Does Death Define Us

Topics: Definition, Human, Life Pages: 5 (1945 words) Published: February 6, 2011
Does death define us?
Non-philosophical source:
In the science fiction film Avatar directed by James Cameron, Jake Sully, a paraplegic former marine, replaces his brother for the avatar project on Pandora, where humans are mining for a valuable mineral, unobtanium. However, there is a group of inhabitants called Na’vi who are forced to fight against human invaders because they were trying to assimilate them and deprive their harmony life with nature. Initially, Jake and his avatar is ordered to understand and learn from those native Na’vi and provide information to human about Na’vi‘s home tree which located on the richest deposits of unobtanium for hundreds of miles. But after the failure of diplomatic solution for the Na’vi to move, Colonel Miles Quaritch, the leader of RDA’s private security force, began to destroy Na’vi’s home tree forcefully. Jake and other scientists of the avatar project are disgusted with Quaritch's brutal methods, fly to an avatar link outpost and help the natives to fight and defend their homeland, with support from a pilot, Trudy Chacón. In the final battle, Colonel Miles Quaritch is killed and Na’vi won the war but suffered heavy casualties including the new clan chief and the greatest warrior, Tsu'tey and the pilot, Trudy Chacón. Eventually, with the exception of Jack and few other scientists who helped Na’vi in the fight, all humans are expelled from Pandora.

Philosophical essay:
The question “does death define us?” must be clarified and explained before arguing the question itself. The term “define” means to find either unique properties which can separate this object from every other object or combination of properties that make the object unique. For example, when we “define” a square, we say a square is a shape that has four equal sides and four right angles. Those are defining properties of square because no other shapes have the same combination of properties; and this combination makes the square unique and distinguishable from any other shape. However, if there are only four equal sides or only four right angles, they cannot define a square since they are only part of the combination. Thus when we “define” something, we mean to find out all of the distinguishing characteristics one object has and separate these properties from any other objects; or to find a unique property which is enough to make an object distinguishable. Secondly, the word “us” has three potential definitions: individual human being, human beings as a whole, and all living things including human beings, animals, plants, bacteria and etc. It cannot include non-living things because it doesn’t make any sense to associate “death” with non-living things since they cannot die. Thus “us” has to refer to living things at least, whether it’s general or specific.

For the first definition of “us”, which is individual human being, death cannot “define” us because it cannot separate or distinguish one individual from another, which is clearly against the meaning of “define”, on the basis that every individual is different. If everyone is not, then does it mean that everyone suppose to act, think and behave in same way since there’s absolutely no difference between individuals? But in reality, that’s not the case. Consider Colonel Miles Quaritch and pilot Trudy Chacón, they are different in gender, in beliefs and in who they supported although they all die eventually. Can one say they are same persons based on their similarity – death, regardless of the differences listed above? Unlikely, otherwise they will act, think in same way and they wouldn’t support different groups of people. Thus, every individual has to be different in one way or another, which makes differences exist. Because death is universal to everyone, it is not a defining characteristic of an individual based on the definition of “define”; in other words, death cannot define “us”.

The second definition of “us” is human beings in general human beings,...
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