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Seeing With Shinigami Eyes: Death Note as a Case Study in Narrative, Naming, and Control

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Scholars and fans alike, both consciously and unconsciously, often mine comics for their pedagogical potential. Despite the ever increasing popularity of the manga (and anime) series Death Note, though, little formal analysis has been done on the lessons contained in its noir(ish) story. Ohba – Death Note’s co-creator – claims that the story does not have a moral, pedagogical mission. Meanwhile, scholars have criticized the story as glorifying potentially dangerous behaviors, including philosophies on the virtue of violence and apocalyptic religion. Is there truly any “moral of the story” to be extracted from Death Note? (And, if so, how can we be sure that our interpretation has legitimacy?) In this lecture, we find that Death Note is not merely a melancholy detective story; but, rather, a complex narrative in which chaos is the ultimate determinant of morality and the only way to access control is through the power of naming. Death Note serves to take a metaphor/model for communication – the social constructivist model – and literalize it in the context of fantasy. In other words, the narrative of Death Note serves as a not-so-friendly reminder that our communication impacts our reality in ways that can be creatively constructive or profoundly damaging.

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Literature, Cinema, Philosophy, and Essay

Philosophical Exploration of Justice in Death Note: Battle of Moral Ideals

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Light Yagami’s Ambition

Death Note traces Light Yagami’s path as he stumbles upon the Death Note, a notebook with the power to bring about the demise of anyone whose name is inscribed, along with a corresponding physical description. Despite being an exemplary student, Light desires to use the Death Note to create a world free from criminal activities. He eventually adopts the public identity of Kira, envisioning himself as the god of a new world. By quietly eliminating many wrongdoers, he conflicts with various law enforcement agencies, a mysterious detective named L, and his successors, M and N. Throughout Death Note , many characters deeply explore the concept of justice, showing restraint in taking a definite stance on its definition. Instead, this approach employs a different method to challenge various interpretations of justice consistently. This method becomes apparent when each character presents their vision of what justice means, with Light being the primary example. Although it is still unclear who Light was before obtaining the Death Note, we have some clues about his moral principles.

Kira’s Philosophy

Kira adheres to the philosophy of “the ends justify the means,” which means he believes that achieving his goal of eradicating crime justifies any actions, such as shamelessly using his girlfriend to divert the police’s attention and increase his body count and eliminating individuals who are not criminals but obstruct his path. However, when Light relinquishes ownership of the Death Note, he undergoes a significant transformation in his personality and concept of justice. He shifts from a “do whatever it takes” mindset to a more unpleasant demeanor. This change is evident in his refusal to exploit Misa’s feelings to obtain information, which starkly contrasts his previous behavior of pretending to love Misa to facilitate his killings. Interestingly, Misa openly does not mind being used for his cause, yet Light consistently goes to great lengths to break his promises to her, displaying a certain insincerity. While Light may have treated Misa poorly, he appears to have some respect for her when not under the influence of the Death Note. However, once he regains the notebook and his memories and powers, his Kira persona resurfaces, and he quickly moves in with Misa to further enhance his killing capabilities. His focus on treating people well is cast aside in pursuit of his justice.

Justice and Idealism in Plato’s Republic

In Plato’s Republic , Plato discusses the concept of justice and idealism in forming a perfect state. He argues that a philosopher-king would possess profound knowledge of justice and act based on righteous policies. At the start of Death Note , Light holds noble aspirations to rid the world of wickedness by utilizing the Death Note. However, over time, he becomes a tyrant who sees himself as the true judge. It reflects Plato’s understanding of the dangers of absolute power and human imperfection in governance. Plato emphasizes the importance of truth and justice in his ideal society. He contends that leaders should prioritize truth in policy-making. Light assumes the role of a “death god” by using the Death Note to punish those he deems sinful. It raises questions about whether Light’s highly subjective actions represent genuine truth and justice or merely his achievements.

Plato underscores the significance of education in shaping individual character. He argues that individuals should be directed towards goodness and wisdom through proper education processes. Light in Death Note is initially a bright student with good potential. However, the influence of the Death Note transforms him into a cruel figure. It illustrates how external factors can impact the formation of an individual’s character, even in a highly extreme context. Plato presents the concept of the allegory of the cave, where individuals are trapped in a cave and only see shadows on the wall, while actual reality exists outside the cave. It reflects that humans often find themselves trapped in false realities or illusions. Light initially views the Death Note as a tool that would create a better world, but he becomes ensnared in the illusion of power and justice that does not align with reality.

Exploring Theories of Justice

Death Note operates similarly, depicting the shifts and development of theories of justice among its characters. Several characters in Death Note , such as Misa, Light, and Mikami, are highly convinced that they genuinely understand justice. The conflict between these characters and the skeptics forms the series’ core. L and Light declare themselves as embodiments of justice in a highly explicit scene. This sentiment recurs throughout the series, especially in the final episode, where Light asserts that his actions, which involve reducing violent crimes and ending wars, have made him the embodiment of justice. He states that Kira has become the law in our current world, maintaining order. He has become a justice. In this way, Death Note establishes itself as a contemporary form of Socratic dialogue, employing multiple participants to explore a universal question akin to Plato’s Republic .

From the moment Light introduces his vision of a new world in the first episode, he desires to make the world aware of his presence, someone who is dispensing righteous judgment upon wrongdoers, thus sparking a discussion on justice. While he briefly grapples with the ethical implications, his first significant challenger is Ryuk. Light outlines his plan to eliminate the most heinous criminals immediately while allowing the less severe offenders to perish. Only then, he believes, will the world progress in the right direction—a new world devoid of injustice, populated by individuals he deems honest, kind, and hardworking. However, Ryuk’s motivation stems from boredom rather than any sense of moral obligation. He recognizes the contradiction in Light’s argument, initiating the ongoing Socratic dialogue that shapes the rest of the series.

Selective Highlights of the Philosophical Exploration

We do not need to document every moment of this ongoing philosophical exploration in the series, but some notable examples illustrate the direction of this discourse. They conclude the episode by emphatically stating that they represent justice to ensure absolute clarity. Light portrays himself as a martyr, even if it means sacrificing his mental and spiritual well-being. It is peculiar, considering his years-long effort to become the ruler of the entire world. However, if we adopt his quasi-utilitarian theory of justice—where eliminating criminals and elevating one person to the status of a god will bring peace and happiness to the most significant number of people—then he perceives it as self-sacrifice, fully aware that becoming the deity of the new world entails a gradual transformation into Kira, gradually eroding his true self. It also means that in exchange for purifying a corrupt world, he must grapple with his corruption, which he acknowledges. Kira likely recognizes the inherent evil in his actions but is determined to reshape the world, even if it means becoming a martyr at the cost of his soul. It is his interpretation of justice.

In Light’s view, the world requires a Kira, and since he has been chosen, he is prepared to offer himself as a sacrifice to make it happen. Kira’s concept of justice resembles an Old Testament-style reckoning, where wrongdoers receive punishment, with blasphemy being the gravest sin. The church-like choral music, the homage to Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, the recurring imagery of apples, and even L washing Light’s feet all contribute to this representation. Given that Light spends most of the series assuming the role of Kira, the distinction between the two may be insignificant. However, Kira appears to embody Light’s ideal vision of justice: a truly just world devoid of criminals, achieved through any means necessary.

Nevertheless, L highlights the inconsistencies in Kira’s reasoning. If a just world is one without criminality, then the criminal act of taking lives is also an injustice. It resembles Ryuk’s objection in the first episode, but the difference is that Ryuk merely hints at Light’s potential malevolence, whereas L presents a competing argument. Not only is Kira unjust, but capturing Kira is itself an act of justice. The show refrains from explicitly defining what L believes justice is, but it underscores that L sees Kira as a transgressor of that undefined concept. This approach mirrors the Socratic method of engaging in dialogues, which involves scrutinizing and questioning ideas to understand the truth better.

Kira’s Vision of Justice

Kira envisions justice as a lofty ideal, a world free from criminals. Conversely, L only discusses justice as a response to injustice. Many characters in Death Note , including Misa, Light, and Mikami, align with Light’s vision of ideal justice, while others echo L’s perspective. Much like Light and Plato, John Rawls argues that to rectify societal injustices, we must first define what “justice” entails. Rawls and Plato may have differing viewpoints, but they both endorse “ideal theory”—the idea that when contemplating justice, we should initially strive to comprehend what it would look like in a perfect world where everyone behaves perfectly. This concept of justice under “ideal” conditions, which for Light and Mikami involves the demise of many individuals, comes into play.

Rawls presents two fundamental principles of justice in his theory: the principle of fundamental equality, which ensures equal basic rights and freedoms for all individuals, and the difference principle, which allows for inequality as long as it benefits the least advantaged members of society. In Death Note , Light employs the Death Note to punish those he deems guilty. It raises questions about whether Light’s actions violate Rawls’ principles of justice or if Light perceives his actions as a means to establish fair equality by purging the world of wrongdoing.

Rawls discusses the role of the state in preserving justice as fair equality. The state should act as a neutral institution that governs communal life and ensures the protection of individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms. In Death Note , no state intervention is attempted to halt or regulate Light’s actions. It can be seen as a failure of the state to fulfill its Rawlsian role of preventing individuals from using their power for personal purposes that harm society.

Rawls allows for fair social differences as long as they benefit the least advantaged individuals. Light initially had noble intentions to cleanse the world of evil, but his actions resulted in extreme social disparities and harm to innocent individuals. It raises questions about whether the social differences generated by Light’s actions can be considered fair inequalities according to Rawls’ perspective.

Injustice Theory

On the contrary, philosopher Naomi Zack advocates a concept known as “injustice theory.” This approach does not rely on ideals of “justice” and a perfectly fair society. Instead, it focuses on identifying instances of injustice as they occur. It is much more practical to pinpoint specific cases of injustice rather than starting with a broadly applicable definition of justice. According to this perspective, justice can only be applied to rectify a situation after injustice has been recognized.

One of the critical aspects of Death Note is the power possessed by the book’s owner—the ability to kill someone simply by writing their name in the book is an extraordinary power. It raises ethical questions about how much power can be potentially abused. From Zack’s viewpoint, bestowing excessive power upon specific individuals can be seen as a form of injustice because it disrupts the balance of power. Light uses this power to eliminate criminals and create a fairer world. However, moral considerations about whether Light has the right to make life-and-death decisions for others take center stage. Zack focuses on the moral question of who has the authority to determine the fate of others, and in this case, Light’s use of the Death Note can be regarded as a moral injustice.

In Death Note , elements of systemic injustice manifest in various forms, such as inequality within the legal system, the exercise of power by government institutions, and so forth. Zack might highlight how Kira, Light’s pseudonym, using the Death Note creates new inequalities in society and leads to greater injustices. Another significant character in the series is L, a detective who strives to stop Kira. Zack might assess L’s actions in combating Kira as an effort to restore justice in a situation distorted by the use of the Death Note .

Differing Philosophical Approaches

Although Light and those who share his views prefer a Rawlsian approach, envisioning a world built upon the ideals of justice, L is more concerned with addressing injustices as they arise, making any concrete definition of justice a secondary concern. The conflict and discourse between these contrasting beliefs significantly shape the show’s philosophical method. However, other characters, such as Matsuda, add complexity to the conversation, preventing it from being neatly divided between two ideologies.

In many instances, characters like L, N, and M are primarily interested in engaging in a battle of wits. This “game” may symbolize a clash between competing moralities or reflect the obsession of narcissistic geniuses with solving puzzles. Regardless, this absence of solid convictions regarding a definitive concept of justice serves at least one vital purpose. It means that L often assumes the role of an inquisitor, not unlike Socrates.

Another somewhat unexpected inquisitor is Matsuda, who raises genuine questions about the moral judgments of various characters, including Light, Kira, the Japanese Police, and L. Simultaneously, he faces mockery for his inability to conform to the established norms. Early in the series, he challenges L’s characterization of Kira’s morality as childish by pointing out a decreased violent crime since Kira’s actions began. He clarifies that he does not endorse Kira’s vision or actions but remains skeptical of L’s unwavering stance. Later in the series, Matsuda engages in a discussion with other Task Force members that questions the very foundation of their group: the belief in Kira’s inherent evilness.

With his constant self-doubt, Matsuda serves as both a representative of the audience and a philosophical counterpoint to the other characters. Unlike Light, who is resolute in his project; L and N, who are fixated on capturing him; Chief Yagami, who is determined to find the faithful Kira to clear his son’s name; and the rest of the Task Force, who have staked their lives and convictions on ending Kira’s reign of justice, Matsuda consistently questions the values presented to him as indisputable facts. Matsuda’s demeanor differs significantly from the confidence of Plato’s debating club members, but he foremost recognizes his ignorance, a crucial aspect in exposing the ignorance of those around him. Even in the end, as he takes Light’s life, he does so with questions rather than answers.

Challenging Notions of Justice

Matsuda’s role in challenging the audience’s and characters’ notions of justice helps to bring some order to a series of conflicting ideas, making the conversation more understandable. Over ten years of discussions on fan forums, it has become clear that there needs to be a consensus on who truly embodies justice or whether Light’s vision of the New World justifies the means employed. However, precisely, this ambiguity gives the show its emotional impact. While Death Note is an engaging detective procedural, it never deviates from its fundamental question: What constitutes a just world? Most importantly, it needs to provide a definitive answer.

In the thirtieth episode, aptly titled Justice , Light essentially sums it up by stating that if Kira is caught, he becomes evil, but if he wins and rules the world, he represents justice. As the show concludes with Kira’s defeat and N’s brand of justice seemingly prevailing, it leaves us with a lingering sense that things might have taken a very different turn if Kira had survived in the warehouse. Instead of offering closure by suggesting that L and N inherently embody more justice than Kira, this notion of a winner-takes-all approach to morality reveals that the conflict between competing moral codes was akin to a logical game rather than a quest for ultimate truth.

While N may represent justice within the show’s world, the distinction could be more precise for us as viewers. Regarding the interpretation and implications of justice, Death Note opens up more possibilities than it closes. Concerning whether figures like Socrates, Rawls, or Zack would consider L or Kira as paragons of justice, the short answer is certainly not. Although there are some other unexplored similarities, such as themes of tyranny and the focus on a just city, the natural connection between the justice depicted in Republic and Death Note lies not in their definitions but in their methods. Consequently, this approach sets Death Note apart as a show actively engaged in philosophical exploration rather than merely borrowing philosophical concepts.

Bibliography

  • Carter Jr, J. (2019). Death Note: The facade of justice and the desire to ease loneliness . Tiger Media Network.
  • Foster, M. B. (1951). On Plato’s Conception of Justice in the Republic . The Philosophical Quarterly.
  • Hoyne, J. (2015). What is Justice? A Critical Analysis of the Death Note Anime . University of Washington.
  • Ristola, J. (2015). Ethics of Death Note. Critical Hit!! .
  • Stokem, R. (2021). Why Death Note Is Less Morally Ambiguous Than We Think . CBR.
  • Zack, N. (2017). Starting from Injustice . The Harvard Review of Philosophy 24:79-95.

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Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba Analysis Essay

Have you ever witnessed a parent have to bury their child as a result of an early, savage death, which they know was caused by the hands of a vicious and cruel murderer? Have you ever seen a serial killer outlive the victims of their crimes by decades? In our modern world, violent crime rates have increased significantly. Innocent lives are at risk every day with no motive aside from an evil criminal’s lack of empathy and twisted mind. Women, children, the elderly, everyone is a potential target to a criminal. They don’t care about what happens to you or your family as a result of their actions, and everyday more and more violent crimes are being committed. There are so many free criminals roaming our world that you’ve likely passed killer on the street multiple times without realizing it. Every day one can look to the news to find a new victim of murder or rape, which is often followed by the eerie knowledge that the culprit is still roaming about. It's about time we stop these monsters once and for all to protect ourselves and our future generations.  

