Death is thus separation from everything that gives our life form. It is the loss of everything that we hold dear… the finality of it, is harrowing

  • The Universal Fear of Death and the Cultural Response

Conceptions of death in The Upanisads and Epicurueanism

Death in contemporary terms1

  1. State of being dead
  2. The momentary event of dying
    1. Ending of the dying process (denouement death): separates the dying process from the subsequent disintegration
    2. Point when extinction is assured (threshold death): irreversable loss of consciousness/personhood/functioning
      1. Medical Criteria
        1. Irreversible cessation of circulatory-respiratory function (traditionally)
        2. Irreversible cessation of the functioning of the entire brain, including the brain stem (the modern biomedical criterion)
        3. Irreversible cessation of the functioning of the cerebral cortex (newer controversial idea that the cortex is the locus of consciousness)
    3. Loss of integrated functioning (integration death)
  3. The process of dissolution (dying)

Near Death Experiences (NDEs)1

Subjective experiences occurring when people are physiologically near death or when they believe themselves to be near death

Greyson Scale

  1. Cognitive Features
    1. Time distortion
    2. Thought acceleration
    3. Life review
    4. Revelation
  2. Affective Features
    1. Peace
    2. Joy
    3. Cosmic unity
    4. Encounter with light
  3. Paranormal Features
    1. Vivid sensory events
    2. Apparent extrasensory perception
    3. Precognitive visions
    4. Out-of-body experiences
  4. Transcendental Features
    1. Sense of “otherworldly” environment
    2. Sense of a mystical entity
    3. Sense of deceased/religious spirits
    4. Sense of border/point of no return

Problem with these is that we don’t know exactly when the experiences happen in relation to the time-course of the near death experience

  • Reports only give us the patient’s subjective representation of time, not the objective time when the experience was actually happening
  • Have virtually no direct evidence about what states of the brain are associated with NDEs


  1. This content is sourced from Professor Evan Thompson’s course materials for PHIL451A at UBC. All rights to this content is retained by Evan Thompson. 2