How The Body Is Conceptualized And How It Relates To Our Views On Death

1927 words - 8 pages

The concepts we as human beings have developed regarding perspectives of one’s own body have never remained static and universal. Our species is enduring the constant struggle for striving to know the processes of the human body and how they relate to our views of the meaning of life and subsequent death. The contemporary era of modern biomedicine is an amalgamation of the concepts of Cartesian duality proposed by René Descartes (1596 - 1650). According to Sheper-Hughes and Lock (1987) this separation of the palpable, organic body from the intangible, intellectual mind allowed for the pursuit of biomedical study and materialist doctrine adopted by Western medical practice. These epistemological concepts of the human body then perpetuate society’s interest, no longer in the separation of mind and body, but in preserving the mind beyond the limits of the physical body, and treating the body merely as a vessel that can be likened to a machine (Helman 2007). As this body perception model progresses, and we as persons view our body as being composed of ‘parts’ that can be replaced, scientists continue to develop new ways of transplanting organic tissues and cells. One such theory of the variety of techniques include cryopreservation, a branch of cryobiology that focuses on the utilization of extremely low temperatures to preserve whole organic tissues or cells (Kaiser, 2002). In discussions of the future of our epistemological views of definitions of self and body as well as progression of technological biomedicine, one can only speculate, basing their propositions on a lower branch of cryobiology, cryonics. Gordon (1975) describes cryonics as the study involved in the application of cryopreservation techniques to preserve the neural tissue of an individual or that entire body. The implications of this controversial process regarding the perception of the body and self will be discussed.
  Scheper-Hughes and Lock (1987) explain in The Mindful Body, that the marriage of the Cartesian duality legacy and Western clinical medicine was consummated through the words expressed by René Descartes in his work, Meditations on First Philosophy. The famous quote ‘I think, therefore I am’ expressed a perception of the body-self that initiated a concept of the two types of matter that a human being is composed of, the organic palpable body, and the intangible mind. As the idea of the soul was released from that of the body, the realm of science was free to move forward in the intensive study of the body and nearly all of its processes (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987). The drawbacks of the Cartesian duality is evident as distinctions are made between the definitions of illness (subjective patient perception) and disease (‘objective’ clinical perception), yet both realms are ‘medicalized’ where the social aspects of distress are made into biological problems to be solved by medical practitioners (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987). This process of making social problems...

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