Tsugumi Ohba’s famous manga and anime Death Note has risen in fame since its debut in 2003. The story follows a high school boy named Light Yagami who comes across a mysterious notebook. He soon discovers that this notebook has the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in the book in any way that is specified. Light begins to use this book to target criminals. He starts locally, but soon expands his abilities throughout Japan. After some research on the news, he decides who he thinks should deserve to live based on their criminal actions. The National Police Agency (NPA) discovers that someone consistent is killing these criminals, and they seek to find this person and arrest them for their crimes. The show continues to follow Light as he tries to evade the police, which is notably run by his father, as he balances the weight of his newfound responsibility and pursues a goal of creating a perfect society. 

This anime brought upon a moral debate between viewers. Was Light Yagami justified in mass murder at the expense of only those who have committed heinous crimes? The answer: of course, he was. In fact, the boy should be considered an international hero. He single handedly rid the world of the worst of our kind. People who commit crimes with no remorse and continue to corrupt our society are a waste of space and air that could be used to aid essential members like our doctors and lawyers. We have entire police forces and authority figures who dedicate their lives to catching the criminals and felons of this world, and many of them have lost their lives in the process. Light Yagami took the danger out of the chase. He can do the job while being at the comfort of his own home. The National Police Agency clearly has their priorities out of line if Light is the one they chase when there are millions of murders and thieves out there. Instead of focusing on the negatives, take a moment to realize that the work of Light Yagami could only benefit this world, and we should recognize his heroic actions instead of antagonize him. Statistically, the Death Note is our best option to handle the criminals of this world. 

Thanks to the work of Light Yagami, crime rates in Japan decreased significantly. With the flick of a pen, he made those who committed crimes disappear. Light Yagami doesn’t get to pursue his dream of creating a criminal-free world, as in the end he is shot in killed, but if he were to continue, he could have rid his country of crime completely. The ones who were stealing, murdering, and assaulting were being exterminated like bugs, as they should have been much earlier, and those who might have been considering such acts would comply to the law out of fear of their life. These two tactics would have rid Japan, and potentially the world, of the crime we have grown so accustomed to. Our world has had to adapt to criminals by creating security systems and carrying weapons in the event of an attack. Using the death note would leave the world with only the best of people to run and inhabit it, riding us of many stresses in life. With the help of the Death Note, these problems would be no more, which the police failed to recognize. 

Light Yagami could have also aided the world when it comes to the issue of overpopulation. It’s no secret that the population of Earth is growing faster than people are dying. With new technology and medical knowledge, people can live longer and more births can be done successfully. This may seem like a wonderful thing, which one could easily argue it to be, but soon enough our world will no longer be able to hold us all. Organizations like NASA have already begun programs to try to discover and inhabit other Earth-like planets, like Mars, so that we have a place to go when Earth runs out of space. Some might argue that this problem isn’t something for us to worry about, but we have to start finding solutions now in order for our new generations to be prepared. With the use of the death note, Light Yagami could solve this issue very easily and quickly. In many countries, like Venezuela and Nigeria, criminals make up over 50 percent of their total population. Killing off these criminals would not only make the world a safer place, but it would also be a reliable solution to halt the overpopulation of Earth until we can discover more permanent options. It could almost double the amount of time our planet is predicted to have left, and the lowering of our population could also help reduce the abundance of pollution corrupting our planet. When thinking about the safety of our future, sacrifices will be needed. Who better to sacrifice than those that only cause our home harm?  

When it comes to overpopulation, the world isn’t our only concern. Think a little smaller for a moment. For many years a pressing matter has been how our jails and penitentiaries are being overflowed with new criminals each year. More criminals are being discovered faster than we can make room for them. Killing these felons with the death note would open space in these facilities, making them safer and more habitable for the ones who have committed smaller crimes and are not past the point of redemption. That is what many of these facilities are made for: redemption. Why not get rid of those who are beyond such a task? Irredeemable criminals are a waste of time and space that is better off offered to those who could turn into useful members of society.   

Using the Death Note would also eliminate the risk of a captured criminal escaping custody, which has happened several times before. Humans aren’t perfect creatures, so mistakes are bound to be made. Take Ted Bundy, for example. After he was caught for his numerous murders, he escaped by jumping out a library window of the building the police were holding him, which was not being guarded or secured properly. After he was caught a second time, he escaped custody once again by starving himself so that he could fit into a hole in the ceiling of his cell. Both times the serial killer escaped he was able to continue murdering innocent young women. These murders could have been avoided. If our criminals, like Ted Bundy, were to be eliminated by the Death Note, there would be no more opportunity for crime or potential of escape.  

Think about it. By using the Death Note Light Yagami was able to eliminate the scum of the Earth. People who don’t contribute to society, only hurt it, don’t deserve to benefit from it. Criminals walk our streets and take our lives without a second thought. Killing them through the Death Note is the only reliable solution to solve crime. Some, like the NPA, think that these criminals deserve to live, but why should we care about their lives when they so easily disregarded ours? Killing off these criminals have more statistical benefits like solving crime rates, overpopulation, and repeated offense, and these murderers, rapists, etc., and they would finally pay for their crimes. Our criminals have the luxury of rotting in prison cells for years to come, which simply cannot suffice. Death is the ultimate punishment, especially to those who continue to taint our society. Not to mention, its much quicker and less expensive than a lethal injection. 

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Death Note : L, Anonymity & Eluding Entropy

anime , information theory , crypto , literary criticism , insight porn , Bayes

Applied Computer Science: On Murder Considered As STEM Field—using information theory to quantify the magnitude of Light Yagami’s mistakes in Death Note and considering fixes

Detective Stories As Optimization Problems

De-anonymization, randomizing, external links, communicating with a death note, “bayesian jurisprudence”.

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In the manga Death Note , the protagonist Light Yagami is given the supernatural weapon “Death Note” which can kill anyone on demand, and begins using it to reshape the world. The genius detective L attempts to track him down with analysis and trickery, and ultimately succeeds. Death Note is almost a thought-experiment-given the perfect murder weapon, how can you screw up anyway? I consider the various steps of L’s process from the perspective of computer security, cryptography, and information theory, to quantify Light’s initial anonymity and how L gradually de-anonymizes him, and consider which mistake was the largest as follows: Light’s fundamental mistake is to kill in ways unrelated to his goal. Killing through heart attacks does not just make him visible early on, but the deaths reveals that his assassination method is impossibly precise and something profoundly anomalous is going on. L has been tipped off that Kira exists. Whatever the bogus justification may be, this is a major victory for his opponents. (To deter criminals and villains, it is not necessary for there to be a globally-known single anomalous or supernatural killer, when it would be equally effective to arrange for all the killings to be done naturalistically by ordinary mechanisms such as third parties/police/judiciary or used indirectly as parallel construction to crack cases.) Worse, the deaths are non-random in other ways—they tend to occur at particular times! Just the scheduling of deaths cost Light 6 bits of anonymity Light’s third mistake was reacting to the blatant provocation of Lind L. Tailor. Taking the bait let L narrow his target down to 1⁄3 the original Japanese population, for a gain of ~1.6 bits. Light’s fourth mistake was to use confidential police information stolen using his policeman father’s credentials. This mistake was the largest in bits lost. This mistake cost him 11 bits of anonymity; in other words, this mistake cost him twice what his scheduling cost him and almost 8 times the murder of Tailor! Killing Ray Penbar and the FBI team. If we assume Penbar was tasked 200 leads out of the 10,000, then murdering him and the fiancee dropped Light just 6 bits or a little over half the fourth mistake and comparable to the original scheduling mistake. 6. Endgame: At this point in the plot, L resorts to direct measures and enters Light’s life directly, enrolling at the university, with Light unable to perfectly play the role of innocent under intense in-person surveillance. From that point on, Light is screwed as he is now playing a deadly game of “Mafia” with L & the investigative team. He frittered away >25 bits of anonymity and then L intuited the rest and suspected him all along. Finally, I suggest how Light could have most effectively employed the Death Note and limited his loss of anonymity. In an appendix, I discuss the maximum amount of information leakage possible from using a Death Note as a communication device. (Note: This essay assumes a familiarity with the early plot of Death Note and Light Yagami . If you are unfamiliar with DN, see my Death Note Ending essay or consult Wikipedia or read the DN rules .)

I have called the protagonist of Death Note , Light Yagami, “hubristic” and said he made big mistakes. So I ought to explain what he did wrong and how he could do better.

While Light starts scheming and taking serious risks as early as the arrival of the FBI team in Japan, he has fundamentally already screwed up. L should never have gotten that close to Light. The Death Note kills flawlessly without forensic trace and over arbitrary distances; Death Note is almost a thought-experiment—given the perfect murder weapon, how can you screw up anyway ?

Some of the other Death Note users highlight the problem. The user in the Yotsuba Group carries out the normal executions, but also kills a number of prominent competitors. The killings directly point to the Yotsuba Group and eventually the user’s death. The moral of the story is that indirect relationships can be fatal in narrowing down the possibilities from ‘everyone’ to ‘these 8 men’.

In Light’s case, L starts with the world’s entire population of 7 billion people and needs to narrow it down to 1 person. It’s a search problem. It maps fairly directly onto basic information theory , in fact. (See also Simulation inferences , The 3 Grenades , and for case studies in applied deanonymization, Tor DNM-related arrests, 2011–2015 .) To uniquely specify one item out of 7 billion, you need 33 bits of information because log 2 (7000000000) ≈ 32.7; to use an analogy, your 32-bit computer can only address one unique location in memory out of 4 billion locations, and adding another bit doubles the capacity to >8 billion. Is 33 bits of information a lot?

Not really. L could get one bit just by looking at history or crime statistics, and noting that mass murderers are, to an astonishing degree, male 1 , thereby ruling out half the world population and actually starting L off with a requirement to obtain only 32 bits to break Light’s anonymity. 2 If Death Note users were sufficiently rational & knowledgeable, they could draw on concepts like superrationality to acausally cooperate 3 to avoid this information leakage… by arranging to pass on Death Notes to females 4 to restore a 50:50 gender ratio—for example, if for every female who obtained a Death note there were 3 males with Death Notes, then all users could roll a 1d3 dice and if 1 keep it and if 2 or 3 pass it on to someone of the opposite gender.

We should first point out that Light is always going to leak some bits. The only way he could remain perfectly hidden is to not use the Death Note at all. If you change the world in even the slightest way, then you have leaked information about yourself in principle. Everything is connected in some sense; you cannot magically wave away the existence of fire without creating a cascade of consequences that result in every living thing dying . For example, the fundamental point of Light executing criminals is to shorten their lifespan —there’s no way to hide that. You can’t both shorten their lives and not shorten their lives. He is going to reveal himself this way, at the least, to the actuaries and statisticians.

More historically, this has been a challenge for cryptographers, like in WWII: how did they exploit the Enigma & other communications without revealing they had done so? Their solution was misdirection: constantly arranging for plausible alternatives , like search planes that ‘just happened’ to find German submarines or leaks to controlled known German agents about there being undiscovered spies. (However, the famous story that Winston Churchill allowed the town of Coventry to be bombed rather than risk the secret of Ultra has since been put into question .) This worked in part because of German overconfidence, because the war did not last too long, and in part because each cover story was plausible on its own and no one was, in the chaos of war, able to see the whole picture and realize that there were too many lucky search planes and too many undiscoverable moles; eventually, however, someone would realize, and apparently some Germans did conclude that Enigma had to have been broken (but much too late). It’s not clear to me what would be the best misdirection for Light to mask his normal killings—use the Death Note’s control features to invent an anti-criminal terrorist organization?

So there is a real challenge here: one party is trying to infer as much as possible from observed effects, and the other is trying to minimize how much the former can observe while not stopping entirely. How well does Light balance the competing demands?

However, he can try to reduce the leakage and make his anonymity set as large as possible. For example, killing every criminal with a heart attack is a dead give-away. Criminals do not die of heart attacks that often. (The point is more dramatic if you replace ‘heart attack’ with ‘lupus’; as we all know, in real life it’s never lupus.) Heart attacks are a subset of all deaths, and by restricting himself, Light makes it easier to detect his activities. 1000 deaths of lupus are a blaring red alarm; 1000 deaths of heart attacks are an oddity; and 1000 deaths distributed over the statistically likely suspects of cancer and heart disease etc. are almost invisible (but still noticeable in principle).

So, Light’s fundamental mistake is to kill in ways unrelated to his goal. Killing through heart attacks does not just make him visible early on, but the deaths reveals that his assassination method is supernaturally precise. L has been tipped off that Kira exists. Whatever the bogus justification may be, this is a major victory for his opponents.

First mistake, and a classic one of serial killers (eg. the BTK killer’s vaunting was less anonymous than he believed): delusions of grandeur and the desire to taunt, play with, and control their victims and demonstrate their power over the general population. From a literary perspective, this similarity is clearly not an accident, as we are meant to read Light as the Sociopath Hero archetype (akin to Grand Admiral Thrawn ): his ultimate downfall is the consequence of his fatal personality flaw , hubris , particularly in the original sadistic sense. Light cannot help but self-sabotage like this.

(This is also deeply problematic from the point of carrying out Light’s theory of deterrence: to deter criminals and villains, it is not necessary for there to be a globally-known single supernatural killer, when it would be equally effective to arrange for all the killings to be done naturalistically by third parties/police/judiciary or used indirectly to crack cases. Arguably the deterrence would be more effective the more diffused it’s believed to be—since a single killer has a finite lifespan, finite knowledge, fallibility, and idiosyncratic preferences which reduce the threat and connection to criminality, while if all the deaths were ascribed to unusually effective police or detectives, this would be inferred as a general increase in all kinds of police competence, one which will not instantly disappear when one person gets bored or hit by a bus.)

Worse, the deaths are non-random in other ways—they tend to occur at particular times! Graphed, daily patterns jump out.

L was able to narrow down the active times of the presumable student or worker to a particular range of longitude, say 125–150° out of 180°; and what country is most prominent in that range? Japan. So that cut down the 7 billion people to around 0.128 billion; 0.128 billion requires 27 bits (log 2 (128000000) ≈ 26.93) so just the scheduling of deaths cost Light 6 bits of anonymity!

