As we reach towards the end of our life here on earth, my wife and I are having deep discussions, which everyone in the country will have to consider at some point, about whether we should be buried or cremated. I am for the former but my wife is strongly against this and favours cremation. Are there any philosophie answers or approaches to this question?

Joan &David

Your answers may help us resolve this dilemna

Philosopher's reply

Dear Joan and Dave,

Thank you for your question – it is certainly an old question: of how best to approach death and our bodies in death. There are many ways by which to approach your question: is it a question of religious beliefs (e.g. some people think that your body doesn’t belong to you, but to God), or is it a question of personal identity (e.g. I just am my body). There may also be basic questions about what’s best from an ethical point of view (e.g. is one option better for the environment or would it bring suffering to close friends or family if pursued?). Without knowing some of these broader details, I would say you should feel free and comfortable to do whatever you think is best. Just in case it is a religious question, my sense is that God will also be ok with whatever you choose since God would have no trouble putting you back together – whether from cremation or deterioration. My own sense is that this question is best addressed by living a life that makes the question moot, ie., you have an immense amount to offer to the world at every age.


Martin Shuster
Goucher college

Philosopher's profile

Martin Shuster

Goucher College, USA

Above all, I was always struck by Iris Murdoch's deep ethical sensitivity and her iconoclasm (which are, to my mind, quite related). I find quite compelling her suggestion that we consider a person's "total vision of life" as important to any moral assessment .

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