Death: its causes and phenomena
The subject which we have discussed at length in this volume — Death — is generally looked upon as something to be " tabooed " by polite society; something unpleasant, which may someday come upon us, but which we desire to think about as little as possible in the interval.
There is no logical ground for this position, however, and, scientifically speaking, death may be made as fascinating a study as any other. Divested of the superstition and glamour which usually surround it, death assumes the appearance of a most interesting scientific problem, both from its physiological and from its psychological side. But there is another side to this question which must by no means be overlooked.
We refer to the possibility of postponing death, on the one hand, and of rendering it more painless, on the other. Both of these results can only be affected by a thorough understanding of the process involved: and this, in turn, can only be obtained by a close, scientific study of the problem — one that includes all its aspects, and treats them impartially.
In summing up this evidence, in condensing what has been said — the speculations that have been offered during the past two hundred years (sec Bibliography) — we are satisfied that we have collated a quantity of interesting material; while the particular theories as to the nature of the death which we have advanced, will not, we hope, be without interest, and perhaps utility.
As we differ considerably from one another in our theories as to the causation of old age and natural death, we have thought it best to devote separate chapters to these topics — each advancing his own views.
Later, we have tried to reconcile our opposing theories. Finally, in collecting and presenting the views of a number of scientific men on what constitutes natural death, we have sounded opinion upon a hitherto all but neglected subject, and we wish to thank our contributors in this place for what they have done for science, no less than for us. The final question to which we have addressed our- selves is, perhaps, the most vital and interesting of all.
The question of what becomes of the mental life at death: whether consciousness persists, or is extinguished — like the flame of the candle — is of interest alike to science and to philosophy; and we have presented a considerable quantity of material bearing upon this question, tending to show that consciousness does persist and that personal identity is assured to us. In arriving at this conclusion, we feel that an important forward step has been taken in the correct
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