On a side-note, some might be skeptical that one can infer much of anything from the graph and that Death Note was just glossing over this part. “How can anyone infer that it was someone living in Japan just from 2 clumpy lines at morning and evening in Japan?” But actually, such a graph is surprisingly precise. I learned this years before I watched Death Note , when I was heavily active on Wikipedia; often I would wonder if two editors were the same person or roughly where an editor lived. What I would do if their edits or user page did not reveal anything useful is I would go to “Kate’s edit counter ” and I would examine the times of day all their hundreds or thousands of edits were made at. Typically, what one would see was ~4 hours where there were no edits whatsoever, then ~4 hours with moderate to high activity, a trough, then another gradual rise to 8 hours later and a further decline down to the first 4 hours of no activity. These periods quite clearly corresponded to sleep (pretty much everyone is asleep at 4 AM), morning, lunch & work hours, evening, and then night with people occasionally staying up late and editing 5 . There was noise, of course, from people staying up especially late or getting in a bunch of editing during their workday or occasionally traveling, but the overall patterns were clear—never did I discover that someone was actually a nightwatchman and my guess was an entire hemisphere off. (Academic estimates based on user editing patterns correlate well with what is predicted by on the basis of the geography of IP edits. 6 )

Computer security research offers more scary results. Perhaps because “everything is correlated” , there are an amazing number of ways to break someone’s privacy and de-anonymize them ( background ; there is also financial incentive to do so in order to advertise & price discriminate ):

small errors in their computer’s clock’s time (even over Tor )

Web browsing history 7 or just the version and plugins 8 ; and this is when random Firefox or Google Docs or Facebook bugs don’t leak your identity

Timing attacks based on how slow pages load 9 (how many cache misses there are; timing attacks can also be used to learn website usernames or # of private photos )

Knowledge of what ‘groups’ a person was in could uniquely identify 42% 10 of people on social networking site XING , and possibly Facebook & 6 others

Similarly, knowing just a few movies someone has watched 11 , popular or obscure, through Netflix often grants access to the rest of their profile if it was included in the Netflix Prize . (This was more dramatic than the AOL search data scandal because AOL searches had a great deal of personal information embedded in the search queries, but in contrast, the Netflix data seems impossibly impoverished—there’s nothing obviously identifying about what anime one has watched unless one watches obscure ones.)

The researchers generalized their Netflix work to find isomorphisms between arbitrary graphs 12 (such as social networks stripped of any and all data except for the graph structure), for example Flickr and Twitter , and give many examples of public datasets that could be de-anonymized 13 —such as your Amazon purchases ( Calandrino et al 2011 ; blog ). These attacks are on just the data that is left after attempts to anonymize data; they don’t exploit the observation that the choice of what data to remove is as interesting as what is left, what Julian Sanchez calls “The Redactor’s Dilemma” .

Usernames hardly bear discussing

Your hospital records can be de-anonymized just by looking at public voting rolls 14 That researcher later went on to run “experiments on the identifiability of de-identified survey data [ cite ], pharmacy data [ cite ], clinical trial data [ cite ], criminal data [State of Delaware v. Gannett Publishing], DNA [ cite , cite , cite ], tax data, public health registries [ cite (sealed by court), etc.], web logs, and partial Social Security numbers [ cite ].” (Whew.)

Your typing is surprisingly unique and the sounds of typing and arm movements can identify you or be used snoop on input & steal passwords

Knowing your morning commute as loosely as to the individual blocks (or less granular) uniquely identifies ( Golle & Partridge 2009 ) you; knowing your commute to the zip code/census tract uniquely identifies 5% of people

Your handwriting is fairly unique, sure—but so is how you fill in bubbles on tests 15

Speaking of handwriting, your writing style can be pretty unique too

the unnoticeable background electrical hum may uniquely date audio recordings . Unnoticeable sounds can also be used to persistently track devices/people, exfiltrate information across air gaps, and can be used to monitor room presence/activity, and even monitor finger movements or tapping noises to help break passphrases or copy physical keys

you may have heard of laser microphones for eavesdropping… but what about eavesdropping via video recording of potato chip bags , candy wrappers , hanging light bulbs , or power LEDs ? ( press release ), or cellphone gyroscopes ? Lasers are good for detecting your heartbeat as well, which is—of course— uniquely identifying And hard drives can be turned into microphones. Soon even Light’s potato chips will no longer be safe…

steering & driving patterns are sufficiently unique as to allow identification of drivers from as little as 1 turn in some cases: Hallac et al 2017 . These attacks also work on smartphones for time zone, barometric pressure, public transportation timing, IP address, & pattern of connecting to WiFi or cellular networks ( Mosenia et al 2017 ), or accelerometers

smartphones can be IDed by the pattern of pixel noise, due to sensor noise such as small imperfections in the CCD sensors and lenses (and Facebook has even patented this )

smartphone usage patterns, such as app preferences, app switching rates, consistency of commute patterns, overall geographic mobility, slower or less driving have been correlated with Alzheimer’s disease ( Kourtis et al 2019 ) and personality ( Stachl et al 2019 ). 16

Eye tracking is also interesting .

voices correlate with not just age/gender/ethnicity, but… overall facial appearance ?

(The only surprising thing about DNA-related privacy breaks is how long they have taken to show up.)

To summarize: differential privacy is almost impossible 17 and privacy is dead 18 . (See also “Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization” .)

Light’s third mistake was reacting to the canary trap provocation of the Lind L. Tailor broadcast, criticizing Kira, and Light lashing out to use the clearly-visible name & face to kill Lind L. Tailor. The live broadcast was a blatant attempt to provoke a reaction—any reaction—from a surprised & unprepared Light, and that alone should have been sufficient reason to simply ignore it (even if Light could not have reasonably known exactly how it was a trap): one should never do what an enemy wants one to do on ground & terms & timing prepared by the enemy. (Light had the option to use the Death Note at any time in the future, and that would have been almost as good a demonstration of his power as doing so during a live broadcast.)

Running the broadcast in 1 region was also a gamble & a potential mistake on L’s part; he had no real reason to think Light was in Kanto (or if he did already have priors /information to that effect, he should’ve been bisecting Kanto) and should have arranged for it to be broadcast to exactly half of Japan’s population, obtaining an expected maximum of 1 bit. But it was one that paid off; he narrowed his target down to 1⁄3 the original Japanese population, for a gain of ~1.6 bits. (You can see it was a gamble by considering if Light had been outside Kanto; since he would not see it live, he would not have reacted, and all L would learn is that his suspect was in that other 2⁄3 of the population, for a gain of only ~0.3 bits.)

But even this wasn’t a huge mistake. He lost 6 bits to his schedule of killing, and lost another 1.6 bits to temperamentally killing Lind L. Tailor, but since the male population of Kanto is 21.5 million (43 million total), he still has ~24 bits of anonymity left (log 2 (21500000) ≈ 24.36). That’s not too terrible, and the loss is mitigated even further by other details of this mistake, as pointed out by Zmflavius ; specifically, that unlike “being male” or “being Japanese”, the information about being in Kanto is subject to decay , since people move around all the time for all sorts of reasons:

…quite possibly Light’s biggest mistake was inadvertently revealing his connection to the police hierarchy by hacking his dad’s computer. Whereas even the Lind L. Taylor debacle only revealed his killing mechanics and narrowed him down to “someone in the Kanto region” (which is, while an impressive accomplishment based on the information he had, entirely meaningless for actually finding a suspect), there were perhaps a few hundred people who had access to the information Light’s dad had. There’s also the fact that L knew that Light was probably someone in their late teens, meaning that there was an extremely high chance that at the end of the school year, even that coup of his would expire, thanks to students heading off to university all over Japan (of course, Light went to Toudai , and a student of his caliber not attending such a university would be suspicious, but L had no way of knowing that then). I mean, perhaps L had hoped that Kira would reveal himself by suddenly moving away from the Kanto region, but come the next May, he would have no way of monitoring unusual movements among late teenagers, because a large percentage of them would be moving for legitimate reasons.

(One could still run the inference “backwards” on any particular person to verify they were in Kanto in the right time period, but as time passes, it becomes less possible to run the inference “forwards” and only examine people in Kanto.)

This mistake also shows us that the important thing that information theory buys us, really, is not the bit (we could be using log 10 rather than log 2 , and compares “dits” rather than “bits”) so much as comparing events in the plot on a logarithmic scale. If we simply looked at how the absolute number of how many people were ruled out at each step, we’d conclude that the first mistake by Light was a debacle without compare since it let L rule out >6 billion people, approximately 60× more people than all the other mistakes put together would let L rule out. Mistakes are relative to each other, not absolutes.

Light’s fourth mistake was to use confidential police information stolen using his policeman father’s credentials. This was unnecessary as there are countless criminals he could still execute using public information (face+name is not typically difficult to get), and if for some reason he needed a specific criminal, he could either restrict use of secret information to a few high-priority victims—if only to avoid suspicions of hacking & subsequent security upgrades costing him access!—or manufacture, using the Death Note’s coercive powers or Kira’s public support, a way to release information such as a ‘leak’ or passing public transparency laws.

This mistake was the largest in bits lost. But interestingly, many or even most Death Note fans do not seem to regard this as his largest mistake, instead pointing to his killing Lind L. Tailor or perhaps relying too much on Mikami. The information theoretical perspective strongly disagrees, and lets us quantify how large this mistake was.

When he acts on the secret police information, he instantly cuts down his possible identity to one out of a few thousand people connected to the police. Let’s be generous and say 10,000. It takes 14 bits to specify 1 person out of 10,000 (log 2 (10000) ≈ 13.29)—as compared to the 24–25 bits to specify a Kanto dweller.

This mistake cost him 11 bits of anonymity; in other words, this mistake cost him twice what his scheduling cost him and almost 8 times the murder of Tailor!

In comparison, the fifth mistake, murdering Ray Penbar’s fiancee and focusing L’s suspicion on Penbar’s assigned targets was positively cheap. If we assume Penbar was tasked 200 leads out of the 10,000, then murdering him and the fiancee dropped Light from 14 bits to 8 bits (log 2 (200) ≈ 7.64) or just 6 bits or a little over half the fourth mistake and comparable to the original scheduling mistake.

At this point in the plot, L resorts to direct measures and enters Light’s life directly, enrolling at the university. From this point on, Light is screwed as he is now playing a deadly game of Mafia with L & the investigative team. He frittered away >25 bits of anonymity and then L intuited the rest and suspected him all along. (We could justify L skipping over the remaining 8 bits by pointing out that L can analyze the deaths and infer psychological characteristics like arrogance, puzzle-solving, and great intelligence, which combined with heuristically searching the remaining candidates, could lead him to zero in on Light.)

From the theoretical point of view, the game was over at that point. The challenge for L then became proving it to L’s satisfaction under his self-imposed moral constraints. 19

Security Is Hard (Let’s Go Shopping)

What should Light have done? That’s easy to answer, but tricky to implement.

One could try to manufacture dis information. Terence Tao rehearses many of the above points about information theory & anonymity, and goes on to loosely discuss the possible benefits of faking information :

…one additional way to gain more anonymity is through deliberate disinformation . For instance, suppose that one reveals 100 independent bits of information about oneself. Ordinarily, this would cost 100 bits of anonymity (assuming that each bit was a priori equally likely to be true or false), by cutting the number of possibilities down by a factor of 2 100 ; but if 5 of these 100 bits (chosen randomly and not revealed in advance) are deliberately falsified, then the number of possibilities increases again by a factor of (100 choose 5) ~ 2 26 , recovering about 26 bits of anonymity. In practice one gains even more anonymity than this, because to dispel the disinformation one needs to solve a satisfiability problem, which can be notoriously intractable computationally, although this additional protection may dissipate with time as algorithms improve (eg. by incorporating ideas from compressed sensing ).

The difficulty with suggesting that Light should—or could —have used disinformation on the timing of deaths is that we are, in effect, engaging in a sort of hindsight bias . How exactly is Light or anyone supposed to know that L could deduce his timezone from his killings? I mentioned an example of using Wikipedia edits to localize editors, but that technique was unique to me among WP editors 20 and no doubt there are many other forms of information leakage I have never heard of despite compiling a list; if I were Light, even if I remembered my Wikipedia technique, I might not bother evenly distributing my killing over the clock or adopting a deceptive pattern (eg. suggesting I was in Europe rather than Japan). If Light had known he was leaking timing information but didn’t know that someone out there was clever enough to use it (a “known unknown”), then we might blame him; but how is Light supposed to know these “unknown unknowns”?

Randomization is the answer. Randomization and encryption scramble the correlations between input and output, and they would serve as well in Death Note as they do in cryptography & statistics in the real world, at the cost of some efficiency. The point of randomization, both in cryptography and in statistical experiments, is to not just prevent the leaked information or confounders (respectively) you do know about but also the ones you do not yet know about.

To steal & paraphrase an example from Jim Manzi’s Uncontrolled : you’re running a weight-loss experiment. You know that the effectiveness might vary with each subject’s pre-existing weight, but you don’t believe in randomization (you’re a practical man! only prissy statisticians worry about randomization!); so you split the subjects by weight, and for convenience you allocate them by when they show up to your experiment—in the end, there are exactly 10 experimental subjects over 150 pounds and 10 controls over 150 pounds, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, it turns out that unbeknownst to you, a genetic variant controls weight gain and a whole extended family showed up at your experiment early on and they all got allocated to ‘experimental’ and none of them to ‘control’ (since you didn’t need to randomize, right? you were making sure the groups were matched on weight!). Your experiment is now bogus and misleading. Of course, you could run a second experiment where you make sure the experimental and control groups are matched on weight and also now matched on that genetic variant… but now there’s the potential for some third confounder to hit you. If only you had used randomization—then you would probably have put some of the variants into the other group as well and your results wouldn’t’ve been bogus!

So to deal with Light’s first mistake, simply scheduling every death on the hour will not work because the wake-sleep cycle is still present. If he set up a list and wrote down n criminals for each hour to eliminate the peak-troughs rather than randomizing, could that still go wrong? Maybe: we don’t know what information might be left in the data which an L or Turing could decipher. I can speculate about one possibility—the allocation of each kind of criminal to each hour. If one were to draw up lists and go in order (hey, one doesn’t need randomization, right?), then the order might go ‘criminals in the morning newspaper, criminals on TV, criminals whose details were not immediately given but were available online, criminals from years ago, historical criminals etc’; if the morning-newspaper-criminals start at say 6 AM Japan time… And allocating evenly might be hard, since there’s naturally going to be shortfalls when there just aren’t many criminals that day or the newspapers aren’t publishing (holidays?) etc., so the shortfall periods will pinpoint what the Kira considers ‘end of the day’.

A much safer procedure is thorough-going randomization applied to timing, subjects, and manner of death. Even if we assume that Light was bound and determined to reveal the existence of Kira and gain publicity and international notoriety (a major character flaw in its own right; accomplishing things, taking credit—choose one), he still did not have to reduce his anonymity much past 32 bits.

Each execution’s time could be determined by a random dice roll (say, a 24-sided dice for hours and a 60-sided dice for minutes).

Selecting method of death could be done similarly based on easily researched demographic data, although perhaps irrelevant (serving mostly to conceal that a killing has taken place).

Selecting criminals could be based on internationally accessible periodicals that plausibly every human has access to, such as the New York Times , and deaths could be delayed by months or years to broaden the possibilities as to where the Kira learned of the victim (TV? books? the Internet?) and avoiding issues like killing a criminal only publicized on one obscure Japanese public television channel. And so on.

Let’s remember that all this is predicated on anonymity, and on Light using low-tech strategies; as one person asked me, “why doesn’t Light set up an cryptographic assassination market or just take over the world? He would win without all this cleverness.” Well, then it would not be Death Note .

Death Note Script?', Gwern 2009">“Who wrote the Death Note script?” (statistical analysis of authorship)

Discussion:

Hacker News: 1 , 2 , 3

Reddit: 1 , 2

Gigazine (JA)

Translation: Russian (RU)

“On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts” , Thomas De Quincey

“Stakeout: how the FBI tracked and busted a Chicago Anon; Continuous surveillance, informants, trap-and-trace gear-the FBI spared no …” (deanonymizing Jeremy Hammond )

“When Anonymous Isn’t Really Anonymous”

“Why I’m not an entropist” , Syverson 2013

“Toxic pairs, re-identification, and information theory: Nationality & Religion”

“How I targeted the Reddit CEO with Facebook ads to get a job interview at Reddit” ( HN )

“‘Shattered’: Inside the secret battle to save America’s undercover spies in the digital age”

“The signal quality of earnings announcements: evidence from an informed trading cartel” , Xie 2020

One might wonder how much information one could send intentionally with a Death Note, as opposed to inadvertently leak bits about one’s identity. As deaths are by and large publicly known information, we’ll assume the sender and recipient have some sort of pre-arranged key or one-time pad (although one would wonder why they’d use such an immoral and clumsy system as opposed to steganography or messages online).

