A Good Death: Human Mortality and the Care of the Self Open Access

Sanders, Abigail (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/41687j127?locale=en


In modern society, death is hidden away and shunned by the living, even though it is an inevitable element of life. However, philosophers throughout history have argued that accepting death is necessary to develop a sense of self, to make meaning during life, and to die a good death. This paper will examine the different arguments for the care of the self drawn from the ancient Greeks, Michel de Montaigne, Martin Heidegger, and Michel Foucault. From this synthesis, an account of how individuals may live a meaningful life in order to die a good death in modern society will be developed. In this account, if individuals live fully, without regret, and are secure in a sense of self--in other words, if they embrace a philosophy of life--death will no longer be an event that cuts life short. Rather, death will be the final act that completes the individual's existence. Adopting this view of death would drastically change modern society's approach to death and dying by shaping our fundamental attitude towards death itself. In turn, this could help modern individuals to live more meaningful lives with the notion that death is not necessarily a negative event. By embracing a philosophy of life, it is posited that the individual will no longer see death as an event that cuts life short. Instead, death can be seen as a final act that completes the individual's existence. It is only after we have made this change to our culture that we will be able to view death as just another part of life, which, in turn, will drastically change our approach to death and dying.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: The Ancient Greeks 5

Greek Philosophy 5

Greek Literature 16

Cultural Practices 24

Chapter 2: Michel de Montaigne 33

The Concept of "Voluptuousness" 35

The Acceptance of Death 40

Gaining Freedom Through Finitude 45

Death in Literature 49

Chapter 3: Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault 57

Martin Heidegger's Care of the Self 57

Michel Foucault's Development of the Self 69

Conclusion 78

Works Cited 82

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