A Descartes Perspective of Euthanasia Essay

2284 Words May 15th, 2012 10 Pages
Descartes and Euthanasia
What would the world’s first modern philosopher say about one of the most controversial issues of modern times? Rene Descartes was a prominent 17th century mathematician, scientist, and philosopher. He revolutionised western philosophy with his ideas concerning knowledge, certainty, and the connection between the mind and body. Euthanasia is a complex ethical issue facing today’s society; passive euthanasia is when a patient is allowed to die by withholding or withdrawing medical procedures, whilst voluntary euthanasia is defined as death brought about by a doctor at the request of the person who dies. Descartes never spoke explicitly on euthanasia or any correlating topics, and thus one can only conjecture his
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Essentially, Descartes believed that the human mind and God where part of the metaphysical world, whilst everything else was part of the physical world.
Like the ancient philosophers, Descartes believed that the practical purpose of philosophy is to lead a happy life. Descartes’ ethics is founded on the ideals that virtue is the ability to make rational choices, and that virtue by itself is capable of making one happy. In order to live virtuously, Descartes deemed that we shouldn’t allow our passions (that is, our senses which make us desire things we don’t need and fear things that won’t hurt us) to distort the truth when making decisions. Descartes asserted this by saying that “the difference between the greatest souls and those that are base and common consists principally in the fact that common souls abandon themselves to their passions and are happy or unhappy only according as the things that happen to them are agreeable or unpleasant; the greatest souls, on the other hand, reason in a way that is so strong and cogent that, although they also have passions, … their reason nevertheless always remains mistress, and even makes their afflictions serve them and contribute to the perfect happiness they enjoy in this life.” (Descartes and

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