A death inflicted by a Death Note has 3 main distinguishing traits which one can control—who, when, and how:

The ‘who?’ is already calculated for us: if it takes 33 bits to specify a unique human, then a particular human can convey 33 bits. Concerns about learnability (how would you learn of an Amazon tribesman’s death?) imply that it’s really <33 bits.

If you try some scheme to encode more bits into the choice of assassination, you either wind up with 33 bits or you wind up unable to convey certain combinations of bits and effectively 33 bits anyway—your scheme will tell you that to convey your desperately important message X of 50 bits telling all about L’s true identity and how you discovered it, you need to kill an Olafur Jacobs of Tanzania who weighs more than 200 pounds and is from Taiwan, but alas! Jacobs doesn’t exist for you to kill.

The ‘when’ is handled by similar reasoning. There is a certain granularity to Death Note kills: even if it is capable of timing deaths down to the nanosecond, one can’t actually witness this or receive records of this. Doctors may note time of death down to the minute, but no finer (and how do you get such precise medical records anyway?). News reports may be even less accurate, noting merely that it happened in the morning or in the late evening. In rare cases like live broadcasts, one may be able to do a little better, but even they tend to be delayed by a few seconds or minutes to allow for buffering, technical glitches be fixed, the stenographers produce the closed captioning, or simply to guard against embarrassing events (like Janet Jackson’s nipple-slip). So we’ll not assume the timing can be more accurate than the minute. But which minutes does a Death Note user have to choose from? Inasmuch as the Death Note is apparently incapable of influencing the past or causing Pratchettian 21 superluminal effects, the past is off-limits; but messages also have to be sent in time for whatever they are supposed to influence, so one cannot afford to have a window of a century. If the message needs to affect something within the day, then the user has a window of only 60 · 24 = 1440 minutes, which is log 2 (1440) = 10.49 bits; if the user has a window of a year, that’s slightly better, as a death’s timing down to the minute could embody as much as log 2 (60 · 24 · 365) = 19 bits. (Over a decade then is 22.3 bits, etc.) If we allow timing down to the second, then a year would be 24.9 bits. In any case, it’s clear that we’re not going to get more than 33 bits from the date. On the plus side, an ‘IP over Death’ protocol would be superior to some other protocols —here, the worse your latency, the more bits you could extract from the packet’s timestamp! Dinosaur Comics on compression schemes :

“Yeah, but there’s more to being smart than knowing compression schemes!” “No there’s not!” “Shoot—he knows the secret!!” –Ryan North

“Yeah, but there’s more to being smart than knowing compression schemes!” “No there’s not!” “Shoot—he knows the secret!!” –Ryan North

the circumstances (such as the place)

The ‘how’… has many more degrees of freedom. The circumstances is much more difficult to calculate. We can subdivide it in a lot of ways; here’s one:

Location (eg. latitude/longitude)

Earth has ~510,072,000,000 square meters of surface area; most of it is entirely useless from our perspective—if someone is in an airplane and dies, how on earth does one figure out the exact square meter he was above? Or on the oceans? Earth has ~148,940,000,000 square meters of land , which is more usable: the usual calculations gives us log 2 (148940000000) = 37.12 bits. (Surprised at how similar to the ‘who?’ bit calculation this is? But 37.12 - 33 = 4.12 and 2 4.12 = 17.4. The SF classic Stand on Zanzibar drew its name from the observation that the 7 billion people alive in 2010 would fit in Zanzibar only if they stood shoulder to shoulder—spread them out, and multiply that area by ~18…) This raises an issue that affects all 3: how much can the Death Note control? Can it move victims to arbitrary points in, say, Siberia? Or is it limited to within driving distance? etc. Any of those issues could shrink the 37 bits by a great deal.

Cause Of Death

The International Classification of Diseases lists upwards of 20,000 diseases, and we can imagine thousands of possible accidental or deliberate deaths. But what matters is what gets communicated: if there are 500 distinct brain cancers but the death is only reported as ‘brain cancer’, the 500 count as 1 for our purposes. But we’ll be generous and go with 20,000 for reported diseases plus accidents, which is log 2 (20000) = 14.3 bits.

Action Prior To Death

Actions prior to death overlaps with accidental causes; here the series doesn’t help us. Light’s early experiments culminating in the “L, do you know death gods love apples?” seem to imply that actions are limited in entropy as each word took a death (assuming the ordinary English vocabulary of 50,000 words, 16 bits), but other plot events imply that humans can undertake long complex plans at the order of Death Notes (like Mikami bringing the fake Death Note to the final confrontation with Near). Actions before death could be reported in great detail, or they could be hidden under official secrecy like the aforementioned death gods mentioned (Light uniquely privileged in learning it succeeded as part of L testing him). I can’t begin to guess how many distinct narratives would survive transmission or what limits the Note would set. We must leave this one undefined: it’s almost surely more than 10 bits, but how many?

Summing, we get <33 + <19 + 17 + <37 + 14 + ? = 120? bits per death.

E.T. Jaynes in his posthumous Probability Theory: The Logic of Science (on Bayesian statistics ) includes a chapter 5 on “Queer Uses For Probability Theory” , discussing such topics as ESP; miracles; heuristics & biases ; how visual perception is theory-laden; philosophy of science with regard to Newtonian mechanics and the famed discovery of Neptune ; horse-racing & weather forecasting; and finally—section 5.8, “Bayesian jurisprudence”. Jaynes’s analysis is somewhat similar in spirit to my above analysis, although mine is not explicitly Bayesian except perhaps in the discussion of gender as eliminating one necessary bit.

The following is an excerpt; see also “Bayesian Justice” .

It is interesting to apply probability theory in various situations in which we can’t always reduce it to numbers very well, but still it shows automatically what kind of information would be relevant to help us do plausible reasoning. Suppose someone in New York City has committed a murder, and you don’t know at first who it is, but you know that there are 10 million people in New York City. On the basis of no knowledge but this, e (Guilty|X) = −70 db is the plausibility that any particular person is the guilty one. How much positive evidence for guilt is necessary before we decide that some man should be put away? Perhaps +40 db , although your reaction may be that this is not safe enough, and the number ought to be higher. If we raise this number we give increased protection to the innocent, but at the cost of making it more difficult to convict the guilty; and at some point the interests of society as a whole cannot be ignored. For example, if 1000 guilty men are set free, we know from only too much experience that 200 or 300 of them will proceed immediately to inflict still more crimes upon society, and their escaping justice will encourage 100 more to take up crime. So it is clear that the damage to society as a whole caused by allowing 1000 guilty men to go free, is far greater than that caused by falsely convicting one innocent man. If you have an emotional reaction against this statement, I ask you to think: if you were a judge, would you rather face one man whom you had convicted falsely; or 100 victims of crimes that you could have prevented? Setting the threshold at +40 db will mean, crudely, that on the average not more than one conviction in 10,000 will be in error; a judge who required juries to follow this rule would probably not make one false conviction in a working lifetime on the bench. In any event, if we took +40 db starting out from −70 db, this means that in order to ensure a conviction you would have to produce about 110 db of evidence for the guilt of this particular person. Suppose now we learn that this person had a motive. What does that do to the plausibility for his guilt? Probability theory says e ( Guilty | Motive ) = e ( Guilty | X ) + 10 l o g 10 P ( Motive | Guilty ) P ( Motive | Not Guilty ) (5-38) ≃ − 70 − 10 l o g 10 P ( Motive | Not Guilty ) since P ( Motive | Guilty ) ≃ 1 , i.e. we consider it quite unlikely that the crime had no motive at all. Thus, the [importance] of learning that the person had a motive depends almost entirely on the probability P ( Motive | Not Guilty ) that an innocent person would also have a motive. This evidently agrees with our common sense, if we ponder it for a moment. If the deceased were kind and loved by all, hardly anyone would have a motive to do him in. Learning that, nevertheless, our suspect did have a motive, would then be very [important] information. If the victim had been an unsavory character, who took great delight in all sorts of foul deeds, then a great many people would have a motive, and learning that our suspect was one of them is not so [important]. The point of this is that we don’t know what to make of the information that our suspect had a motive, unless we also know something about the character of the deceased. But how many members of juries would realize that, unless it was pointed out to them? Suppose that a very enlightened judge, with powers not given to judges under present law, had perceived this fact and, when testimony about the motive was introduced, he directed his assistants to determine for the jury the number of people in New York City who had a motive. If this number is N m then P ( Motive | Not Guilty ) = N m − 1 ( Number of people in New York ) − 1 ≃ 10 − 7 ( N m − 1 ) and equation (5-38) reduces, for all practical purposes, to e ( Guilty | Motive ) ≃ − 10 log ( N m − 1 ) (5-39) You see that the population of New York has canceled out of the equation; as soon as we know the number of people who had a motive, then it doesn’t matter any more how large the city was. Note that (5-39) continues to say the right thing even when N m is only 1 or 2. You can go on this way for a long time, and we think you will find it both enlightening and entertaining to do so. For example, we now learn that the suspect was seen near the scene of the crime shortly before. From Bayes’ theorem , the [importance] of this depends almost entirely on how many innocent persons were also in the vicinity. If you have ever been told not to trust Bayes’ theorem, you should follow a few examples like this a good deal further, and see how infallibly it tells you what information would be relevant, what irrelevant, in plausible reasoning. 22 In recent years there has grown up a considerable literature on Bayesian jurisprudence; for a review with many references, see Vignaux & Robertson 1996 [This is apparently Interpreting Evidence: Evaluating Forensic Science in the Courtroom –Editor]. Even in situations where we would be quite unable to say that numerical values should be used, Bayes’ theorem still reproduces qualitatively just what your common sense (after perhaps some meditation) tells you. This is the fact that George Pólya demonstrated in such exhaustive detail that the present writer was convinced that the connection must be more than qualitative.

In fact, every single person mentioned in my Terrorism is not Effective is male, and this seems to be true of the full Wikipedia list of mass murderers as well. ↩︎

This reasoning would be wrong in the case of Misa Amane , but Misa is an absurd character—a Gothic lolita pop star who falls in love with Light through an extraordinary coincidence and doesn’t flinch at anything, even sacrificing 75% of her lifespan or her memories; hence it’s not surprising to learn on Wikipedia from the author that the motivation for her character was to avoid a “boring” all-male cast and be “a cute female”. ( Death Note is not immune to the Rule of Cool or Rule of Sexy !) ↩︎

Acausality is an odd sort of new concept in decision theory , primarily discussed in Douglas Hofstadter’s “superrationality” essays , Gary Drescher’s Good and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics ', Drescher 2006">Good and Real chapters 5–7, and on LessWrong.com . ↩︎

My first solution involved sex reassignment surgery, but that makes the situation worse, as transsexuals are so rare that an L intelligent enough to anticipate these ultra-rational Death Note users would instantly gain a huge clue: just check everyone on the surgery lists. Anyway, most Death Note users would probably prefer the passing-it-on solution. ↩︎

This applies to many other activities like Twitter posts or Google searches; eg. blogger muflax observed the same clear circadian rhythms in his Google searches by hour. ↩︎

See the 2011 paper, “Circadian patterns of Wikipedia editorial activity: A demographic analysis” . ↩︎

You can steal information through JS or CSS , and analyzing the history for inferring demographics is already patented . ↩︎

You can try your own browser live at the EFF’s Panopticlick . ↩︎

Felten & Schneider 2000 , “Timing Attacks on Web Privacy” ↩︎

See also the researchers’ blog . ↩︎

Coverage of this de-anonymization algorithm generally linked it to IMDb ratings, but the authors are clear—you could have those ratings from any source, there’s nothing special about IMDb aside from it being public and online. ↩︎

This sounds like something that ought to be NP-complete , and while the graph isomorphism problem is known to be in NP, it is almost unique in being like integer factorization —it may be easy or hard, there is no proof either way. In practice, large real-world graphs tend to be efficient to solve . ↩︎

From the paper’s abstract:

[we] develop a new re-identification algorithm targeting anonymized social-network graphs. To demonstrate its effectiveness on real-world networks, we show that a third of the users who can be verified to have accounts on both Twitter, a popular microblogging service, and Flickr, an online photo-sharing site, can be re-identified in the anonymous Twitter graph with only a 12% error rate. Our de-anonymization algorithm is based purely on the network topology, does not require creation of a large number of dummy “sybil” nodes, is robust to noise and all existing defenses, and works even when the overlap between the target network and the adversary’s auxiliary information is small.

eg. 97% of the Cambridge, Massachusetts voters could be identified with birth-date and zip code, and 29% by birth-date and just gender. ↩︎

See “Bubble Trouble: Off-Line De-Anonymization of Bubble Forms” , USENIX 2011S Security Symposium; from “New Research Result: Bubble Forms Not So Anonymous” :

If bubble marking patterns were completely random, a classifier could do no better than randomly guessing a test set’s creator, with an expected accuracy of 1⁄92 ~ 1%. Our classifier achieves over 51% accuracy. The classifier is rarely far off: the correct answer falls in the classifier’s top three guesses 75% of the time (vs. 3% for random guessing) and its top ten guesses more than 92% of the time (vs. 11% for random guessing).

See also “Inferring Human Traits From Facebook Statuses” , Cutler & Kulis 2018 / Matz et al 2019 or “Social media-predicted personality traits and values can help match people to their ideal jobs” , Kern et al 2019 , or “Predicting Mental Health From Followed Accounts on Twitter” , Costelli et al 2021 , for examples of what ordinary use of social media or media consumption can leak ( review ). ↩︎

Arvind Narayanan and Vitaly Shmatikov brusquely summarize the implications of their de-anonymization:

So, what’s the solution? We do not believe that there exists a technical solution to the problem of anonymity in social networks. Specifically, we do not believe that any graph transformation can (a) satisfy a robust definition of privacy, (b) withstand de-anonymization attacks described in our paper, and (c) preserve the utility of the graph for common data-mining and advertising purposes. Therefore, we advocate non-technical solutions.

So, the de-anonymizing just happens behind closed doors :

…researchers don’t have the incentive for deanonymization anymore. On the other hand, if malicious entities do it, naturally they won’t talk about it in public, so there will be no PR fallout. Regulators have not been very aggressive in investigating anonymized data releases in the absence of a public outcry, so that may be a negligible risk. Some have questioned whether deanonymization in the wild is actually happening. I think it’s a bit silly to assume that it isn’t, given the economic incentives. Of course, I can’t prove this and probably never can. No company doing it will publicly talk about it, and the privacy harms are so indirect that tying them to a specific data release is next to impossible. I can only offer anecdotes to explain my position: I have been approached multiple times by organizations who wanted me to deanonymize a database they’d acquired, and I’ve had friends in different industries mention casually that what they do on a daily basis to combine different databases together is essentially deanonymization.

In general, there’s no clear distinction between ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ information from the perspective of identifying/breaking privacy/reversing anonymization ( emphasis added ):

‘Quasi-identifier’ is a notion that arises from attempting to see some attributes (such as ZIP code) but not others (such as tastes and behavior) as contributing to re-identifiability. However, the major lesson from the re-identification papers of the last few years has been that any information at all about a person can be potentially used to aid re-identification.

