The Advance of Technoscience and the Problem of Death Determination: A Promethean Puzzle

Bas de Boer, Jonne Hoek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Death determination has since long been a topic of intensive technoscientific and medical involvement. Due to advances in twentieth-century medical technology, the distinction between life and death has become less evident. Ambiguities appear when we start to use life-support technologies in order to save lives, bringing about “tragic artifacts” such as brain death and persistent vegetative state. In this paper we ask how this technoscientific and medical involvement shapes our understanding of death. We provide an overview of medical literature that has appeared on (brain) death determination, highlighting thereby the role that technologies played in its establishment. Subsequently, we develop three philosophical interpretations of technological death determination: With Agamben and Marcuse as the installation of political power; with Don Ihde as an existential choice for the inevitable; and with Jacques Derrida as an encounter with the ineradicable mystery of death. To conclude with, we argue that technological death determination reveals an intrinsic, paradoxical connection between human’s technicity and its ignorance of death.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTechné: Research in Philosophy and Technology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 4 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • Death determination
  • Brain death
  • Philosophy of technology
  • Technicity
  • Responsibility

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