Death and Human Life Cycle (Essay Sample)
Step Two: Engaging with the Argument
- After stating the argument, briefly explain it in your own words.
- After explaining the argument, identify one premise that you think is most plausibly objected to,
the “weakest link,” so to speak, and then write at least one paragraph explaining the basis of an
objection to this premise. This objection can be of your own invention, or it can draw on the
other readings for the course.
- Now return to DeGrazia’s side: present one plausible counter-response that might be made to the
objection that you’ve just raised. Write at least one paragraph presenting and explaining this
counter-response and how it is a response.
- You should read the surrounding material in the article from which the passage is taken, but do
not discuss arguments the author makes elsewhere in the article. Discuss only the argument in
the quoted passage.
“Some philosophers … hold that we are essentially persons in a sense of the term that implies the capacity for relatively complex forms of consciousness such as those associated with self-awareness, reasoning, and linguistic thought. On this view, losing the capacity for consciousness would entail loss of personhood and therefore the end of a person’s existence. But this view has incredible implications. It implies that people who undergo progressive dementia actually die – go out of existence – at some point during
the gradual slide to irreversible coma. Even if practical concerns recommend drawing a safe line at irreversible loss of the capacity for consciousness (to prevent errors and abuse), the implication that, strictly speaking, we go out of existence during the course of progressive dementia strains credibility. A second implication of person essentialism along these lines is that because newborns lack the capacities that constitute personhood; you came into existence after what is ordinarily described as your birth. Although there
is nothing incoherent about these implications, or the essentialist thesis that generates them, I find them too implausible to accept without a very compelling philosophical justification – of which, I think, there is none.”
Death and the Human Life Cycle
Personal essentialism has often been a controversial topic resulting in the emergence of various lines of thought. The author, David DeGrazia, argues against the notion that a person's existence is linked to one's ability to associate with multiple forms of consciousness, such as self-awareness, linguistic thought, and reasoning. Therefore, the loss of any of these forms of consciousness would result in losing one's personhood and existence. The author claims that personal essentialism is implausible and impossible to accept because it lacks a philosophical grounding or justification. Essentially, the author argues that an individual's personhood cannot boil down to self-awareness, linguistic thought, and reasoning only since some individuals, such as those who have progressive dementia or newborn children, may lack some forms of consciousness. Therefore, despite their shortcomings in consciousness, these people cannot be considered non-existent, and the essentialism argument lacks a compelling philosophical justification.
An in-depth look into the author's argument, one would note that he was ignoring or trying to discredit the notion of existentialism. Opposing existentialism is equivalent to neglecting why human beings exist. One of the first principles of existentialism is that a human being is nothing else apart from what they will try to make of him or herself. This principle is built on the notion that all human beings are free to do whatever they want but ought to be responsible for their existence due to the actions of their free will. In essence, one ought to have a purpose to live, and every action ought to be based on their free will. This ultimately discredits the author's argument with the supporting arguments of patients with dementia or newborn children. According to the existentialism concept, these two sets of persons do not have free will to act in ways they deem fit or responsible for their actions.
The author also ignored the notion that existence precedes essence. This is also based on the idea that human beings are innately free to act in a specific responsible manner. According to various religious scriptures, God created human beings for a particular purpose which means that he already decided an individual's essence before their creation. However, atheistic existentialism dismisses the existence of God. To explain this further, we will compare human beings with an inanimate object such as a metal sheet. Before a metal sheet is converted into a meaningful thing such as a chair or table, its purpose or usefulness is decided by a welder. Based on the usefulness of the desired metal object, such as metal chairs or tables, the welder will create a design and welds the metal sheet into the desired object. Assuming the welder designed a metal table, the essence of the table will have preceded its existence. Similarly, human beings have to exist before being defined or define themselves. Therefore, incapacitated individuals and babies do not have an essence or purpose.
The author made his argument that the aspect of humanism in which we are responsible for other human beings or society has been overlooked. Although, as pointed out earlier, human beings have free will to act as they wish and be accountable for one, it does not mean that human beings do not have any social responsibilities. As one man fashions himself, he tends to fashion or influence other men. When one yields some influence over other people, their actions ought to be responsible and mindful of society as a whole. For one to have a sense of social responsibility, one must have various forms of consciousness. The fact that the element of social responsibility is a pillar of humanism and existence, people who cannot be accountable for their actions and lack the various forms of consciousness are therefore considered non-existent. Based on the passage, newborns and individuals with advanced or progressive dementia can be considered as non-existent.
Accepting the author's dismissal of the argument is akin to living in bad faith. The author seems to have convinced himself that matters or issues have to happen in a certain way irrespective of the reality. However, we have to reconsider the reality in which we live. For instance, give that people ought to find or have a specific purpose, we can therefore not ignore the fact that persons with dementia and newborns may not have a well-defined purpose to justify existence. The element of living in bad faith can be seen in the fact that the two sets of people cannot make sound judgments and bear the consequences of their actions. Existence ought to be based on one's ability to make judgments and accepting the results.
The author also ignores the absurdity of existence or personhood by trying to justify the existence or personhood of persons that do not have
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