this answer into naturalistic and atheistic terms, and Sigmund Freud’s deep pessimism about the possibility of any version of such an answer. Part 1 presents an historical overview of philosophers from Plato to Marx who have believed in a meaning of life, either in some supposed ‘other’ world or in the future of this world. Part 2 assesses what happened when the traditional structures that give life meaning began to erode. With nothing to take their place, these structures gave way to the threat of nihilism, to the appearance that life is meaningless. Young looks at the responses to this threat in chapters on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Foucault and Derrida. Fully revised and updated throughout, this highly engaging exploration of fundamental issues will captivate anyone who’s ever asked themselves where life’s meaning really lies. It also makes a perfect historical introduction to philosophy, particularly to the continental tradition. (shrink)
Death and immortality played a central role in Greek and Roman thought, from Homer and early Greek philosophy to Marcus Aurelius. In this book A. G. Long explains the significance of death and immortality in ancient ethics, particularly Plato's dialogues, Stoicism and Epicureanism; he also shows how philosophical cosmology and theology caused immortality to be re-imagined. Ancient arguments and theories are related both to the original literary and theological contexts and to contemporary debates on the philosophy of (...) class='Hi'>death. The book will be of major interest to scholars and students working on Greek and Roman philosophy, and to those wishing to explore ancient precursors of contemporary debates about death and its outcomes. (shrink)
We normally take it for granted that other people will live on after we ourselves have died. Even if we do not believe in a personal afterlife in which we survive our own deaths, we assume that there will be a "collective afterlife" in which humanity survives long after we are gone. Samuel Scheffler maintains that this assumption plays a surprising - indeed astonishing - role in our lives.
Introduction : death, metaphysics, and morality / John Martin Fischer Death knocks / Woody Allen Rationality and the fear of death / Jeffrie G. Murphy Death / Thomas Nagel The Makropulos case : reflections on the tedium of immortality / Bernard Williams The evil of death / Harry S. Silverstein How to be dead and not care : a defense of Epicurus / Stephen E. Rosenbaum The dead / Palle Yourgrau The misfortunes of the dead (...) / George Pitcher Harm to others / Joel Feinberg Reasons and persons / Derek Parfit Why is death bad? / Anthony L. Brueckner and John Martin Fischer Death and the value of life / Jeff McMahan Annihilation / Steven Luper-Foy Epicurus and annihilation / Stephen E. Rosenbaum Some puzzles about the evil of death / Fred Feldman Well-being and time / J. David Velleman. (shrink)
Johnston presents an argument for a form of immortality that divests the notion of any supernatural elements. The book is packed with illuminating philosophical reflection on the question of what we are, and what it is for us to persist over time.
There is one thing we can be sure of: we are all going to die. But once we accept that fact, the questions begin. In this thought-provoking book, philosophy professor Shelly Kagan examines the myriad questions that arise when we confront the meaning of mortality. Do we have reason to believe in the existence of immortal souls? Or should we accept an account according to which people are just material objects, nothing more? Can we make sense of the idea of (...) surviving the death of one’s body? If I won’t exist after I die, can death truly be _bad_ for me? Would immortality be desirable? Is fear of death appropriate? Is suicide ever justified? How should I _live_ in the face of death? Written in an informal and conversational style, this stimulating and provocative book challenges many widely held views about death, as it invites the reader to take a fresh look at one of the central features of the human condition—the fact that we will die. (shrink)
Examining Levinas's critique of the Heideggerian conception of temporality, this book shows how the notion of the feminine both enables and prohibits the most fertile territory of Levinas's thought. The author suggests that though Levinas's conception of subjectivity corrects some of the problems Heidegger's philosophy introduces, such as his failure to deal adequately with ethics, Levinas creates new stumbling blocks, notably the confining role he accords to the feminine. For Levinas, the feminine functions as that which facilitates but is excluded (...) from the ethical relation that he sees as the pinnacle of philosophy. Showing that the feminine is a strategic part of Levinas's philosophy, but one that was not thought through by him, the author suggests that his failure to solidly place the feminine in his thinking is structurally consonant with his conceptual separation of politics from ethics. (shrink)
Modal collapse arguments are all the rage in certain philosophical circles as of late. The arguments purport to show that classical theism entails the absurdly fatalistic conclusion that everything exists necessarily. My first aim in this paper is bold: to put an end to action-based modal collapse arguments against classical theism. To accomplish this, I first articulate the ‘Simple Modal Collapse Argument’ and then characterize and defend Tomaszewski’s criticism thereof. Second, I critically examine Mullins’ new modal collapse argument formulated in (...) response to the aforementioned criticism. I argue that Mullins’ new argument does not succeed. Third, I critically examine a powers-based modal collapse argument against classical theism that has received much less attention in the literature. Fourth, I show why God’s being purely actual, as well God’s being identical to each of God’s acts, simply cannot entail modal collapse given indeterministic causation. This, I take it, signals the death of modal collapse arguments. But not all hope is lost for proponents of modal collapse arguments—for the death is a fruitful one insofar as it paves the way for new inquiry into at least two new potential problems for classical theism. Showing this is my paper’s second aim. (shrink)
