Stuart J. Youngner
Two factors, medical science's growing control over the timing of death and the increasingly desperate need for organs, have led to a reopening of the debate about the definition of death and have forced a consideration of aspects of the determination of death that had never been addressed before. Without the pressing need for organs, the definition of death would have remained on the back shelf, the conversation of a few interested philosophers or theologians. This article examines some new questions raised by medical technology and the frantic search for new, morally acceptable sources of human organs over the past thirty years. This examination concludes that death itself is a social construct and that, in a pluralistic society such as ours, a conclusive definition of death or determination of the moment of death is out of the reach of both medical science and philosophy.
Christopher Taylor and Daniel Dennett
This article argues, in defense of compatibilism, that objections to compatibilist accounts of free agency are based on a flawed understanding of the relationship of such notions as possibility and causation to freedom and agency. It undertakes an analysis of the relevant notions of possibility and causation to show this. The article develops a compatibilist view, with special attention to technical issues about the nature of causation and possibility. In the process, it discusses recent technical views about the nature of causality, particularly that of Judea Pearl. It also develops some interesting analogies concerning the functioning of computers to argue that the flexibility, reflexivity, and creativity that free will requires are consistent with the hypothesis that human behavior, like that of intelligent machines, is determined.