An Ontological Study of Death: From Hegel to Heidegger

An Ontological Study of Death: From Hegel to Heidegger

Sean Ireton $30.00

Published in 2007 | 326 pages | paper | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0397-8

Book Information:

In An Ontological Study of Death: From Hegel to Heidegger, Sean Ireton examines conceptions of death as manifested in German Literary Studies and philosophy from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, expanding on thanatological theories that distinguish between a metaphysical and an ontological view of human finitude. Whereas metaphysics separates life from death and posits a transcendent reality beyond the physical world, the ontological perspective integrates death into the very core of being where it functions as a fundamental phenomenon of life. Arguing that the dialectical thinking of Hegel and Hölderlin erases the metaphysical paradigm of death and sets the stage for the existential interpretations advanced by Nietzsche, Rilke, and Heidegger, Ireton maintains that each of these authors ultimately seeks to incorporate the traditional realm of nonbeing into the heart of existence. Framed by the opposing philosophies of Hegel, who deems that death has little personal meaning but is vital for the life of Spirit, and Heidegger, who converts death into the determining factor of selfhood, Ireton's study finds common ground in the way death is viewed⎯as the promise of possibility, freedom and wholeness. Though primarily focused on the Germanic tradition, Ireton's study also addresses the modern French philosophical treatment of death by Blanchot, Kojève, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Foucault in the wake of their German predecessors. Ireton concludes by placing the dialectical and existential views discussed in his study within the context of modern thanatology, specifically demonstrating how themes of human finitude and freedom have a direct bearing on the current debate surrounding the dignity of death and the right to die.

Author Information:

SEAN IRETON is associate professor of German at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His areas of research encompass late eighteenth to early twentieth century German Literary Studies and philosophy. He has published various articles on Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kafka, and Thomas Mann.

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