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Death, Life and the Question of Identity

Uploaded by palma on Oct 09, 2000

Sam Vaknin's Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites

A classical point of departure in defining Death, seems to be Life itself. Death is perceived either as a cessation of Life - or as a "transit zone", on the way to a continuation of Life by other means.

While the former presents a disjunction, the latter is a continuum, Death being nothing but a corridor into another plane of existence (the hereafter).

Another, logically more rigorous approach, would be to ask "Who is Dead" when Death occurs.

In other words, an identity of the Dying (=it which "commits" Death) is essential in defining Death. But what are the means to establish an unambiguous, unequivocal identity?

Is an identity established through the use of quantitative parameters?

Is it dependent, for instance, upon the number of discrete units which comprise the functioning whole?

If so, where is the level at which useful distinctions and observations are replaced by useless scholastic mind-warps?

Example: if we study a human identity - should it be defined by the number and organization of its limbs, its cells, its atoms?

The cells in a human body are replaced (with the exception of the cells of the nervous system) every 5 years. Would this imply that we gain a new identity each time this cycle is completed?

Adopting this course of thinking leads to absurd results:

When humans die, the replacement rate of their cells is infinitely reduced. Does this mean that their identity is better and longer preserved once dead? No one would agree with this. Death is tantamount to a loss of identity - not to its preservation.

So, a qualitative yardstick is required.

We can start by asking will the identity change - if we change someone's' brain by another's? "He is not the same" - we say of someone with a brain injury. If a partial alteration of the brain causes such sea change (however partial) in the determinants of identity - it seems safe to assume that a replacement of one's brain by another will result in a total change of identity, to the point of its abolition and replacement by another.

If the brain is the locus of identity, we should be able to assert that when (the cells of) all the other organs of the body are replaced (with the exception of the brain) - the identity will remain the...

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Uploaded by:   palma

Date:   10/09/2000

Category:   Miscellaneous

Length:   10 pages (2,286 words)

Views:   1960

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