But hey, at least the lack of privacy is two-way and the public can keep an eye on malefactors like the government, as David Brin’s The Transparent Society argues is the best outcome.

But wait, Wikileaks has revealed the massive expansion of American government secrecy due to the War on Terror and even the supposed friend of transparency, President Obama , has presided over an expansion of President George W. Bush’s secrecy programs and crackdowns on whistle-blowers of all stripes? Oh. Too bad about that, I guess. ↩︎

Given the extremely high global stakes and apparent impossibility of the murders indicating that L is deeply ignorant of extremely important information about what is going on, a more pragmatic L would have simply kidnapped & tortured or assassinated Light as soon as L began to seriously suspect Light. ↩︎

I have since seen examples of attempting to correlate activity times with location on the darknet markets and elsewhere, such as trying to infer the timezones of Dread Pirate Roberts (USA) and Satoshi Nakamoto (?). ↩︎

Terry Pratchett , Mort :

The only things known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Weedle. He reasoned like this: you can’t have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir instantaneously . Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles—kingons, or possibly queons—that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.

“Note that in these cases we are trying to decide, from scraps of incomplete information, on the truth of an Aristotelian proposition; whether the defendant did or did not commit some well-defined action. This is the situation an issue of fact for which probability theory as logic is designed. But there are other legal situations quite different; for example, in a medical malpractice suit it may be that all parties are agreed on the facts as to what the defendant actually did; the issue is whether he did or did not exercise reasonable judgment. Since there is no official, precise definition of ‘reasonable judgment’, the issue is not the truth of an Aristotelian proposition (however, if it were established that he willfully violated one of our Chapter 1 desiderata of rationality, we think that most juries would convict him). It has been claimed that probability theory is basically inapplicable to such situations, and we are concerned with the partial truth of a non-Aristotelian proposition. We suggest, however, that in such cases we are not concerned with an issue of truth at all; rather, what is wanted is a value judgment. We shall return to this topic later (Chapters 13, 18).” ↩︎

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Analysis / Death Note

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This page is just a placeholder in which we might later import some of the beautiful essays written on Headscratchers, YMMV, and the main page which is getting rather verbose with character analysis.

The Great Morality Debate

Some things to debate: Capital Punishment, Character's Morality, are L and Light really similar? Pay Evil unto Evil — is it ever really "okay?"

Queer Reading and Shipping .

Light shows no interest in girls and only uses the assumption of sexuality to cover his criminal activities.

  • He is asexual .
  • He is such a sociopathic narcissist he is incapable of loving anyone but himself.
  • It's not that uncommon to find other characters displaying feelings for Light, but both the manga and the anime give subtle hints about Light having feelings for them, leaving the audience to wonder what's really going on here...
  • It's definitely debatable, but a few sequences in the anime seem to give (subtle and admittedly ambiguous) clues about Light's feelings for both L and Misa. In episode 26, after Light manipulates Rem into killing L , Light hallucinates L sitting next to him (mouthing something that's been speculated to be "Raito-kun?") and gazes numbly at the computer. The scene then cuts to Light and Misa on a date, Light still with that numb look. Completely out of the blue, he asks Misa to move in with him — he doesn't sweet-talk her, he just blurts it out. She cheers, but Ryuk, who usually has something snide to say, just looks away.
  • There's also a scene in the anime (admittedly where Light is in his amnesiac Nice Guy mode) where Misa, tired after a long day, turns in for the night asking Light if he'd like to sleep with her, which he gets noticeably flustered about. She then says she's joking and knows that he's "saving her" for after the Kira case. Light becomes even more noticeably and vocally flustered after L teases him about being shy.
  • In one of the bonus strips, admittedly oriented towards a more humorous and light look at the series, in the thirteenth volume, Misa tells Light that she wants to give up the Death Note. Light's reaction is to grab her shoulders and protest that they're going to create a new world together, and that he needs her.
  • In the Live Action movie, there are definitely hints of a ship tease between Misa and L when they first meet. And then L proceeds to lock Misa up and restrain her in a unnecessarily perverted-looking way.
  • Misa loudly and regularly calls Ryuuzaki a pervert and that she only wants to be with Light and then he makes her laugh and she gives him a peck on the cheek. Doesn't hurt that his reaction is to smile and say "I could fall for you".
  • Light (Kira) and L are enemies and hate each other and yet there is so much Ho Yay it leads one to wonder if something else might be going on between them.
  • They are chained together for months. They stare at each other... a lot. L gives Light a symbolic foot massage... while they are both dripping wet and romantic music plays in the background.
  • L is Light's Not Love Interest . L evokes feelings in Light that he feels for no one else. L is the most important person in Light's life even after he is dead. And in the anime L is the only person on Light's mind when he's dying.
  • However even if Light has feelings for L he would never act on them because his crusade comes before anything else. If Light wants to be God of the New World L has to die. Simple as that. Though it's telling that has to remind himself of this after L invokes The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship against Kira with his lie of "I feel as if you are the first friend I've ever had." For a moment it almost seems to sway Light-he gets a very shocked look on his face and in the anime the same music that played when Gelus died for love starts playing. (The only way to kill a Shinigami is to get it to fall in love with a human and as Ryuk joked earlier Light is "already a worthy Shinigami.") L doesn't have many other cards to play other than emotional manipulation . He probably hopes to catch Light off-guard-if he gets Light riled up enough he might make a mistake so that L can catch him and have him executed. L certainly succeeds in getting under Light's skin as Light continues to obsess about L as he walks home up until he's glomped by Misa, sounding very much like a Tsundere all the way as he curses L's name (or rather his alias). Ryuk mocks this development in a very suggestive tone:
  • Yeah, that DAMN Ryuuzaki, saying he's my friend... It's not like I like him or anything!
  • Later Light has to remind himself that L is NOT his friend. "Light Yagami and "Hideki Ryuuga" appear to be friends but L is Kira's enemy."
  • Also during the Yotsuba arc when Light has lost his Kira memories and the knowledge that L is his enemy, you'd still think he'd be a bit upset with L for confining him for 50 days and making his father carry out a mock execution, yet when L ends their confinement Light seems not to hold any grudge against L for locking him up and indeed seems quite thrilled about the idea of being with L 24/7.
  • It is interesting to note when L is dying Light gets teary-eyed about it for about two seconds before displaying that memetic rape face.

"Diagnosis"

  • L and Near - Autism and/or Avoidant.
  • Mikami - Borderline
  • Misa - Dependant
  • B - Sociopathy or Psychopathy.
  • Post-Death Note Light is absolutely a sociopath. The linked essay provides a list of seven symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Light fits the four most important ones: 1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; 2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; 5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others; 7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
  • Furthermore, there are two problems with the essay: A) The choice to use the question of an APD (a condition associated with criminality) diagnosis to examine whether or not Light was a sociopath (which is a term not in psychiatric use) ignores the fact that most sociopaths are not criminals; they simply lack empathy and remorse. Most of them lead normal lives and can have quite successful careers. Light's lack of criminal or antisocial behavior prior to acquiring the Death Note is clinically insignificant. B) It ignores the fact that Light becomes incredibly sadistic as the story moves along (with the beginnings of it showing up relatively early on). Light has plenty of other problems regardless, such as Black-and-White Insanity , Narcissism , and Lack of Empathy .

Light is a Narcissist .

  • Pathological narcissism is considered to result from a person's unconscious belief that they are flawed in a way that makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. Light does indeed have a flaw (he is a serial killer out to rule the world) that would make him fundamentally unacceptable to others, and he has to live with this, both consciously and unconsciously, for years. His classification of those trying to expose and condemn him as evil ("They're the evil ones!") can be seen as a defensive mechanism, protecting his view of himself ("I am righteous! I protect the innocent!").
  • People matching the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder use black and white thinking , called splitting, as a central defense mechanism; they separate mental concepts into good versus evil, say, as an attempt to stabilize the sense of self in order to preserve self-esteem. Throughout the series Light certainly does show clear indications of perceiving himself as purely upright or admirable and others who do not conform to his will or values as purely wicked or contemptible.
  • Light has a grandiose sense of self-importance, viewing himself as special and unique (chosen to rid the world of evil), as someone who will become the God of the New World. Going on with this, he frequently indulges in fantasies of unlimited success and power (Godhood).
  • Light is extremely interpersonally exploitative: he takes advantage of people to achieve his own ends, and feels entitled to their admiration and compliance. Look at his relationships with Misa Amane, Kiyomi Takada, and Teru Mikami in particular: he enlists them to help him avoid capture and achieve his goals and leaves them when convenient for himself. He is floored with Mikami when he doesn’t obey his instructions to the letter , and he actually calls out to Takada and Misa for help at the end, even though Takada is dead and he has effectively abandoned Misa .
  • Light grows to utterly lack empathy by the end of the series. In the earlier episodes, he indicates sympathy for his father and care and support for his sister, and is noticeably affected when L calls him his friend (although he gets rid of it fairly quickly). As his delusions grow stronger, however, Light completely disassociates himself as Kira from those around him. If constantly making use of Misa's and Takada's affection and trust for his own ends with nary a thought wasn't enough for you, just look at how he essentially abandons Misa and finishes off Takada. Technically Mikami killed Takada, but Light still fully intended to make her burn herself to death after begging him for help, and didn't feel a thing.
  • Light is unable to see any flaw in himself, which is the main thing that separates him from L and what leaves him devoid of any empathy . It is probably the fact that L is similar that makes Light consider him a Worthy Opponent . Light usually sees positive traits in L ("L will probably figure out this", "L is too smart to fall for that") because those are positive traits he sees in himself. On the other hand, L is aware of his own flaws; he immediately assumes Kira is childish and hates losing because L himself is like that, and admits that even if Misa had carried on with her threat of the police to make them expose L, he wouldn't have appeared on TV because he isn't that noble. This is reflected upon each's plans for the world, Light believes in a perfect world filled exclusively with good, respectful, working people, where everything and everyone is perfect just like him. L, and later Near, see the world as flawed and seem pretty ok with it, since they're pretty ok with their own flaws. Ironically, it's the awareness of their own flaws that keeps them in the gray of the Black-and-Gray Morality while Light's vision of himself as perfect is what leads him to become a monster.

Death Note is a deconstruction of Shonen tropes.

  • Also Misa seems to be a parody of typical shojou tropes, especially the Magical Girl genre. She's a young, beautiful yet ditzy girl who is granted magical powers (see above) by a (not so) cute Non-Human Sidekick (a gross, monster-like creature), is fighting evil by the moonlight (by murdering criminals and innocents), finding a Mysterious Protector ( In Name Only , who just uses and manipulates her, doesn't give a shit about her as a person and actually wants to kill her in the beginning) and falling in love with him (as in: becoming completely devoted to him unrealistically fast , dedicating her life to him and being completely obedient. Like any good [soon-to-be] wife should do! ). For bonus points, she teams up with demons instead of fights them, like a typical Magical Girl Warrior .

Death Note 's main theme is playing with Justice Will Prevail

Light 's death was a mercy killing..

Want to write the next Death Note ? Try So You Want To Write A Magnificent Bastard

Back to Death Note .

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Death Note Philosophy essay

An examination of the nature of human beings and the problem of evil in and ethical questions raised by Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

Summary of stimulus: Light Yagami is a straight-A student with excellent prospects for the future. And he is bored. He sees mankind around him as flawed and thinks that the state of the world is degrading rapidly. When, one day, he finds a supernatural notebook called the “Death Note”, dropped by a shinigami (Japanese death God) named Ryuk, in which is written “the human whose name is written in this note shall die”, he is initially unconvinced at the idea of the notebook’s power. However, soon he is using it to kill criminals, “rid the world of evil” and create a “new world” over which, he says, he will rule as “God”. Soon the authorities begin to search for the killer of all the criminals- otherwise known as “Kira”- and the legendary and enigmatic detective L is brought in to try and catch him. With pressure coming from all around, will Light lose sight of his noble goal... or his life?

Word count: 158

The manga series Death Note is one which deals, in its own way, with many philosophical questions. Despite the fact that creator Tsugumi Ohba said that he “ did not intend for Death Note to push an ideology or make a statement about good and evil”, the series does ask these kinds of questions and others. The ones that will be investigated in this essay are those of human nature, the problem of evil and ethical questions associated with the use of the notebook.

The nature of human beings is something that Death Note addresses over the course of the series. For the most part, the series deals with Light and his nature and state of being. Of his character, creator Ohba said that Light bears “good faith intentions” but also a “warped” “desire to become godlike”. It is clear that Light has very noble intentions when he first decides how to use the notebook, and his intelligence cannot be doubted, but after reading even some of the series, one might question Light’s humanity. One might ask whether Light is human or not, given the way he acts in the series, later killing not only criminals but also those who try to stop him from doing what he believes is right and just. But is Light really acting inhuman when he does these things or is his wish to carry out his plans something that any other human would do? Other characters in the series also use the notebook, some for financial profit and others for revenge, but never for the good of others, so is Light actually being more human when he kills criminals to keep the “good people” safe?

            It is generally seen as fact that humans are imperfect beings- we do imperfect things and that is part of what makes us human. Light can see this in the world around him even before he finds the notebook and it is his wish to do something about it which causes him to even consider using it.

            Humans used to be classed merely in biological terms, someone “born of other human beings”, however philosophers described man as “someone who thinks rationally, speaks, walks upright, and uses tools”. In this way, Light and anyone else would be described as human. Another idea is that our humanity is determined by the fact that we are mortal and we are aware of this. When Light finally faces imminent death in volume twelve of the series, he seems afraid, crying out that “[he does] not want to die!” and so this could mean that before this he was unafraid of death and therefore acted beyond normal human conventions because he felt that he could. In the first volume of the series, Ryuk tells Light that, after death, there is no Heaven or Hell, only a place of nothingness called “Mu”, and this lack of later judgement of him may have also meant that Light felt freer to act the way he did. Dubbing himself a “God” might also suggest that he believed that he was immortal, also making him think that he was meant to be able to use the notebook, which was originally only intended for shinigami, who are , for the most part, immortal. Descartes believed that human nature comes from the ability to have a “rich mental life” and to be aware of ourselves, and from this description Light would also be described as being human.

            All of our ideals and morals have come together to form an idea of the best way humans could be: “someone who does the truly ‘human thing’ is compassionate, wise, courageous, self-sacrificing and so forth”. From this perspective, Light is a human at its very finest: he is not always compassionate, but never harms those who are innocent, he is intelligent, he is brave enough to use the Death Note and he sacrifices his own peace of mind for the good of the rest of the world. He believes in what he does and he does what he believes to be right. In some ways, his determination is admirable. However, our ideal of a perfect human being is probably not someone who is willing to sacrifice people for the sake of others, as this shows a lack of compassion and value for human life.

            However, Light is not any less human than anyone else. Others use the notebook over the course of the series for far less “noble” reasons than Light, who himself says in the first volume that “[the] notebook has a power ... that makes anybody want to try using it, at least once”. And the notebook only comes to be in Light’s possession through a combination of Ryuk’s boredom and random chance. So Light is no more and no less human than anyone else- he is imperfect, just like every other human being.

Another thing Death Note deals with is the problem of evil. In the first chapter of the first volume of the series, Light calls the world a “rotten mess” and so when he obtains the notebook later on, he tries to clear up the world with its power. We can ask ourselves where the ‘evil’ that Light displays in killing people comes from. Obviously, it comes from the notebook, which originally came from Ryuk. But can this evil- if it is evil- be justified or explained?

