Beyond a Whole-Brain Definition of Death: Reconsidering the Metaphysics of Death

  • Marx W. Wartofsky
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 31)


I am going to argue here against a whole-brain definition of death, and against a neocortical definition of death, or against any other clinical definition of death, on two grounds: first, that none of these is, in effect, a definition of death, but are rather elliptical expressions for basic definitions of death, and hide more presuppositions than they reveal. In themselves, these presumed definitions are shorthand expressions for the underlying biological processes or functions that are taken to be the necessary and sufficient conditions for a human life — or what one may call a life-identity. They are at best discussion-openers, not definitions, and they sit somewhere between a definition of death, and the criteria for determining when that definition has been satisfied.


Human Life Personal Identity Natural Fact Human Death Individual Death 
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  1. 1.
    American Medical Association Judicial Council: 1977, Opinions and Reports, AMA Press, Chicago, 111.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marx W. Wartofsky
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Baruch CollegeThe City University of New YorkUSA
  2. 2.The Graduate CenterNew York CityUSA

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