Research Article

The Banality of Death

Bob Planta1

a1 University of Aberdeen


Notwithstanding the burgeoning literature on death, philosophers have tended to focus on the significance death has (or ought/ought not to have) for the one who dies. Thus, while the relevance one's own death has for others (and the significance others' deaths have for us) is often mentioned, it is rarely attributed any great importance to the purported real philosophical issues. This is a striking omission, not least because the deaths of others – and the anticipated effects our own death will have on those we leave behind – are normally of great importance outside the confines of academic philosophy. In this paper I want to do three things: (i) argue that philosophers' treatment of death tends to distort the issue (Sections I–III); (ii) outline some of the ways others' deaths figure in how we assess our own mortality (Sections IV–V); and (iii) raise some general questions about the value of ‘theorising’ death (Section VI).

Bob Plant in Lecturer in Philosophy at The University of Aberdeen. He has published on Wittgenstein, Levinas, Derrida, Foucault and Reid.