            Arguments used to try and account for the existence of evil and suffering in the world while still maintaining belief in God are known as theodices, and several could be applied here. The idea that the world has been corrupted by sin was suggested by St Augustine , who said that the Fall in Genesis in the Bible was the source of evil in the world- Adam and Eve’s choices affected future generations and nature and the same could be said here. The notebook’s power is compelling and the free will and curious nature that Light possesses are why he uses the notebook, thus encompassing the question of free will, another theodicy. Another idea about where evil comes from is that it is a test of someone’s faith- in Death Note , it is more likely to be a test of a person’s determination; those working to capture “Kira” need to keep their faith in doing what they set out to do and over the course of the series we do see them questioning their beliefs and Kira’s righteousness. Another theodicy is that evil happens so that people can show compassion in a situation, and so in Death Note this might mean that evil is there so that people can try to capture the person being evil, fulfilling their duty in the world as our duty is to be compassionate about bad things that happen. Next comes Whitehead’s process theodicy, which states that God cannot do anything about evil, and suffers himself, and finally the theodicy that evil is merely a part of God’s ‘plan’ and that we, as humans, are not meant to know why it is there. These theodices may not be as applicable here, as the only godlike entities in the series are the shinigami, who are a far cry from the traditional idea of God. However, it could be said that the meaning of the word “God” is changed in this series, and so the process theodicy could apply to Light here. The idea that ‘God’s plan’ is unfathomable to us as humans could apply to Ryuk, who only dropped the notebook in the human world because he was “bored”.

            The other thing we could question within this subject is where the evil that Light sees in the world around him comes from: this may have made Light feel that people in the world needed a “God” and that he could act as that god with the notebook, therefore bringing the evil out of him.

            However, overall we know where the evil in this series comes from: Light and Ryuk’s boredom and free will are probably the best explanations of why so much goes so horribly wrong for Light and those around him, as well as Light’s conceited personality.

Also dealt with in this series is the question of ethics: if one obtained a Death Note and read the instructions, would it be right to use it, or to even test its powers? Is Light ever justified in using the notebook and would it ever be right for someone to use it?

            Kant’s ideas on ethics were deontological: he said that people did moral things from a sense of duty and that any act done from inclination was not a moral decision. He also believed in universalism: that if a person would be happy for others to do the same in the same situation then a decision is moral. From this point of view, Light’s initial goals from using the Death Note would probably be seen as morally right, as he believed that it was his duty to try to rid the world of the evil that he saw and his intentions were good. However, he is also of the belief that only he can ever use the Death Note in the ways that he does, which would be at odds with the idea of universalism.

            Utilitarianism is different: whereas Kant looked at reasons why people did things, utilitarianism uses consequences of the decision to decide if an act is ethical. This idea was pioneered by the lawyer and social theorist Jeremy Bentham, who said that there was something called the utility principle, which says that an act is ethically right if it creates ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number’. Utilitarianism stresses the importance of consequences over motives and therefore exists in the sphere of consequence ethics. Good intentions when an ethical decision is made are useless if the consequences are bad, and in this way Light would be seen as not acting morally. His intentions were to rid the world of ‘bad people’, but in the end they only caused millions to die and eventually Light’s own death. Tsugumi Ohba himself said once in an interview that Light’s life was “ruined” once he found the notebook and that he became its victim “in many ways”.

            Aristotle’s account on ethical decisions was this: ‘people should behave so as to achieve happiness’ and in order to do that they should choose between two extremes to find the ‘golden mean’ that would be the best decision. He said that this was done by trial and error, and that knowledge in itself was not enough to guarantee moral behaviour, as Light seems to believe. In Light’s case, the extremes he had to choose between would have affected his life in completely different ways. Had he not used the notebook, he would most likely have become a part of the Japanese police like his father, working to protect those in need. However, by using the notebook, Light “sullied” himself and the “purity within him” prior to its discovery.

            Overall, from the points of view of these ways to make moral decisions, it is possible in only one case to say that Light was acting morally, and perhaps the best way to make moral decisions should be to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of each of these arguments, meaning that, for the most part, Light did not make the right ethical decision.

In conclusion, though Tsugumi Ohba always said that Death Note was never meant to be a series that dealt with philosophy, it is possible to see that this series asks some of the biggest philosophical questions there are.

Word count: 1935

Link to syllabus: Core theme- What is a human being?

Bibliography:

Death Note volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Death Note volume 12 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Article: What does it mean to be human? by Nina Rosenstand.

Wikipedia: Light Yagami- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_Yagami (08/12/08)

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essay on death note

Reflections on Death in Philosophical/Existential Context

  • Symposium: Reflections Before, During, and Beyond COVID-19
  • Published: 27 July 2020
  • Volume 57 , pages 402–409, ( 2020 )

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essay on death note

  • Nikos Kokosalakis 1  

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Is death larger than life and does it annihilate life altogether? This is the basic question discussed in this essay, within a philosophical/existential context. The central argument is that the concept of death is problematic and, following Levinas, the author holds that death cannot lead to nothingness. This accords with the teaching of all religious traditions, which hold that there is life beyond death, and Plato’s and Aristotle’s theories about the immortality of the soul. In modernity, since the Enlightenment, God and religion have been placed in the margin or rejected in rational discourse. Consequently, the anthropocentric promethean view of man has been stressed and the reality of the limits placed on humans by death deemphasised or ignored. Yet, death remains at the centre of nature and human life, and its reality and threat become evident in the spread of a single virus. So, death always remains a mystery, relating to life and morality.

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What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? William Shakespeare ( 1890 : 132), Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, 303–312.

In mid-2019, the death of Sophia Kokosalakis, my niece and Goddaughter, at the age of 46, came like a thunderbolt to strike the whole family. She was a world-famous fashion designer who combined, in a unique way, the beauty and superb aesthetics of ancient and classical Greek sculptures and paintings with fashion production of clothes and jewellery. She took the aesthetics and values of ancient and classical Greek civilization out of the museums to the contemporary art of fashion design. A few months earlier she was full of life, beautiful, active, sociable and altruistic, and highly creative. All that was swept away quickly by an aggressive murderous cancer. The funeral ( κηδεία ) – a magnificent ritual event in the church of Panaghia Eleftherotria in Politeia Athens – accorded with the highly significant moving symbolism of the rite of the Orthodox Church. Her parents, her husband with their 7-year-old daughter, the wider family, relatives and friends, and hundreds of people were present, as well as eminent representatives of the arts. The Greek Prime Minister and other dignitaries sent wreaths and messages of condolences, and flowers were sent from around the world. After the burial in the family grave in the cemetery of Chalandri, some gathered for a memorial meal. This was a high profile, emotional final goodbye to a beloved famous person for her last irreversible Journey.

Sophia’s death was circumscribed by social and religious rituals that help to chart a path through the transition from life to death. Yet, the pain and sorrow for Sophia’s family has been very deep. For her parents, especially, it has been indescribable, indeed, unbearable. The existential reality of death is something different. It raises philosophical questions about what death really means in a human existential context. How do humans cope with it? What light do religious explanations of death shed on the existential experience of death and what do philosophical traditions have to say on this matter?

In broad terms religions see human life as larger than death, so that life’s substance meaning and values for each person are not exhausted with biological termination. Life goes on. For most religions and cultures there is some notion of immortality of the soul and there is highly significant ritual and symbolism for the dead, in all cultures, that relates to their memory and offers some notion of life beyond the grave. In Christianity, for example, life beyond death and the eternity and salvation of the soul constitutes the core of its teaching, immediately related to the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Theologically, Christ’s death and resurrection, declare the defeat of death by the death and the resurrection of the son of God, who was, both, God and perfectly human (theanthropos). This teaching signifies the triumph of life over death, which also means, eschatologically, the salvation and liberation of humankind from evil and the injustice and imperfection of the world. It refers to another dimension beyond the human condition, a paradisiac state beyond the time/space configuration, a state of immortality, eternity and infinity; it points to the sublimation of nature itself. So, according to Christian faith, the death of a human being is a painful boundary of transition, and there is hope that human life is not perishable at death. There is a paradox here that through death one enters real life in union with God. But this is not knowledge. It is faith and must be understood theologically and eschatologically.

While the deeply faithful, may accept and understand death as passage to their union with God, Sophia’s death shows that, for ordinary people, the fear of death and the desperation caused by the permanent absence of a beloved person is hard to bear – even with the help of strong religious faith. For those with lukewarm religious faith or no faith at all, religious discourse and ritual seems irrelevant or even annoying and irrational. However, nobody escapes the reality of death. It is at the heart of nature and the human condition and it is deeply ingrained in the consciousness of adult human beings. Indeed, of all animals it is only humans who know that they will die and according to Heidegger ( 1967 :274) “death is something distinctively impending”. The fear of death, consciously or subconsciously, is instilled in humans early in life and, as the ancients said, when death is near no one wants to die. ( Ην εγγύς έλθει θάνατος ουδείς βούλεται θνήσκειν. [Aesopus Fables]). In Christianity even Christ, the son of God, prayed to his father to remove the bitter cup of death before his crucifixion (Math. 26, 38–39; Luke, 22, 41–42).

The natural sciences say nothing much about the existential content and conditions of human death beyond the biological laws of human existence and human evolution. According to these laws, all forms of life have a beginning a duration and an end. In any case, from a philosophical point of view, it is considered a category mistake, i.e. epistemologically and methodologically wrong, to apply purely naturalistic categories and quantitative experimental methods for the study, explanation and interpretation of human social phenomena, especially cultural phenomena such as the meaning of human death and religion at large. As no enlightenment on such issues emerges from the natural sciences, maybe insights can be teased out from philosophical anthropological thinking.

Philosophical anthropology is concerned with questions of human nature and life and death in deeper intellectual, philosophical, dramaturgical context. Religion and the sacred are inevitably involved in such discourse. For example, the verses from Shakespeare’s Hamlet about the nature of man, at the preamble of this essay, put the matter in a nutshell. What is this being who acts like an angel, apprehends and creates like a god, and yet, it is limited as the quintessence of dust? It is within this discourse that I seek to draw insights concerning human death. I will argue that, although in formal logical/scientific terms, we do not know and cannot know anything about life after/beyond death, there is, and always has been, a legitimate philosophical discourse about being and the dialectic of life/death. We cannot prove or disprove the existence and content of life beyond death in scientific or logical terms any more than we can prove or disprove the existence of God scientifically. Footnote 1

Such discourse inevitably takes place within the framework of transcendence, and transcendence is present within life and beyond death. Indeed, transcendence is at the core of human consciousness as humans are the only beings (species) who have culture that transcends their biological organism. Footnote 2 According to Martin ( 1980 :4) “the main issue is… man’s ability to transcend and transform his situation”. So human death can be described and understood as a cultural fact immediately related to transcendence, and as a limit to human transcendental ability and potential. But it is important, from an epistemological methodological point of view, not to preconceive this fact in reductionist positivistic or closed ideological terms. It is essential that the discourse about death takes place within an open dialectic, not excluding transcendence and God a priori, stressing the value of life, and understanding the limits of the human potential.

The Problem of Meaning in Human Death

Biologically and medically the meaning and reality of human death, as that of all animals, is clear: the cessation of all the functions and faculties of the organs of the body, especially the heart and the brain. This entails, of course, the cessation of consciousness. Yet, this definition tells us nothing about why only the human species, latecomers in the universe, have always worshiped their gods, buried their dead with elaborate ritual, and held various beliefs about immortality. Harari ( 2017 :428–439) claims that, in the not too distant future, sapiens could aim at, and is likely to achieve, immortality and the status of Homo Deus through biotechnology, information science, artificial intelligence and what he calls the data religion . I shall leave aside what I consider farfetched utopian fictional futurology and reflect a little on the problem of meaning of human death and immortality philosophically.

We are not dealing here with the complex question of biological life. This is the purview of the science of biology and biotechnology within the laws of nature. Rather, we are within the framework of human existence, consciousness and transcendence and the question of being and time in a philosophical sense. According to Heidegger ( 1967 :290) “Death, in the widest sense, is a phenomenon of life. Life must be understood as a kind of Being to which there belongs a Being-in-the-world”. He also argues (bid: 291) that: “The existential interpretation of death takes precedence over any biology and ontology of life. But it is also the foundation for any investigation of death which is biographical or historiological, ethnological or psychological”. So, the focus is sharply on the issue of life/death in the specifically human existential context of being/life/death . Human life is an (the) ultimate value, (people everywhere raise their glass to life and good health), and in the midst of it there is death as an ultimate threatening eliminating force. But is death larger than life, and can death eliminate life altogether? That’s the question. Whereas all beings from plants to animals, including man, are born live and die, in the case of human persons this cycle carries with it deep and wide meaning embodied within specific empirical, historical, cultural phenomena. In this context death, like birth and marriage, is a carrier of specific cultural significance and deeper meaning. It has always been accompanied by what anthropologists refer to as rites of passage, (Van Gennep, 1960 [1909]; Turner, 1967; Garces-Foley, 2006 ). These refer to transition events from one state of life to another. All such acts and rites, and religion generally, should be understood analysed and interpreted within the framework of symbolic language. (Kokosalakis, 2001 , 2020 ). In this sense the meaning of death is open and we get a glimpse of it through symbols.

Death, thus, is an existential tragic/dramatic phenomenon, which has preoccupied philosophy and the arts from the beginning and has been always treated as problematic. According to Heidegger ( 1967 : 295), the human being Dasein (being-there) has not explicit or even theoretical knowledge of death, hence the anxiety in the face of it. Also, Dasein has its death, “not in isolation, but as codetermined by its primordial kind of Being” (ibid: 291). He further argues that in the context of being/time/death, death is understood as being-towards-death ( Sein zum Tode ). Levinas Footnote 3 ( 2000 :8), although indebted to Heidegger, disagrees radically with him on this point because it posits being-towards death ( Sein zum Tode) “as equivalent to being in regard to nothingness”. Leaving aside that, phenomenologically the concept of nothingness itself is problematic (Sartre: 3–67), Levinas ( 2000 :8) asks: “is that which opens with death nothingness or the unknown? Can being at the point of death be reduced to the ontological dilemma of being or nothingness? That is the question that is posed here.” In other words, Levinas considers this issue problematic and wants to keep the question of being/life/death open. Logically and philosophically the concept of nothingness is absolute, definitive and closed whereas the concept of the unknown is open and problematic. In any case both concepts are ultimately based on belief, but nothingness implies knowledge which we cannot have in the context of death.

Levinas (ibid: 8–9) argues that any knowledge we have of death comes to us “second hand” and that “It is in relation with the other that we think of death in its negativity” (emphasis mine). Indeed, the ultimate objective of hate is the death of the other , the annihilation of the hated person. Also death “[is] a departure: it is a decease [deces]”. It is a permanent separation of them from us which is felt and experienced foremost and deeply for the departure of the beloved. This is because death is “A departure towards the unknown, a departure without return, a departure with no forward address”. Thus, the emotion and the sorrow associated with it and the pain and sadness caused to those remaining. Deep-down, existentially and philosophically, death is a mystery. It involves “an ambiguity that perhaps indicates another dimension of meaning than that in which death is thought within the alternative to be/not- to- be. The ambiguity: an enigma” (ibid: 14). Although, as Heidegger ( 1967 :298–311) argues, death is the only absolute certainty we have and it is the origin of certitude itself, I agree with Levinas (ibid: 10–27) that this certitude cannot be forthcoming from the experience of our own death alone, which is impossible anyway. Death entails the cessation of the consciousness of the subject and without consciousness there is no experience. We experience the process of our dying but not our own death itself. So, our experience of death is primarily that of the death of others. It is our observation of the cessation of the movement, of the life of the other .

