In Peter Singer’s article “The Challenge of Brain Death for the Sanctity of Life Ethic”, he articulates that ethics has always played an important role in defining death. He claims that the demand for redefining death spreads rather from new ethical challenges than from a new, scientifically improved understanding of the nature of death. As thorough as his plea for dismissal of the brain-death definition is, he does not avoid the depiction of the complementary relationship between science and ethics. Quite the opposite, he tends to formulate a stronger, philosophically more consistent argument to help science and medical practitioners to define life, death, and the quality of life. In my commentary, I would like to focus on two issues presented in Singer’s study. Firstly, I will critically analyze the relationship between science and ethics. Secondly, I will follow on from Singer’s arguments differentiating between end of life as an organism and end of life as a person. The latter case is necessarily linked with man’s participation in her/his life, setting life goals, and fulfilling her/his idea of good life. Through the consequential definition of the dignity in ethics of social consequences, I will try to support Singer’s idea.
The work of Hugolín Gavlovič belongs is part of the most influential literary and didactic heritage of 18th century literature in the region of contemporary Slovakia. Even though Gavlovič was not a systematic moral philosopher, the role and importance of ethics in his literary work is significant. He contributed greatly to the debate on moral education, which was (in the context of that time) linked to the fulfilment of God's will and to the accomplishment of a good life. In his extensive poetic work Valaská škola mravúv stodola [Shepherd´s school of morals], the author not only formulated moral norms but, inspired by classical Greek philosophy, he also defined them in the wider ethical context of virtue, morals, and human nature. In this study, the historical context of his work, marked by the literary and cultural transition to the Enlightenment era, will be presented, concepts related to the understanding of good life (as a goal of moral education) will be identified, and the possibility for further philosophical and ethical analysis of Gavlovič’s work will be offered (through a reflexion of Aristotle’s thoughts referred to in Valaská škola). Overall, the paper offers an original point of view on how to interpret the thoughts of Hugolín Gavlovič from the perspective of ethics. This has been, despite the impact of his work, rather omitted.
My recent article, “The challenge of brain death for the sanctity of life ethic” (Ethics & Bioethics (in Central Europe), 2018, 8 (3–4), pp. 153–165) elicited five commentaries. In this brief response, I clarify my own position in the light of some misunderstandings, and discuss whether the definition of death is best thought of as an ethical question, or as a matter of fact. I also comment on the suggestion that we should allow people to choose the criteria by which they wish their own death to be determined, or their organs removed to be donated to others.