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PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

CHAPTER 3: METAPERSONAL DIMENSION


Lecture 3: Man as Being-Towards-Death
Philosophy of Death
Death strikes fear and anguish in many of us, and some philosophers argue that the
belief in immortality is a much needed resource to cope with that fear. But, Epicurus
famously argued that it is not rational to fear death, for two main reasons: 1) in as much
as death is the extinction of consciousness, we are not aware of our condition
(if death is, I am not; if I am, death is not); When we exist death is not, and when death
exists we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death
there is neither pleasure nor pain. Death is not to be feared. When a man dies, he does not
feel the pain of death because he no longer is and he therefore feels nothing. The fear of
death arises from the belief that in death there is awareness. 2) In the same
manner that we do not worry about the time that has passed before we were born, we
should not worry about the time that will pass after we die. Therefore, as Epicurus
famously said, "death is nothing to us.
On the Issue of Death
From the Songs of Spiritual Change by His Holiness the 7th Dalai Lama (trans.by Glenn
Mulin).
No matter where you prepare your last bed;
No matter where the sword of death falls,
The terrifying message of death descend,
Horrid and giant; and glare with thirsty eyes.
Friends and family, surround you.
Eyeing your wealth and possessions,
They offer prayer and enshroud you.
Unprepared you pass away;
Helpless and Alone.
Basic Concepts on Death

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

Death is an ultimate possibility and reality but it is part of life.

Death cannot be separated from life.

We cannot think of life without death and death without life.

Martin Heidegger describes death as not yet or an impending event.

Reichmann says The fact of death is certain; what is uncertain is the time, the
place and the circumstances.

What is certain in death is that man is going to die.

Benjamin Franklin said In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.

Death is absence of all possibilities or the possibility that ends all


possibilities

There is no point to ask oneself of the question am I going to die? As you push
forward into life, you push forward into death. Each second is one in which death
may occur. We doubt anyone reading this right now is muttering to himself, Ill
never die. If you are, you may want to read Self-Deception for Dummies. Weve got
news for you: You most certainly will die. Unfortunately, Heidegger thinks, most
people think of death inauthentically. They treat it as an event way off in the
future, something distant from life itself.

An Arabian Folk Story


By: Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
Death speaks: There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to the market to
buy provisions. After a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said
Master, just now when I was in the market place, I was bumped by a woman in the crowd
and when I turned I saw it was death that bumped me. She looked at me and made a
threatening gesture; now lend me your horse and I will ride away from this city and avoid
my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me.
The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs into its
flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop, he went. Then the merchant went down to
the market place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why
did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

That was not a threatening gesture, I said, It was only a start of surprise. I was
astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in
Samarra.
What is the story all about? How is it related to the lesson?

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life in a manner
so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.
-Native American Proverb

Reasons for Fearing Death


1. Fear of Finality Wehave said that fear is the end of everything. It signifies that
there is no more tomorrow and no more return.
2. Fear of Uncertainty Death signifies passing away. What comes after death is
something uncertain. It is something fearful to think of where to go after death. No
one comes back to report and narrate to us what had happened to him in the other
world.
3. Fear of Non-Existence No one would readily accept the fact that he would be
buried six-feet below the ground, for it means annihilation or extinction.
4. Fear of Ultimate Loss Death is ultimate loss. It is losing everything we have
ever valued. It is hard to accept death of one has strong attachments with the
world. Death is the great test of love.
5. Fear of the Pain and Loneliness in Dying Death is definitely mine only. I
cannot take somebody to die together with me. Moreover it is fearful to think of who
will take care of our bodies during death.
6. Fear of Failing to Complete Lifes Work If a person has still many things to do
in life, then he is most hesitant to face and accept death.
Death is not the greatest loss in life.
The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

-Norman Cousins
Some existentialists, such as Martin Heidegger, do think facing death is extremely
important if you hope to live an authentic life thats true to who and what you are. But it
doesnt mean languishing around all day being depressed. Instead, as most existentialists
suggest, living authentically means engaging with life in a way that honestly
reflects what you are. This includes reflecting the ways that youre limited as an
existing being and death is one of those limitations. In fact, as far as the
existentialists see it, when you embrace death, you become liberated for the possibility of
actually living. From this angle, its actually those who avoid the confrontation with death
who end up living superficial lives that arent worth living. If you ask us, thats whats
depressing ignoring death!

Confronting Death is Essential


Generally, people think death is a depressing subject that should just be avoided.
Why focus on it? Just live! they say, but Heidegger disagrees. Confronting death is
essential to living an authentic life. Still, some have argued that death cant really
play this central role because its entirely unknowable. After all, how can you face
something you cant even know?
The argument that you shouldnt focus on death comes from an ancient school of
philosophy called Epicureanism, which flourished around 300 BC. In a nutshell, the
Epicureans thought that death was something that couldnt ever really touch
you at all. So they counseled that you should be, at best, indifferent to death.