Furthermore, Levinas (Ibid: 10–13) argues that “it is not certain that death has the meaning of annihilation” because if death is understood as annihilation in time, “Here, we are looking for other dimension of meaning, both for the meaning of time Footnote 4 and for the meaning of death”. Footnote 5 So death is a phenomenon with dimensions of meaning beyond the historical space/time configuration. Levinas dealt with such dimensions extensively not only in his God, Death and Time (2000) but also in his: Totality and Infinity (1969); Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence (1991); and, Of God Who comes to mind (1998). So, existentially/phenomenologically such dimensions inevitably involve the concept of transcendence, the divine, and some kind of faith. Indeed, the question of human death has always involved the question of the soul. Humans have been generally understood to be composite beings of body/soul or spirit and the latter has also been associated with transcendence and the divine. In general the body has been understood and experienced as perishable with death, whereas the soul/spirit has been understood (believed) to be indestructible. Thus beyond or surviving after/beyond death. Certainly this has been the assumption and general belief of major religions and cultures, Footnote 6 and philosophy itself, until modernity and up to the eighteenth century.

Ancient and classical Greek philosophy preoccupied itself with the question of the soul. Footnote 7 Homer, both in the Iliad and the Odyssey, has several reference on the soul in hades (the underworld) and Pythagoras of Samos (580–496 b.c.) dealt with immortality and metempsychosis (reincarnation). Footnote 8 In all the tragedies by Sophocles (496–406 b,c,), Aeschylus (523–456 b. c.), and Euripides (480–406 b.c.), death is a central theme but it was Plato Footnote 9 (428?-347 b.c.) and Aristotle Footnote 10 (384–322 b.c.) – widely acknowledged as the greatest philosophers of all times – who wrote specific treatises on the soul. Let us look at their positions very briefly.

Plato on the Soul

Plato was deeply concerned with the nature of the soul and the problem of immortality because such questions were foundational to his theory of the forms (ideas), his understanding of ethics, and his philosophy at large. So, apart from the dialogue Phaedo , in which the soul and its immortality is the central subject, he also referred to it extensively in the Republic , the Symposium and the Apology as well in the dialogues: Timaeus , Gorgias, Phaedrus, Crito, Euthyfron and Laches .

The dialogue Phaedo Footnote 11 is a discussion on the soul and immortality between Socrates (470–399 b.c.) and his interlocutors Cebes and Simias. They were Pythagorians from Thebes, who went to see Socrates in prison just before he was about to be given the hemlock (the liquid poison: means by which the death penalty was carried out at the time in Athens). Phaedo, his disciple, who was also present, is the narrator. The visitors found Socrates very serene and in pleasant mood and wondered how he did not seem to be afraid of death just before his execution. Upon this Socrates replies that it would be unreasonable to be afraid of death since he was about to join company with the Gods (of which he was certain) and, perhaps, with good and beloved departed persons. In any case, he argued, the true philosopher cannot be afraid of death as his whole life, indeed, is a practice and a preparation for it. So for this, and other philosophical reasons, death for Socrates is not to be feared. ( Phaedo; 64a–68b).

Socrates defines death as the separation of the soul from the body (64c), which he describes as prison of the former while joined in life. The body, which is material and prone to earthly materialistic pleasures, is an obstacle for the soul to pursue and acquire true knowledge, virtue, moderation and higher spiritual achievements generally (64d–66e). So, for the true philosopher, whose raison-d’être is to pursue knowledge truth and virtue, the liberation of the soul from bodily things, and death itself when it comes, is welcome because life, for him, was a training for death anyway. For these reasons, Socrates says is “glad to go to hades ” (the underworld) (68b).

Following various questions of Cebes and Simias about the soul, and its surviving death, Socrates proceeds to provide some logical philosophical arguments for its immortality. The main ones only can be mentioned here. In the so called cyclical argument, Socrates holds that the immortality of the soul follows logically from the relation of opposites (binaries) and comparatives: Big, small; good, bad; just, unjust; beautiful, ugly; good, better; bad; worse, etc. As these imply each other so life/death/life are mutually inter-connected, (70e–71d). The second main argument is that of recollection. Socrates holds that learning, in general, is recollection of things and ideas by the soul which always existed and the soul itself pre-existed before it took the human shape. (73a–77a). Socrates also advises Cebes and Simias to look into themselves, into their own psych e and their own consciousness in order to understand what makes them alive and makes them speak and move, and that is proof for the immortality of the soul (78ab). These arguments are disputed and are considered inadequate and anachronistic by many philosophers today (Steadman, 2015 ; Shagulta and Hammad, 2018 ; and others) but the importance of Phaedo lies in the theory of ideas and values and the concept of ethics imbedded in it.

Plato’s theory of forms (ideas) is the basis of philosophical idealism to the present day and also poses the question of the human autonomy and free will. Phaedo attracts the attention of modern and contemporary philosophers from Kant (1724–1804) and Hegel (1770–1831) onwards, because it poses the existential problems of life, death, the soul, consciousness, movement and causality as well as morality, which have preoccupied philosophy and the human sciences diachronically. In this dialogue a central issue is the philosophy of ethics and values at large as related to the problem of death. Aristotle, who was critical of Plato’s idealism, also uses the concept of forms and poses the question of the soul as a substantive first principle of life and movement although he does not deal with death and immortality as Plato does.

Aristotle on the Soul

Aristotle’s conception of the soul is close to contemporary biology and psychology because his whole philosophy is near to modern science. Unlike many scholars, however, who tend to be reductionist, limiting the soul to naturalistic/positivistic explanations, (as Isherwood, 2016 , for instance, does, unlike Charlier, 2018 , who finds relevance in religious and metaphysical connections), Aristotle’s treatment of it, as an essential irreducible principle of life, leaves room for its metaphysical substance and character. So his treatise on the soul , (known now to scholars as De Anima, Shields, 2016 ), is closely related to both his physics and his metaphysics.

Aristotle sees all living beings (plants, animals, humans) as composite and indivisible of body, soul or form (Charlton, 1980 ). The body is material and the soul is immaterial but none can be expressed, comprehended or perceived apart from matter ( ύλη ). Shields ( 2016 ) has described this understanding and use of the concepts of matter and form in Aristotle’s philosophy as hylomorphism [ hyle and morphe, (matter and form)]. The soul ( psyche ) is a principle, arche (αρχή) associated with cause (αιτία) and motion ( kinesis ) but it is inseparable from matter. In plants its basic function and characteristic is nutrition. In animals, in addition to nutrition it has the function and characteristic of sensing. In humans apart from nutrition and sensing, which they share with all animals, in addition it has the unique faculty of noesis and logos. ( De Anima ch. 2). Following this, Heidegger ( 1967 :47) sees humans as: “Dasein, man’s Being is ‘defined’ as the ζωον λόγον έχον – as that living thing whose Being is essentially determined by the potentiality for discourse”. (So, only human beings talk, other beings do not and cannot).

In Chapter Five, Aristotle concentrates on this unique property of the human soul, the logos or nous, known in English as mind . The nous (mind) is both: passive and active. The former, the passive mind, although necessary for noesis and knowledge, is perishable and mortal (φθαρτός). The latter, the poetic mind is higher, it is a principle of causality and creativity, it is energy, aitia . So this, the poetic the creative mind is higher. It is the most important property of the soul and it is immaterial, immortal and eternal. Here Aristotle considers the poetic mind as separate from organic life, as substance entering the human body from outside, as it were. Noetic mind is the divine property in humans and expresses itself in their pursuit to imitate the prime mover, God that is.

So, Aristotle arrives here at the problem of immortality of the soul by another root than Plato but, unlike him, he does not elaborate on the metaphysics of this question beyond the properties of the poetic mind and he focuses on life in the world. King ( 2001 :214) argues that Aristotle is not so much concerned to establish the immortality of the human individual as that of the human species as an eidos. Here, however, I would like to stress that we should not confuse Aristotle’s understanding with contemporary biological theories about the dominance and survival of the human species. But whatever the case may be, both Aristotle’s and Plato’s treatises on the soul continue to be inspiring sources of debate by philosophers and others on these issues to the present day.

Death in Modernity

By modernity here is meant the general changes which occurred in western society and culture with the growth of science and technology and the economy, especially after the Enlightenment, and the French and the Industrial Revolutions, which have their cultural roots in the Renaissance, the Reformation and Protestantism.

It is banal to say that life beyond death does not preoccupy people in modernity as it did before and that, perhaps, now most people do not believe in the immortality of the soul. In what Charles Taylor ( 2007 ) has extensively described as A SECULAR AGE he frames the question of change in religious beliefs in the west as follows: “why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?” (p. 25). The answer to this question is loaded with controversy and is given variously by different scholars. Footnote 13 Taylor (ibid: 65–75, 720–726) shows how and why beliefs have changed radically in modernity. Metaphysical transcendent beliefs on life and death have shrunk into this-worldly secular conceptions in what he calls, “the immanent frame”. As a consequence, transcendence and the sacred were exiled from the world or reduced to “closed world structures”. Footnote 14 In this context many scholars spoke of “the death of God” (ibid: 564–575).

In criticizing postmodern relativism, which brings various vague conceptions of God and transcendence back in play, Gellner ( 1992 :80–83) praises what he calls Enlightenment Rationalist fundamentalism, which “at one fell swoop eliminates the sacred from the world”. Although he acknowledges that Kant, the deepest thinker of the Enlightenment, left morality reason and knowledge outside the purview of the laws of nature, thus leaving the question of transcendence open, he still claims that Enlightenment rationalism is the only positive scientific way to study religious phenomena and death rituals. This position seems to be epistemologically flawed, because it pre-empts what concerns us here, namely, the assumptions of modernity for the nature of man and its implications for the meaning and reality of death.

In rejecting religion and traditional conceptions of death, Enlightenment rationalism put forward an overoptimistic, promethean view of man. What Vereker ( 1967 ) described as the “God of Reason” was the foundation of eighteenth century optimism. The idea was that enlightened rationalism, based on the benevolent orderly laws of nature, would bring about the redeemed society. Enlightened, rational leaders and the gradual disappearance of traditional religious beliefs, obscurantism and superstitions, which were sustained by the ancient regime, would eventually transform society and would abolish all human evil and social and political injustice. Science was supportive of this view because it showed that natural and social phenomena, traditionally attributed to divine agencies and metaphysical forces, have a clear natural causation. These ideas, developed by European philosophers (Voltaire 1694–1778; Rousseau, 1712–1778; Kant, 1724–1804; Hume, 1711–1776; and many others), were foundational to social and political reform, and the basis of the French Revolution (1789–1799). However, the underlying optimism of such philosophical ideas about the benevolence of nature appeared incompatible with natural phenomena such as the great earthquake in Lisbon in 1755, which flattened the city and killed over 100,000 people. Enlightenment rationalism overemphasised a promethean, anthropocentric view of man without God, and ignored the limits of man and the moral and existential significance of death.

In his critique of capitalism, in the nineteenth century, Marx (1818–1883), promoted further the promethean view of man by elevating him as the author of his destiny and banishing God and religion as “the opium of the people”. In his O rigin of the Species (1859), Charles Darwin also showed man’s biological connections with primates, thereby challenging biblical texts about the specific divine origin of the human species. He confirmed human dominance in nature. Important figures in literature, however, such as Dostoevsky (1821–1881) and Tolstoy (1828–1910), pointed out and criticised the conceit and arrogance of an inflated humanism without God, promoted by the promethean man of modernity.

By the end of the twentieth century the triumph of science, biotechnology, information technology, and international capitalist monetary economics, all of them consequences of modernity, had turned the planet into a global village with improved living standards for the majority. Medical science also has doubled average life expectancy from what it was in nineteenth century and information technology has made, almost every adult, owner of a mobile smart phone. Moreover, visiting the moon has inflated man’s sense of mastery over nature, and all these achievements, although embodying Taylor’s ( 1992 ) malaise of modernity at the expense of the environment, have strengthen the promethean view and, somehow, ignored human limits. As a consequence, the reality of death was treated as a kind of taboo, tucked under the carpet.

This seems a paradox because, apart from the normal death of individuals, massive collective deaths, caused by nature and by hate and barbarity from man to man, were present in the twentieth century more than any other in history. The pandemic of Spanish flue 1917–1919 killed 39 million of the world’s population according to estimates by Baro et al. (2020). In the First World War deaths, military and civilians combined, were estimated at 20.5 million (Wikipedia). In the Second World War an estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, (Wikipedia). This did not include estimates of more than seven million people who died in the gulags of Siberia and elsewhere under Stalin. But Auschwitz is indicative of the unlimited limits, which human barbarity and cruelty of man to man, can reach. Bauman ( 1989 :x), an eminent sociologist, saw the Holocaust as a moral horror related to modernity and wrote: “ The Holocaust was born and executed in modern rational society, at the high stage of our civilization and at the peak of human cultural achievement, and for this reason it is a problem of that society, civilization and culture. ”

Questions associated with the mass death are now magnified by the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). This has caused global panic and created unpredictability at all levels of society and culture. This sudden global threat of death makes it timely to re-examine our values, our beliefs (secular or religious), and the meaning of life. Max Weber (1948: 182), who died a hundred years ago in the pandemic of great influenza, was sceptical and pessimistic about modernity, and argued that it was leading to a cage with “ specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it had attained a level of civilization never before achieved. ”

So, what does this examination of philosophical anthropology illuminate in terms of questions of human nature and life and death in deeper intellectual, philosophical, dramaturgical context? Now, we are well into the twenty-first century, and with the revolution in information science, the internet, biotechnology and data religion , the promethean view of man seems to have reached new heights. Yet, massive death, by a single virus this time, threatens again humanity; are there any lessons to be learned? Will this threat, apart from the negativity of death, bring back the wisdom, which T. S. Elliot said we have lost in modern times? Will it show us our limits? Will it reduce our conceit and arrogance? Will it make us more humble, moderate, prudent, and more humane for this and future generations, and for the sake of life in this planet at large? These are the questions arising now amongst many circles, and it is likely that old religious and philosophical ideas about virtuous life and the hope of immortality (eschatologically) may revive again as we are well within late modernity (I do not like the term postmodernity, which has been widely used in sociology since the 1980s).

The central argument of this essay has been that death has always been and remains at the centre of life. Philosophically and existentially the meaning of death is problematic, and the natural sciences cannot produce knowledge on this problem. Religious traditions always beheld the immortality of the soul and so argued great philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. Modernity, since the Enlightenment, rejected such views as anachronistic and advanced an anthropocentric promethean, view of man, at the expense of the sacred and transcendence at large. Instead, within what Taylor (1967: 537–193) has described as the immanent frame, it developed “closed world structures,” which are at the expense of human nature and human freedom. One consequence of this has been massive death during the twentieth century.

Following Levinas ( 2000 ), I argued that death should not be understood to lead to nothingness because nothingness means certitude and positive knowledge, which we cannot have existentially in the case of death. In this sense the reality of death should not be understood to lead to annihilation of life and remains a mystery. Moreover, the presence and the reality of death as a limit and a boundary should serve as educative lesson for both the autonomy and creativity of man and against an overinflated promethean view of her/his nature.

David Martin ( 1980 :16) puts the matter about human and divine autonomy as follows: “Indeed, it is all too easy to phrase the problem so that the autonomy of God and the autonomy of man are rival claimants for what science leaves over”. This concurs with his, ( 1978 :12), understanding of religion, (which I share), as “acceptance of a level of reality beyond the observable world known to science, to which we ascribe meanings and purposes completing and transcending those of the purely human realm”.