Dramatic changes in medical technology challenge mankind’s traditional ways of diagnosing death. Death, Brain Death and Ethics examines the concept of death against the background of these changes, as well as ethical and philosophical issues arising from attempts to redefine the boundaries of life. In this book, David Lamb supports the use of brain-related criteria for the diagnosis of death, and proposes a new clinical definition of death based on both medical and philosophical principles. (...)Death, Brain Death and Ethics articulates the case for a brain death standard, while presenting an informed viewpoint on what constitutes the end points of human life. Although the book is written from a philosophical standpoint, it raises fundamental questions regarding the meaning of life and death, and will interest lay-persons, lawyers, and physicians. Death, Brain Death and Ethics is sure to prompt discussion and reflection on some of the philosophical beliefs which underlie clinical practice. (shrink)
The debate over whether brain death is death has focused on whether individuals who have sustained total brain failure have satisfied the biological definition of death as “the irreversible loss of the integration of the organism as a whole.” In this paper, I argue that what it means for an organism to be integrated “as a whole” is undefined and vague in the views of those who attempt to define death as the irreversible loss of the (...) integration of the organism as a whole. I show how what it means for a living thing to be integrated as a whole depends on the sortal concept by which it is identified. Since interests, values, and ontological considerations besides strictly biological ones affect the concepts by which we individuate and identify living things, those non-biological considerations have a bearing on what it means for a particular kind of living thing to exist as a whole and thus what it means for one of us to die. Even if our bodies may remain organically integrated in some sense despite total brain failure, this fact should not lead us to reject brain death as death. Artificially sustained brain-dead human bodies are not human beings, but the remains of them. While such bodies may be alive in some sense, they are not human beings or human persons. They are not one of us. (shrink)
This is the earliest critical discussion in the context of modern/contemporary philosophy in the analytical tradition arguing that somebody with a reasonably stable character and the company of the right people would be able to enjoy eternity .
Ariès traces Western man's attitudes toward mortality from the early medieval conception of death as the familiar collective destiny of the human race to the modern tendency, so pronounced in industrial societies, to hide death as if it were an embarrassing family secret.
In a style that is both philosophically sophisticated and accessible to general readers, Robert Almeder introduces readers to the vigorous debate in the scientific community about the possibility of personal survival after death. He argues that belief in some form of personal survival is as empirically justifiable as our belief in the past existence of dinosaurs. Drawing on 21 of the best case studies in reincarnation, apparitions of the dead, ostensible possession, out-of-body experiences, and trance mediumships, Death and (...) Personal Survival offers a comprehensive discussion of the best empirical evidence in each of these areas and refutes alternative explanations offered by sceptics. (shrink)
In the period 1875-1920, a debate about the generality and applicability of evolutionary theory to all organisms was motivated by work on unicellular ciliates like Paramecium because of their peculiar nuclear dualism and life cycles. The French cytologist Emile Maupas and the German zoologist August Weismann argued in the 1880s about the evolutionary origins and functions of sex (which in the ciliates is not linked to reproduction), and death (which appeared to be the inevitable fate of lineages denied sexual (...) conjugation), an argument rooted in the question of whether the ciliates and their processes where homologous to other cellular organisms. In the beginning of the twentieth century, this question of homology came to be less important as the ciliates were used by the British protozoologist Clifford Dobell and the American zoologist Herbert Spencer Jennings to study evolutionary processes in general rather than problems of development and cytology. For them, homology mattered less than analogy. This story illustrates two partially distinct problems in evolutionary biology: first, the question of whether all living things have common features and origins; and second, whether their history and current nature can be described by identical mechanisms. Where Maupas (contra Weismann) made the ciliates qualitatively the same as all other organisms in order to create a cohesive evolutionary theory for biology, Jennings and Dobell made them qualitatively different in order to achieve the same end. (shrink)
We know that animals are harmed in plant production. Unfortunately, though, we know very little about the scale of the problem. This matters for two reasons. First, we can’t decide how many resources to devote to the problem without a better sense of its scope. Second, this information shortage throws a wrench in arguments for veganism, since it’s always possible that a diet that contains animal products is complicit in fewer deaths than a diet that avoids them. In this paper, (...) then, we have two aims: first, we want to collect and analyze all the available information about animal death associated with plant agriculture; second, we try to show just how difficult it’s to come up with a plausible estimate of how many animals are killed by plant agriculture, and not just because of a lack of empirical information. Additionally, we show that there are significant philosophical questions associated with interpreting the available data—questions such that different answers generate dramatically different estimates of the scope of the problem. Finally, we document current trends in plant agriculture that cause little or no collateral harm to animals, trends which suggest that field animal deaths are a historically contingent problem that in future may be reduced or eliminated altogether. (shrink)
