In this essay, I show that Feldman's argument for the claim that death requires an internal change is implausible. I start by outlining Fred Feldman's general argument of "The Enigma of Death." I follow it up by describing his argument for the claim that death requires an internal change. I then argue that the irreparable damage to one of the twins cannot be taken as a sign of his death because of two reasons. One, the twin can indefinitely remain in suspended animation, which, according to Feldman's argument, is not death. Second. The twin was not alive to begin with.
The primary goal of Fred Feldman in his paper, "The Enigma of Death," is to show the unacceptable nature of a specific analysis, although it has gone virtually unquestioned in literature. Furthermore, there is no obvious modification of the analysis that is correct. "The Enigma of Death" is an attempt to provide the most appropriate concept to describe the mystery of death. Specifically, it is an attempt to answer the question, "When can something said to be dead?" Alternatively, "Is the loss of consciousness and brain function the most appropriate way to describe death?" (p.145). Feldman argues that that concept is flawed because death is not limited to higher organisms, such as humans.
Consider the following three sentences: a) JFK died on November 1963 b) The last Dodo died in April of 1681, and c) My Baldwin Apple tree died during January of 1986. Each of the three sentences talks about death, and there is no reason to suppose the death in the sentence (a) is any different from the death in the sentence (b) and (c) (p.145). Feldman backs up his argument by stating that there is nothing wrong, paradoxical, or out of the ordinary by him stating that statement (a), (b), and (c) is correct. Feldman's argument does not equate JFK's death to that of an apple tree. It only indicates that the use of the word "death" in three sentences is similar.
Feldman's argument proceeds with the assumption that there is a concept of death that has application throughout the biological realm. He refers to it as the biological concept of death. Feldman then proceeds to provide concept analysis from various literary works that have tried to define death. There is a popular proposal that looks at the brain's electrical activity. According to this proposal, a person S dies at a time t, if and only if S's brain has stopped producing z waves at the time t. That means that if a mortician was to perform tests on a body and determine there were no discoverable electrical activity in the brain at a time t, then proceed to bury the body. He or she would be immune from prosecution even if it later emerged that the body was not dead. According to Feldman, such a criterion is only applicable to humans (p.147).
The proposal described above is a criterion which different from an analysis in all respects. Feldman expresses that an analysis is only meant for reporting the truth. He adds that it should also apply to everything that dies and not just restricted to humans. His object in the paper is discussing some proposed analysis on the biological concept of death instead of criterion.
One of the analyses that Feldman proposes is Perret's Analysis. Perret's analysis can be represented using the equation. X dies at t = df. In that case, x is a living biological organism up to the point t. That is, at t is destroyed, annihilated, or disintegrated. However, Perret's use of the words destroyed, annihilated, and disintegrated introduces a weakness in his argument that Feldman uses to counter the analysis. Feldman uses the example of a butterfly captured and placed in a kill jar by a butterfly collector. The collector can kill the butterfly without ever breaking its legs or destroying a part of its body. In that case, the butterfly is in perfect condition.
The second analysis discussed by Feldman is standard. According to the standard analysis, to be dead is to cease to live. A person is defined as dead when he or she ceases to be in a condition of life. Feldman counters Rosenberg's concept of death using the argument of cryogenics. According to standard analysis, a person who is cryonically frozen would be stated as dead, which is false.
On the other hand, saying that they are alive will also render the statement false. Feldman, therefore, describes them as being in a state of suspended animation. Rosenberg tried to perfect this analysis by changing the wording to permanent cessation, or irreversible secession to his argument such that D2: x dies at t=df x ceases permanently to be alive at t
However, Feldman's introduces his argument of the two twins to counter the improvised version of standard analysis. According to the modified standard analysis, the twins will be in different states of existence during the first year in ice, which renders the statement wrong. Feldman uses the twins' example to present his argument. D5: X dies at t= df (i) x ceases permanently to be alive at or before t and (ii) at t, internal changes occur in x that makes it physically impossible for x ever to live again. In simple terms, Feldman proposes that death can only come from internal changes to an organism's body.
My criticism of Feldman's is very narrow. I use the same argument he used when criticizing standard analysis for criticizing his argument for the claim that death requires internal change. I concede that it highly unlikely for individuals to die without undergoing internal biological change. As such, it is essential to understand that I am not discrediting Feldman's argument about the requirement of internal change for internal change but rather his argument for that claim. Therefore, I only need to show how the twins' example does not work towards satisfying his argument on the occurrence of internal changes for the occurrence of death.
I begin by establishing that none of the twins were alive before they were reanimated. If you look at it, the cryogenics took all life functions out of the body. The statement the twins are alive would necessarily be false because none of the twins had life functions within their bodies. They had no metabolism, they were not breathing, they had almost no brain activity, and their heart was most certainly not beating. Feldman described them as being in a state of suspended animation. When the second twin underwent irreparable damage to his body, his chances of reanimation went to zero. That means that his situation was irreversible. By Feldman's logic, this twin's state of death began at the moment his internal organs experienced irrevocable damage. However, is it possible to describe something as dead when it was never alive to begin with?
If the answer is "yes," then everything in the universe can be described as dying, not just biological organisms. Rocks, clouds, shoes, and other non-biological organisms could be said to die. However, even in that line of thinking, Feldman's argument does not follow. After all, then these organisms could die without undergoing internal changes because some of them, quite frankly, do not have an 'internal.' However, if the answer to the question is "No," then the second twin cannot be described as dead as a result of internal changes since he was not alive to begin with. The state of suspended animation has been shown to exclude life, and people who are cryogenically frozen can only come back to life if they are reanimated. That goes to show that Feldman's argument for the claim that death requires an internal change is implausible.
Second, consider the following statement. If a twin is left in the state of cryogenics with his damaged organs, can we, with absolute certainty, say that the twin is dead? Or in simple terms, do the words "the twin is dead" while still cryogenically frozen hold true? Now, if the answer to that question is "yes," then Feldman's argument still fails to follow because it implies that both twins died at the start of the process, and one of the twins managed to come back to life. Even Feldman disagreed with that logic when countering standard analysis because a person in cryogenics cannot be said to be dead. The phrase "he is dead" does not apply to those in cryogenics because the process can be reversed.
On the other hand, if the answer is no, then it means that the twin cannot be pronounced as dead by virtue of his internal organs. Even though the twin is never going to return to life, he still has two options; one is that he can remain in a state of suspended animation indefinitely, while second, they can unfreeze him and bury him. If they do unfreeze him, then the twin will most definitely be dead because he will no longer be in a state of suspended animation, neither will he be alive. In that case, it can be said with absolute certainty that the twin is dead. In that case, the phrase "the twin is dead" holds true.
On the other hand, if the company decides to keep the twin in a state of suspended animation forever, then the twin can never be said to be dead. In that case, the phrase "the twin is dead" would always return false, and that means he did not die as a result of internal changes. He can be said to be "not alive" or "devoid of life," but he cannot be said to be dead. In that case, the argument, absence of life requires an internal change would hold true, but the word "absence of life" cannot be replaced with "death" because that would return false.
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