Samantha Philosophy Essay

Published 10 Jan 2017

The purpose of this paper is to explore on the concept of death based on the perspective on the two philosophers- Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger. Basically, Heidegger (1962) states that “Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dassein” (294). Meanwhile, Derrida (1993) claims that “Death is the name of impossible simultaneity and of an impossibility that we know simultaneously, at which we await each other, at the same time” (65). And so, one can see here that there is a significant difference between the definition of death provided by the two philosophers. This paper will give light to the contradicting philosophy of death.

Heidegger’s Concept of Death

The role of the Dasein on Heidegger’s point of view on death is very critical. According to Kemerling (2001), the Dasein is not simply a synonym for “consciousness” but it indicates the fact that human beings—and only human beings—truly exist, in the fullest sense, only when being-there for-themselves. Indeed, human beings truly exist but the real question is our Dasein or “being-there”. More importantly, Dasein is subject to a systematic, radical uncertainty. This uncertainty on Dasein is rooted on the constant concern for our death. Specifically, the Dasein is shaped by death since the concern for annihilation is an ever-present feature of the human experience. As such, it is said that death is the key to life.

Furthermore, death is perceived to be a peculiar possibility of the Dasein’s Being. As such death should not be something outside of Daisen since it is an integral part of the Daisen. In other words, Death is Dasein’s ownmost, non-relational and uttermost possibility. In addition to these characteristics of death is aspect of death as certain and indefinite. (Cavalier, 2007)

Derrida’s Concept of Death

The most vital question utilized in Derrida’s analysis of death in Aporias is the possibility of his own death. In his own words, “Is my death possible?” This question poses various complications especially on the phrase “my death”. In fact, these words are absolutely irreplaceable and singular. As such, it implies that no one can die for me in the sense of definitively taking away or exempting me from my death. This is further complicated by the difficulty of knowing what one is talking about when speaking about death. And no one can really know the meaning of this word or what it is referring to. (Calarco, 2003)

Moreover, the philosophy of Jacques Derrida implies the concept of death as an aporetic possibility. In other words, there is an aporetic experience of death. More specifically, this is interpreted as the experience of death as a limit that cannot but nevertheless must be crossed. (Thomson, 1999)

Heidegger vs. Derrida on Death

To interpret Heidegger’s philosophy on death, it is the realization of the annihilation of an inpidual on earth. However, even if death is realized, it is not really experienced by the person since he is no longer in the state of consciousness or being in Dasein. And so, death becomes the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein. One undergoes the process of the death but he cannot really experience death because at this rate, the Dasein is already gone or not present.

On the case of Derrida, his philosophy on death discredits the existential analysis of death by Martin Heidegger. Specifically, Derrida questions the certainty of obtaining death, the possibility of dying per se, the likelihood of meeting death the sense of death which can happen in him. That is why the words “my death” have been an important factor on the discussion and analysis of Derrida’s perspective on death.

One of the similarities on the concept of death of the two philosophers is their ability to stop mankind on looking for a final resting-place for thought—the sort of thing which Being or Mind or Reason were once thought to be. (Rorty, 1984) On the differences, there are also various distinctions that set the death’s philosophy of Derrida and Heidegger apart.

On Heidegger’s philosophy, it talks about the possibility of death that is most proper to Daisen. While in the case of Derrida, he poses the question ‘Is my death possible?’ This question stated by Derrida already implies the impossibility knowing what one is talking about when speaking about death.

And so, the approach of Heidegger on death is the existentialism. Existential analysis claims that death is a possibility of an impossibility that is most proper to Dasein. On the point of view of Derrida, philosophers and historians never pause to raise the question of being concerning death. They grant themselves knowledge on death when they are in reality only working within an implicitly presupposed interpretation of death’s meaning. (Colarco, 2003) Indeed, the logic or way of arriving into the concept of death between the philosophers is highly different. As such, this condition leads to the different nature of analysis and definition on the concept of death. Nonetheless, it still yields to the enlightenment of mankind on the life in general and death in particular.


  • Calarco, Matthew. (2003). On the Borders of Language and Death: Derrida and the Question of the Animal. Retrieved on June 20, 2007
  • Cavalier, Robert. “The Problem of Death.” Lectures on Heidegger’s Being and Time. Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved on June 20, 2007
  • Derrida, Jacques. (1993).Aporias: Dying—Awaiting (One Another at) the Limits of Truth. Trans. Thomas Dutoit. Stanford University Press: Stanford.
  • Heidegger, Martin. (1962). Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. Harper and Row: New York.
  • Kemerling, Garth. (2001). Heidegger: Being-There (or Nothing). 27, October. Retrieved on June 20, 2007 from
  • Rorty, Richard. (1984). “Derrida, Jacques.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. 16, February, Volume 87.
  • Thomson, Ian. (1999). “Can I Die? Derrida on Heidegger on Death.” Philosophy Today. Spring, 29-42.
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