The Phenomenology of Death


Martin Heidegger
Heidegger says that death limits and determines Daseins(the human
person) possibilities. If we are to understand ourselves, we must grasp our

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

mortality. But as long as Dasein is, death is still outside of or beyond it. As long as we are
alive, we are projecting possibilities for ourselves. Even though we are aware that we are
mortal, or at least become aware of this the older we become, we continue to think of the
future. We plan what we will do this afternoon, tomorrow, next week, and next year. As
Heidegger has pointed out, we are always ahead of ourselves. One possibility is that
Dasein can experience the death of others. Certainly much can be learned by observing
the death of another person. When we watch another person die, we observe a transition
from one kind of being to another. But we can never experience anothers death.
Heidegger thinks that a meaningful, authentic life requires an embrace of your own
mortality. Heidegger agrees that although you cant know the actual event of
your death, you can face up to the awareness that your end is an inevitable part
of your future. This means recognizing that death is a possibility for you at each
moment. Thus, authentic living is living toward death, actively embracing the fact
that the death is always right up ahead. That is anticipating death. Authentically
embracing death doesnt mean waiting for the event to occur; it means running toward it.
Anticipation is the authentic attitude towards death. If we anticipate death, we face
ourselves authentically. Heidegger says that we can live our lives with freedom towards
death. (BT 266)
Anticipation is an existential attitude towards ones death and the future.
Heidegger distinguished anticipation from expectation. In the face of death, that is, in
confronting that ones existence is limited and finite, expectation seeks a secure and
stable relationship with other human beings and the world of the they, forgetting ones
past and passively awaiting the occurrence of death. Anticipation, on the other hand,
views death as revealing ones uttermost possibility and seeks the meaning of
what lies ahead. In anticipation Dasein finds itself moving toward itself as its own most
potentiality-for-Being.
Anticipation does not release us from our finitude and mortality, but it
does release us from the illusions that take place in the they. In the everyday
mode of being, Dasein interprets the phenomenon of death as an event constantly
occurring in the world. It is a case that happens to others. The general comment is One
of these days one will die too, in the end; but right now it has nothing to do with

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

us. Dying remains anonymous and it has no connection with the I. In our everyday
lives death is usually concealed. According to Heidegger Daseins tendency to become
lost in the they can result in Daseins trying to avoid death by concealing it.
Contemporary activities in relation to death exemplify this. We seldom say that someone
died. Instead we say that a person passed or indicate that the person has gone
somewhere such as heaven, or to be with God or someone who has died before. We also
assure people, even those we know are dying, that they have a long time to live.
This freedom is sometimes seen in people who have had near-death experiences or
who have been deeply touched by the death of someone else. As they recognize their own
mortality, they are freed to enjoy the present. They may try things they have never tried
before. They may give opinions that earlier they would have held back because they were
too caught up in what others would think. We say that they have accepted death. But this
acceptance does not make them morbid or depressed. In the light of death, each moment
is valued and each decision is viewed in its appropriate significance. Only by taking the
bull by the horns and taking an active stance on death can you live a life thats truly yours.
Odd as it may sound, you have to learn to make death into a way to live.
However, Heidegger isnt advocating suicide. Running toward death doesnt mean
youre seeking it out or trying to make it more likely in the near future. Instead, it means
pushing into the future, or choosing among your possibilities while keeping in
view the fact that one of those possibilities is always that youll die. You
acknowledge that the possibility of your own impossibility, or the fact that one day your
possibilities will end, is always present now; you live with it, so its not a distant, future
event. If you can seriously do that, Heidegger thinks, death may well have a serious
impact on the way you live.
For Heidegger, however, its neither dying nor the actual event of death that he
thinks you need to face up to. Instead, whats central to living authentically is facing up to
what the event implies: One day, you wont be around. If you think about it, its a curious
fact that only human beings are capable of realizing this aspect of their finitude (the fact
that theyll one day end).

PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

University of San Agustin


AY: 2014-2015: First Semester

Being-toward-death simply means never losing sight of your future


finitude; it means letting that awareness affect the way you live your life.
Heidegger puts it this way: Death is a possibility of being that Dasein always has
to take upon itself. With death, Dasein stands before itself in its own most
potentiality of being. Essentially, Heidegger wants you to see that you shouldnt treat
death as an event thats coming closer to you with every passing moment, like a train
slowly approaching from the distance. Thinking this way has the effect of putting distance
between you and your death, making it something foreign and external to you and to what
it means to live your life now, for you to exist. Its inauthentic because: It makes death an
external event instead of an internal way of being. It makes death a passive happening as
opposed to an active way in which you can actually live. It reveals to us that no individual
can escape death with the aid of the public. Heidegger says that in our everyday lives,
absorbed as we are in the they, we flee from death. But this very fleeing reveals our
understanding that death is certain and indefinite. We know that we will die, and we
know that when we will die is not definite. We also know that we will die alone.
Heidegger writes, Death, as the end of Dasein, is Daseins own most possibilitynon relational, certain and as such indefinite, not to be outstripped.
According to Heidegger, each of us has our own potentialities to fulfill and has to
face our death on our own. It also requires Dasein to accept its own death. Indeed,
Heidegger claims that the real authentic self is revealed when one encounters
ones own death. In Heideggers analysis of Dasein, death reveals the terrible
temporality of our existence. In this revelation, he claimed, we find the ground of our
authentic existence. Everyone dies his or her own death. As an experience entirely of
ones own, death cannot be shared. This experience makes one focus on ones finitude, on
ones uniqueness and on ones determinate self. Heidegger says Dasein cannot experience
its own death. As long as Dasein exists, it is not complete, that is, there are still
some of its possibilities outstanding. If, however, Dasein dies, then it is nolonger there.