Philosophy of Death


Death as the end of life is giving some meanings to human beings. Basically, it meant to religious point of view. When someone ended his life by facing death, people around him would be more believe in the Almighty power. In the term of religious, someone feels relieved if his death was appropriate with his religion. After he did all his worships and sacrifices to presented to his God, Death comes to beautify and perfect his life. The perfection of life was felt because all his effort has been paid enough with the end of it. Without death, people may be apathetic with all kind of worships or others as the absence of ‘being-at-end-feeling’.

Social life built some meanings to the death. It has constructed someone’s characteristics, traits, and stories. These things are completed with death as memories. Human’s death carried out his memories to his close-mates and people who know him. Moreover, his memories are often used as a tool to identify his offspring. As an example, Mr. X will be judged as a good person when his father, who has died, was a hero in his country. Although this is a misunderstanding hypothesis, it is commonly used to presume Mr. X traits. This social meaning brings people to adorn his life by doing some good thing. This means that death in the social view may be an incentive to do a better trait.

In some realities, death was noticeable as economics meaning. Say Steve Jobs as the owner of the Apple Inc. began to be noticed since he had died. Many opinions came up issuing the Apple sustainability after his death. Steve Jobs was improving Apple so good that the Apple expanded its market segment. His death was reputed to endanger Apple’s sustainability. In this case, Steve’s death means an economics problem for Apple.

Heidegger’s Approach

Death doesn’t mean being-at-an-end, but being-towards-the-end. According to death meaning, there is something called “Dasein” in human life. It means something in the human body, can’t be described, but significantly influence the human life. It is simply defined as existence of human being. Death never been discussed as the ending of life since the knowledge cannot be explained without experiences and experiments. So, Heidegger’s approach focuses on the way towards the end.

There are three keys of discussion in Heidegger’s approach: ownmost, non-relational and not to be outstripped. Own most used by Heidegger’s to underline that death is my own. It means that death can be experienced once in a life time by me; and only me. When the death comes to someone, he cannot tell the other about the experience of death. This is justifying Heidegger’s towards the end approach. When it can be shared to the other, it has non-relational characteristic.  Then the phrase of not to be outstripped explained about the unavoidable possibility of death. “Death is something that stands before us—something impending” (1).

Heidegger’s approach differentiates between the they-self and the authentic self. Summarizing Heidegger’s discussion, they-self can be explained simply as the effect of external factor to the Dasein. It also called an everydayness of man. The they is constituted by Dasein public interpretation for its being towards death. The they-self tempts us to deal with ourselves that the death is not our own, calm us down against death-awareness as it cannot be shared by others, and alienates us from our authentic self, which is true dasein and not existing from public interpretation, by hiding death. Through temptation, calming down and alienation, the they-self convinces us that the death is an event, not an impending possibility.

Neurological Definition

In many cases, cardiac arrest was constructed as the criterion of death because people never run from it away. But as the technologies advanced, it was no longer irreversible. When the heartbeat began to stop, patient was not subsequently realized facing death. Heartbeats stopped, but it needed some seconds to turn the brain off. The brain still had some seconds to work before it really died. At that moment, doctors attempted to shock the heart, which brain was as soon as possible responding those signals to beat the heart. With the advanced technology, cardiac arrest became reversible.

Neurological terms death as the loss of integrating function of the brain as a whole.For example,say that what caused the patient’s death was abullet fired into his brain. Even though there is no doubt that it will lead to death, what we mean when we say that someone is dead must be applicable to anyone who has died in the past or will die in the future. Clearly people have died and will die without bullets in their brains. But, if that is correct, no one ever has died or will die without his brain as a whole be dysfunction, because that is what wemean when we say that someone is dead, caused of ‘a loss ofthe integrating function of the organism as a whole’.

Christopher Pallis blamed those who insist that the criterion of death should be the cessation of cardiac activity because, he says, they fail to grasp that it is an adequate flow of oxygenated blood to the brain as a whole brain (2). The importance of cardiac function is only to support cerebral functions and not in itself. Failure of cardiac activity in itself doesn’t constitute death. It is potentially, but not the one factor causing death. So, it was not acceptable criterion of death.

The Death It-Self

            For those who are living creature, they must be facing death as the end of their journey. And by all means, every meaning and definition of death has put death in a mysterious yet thrilling experience every person will get. Then, the only thing we should believe had been stated at Bhagavad Gita: “for certain is death for the born, and certain is birth for the dead.”


Barlett, E.T. Differences Between Death and Dying. (Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 21, No.5 Oct., 1995, pp. 270-276)

Cole, David J. The Reversibility of Death. (Journal of medical ethics, vol. 18, no. 1 Mar. 1992. pp. 26-30)

Heidegger, Martin.Being and Time, tr. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, (San Fransisco: Harper & Row, 1962)

M. Rudi Kurniawan

Satf Divisi Penerbitan  2013/2014



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