Jennifer L. McMahon on Frankenstein's monster.
Heidegger would not find it surprising that Frankenstein’s efforts to
deny death have a negative effect on his relations with others. For Heidegger,
when one denies death, one denies that one shares in the common destiny
of humanity. In his view, forthright awareness and acceptance of death not
only have the positive effect of heightening our appreciation of the limited
time each one of us has but also serve as the basis for genuine community.
Despite our differences, humans are all (at least at present) in the same boat
with respect to their mortality. In his view, authentic awareness of this common
fate creates a psychological bond between individuals and fosters a
sense of moral obligation. Simply put, it promotes empathy, social concern,
and a sense of solidarity with others. Though Heidegger resists asserting
that authenticity is preferable to inauthenticity, he does claim that people
who live in denial of their mortality (i.e., who exhibit inauthentic beingtoward-
death) typically lack the “conscience”[P. 248] of those who are authentic
toward death. Presumably because they are preoccupied with the exigencies
of everyday life, they are often not as sensitive (both to other people and to
the environment) as they could be, are more prone to objectify others, and
are more likely to limit themselves to superficial relationships. Although
Heidegger did not see the overcoming of death as a possibility, it seems
clear that this would likely exacerbate the negative effects he describes. The
Frankenstein story suggests this is the case.