Heideggers Argument on Death and Dying

The ideals of death and dying can be considered as two of the most dreadful and frightening thoughts people can ever encounter. Most people express such kind of fear toward these ideals since they hold some sense of uncertainty and ambiguity. These ideals have also been associated to pain and suffering, which may be one reason why most people tend to dread such concepts. However, the ideals of death and dying have apparently been common subject matters in literature. Since these concepts have the ability to stir peoples imaginations and emotions, they have been usual topics in literature and in the arts. These ideals have also penetrated academic research and discussions and had experts researching on these concepts realities. One popular argument given about the ideals of death and dying was that of Martin Heidegger. Over the years, a lot of experts have expressed their thoughts on the nature of death and dying as well as on the corresponding emotions and feeling associated to such ideals. However, Heideggers claim about the nature of death stood among the others due to the controversy it caused. Heideggers main argument stresses on the complete differentiation of humans from animals. He expressed his disagreement on any claim that says humans are the radical animals, as he argued that humans are not animals in any way. This went against Elizabeth Costellos view on humans and animals. For Costello, humans are higher forms of animals who are supposed to understand and empathize with other lower kinds of animals however, what appears is that humans eventually grew as relentless animal slaughterer. Hence, Costello also recognizes the thought that animals have an extensive thinking capacity just like what humans can do. This is where the great argument between Heidegger and Costello sparks. This discussion shall focus on presenting the possible exchange of thoughts if ever Heidegger and Costello were given the chance to discuss their individual points of view on the matter. And in this light, it will be significant to first understand the gist of their claims to further understand the substance of the debate that might have occurred between them.

Costello on Animals Ability to Perceive
Elizabeth Costello is one of the most renowned activists on animal rights. Just like all the other animal rights activist, Costello also think that humans, as higher forms of animals, are supposed to show mercy and empathy with the lower kinds of animals as a form of respect for their existence and respect for ecological balance. Over the years, experts have attempted to follow the lead of John Wesley in identifying the specific categories that identify human beings apart from animals. John Wesley became famous for his argument that human beings are higher forms of animals. He claimed that although humans are often dubbed as higher forms of animals, they hold some distinct qualities and traits such as having a soul, having the ability to reason, the ability to use tools as well as to make tools (Phelps 1). Costello follows the same line of thinking. For her, although human beings are higher forms of animals with higher forms of cognitive and physical abilities, they are nonetheless categorized as animals at least in the context of genetics and history. Because of this argument, Costello has become a strong believer of animals perceptions. She considered Aquinas and Augustines arguments when they claimed that human beings have no particular moral obligations to animals that are considered as creatures without rational souls (2). By rational soul, they meant a being which holds the characteristics of God in the sense of having been created in the image and likeness of Him. When enlightenment came, this issue was further taken to more serious platforms. Enlightenment did not just destabilized the spiritual norms and beliefs of people, but it also introduced the world to a more materialistic and atheist culture. Because of the many philosophical ideals that sprung around her, Costello came into a realization that she then understood the nature of animals perception then better than ever. She started to argue that the main issue of animal abuse and oppression starts from the ideal of reason. Because people have been used to considering reasoning as one of humans highest and most complex abilities, their intelligence and rationality have always been the bases of most seemingly unacceptable acts. And one of these most questioned acts includes animal abuse. This is where Costellos arguments center. She argues that philosophy is the main reason why people have so much confidence on human reason, that no matter how appalling their acts have been, they could still justify them as if they were not considerable. She pushes through the ideal that humans must never use reason and philosophy as a base of justification on moral issues. She claims that moral issues can never. She debunks the thoughts that say that animals do not have any cognitive ability which can be compared to what humans have. She claims that just like humans, animals perceive and understand the events that occur around them. She even thinks that animals can actually perceive when they are about to die  which is apparently something humans cannot do.

It is quite understandable that Costello has this line of argument since she is inclined toward the conventional and the traditional view of morality. Rather than letting herself be swayed by the surge rational thinking which has been brought by the enlightenment, Costello stayed by her own principles that have been guided by traditional moral standards. Considering this exposure, it appears inevitable that Costello will debunk and disagree with contemporary views that will point on the difference of human intelligence with that of what the animals have. Furthermore, her exposure also justifies her belief that humans actually have a moral obligation in preserving the existence of animals in every possible way.

Heideggers Argument against Costellos Claims
Heidegger has been very popular for his controversial and interesting views about death and dying. Due the perceived controversy in his views, his perceptions on existence as well as on death and dying have been common subject matters in debates and discussions on the nature of being and of dying. Going back to the earlier discussion on Costellos thoughts, it can be recalled the she specifically claimed that animals actually know when they are going to die. This was said in line with her belief that, just like human beings, animals also have the ability to perceive things, even the usually inexplicable perceptions. This also goes to show that Costello actually thinks that animals have some kind of ability which is higher than that of humans. This is where Heideggers argument enters. Heidegger puts more emphasis on the nature of existence. According to him, existence or being is greatly defined by the existence of ones rational soul. By the rational soul, he means the ability to perceive and process things through a higher level of cognitive ability. Having a rational soul, for Heidegger, is not just associated to spirituality as what most people would easily think of. Heidegger argues that ones being or existence is governed by his own perceptions or knowledge (Heidegger 215). And in line with this argument, he clearly mentions in his works that only humans have rational souls. This entails that, as per Heideggers arguments, only humans have the ability to perceive and reason in a high level of cognitive ability. This clearly debunks Costellos argument which says that animals, just like humans have the ability to perceive the seemingly complex thoughts. Thus, Heidegger evidently goes against Costellos claims that animals have the ability to actually predicts and perceive when they are about to die. According to Heidegger, animals actually lack the kind of thinking which will possibly enable them to perceive this kind of thought  which even humans with such a high of thinking could not do.

Heideggers philosophy is somewhat more complex and ambiguous than that of Costello. His works were products of the mixture of different philosophical views that hold different levels of complexity and ambiguity. However, although most of Heideggers arguments are somewhat incomprehensible in the laymans context, his argument regarding Costellos claims appear simple Heidegger points out that humans are not animals animals lack the world-constructing character of humans (Dusek 127). Although his explications evidently hold a certain level of incomprehensibility, the baseline of his claims appears simple nonetheless.

After going through the arguments of these two great thinkers, it appears clear that cognition is indeed a great category and distinction of being human. Associating this ability to animals definitely puts them on a higher level of being. Considering Costellos exposure, it is understandable that she shows a more traditional and a more conservative view about animals being and ability to perceive. On the other hand, since Heidegger was more of an experimental and daring philosopher, it is understandable that he goes for the more controversial area of the subject matter. It is quite predictable for Costello that she advocated animal rights since her views are more inclined towards morality and spirituality. Whereas Heidegger tends to focus on the more rational take on things. This exchange of views could have really occurred between Costello and Heidegger. And if it really occurred, a great and interesting exchange of philosophies and ideals might have a considerable impact in the philosophical society. Whether or not humans must be considered animals have become an eternal issue nowadays.  But despite these arguments on this issue, the cognitive capabilities of human beings have been proven to be the highest of all kinds in this world. Thus, an end to this discussion may not be perceivable anytime soon. Hence, it looks like the world is yet to venture in more extensive explorations on animals perception, being and rationality.


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