It is sometimes forgotten that one of the most important goals of medicine is to help people achieve a good death. It is here that medicine and philosophy intersect. After all, what is philosophy if not the search for how to live a good life and how to face death? Perhaps it should come as no surprise that among the great philosophers there have been medical doctors such as Avicenna and John Locke.
“Like other departments of philosophy, medicine began with an age of wonder. The accidents of disease and the features of death aroused surprise and stimulated interest, and a beginning was made when man first asked in astonishment, why should these things be?”
- William Osler
When pondering death I sometimes wonder how the great philosophers faced death, and what we the living might learn from them…
We need wonder no more.
Listen to ‘From Cow Dung to Poison: A History of Philosopher’s Deaths’, an excerpt of a longer talk by Simon Critchley titled ‘To Philosophize is to Learn How to Die‘ (hat tip to Berto: Philosophy Monkey).
“Tell them I had a wonderful life.”
- the last words of the perennially troubled Ludwig Wittengenstein
“Don’t eat that…”
- the last words Denis Diderot’s wife spoke to him before he died while eating an apricot.
I also recommend reading Richard Smith’s BMJ blog post: Dead Philosophers make you laugh.