Introduction -- Part I: The meaning of life -- Richard Taylor, The meaning of life -- Thomas Nagel, The absurd -- Richard Hare, Nothing matters -- W.D. Joske, Philosophy and the meaning of life -- Robert Nozick, Philosophy and the meaning of life -- David Schmidtz, The meanings of life -- Part II: Creating people -- Derek Parfit, Whether causing someone to exist can benefit this person -- John Leslie, Why not let life ecome extinct? -- James Lenman, On becoming (...) extinct -- David Benatar, Why it is better never to come into existence -- Part III: Death -- Stephen E. Rosenbaum, How to be dead and not care : a defense of epicurus -- GeorgePpitcher, The misfortunes of the dead -- Steven Luper, Annihilation -- Fred Fldman, Some puzzles about the evil of death -- Frederick Kaufman, Pre-vital and post-mortem non-existence -- David B. Suits, Why death is not bad for the one who died -- Part IV: Suicide -- David Hume, Of suicide -- Immanuel Kant, Suicide and duty -- David Benatar, Suicide : a qualified defence -- Part V: Immortality -- James Lenman, Immortality : a letter -- Bernard Williams, The Makropulos case : reflections on the tedium of immortality -- John Martin Fischer, Why immortality is not so bad -- Christine Overall, from here to eternity : is it good to live forever? -- Part VI: Optimism and pessimism -- Margaret A. Boden, Optimism -- Michaelis Michael and Peter Caldwell, The consolations of optimism -- Bruce N. Waller, The sad truth : optimism, pessimism, and pragmatism -- Arthur Schopenhauer, On the suffering of the world. (shrink)
The biophilosophic justification for the idea that “brain death” is death needs to support two claims: that what dies in human death is a human organism, not merely a psychological entity distinct from it; that total brain failure signifies the end of the human organism as a whole. Defenders of brain death typically assume without argument that the first claim is true and argue for the second by defending the “integrative unity” rationale. Yet the integrative unity (...) rationale has fallen on hard times. In this article, I give reasons for why we should think of ourselves as organisms, and why the “fundamental work” rationale put forward by the 2008 President’s Council is better than the integrative unity rationale, despite persistent objections to it. (shrink)
_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)
Fundamental principles : the nature of the dispute -- Types of euthanasia -- Psychiatric assisted suicide -- Neonates -- Incompetent adults -- Human life is sacred -- The slippery slope -- Medical views -- Four methods of easing death and their effect on doctors -- Looking further ahead.
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.
This remarkable book--the fruit of almost two decades of study--traces in compelling fashion the changes in Western attitudes toward death and dying from the earliest Christian times to the present day. A truly landmark study, The Hour of Our Death reveals a pattern of gradually developing evolutionary stages in our perceptions of life in relation to death, each stage representing a virtual redefinition of human nature. Starting at the very foundations of Western culture, the eminent historian Phillipe (...) Aries shows how, from Graeco-Roman times through the first ten centuries of the Common Era, death was too common to be frightening; each life was quietly subordinated to the community, which paid its respects and then moved on. Aries identifies the first major shift in attitude with the turn of the eleventh century when a sense of individuality began to rise and with it, profound consequences: death no longer meant merely the weakening of community, but rather the destruction of self. Hence the growing fear of the afterlife, new conceptions of the Last Judgment, and the first attempts (by Masses and other rituals) to guarantee a better life in the next world. In the 1500s attention shifted from the demise of the self to that of the loved one (as family supplants community), and by the nineteenth century death comes to be viewed as simply a staging post toward reunion in the hereafter. Finally, Aries shows why death has become such an unendurable truth in our own century--how it has been nearly banished from our daily lives--and points out what may be done to "re-tame" this secret terror. The richness of Aries's source material and investigative work is breathtaking. While exploring everything from churches, religious rituals, and graveyards (with their often macabre headstones and monuments), to wills and testaments, love letters, literature, paintings, diaries, town plans, crime and sanitation reports, and grave robbing complaints, Aries ranges across Europe to Russia on the one hand and to England and America on the other. As he sorts out the tangled mysteries of our accumulated terrors and beliefs, we come to understand the history--indeed the pathology--of our intellectual and psychological tensions in the face of death. (shrink)
I offer an overview of the book, Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life, summarizing the main issues, arguments, and conclusions. I also present some new ideas and further developments of the material in the book. A big part of this essay is drawing connections between the specific issues treated in the book and those in other areas of philosophy, and in particular, the theory of agency and moral responsibility. I highlight some striking similarities of both structure and content between (...) the death/meaning in life literature and the free will/moral responsibility literature. (shrink)
