To live and let die

A 91-year-old woman is selling suicide kits via Internet, author Sir Terry Pratchett is participating in a BBC Two documentary about assisted suicide. We face the fact that death has become such a mundane thing that requires a paradigm shift – althought it would just be a recursion to the Greeks.

Treasuring life has been a cultural melting pot for many civilizations. Myths of creation are patterns of wisdom, regardless time and place, thought the occurrence of life is inseparable of its evanescent and renewal. The ways we perceive death are cultural constructs that shape within particular social and historical moments.

There is an intense debate on this subject: religiously, it’s prohibit – the right to give or take life belongs only to God. However, others believe that although killing a person is normally wrong, and worse than killing “any other kind of being” (like animals, for example, which are not self-conscious), in the case of persons it is worse to deny voluntary euthanasia than to provide it. To prohibit voluntary euthanasia is to promote less happiness, for it promotes the continued suffering of a self-conscious being who desires to end that suffering but knows that it will continue.

The Greeks called it a good and easy death (eu – good, thanatos– death). We know that in Sparta handicapped children were exposed and left to die, fact which was approved by Aristotle, for reasons of public utility. Plato expanded the practice to seriously ill elderly. Epicurus summed the general trend of thought of the ancient Greeks: We are masters of the pain, masters in their bearing, if they are bearable, and if not, we possess the ability to quit life, in the same way we leave the theater if we do not like.

Although there isn’t any ethics that could tell us for sure that euthanasia is morally good or right, the question which remains is: Are we giving too much weight to individual freedom? What could be next?

Is there such a thing as a philosophical novel?

The philosophical novel could, and probably does, constitute a genre in itself.  From Voltaire’s Candide to Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being or Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, these are all writers who have used the novel as a vehicle to carry considerable philosophical themes.  The phrase ‘philosophical’ is, itself, often used as a (sometimes lazy) shorthand to describe a novel which is deeply contemplative, raises fundamental questions or themes, or even, on occasion, merely a work with a glacial pace. Yet, is this representative of what philosophy is, especially as an academic discipline?  For even if a novel does touch on profound philosophical Continue reading “Is there such a thing as a philosophical novel?”

Decoding Plato

Bust of Plato
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Philosopher and historian of science, Dr. Jay Kennedy – currently a visiting academic in Manchester – has recently put forward the provocative thesis that Plato’s texts are based around a secret cipher; a kind of Platonic Bible Code. Each book of Plato’s major texts, he contends, is structured in such a way as to represent relative musical harmonies according to the ancient Greek scales.

The twelve note musical scale is the foundation of Western music, and is rooted in the mathematical relationships between different soundwave frequencies, their inter-relation, and the effect they have upon the listener.   Music theory is based upon the observation that Continue reading “Decoding Plato”

Why are we so afraid of Death?

In the Annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture, BBC, this Monday, Sir Terry Pratchett offered a perhaps controversial view on medically assisted suicide in case of a terminal illness. Since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, he is openly furthering the debate about assisted suicide in Great Britain. He is proposing to be used as a test case for a tribunal that would be made up of specialists in palliative care, and hopefully in ethics as well. Most important criterion to be on the tribunal is to be over 45 years of age, in order to hopefully having gained a little wisdom and compassion. Both are needed to decide Continue reading “Why are we so afraid of Death?”

If you don’t vote for one, you vote for all!

The election campaign here in Britain has started and the battle between the parties is fierce. The problems of the last decade, but especially of the last year are immense. In the next couple of weeks and month it will be looked closely at how the NHS has coped with Swine flu and how the Government has coped with the financial crisis. Those who will do the close looking are the so-called political analysts, and they will try to explain why the one or the other party is better. Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will try to explain why they are the best choice for the country at the present state. But whom are they explaining all this to? It seems as if the media is the only addressee of all the information. But actually the addressee are WE. Continue reading “If you don’t vote for one, you vote for all!”

What is to be understood about war!?

In a times on- line article from today, General Sir Richard Dannat claims that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has not understood until fairly recently the significance of the war in Afghanistan. The article states that the General was critical of how the Government had handled war-related questions, like equipment-shortages and other failed forms of financial backing. As irritating as this criticism might seem, it is not as unflattering for Gordon Brown as it migth sound. I can understand that Gordon Brown cannot understand the war. Who ever really does? Theoretically, it is sensible to free Afghanistan of the Taliban. But for many people it is not really logical that so many soldiers are killed. And it is not clear why? For democracy? A greater good? A humanitarian ideal of freedom? Since the war started in 2001, the “why?” question has become manifold and more and more complicated to answer. The wikipedia definition of war is that it is a “reciprocated, armed conflict between two or more non-congruous entities, aimed at reorganizing a subjectively designed, geo-politically desired result.” A definition that probably helps neither Gordon  Brown nor us. War is not a logical behaviour. As much as war historians are trying to argue its logic. Plato’s ideal state was based on the Good. And the beautiful. Not on war and conflict. No wonder Gordon Brown does not understand the sense in war. Neither do most of us. In Antiquity or today.

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Philosophy Compass

Philosophy Compass July Issue

The latest issue form Philosophy Compass is out now, featuring the following great articles, surveying the most recent scholarly literature in philosophy:

PHCO pebbles banner Online ISSN: 1747-9991    Print ISSN: 1747-9991
Philosophy Compass
Volume4, Issue4,2009.
Early View (Articles Available Online in Advance of Print)
© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Continue reading “Philosophy Compass July Issue”