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Introduction

Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 73)

Abstract

It is popularly believed that death is the most terrifying of ills. Besides, death is a matter of ultimate concern for each of us—everyone will directly face it sooner or later. But no one, while still alive, can ever experience it. This might be part of the reason why death has appeared as a riddle or mystery (or even an inexpressible beauty) to many human beings. Given this, it should not be any surprise that death has long been addressed in a variety of inquiries: religion (or theology), psychology, medicine, and literature. Of course, philosophy is among these. Death in fact is a vitally important topic in philosophy. Plato (427–437 B.C.) even insisted that, ‘...those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death.’

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Plato, Phaedo, 64a, trans. Hugh Tredennick, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, eds. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), p. 46.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This issue is too broad to be appropriately addressed with the scope of this book.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For a philosophical discussion of the possibility of an afterlife, see C. J. Ducasse, A Critical Examination of the Belief in Life after Death (Springfield: Illinois University Press, 1961); Terence Penelhum, Survival and Disembodied Existence (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1970); Antony Flew, Body, Mind, and Death (New York: Macmillan, 1964); and John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (London: Collins, 1976).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Joel Feinberg, ‘Harm to Others’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 171; and Jeff McMahan, ‘Death and the Value of Life’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), pp. 233–234.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Throughout this book I use ‘he’, ‘him’, or ‘his’ as gender-neutral pronouns.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See ‘Introduction: Death, Metaphysics, and Morality’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 4.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., p. 6. For discussions of the biological approach, see Lawrence C. Becker, ‘Human Being: The Boundaries of the Concept’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 4 (1975), pp. 335–359; and David Lamb, ‘Diagnosing Death’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 7 (1978), pp. 144–153.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    ‘Introduction: Death, Metaphysics, and Morality’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 6. For discussions of the moral approach, see Hans Jonas, Philosophical Essays: From Ancient Creed to Technological Man (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974); Howard Brody, Ethical Decisions in Medicine, 2nd ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1981); and Howard Brody, ‘Brain Death and Personal Existence: A Reply to Green and Wikler’, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 8 (1983), pp. 187–196.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    ‘Introduction: Death, Metaphysics, and Morality’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), pp. 6–7. For discussions of the metaphysical approach, see Michael B. Green and Daniel Wikler, ‘Brain Death and Personal Identity’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 9 (1980), pp. 105–133; George J. Agich and Royce P. Jones, ‘Personal Identity and Brain Death: A Critical Response’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 15 (1986), pp. 267–274; and Karen Grandstrand Gervais, Redefining Death (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For a discussion of this view, see L. W. Sumner, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, Nous 10 (1976), pp. 154–157; and Jeff McMahan, ‘Death and the Value of Life’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), fn. 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    See Stephen E. Rosenbaum, ‘How to Be Dead and Not Care: A Defence of Epicurus’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 121.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rosenbaum also makes a similar point. See Stephen E. Rosenbaum, ‘The Harm of Killing: An Epicurean Perspective’, in Contemporary Essays on Greek Ideas: The Kilgore Festschrift, eds. Robert M. Baird, William F. Cooper, Elmer H. Duncan, and Stuart E. Rosenbaum (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1987), pp. 208–209.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See L. W. Sumner, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, Nous 10 (1976), pp. 153–154. For an interesting discussion of this topic, see Jeff McMahan, ‘Death and the Value of Life’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), pp. 259–261.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See ‘The Makropulos Case: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality’, in Bernard Williams, Problems of the Self(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 85–86; and Steven Luper-Foy, ‘Annihilation’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), pp. 270–276.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See Fred Feldman, ‘Some Puzzles about the Evil of Death’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 308; Palle Yourgrau, ‘The Dead’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 140; Anthony L. Brueckner and John Martin Fischer, ‘Why Is Death Bad?’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 222; and ‘Death’, in Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions (London: Cambridge University Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    By ‘premature death’, I mean the fact that people die before their natural biological life expectancy. According to this definition, if a person dies in his prime, he dies prematurely. On the other hand, if an old person dies at the limit of his natural biological life expectancy, he does not die prematurely. Unfortunately, however, most people do die prematurely. Note further that premature death as I mean here is different from the death event (or the event which brings about death) which happens while there is still the prospect of a worthwhile life for us.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See Joel Feinberg, ‘Harm to Others’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 174.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, trans H.A.J. Munro, in The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers, ed. Whitney Jennings Oates (New York: Modern Library, 1957), p. 131.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    See ‘Death’, in Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions (London: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See Frederik Kaufman, ‘Death and Deprivation; or, Why Lucretius’ Symmetry Argument Fails’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (1996), pp. 305–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    See Jeffrie G. Murphy, ‘Rationality and the Fear of Death’, in The Metaphysics of Death, ed. John Martin Fischer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 44.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Fooyin Institute of TechnologyTaiwan

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