Most philosophers in the death literature believe that death can be bad for the person who dies. The most popular view of death’s badness—namely, deprivationism—holds that death is bad for the person who dies because, and to the extent that, it deprives them of the net good that they would have accrued, had their actual death not occurred. Deprivationists thus face the challenge of locating the time that death is bad for a person. This (...) is known as the Timing Problem, which is thought to be one of the biggest challenges facing views holding that death can be bad for the person who dies. Every possible answer to this question has been defended in the literature, yet each answer can seemingly be shown to be subject to compelling objections. In this paper, I argue that the force of the Timing Problem is illusory. Specifically, I argue that the problem, as formulated in the literature, is underspecified. Any adequately precise form of the question ‘When is death bad for the person who dies?’ is one to which there is a clear, decisive, and unproblematic answer. (shrink)
This book integrates pragmatism and transcendental philosophy in examining the most serious problem defining the human condition, death and mortality. Its analysis of human limits and finitude is intended to be relevant to the concerns of philosophers specializing in, for example, transcendental philosophy, philosophical anthropology, pragmatism, Wittgenstein, and the philosophy of religion. Mortality is studied as providing a necessary framework within which questions concerning the meaningfulness or meaninglessness of human life become possible.
Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives is the first book to offer students the full breadth of philosophical issues that are raised by the end of life. Included are many of the essential voices that have contributed to the philosophy of death and dying throughout history and in contemporary research. The 38 chapters in its nine sections contain classic texts and new short argumentative essays, specially commission for this volume by world-leading contemporary experts. (...) Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying introduces students to both theoretical issues as well as urgent practical issues raised by human mortality, enabling instructors to adapt it to a wide array of institutions and student audiences. As a pedagogical benefit, PowerPoints, discussion questions, and test questions for each chapter are included as online ancillary materials. (shrink)
A much discussed question in the philosophy of death is whether both of the following claims are true: (1) it is at least typically appropriate to prefer dying further in the future to dying less far in the future; and (2) it is at least typically appropriate not to prefer having been created further in the past to having been created less far in the past. Some philosophers have tried to defend (1) and (2) by appeal to the alleged (...) appropriateness of future bias—roughly, greater concern for certain goods and bads in one's future than for certain goods and bads in one's past. I argue that such approaches to defending (1) and (2) probably cannot succeed, by arguing that even if a very strong version of future bias is appropriate, it does not follow that (1) and (2) are both true. Philosophers attracted to the conjunction of (1) and (2) ought to try to defend it by appeal to something other than future bias. (shrink)
When I cruise the forty-three television channels available to me (and that's basic cable), simultaneously being enchanted and disgusted by much that I see (a kind of Kantian sublime), I cannot help but think that the culture in which I find myself is less articulate than ever. For this situation perhaps the 43rd President of the United States could serve as a useful emblem—a joke that is all too easy to make. But such a diagnosis of the low standard of (...) my culture's literacy might also be too easy to make. For it is the case that America's traditional anti-intellectualism reaches new heights in our current, hypermediated milieu: we now have more venues than ever to disseminate undisciplined, uncreative thought (think, for example, of all the burgeoning blogs). On the other hand, such hypermediation amounts to an explosion of symbolization. Language is everywhere, and hence there is the demand to use it instrumentally well. Again, an image from the U.S. presidency is emblematic. Think of President Clinton's infamous line to the intrepid Independent Counsel: "It depends on what your definition of the word 'is' is." Such a line could represent the pervasive urge to absolutely precise articulation, controlling one's words to an extreme degree. Another emblem could be the common academic paper where a writer has masterfully summarized and explained the words of another thinker, rendering them more accessible but probably not more desirable. One could read this situation dialectically: the moment when concern for the value of language seems lowest is also the moment when the demand for controlling language is highest. Beyond dialectics, however, I take the demand for absolute articulation as a jumping-off point for considering an idea that might appear to have nothing to do with this implicit yet persistent demand—the concept of presence. More specifically, I want to consider how a particular rendering of this concept affects what we might call the divine and its relationship to an ostensibly secular culture, and I also want to consider some lines from Emerson and how they can lead one to think of the divine as presence, a presence that requires an absence, a presence that to some extent is an absence. According to this encounter with Emerson, thinking about the presence and absence of the divine has to do with the way one takes up writing. (shrink)