We do not know how and when human beings acquired this capacity during the evolutionary process of the species. It characterises however a radical shift from nature to culture as the latter is defined by Clifford Geertz (1973:68): “an ordered system of meanings and symbols …in terms of which individuals define their world, express their feelings and make their judgements”.

For a comprehensive extensive and impressive account and discussion of Levinas’ philosophy and work, and relevant bibliography, see Bergo ( 2019 ).

Perhaps it is worth mentioning here that the meaning of the concept of time, as it was in Cartesian Philosophy and Newtonian physics, has changed radically with Einstein’s theories of relativity and contemporary quantum physics (Heisenberg 1959 ). Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (Hilgervood and Uffink, 2016 ) is very relevant to non- deterministic conceptions of time/space and scientific and philosophical discourse generally.

Various religions articulate the structure of these meanings in different cultural contexts symbolically and all of them involve the divine and an eschatological metaphysical dimension beyond history, beyond our experience of time and space.

Ancient Egyptian culture is well known for its preoccupation with life after death, the immortality of the soul and the elaborate ritual involved in the mummification of the Pharaohs. See: anen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_ Egyptian_ funerary_ practices). Also the findings of archaeological excavations of tombs of kings in all ancient cultures constitute invaluable sources of knowledge not only about the meaning of death and the beliefs and rituals associated with it in these cultures but also of life and religion and politics and society at large.

For an extensive account of general theories of the soul in Greek antiquity see: Lorenz ( 2009 ).

For a good account on Pythagoras’ views on the transmigration of the souls see: Huffman ( 2018 ).

For a recent good account on the diachronic importance of Plato’s philosophy see: Kraut ( 2017 ).

For a very extensive analytical account and discussion of Aristotle’s philosophy and work with recent bibliography see: Shields ( 2016 ).

For an overview of Phaedo in English with commentary and the original Greek text see: Steadman ( 2015 ).

See, for instance, Wilson ( 1969 ) and Martin ( 1978 ) for radically different analyses and interpretations of secularization.

Marxism is a good example. God, the sacred and tradition generally are rejected but the proletariat and the Party acquire a sacred significance. The notion of salvation is enclosed as potentiality within history in a closed system of the class struggle. This, however, has direct political consequences because, along with the sacred, democracy is exiled and turned into a totalitarian system. The same is true, of course, at the other end of the spectrum with fascism.

Further Reading

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Bauman, Z. 1989. Modernity and the Holocaust . Cambridge: Polity Press

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Charlton, W, 1980, Aristotle’s definition of the soul. Phonesis, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 170–186.

Garsey-Foley, K. 2006. Death and Religion in a Changing World . MC Sharpe.

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Gellner, E. 1992 . Postmodernism Reason and Religion. London and New York: Routledge.

Harari, N. Y, 2017. Homo Deus: A Short History of Tomorrow . London: Vintage.

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Heisenberg, W. 1959. Physics and Philosophy. London: Allen and Unwin.

Hilgervoord, J, and Uffing, J. 2016. The Uncertainty Principle. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 edition) Edward Zalta (ed.) https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/qt-uncertainty

Huffman, C. 2018. Pythagoras. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (winter 2018 edition) Edward Zalta (ed.). https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pythagoras/ .

Isherwood, D. 2016. Science at last explains our soul: exploring the human condition with clues from science. https://www.zmescience.com/science/science-explains-our-soul/ .

King, R. 2001. Aristotle on Life and Death. London: Duckworth.

Kokosalakis, N. 2001. Symbolism (religious)) and Icon. International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioural Science . Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Kokosalakis, N. 2020. Symbolism and Power in David Martin’s Sociology of Religion. Society. vol. 57, pp. 173–179. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-020-00462-x .

Kraut, R. 2017. Plato. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 edition) Edward N. Zaltman (ed.) https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/plato/ .

Levinas, E. 1969. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority . (Trans. A. Lingis). Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.

Levinas, E, 1991 . Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence . (trans. A. Lingis). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

Levinas, E. 1998. Of God Who Comes to Mind . (trans, Betina Bergo). Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.

Levinas, E. 2000. God, Death and Time . (tr. Betina Bergo) Stanford Calif: Stanford University Press.

Lorenz, H. 2009. Ancient Theories of the Soul. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy . (Summer 2009 edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2009/entries/ancient-soul/ . Accessed 22 Apr 2009.

Martin, D. 1978. A General Theory of Secularization . Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Martin, D. 1980. The Breaking of the Image. Oxford: Basil Blackwell

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1969. Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. London: Methuen.

Shagufta, B. and M. Hamad. 2018. Concept of immortality in Platos’s Phaedo. Al-Hikmat , Vol. 36, pp. 1–12.

Shakespeare, W. 1890, Charles Knight (ed.) The Works of William Shakespeare. London: Routledge. Vol V, p. 132.

Shields, C. 2015. De Anima. (tr. with an introduction and commentary). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shields, C. 2016. Aristotle. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (winter 2016 edition) Edward N. Zalta (ed.). https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle/ . Accessed 29 Jul 2015.

Steadman, G. 2015. Plato’s Phaedo , 1 edition. https://geoffreysteadman.files.wordpress.com.....PDF. Accessed 15 Jun 2015.

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Wilson, B. 1969. Religion in Secular Society. London: Penguin Books.

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Death Note Essay Example

Death Note Essay Example

  • Pages: 2 (385 words)
  • Published: August 7, 2016
  • Type: Essay

If you have a death note, would you like to use it? No! I will not use it because; first, it placed the human life in the hands of mortal man; second, it denies the victims the opportunity for a changed life, and third, it deprive the victims of the rights to repent of their sins in order to have at least a hope they can go to heaven when they die. While it is true that many people do not believe in life after death, but it is a different story when a person is facing a sure death.

He or she learns to call on God. Thus, in the justice system, convicts are given the right to confess their sins before a man of god. The death note is a notebook drop by the

god of death in which anyone who has it can kill any body whose face and real is known (Death God). In their introduction, Tsugami Ohba and Obata Takeshi stated that a monstrous creature appears to the owner of the death note as servant who in turn kills anyone whose name is written on the death note and whose face is known.

Although death note is both anime online and a movie, but if it is a reality, I will never use it. It may be a good way to rid the world of criminals and other lawless and corrupt elements, nevertheless, only God have the right to take back human lives. Every single human life is precious to God and only God knows what lies ahead and what is in store for every one

Even the notorious criminal can be changed and become a better person. It is this notion that most religious groups are against death penalty.

The statement of people of faith against death penalty condemns it as particularly abhorrent because it assumes infallibility in the course of determining guilt. Hastened death deprived a person the time to learn his mistakes in life and to correct those mistakes. The religious ideas on hastening death are that it is a form of violence contrary to the will of God (Friends United Meeting). Therefore, any does not have the right to take life whether institutionally or as vengeance of grave crime, the person has committed in the past.

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Essays About Death: Top 5 Examples and 9 Essay Prompts

Death includes mixed emotions and endless possibilities. If you are writing essays about death, see our examples and prompts in this article.

Over 50 million people die yearly from different causes worldwide. It’s a fact we must face when the time comes. Although the subject has plenty of dire connotations, many are still fascinated by death, enough so that literary pieces about it never cease. Every author has a reason why they want to talk about death. Most use it to put their grievances on paper to help them heal from losing a loved one. Some find writing and reading about death moving, transformative, or cathartic.

To help you write a compelling essay about death, we prepared five examples to spark your imagination:

1. Essay on Death Penalty by Aliva Manjari

2. coping with death essay by writer cameron, 3. long essay on death by prasanna, 4. because i could not stop for death argumentative essay by writer annie, 5. an unforgettable experience in my life by anonymous on gradesfixer.com, 1. life after death, 2. death rituals and ceremonies, 3. smoking: just for fun or a shortcut to the grave, 4. the end is near, 5. how do people grieve, 6. mental disorders and death, 7. are you afraid of death, 8. death and incurable diseases, 9. if i can pick how i die.

“The death penalty is no doubt unconstitutional if imposed arbitrarily, capriciously, unreasonably, discriminatorily, freakishly or wantonly, but if it is administered rationally, objectively and judiciously, it will enhance people’s confidence in criminal justice system.”

Manjari’s essay considers the death penalty as against the modern process of treating lawbreakers, where offenders have the chance to reform or defend themselves. Although the author is against the death penalty, she explains it’s not the right time to abolish it. Doing so will jeopardize social security. The essay also incorporates other relevant information, such as the countries that still have the death penalty and how they are gradually revising and looking for alternatives.

You might also be interested in our list of the best war books .

“How a person copes with grief is affected by the person’s cultural and religious background, coping skills, mental history, support systems, and the person’s social and financial status.”

Cameron defines coping and grief through sharing his personal experience. He remembers how their family and close friends went through various stages of coping when his Aunt Ann died during heart surgery. Later in his story, he mentions Ann’s last note, which she wrote before her surgery, in case something terrible happens. This note brought their family together again through shared tears and laughter. You can also check out these articles about cancer .

“Luckily or tragically, we are completely sentenced to death. But there is an interesting thing; we don’t have the knowledge of how the inevitable will strike to have a conversation.”

Prasanna states the obvious – all people die, but no one knows when. She also discusses the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Research also shows that when people die, the brain either shows a flashback of life or sees a ray of light.

Even if someone can predict the day of their death, it won’t change how the people who love them will react. Some will cry or be numb, but in the end, everyone will have to accept the inevitable. The essay ends with the philosophical belief that the soul never dies and is reborn in a new identity and body. You can also check out these elegy examples .

“People have busy lives, and don’t think of their own death, however, the speaker admits that she was willing to put aside her distractions and go with death. She seemed to find it pretty charming.”

The author focuses on how Emily Dickinson ’s “ Because I Could Not Stop for Death ” describes death. In the poem, the author portrays death as a gentle, handsome, and neat man who picks up a woman with a carriage to take her to the grave. The essay expounds on how Dickinson uses personification and imagery to illustrate death.

“The death of a loved one is one of the hardest things an individual can bring themselves to talk about; however, I will never forget that day in the chapter of my life, as while one story continued another’s ended.”

The essay delve’s into the author’s recollection of their grandmother’s passing. They recount the things engrained in their mind from that day –  their sister’s loud cries, the pounding and sinking of their heart, and the first time they saw their father cry. 

Looking for more? Check out these essays about losing a loved one .

9 Easy Writing Prompts on Essays About Death

Are you still struggling to choose a topic for your essay? Here are prompts you can use for your paper:

Your imagination is the limit when you pick this prompt for your essay. Because no one can confirm what happens to people after death, you can create an essay describing what kind of world exists after death. For instance, you can imagine yourself as a ghost that lingers on the Earth for a bit. Then, you can go to whichever place you desire and visit anyone you wish to say proper goodbyes to first before crossing to the afterlife.

Essays about death: Death rituals and ceremonies

Every country, religion, and culture has ways of honoring the dead. Choose a tribe, religion, or place, and discuss their death rituals and traditions regarding wakes and funerals. Include the reasons behind these activities. Conclude your essay with an opinion on these rituals and ceremonies but don’t forget to be respectful of everyone’s beliefs. 

Smoking is still one of the most prevalent bad habits since tobacco’s creation in 1531 . Discuss your thoughts on individuals who believe there’s nothing wrong with this habit and inadvertently pass secondhand smoke to others. Include how to avoid chain-smokers and if we should let people kill themselves through excessive smoking. Add statistics and research to support your claims.

Collate people’s comments when they find out their death is near. Do this through interviews, and let your respondents list down what they’ll do first after hearing the simulated news. Then, add their reactions to your essay.

There is no proper way of grieving. People grieve in their way. Briefly discuss death and grieving at the start of your essay. Then, narrate a personal experience you’ve had with grieving to make your essay more relatable. Or you can compare how different people grieve. To give you an idea, you can mention that your father’s way of grieving is drowning himself in work while your mom openly cries and talk about her memories of the loved one who just passed away. 

Explain how people suffering from mental illnesses view death. Then, measure it against how ordinary people see the end. Include research showing death rates caused by mental illnesses to prove your point. To make organizing information about the topic more manageable, you can also focus on one mental illness and relate it to death.

Check out our guide on  how to write essays about depression .

Sometimes, seriously ill people say they are no longer afraid of death. For others, losing a loved one is even more terrifying than death itself. Share what you think of death and include factors that affected your perception of it.

People with incurable diseases are often ready to face death. For this prompt, write about individuals who faced their terminal illnesses head-on and didn’t let it define how they lived their lives. You can also review literary pieces that show these brave souls’ struggle and triumph. A great series to watch is “ My Last Days .”

You might also be interested in these epitaph examples .

No one knows how they’ll leave this world, but if you have the chance to choose how you part with your loved ones, what will it be? Probe into this imagined situation. For example, you can write: “I want to die at an old age, surrounded by family and friends who love me. I hope it’ll be a peaceful death after I’ve done everything I wanted in life.”

To make your essay more intriguing, put unexpected events in it. Check out these plot twist ideas .

essay on death note

Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.

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essay on death note

“I had to think extremely hard”: Death Note Creator Refused to Let Light Yagami Become the Bad Guy Despite Being Flooded with Flaws

Death Note fans have always debated the role of Light Yagami as a protagonist in the series. Some fans believe that his actions by the end of the series make him an antagonist, while others believe that he was still a good guy, but he got astray from his path and went on a killing spree to save himself, developing a God complex.

The creator of the series, Tsugumi Ohba, also thinks the same. In an interview, Ohba revealed that he refused to let Light Yagami become the bad guy, which is why the entire blame was put on Mikami for making a mistake. This way, even if Light became the villain of his own story, the blame would still land on Mikami rather than Light.

This was one of the series’ most shocking surprises, as well as a fitting conclusion to Death Note’s intricate plot, leaving fans to decide Light Yagami’s role as the series’ primary character.

Tsugumi Ohba Did Not Like The Idea of Light Yagami Being The Villain in Death Note

A transcript taken from an interview with Ohba was shared by Gaiaonline , where the creator talked about Death Note , the variety of characters, and the narrative of the series. When asked about the controversial ending of the series, Ohba revealed that he did not want Light’s failure to be the central plot of the conclusion.

Light Yagami was More of a Villain than Fans Realise with the Amount of Innocent People He Killed in Death Note

Ohba stated:

“I did not want a plot told of Light’s failure because of his own mistake. I had to think extremely hard for a plot that relieved Light of most of the blame for his own failure. Hence, we had Mikami make the fatal error.”

Tsugumi Ohba explained that because Light was the protagonist, he did not like the idea of him taking the blame for all the terrifying things that had happened in the series. This is why he created a plot that would take away all the blame from the protagonist and relieve him of his failure. This would save Light’s image as the protagonist of Death Note.

Light Yagami Was Filled With Flaws By The End of Death Note

When the narrative of Death Note began, Light Yagami was an aspiring character who was not only a brilliant student but also a good human being. However, when he got his hands on the Death Note , he started developing a god complex because of the ultimate power to kill anyone by just knowing their name.

Although he started by killing the criminals, he got so invested in doing the “right thing” that it forced him to sacrifice some good people, too. Later on, his God complex became so big that it didn’t matter to him who he was killing, as long as it kept his identity as Kira hidden from the whole world.

Much Like Thanos, Light May Have Been the Villain of Death Note But He was Not Exactly Wrong

While he believed that he was doing the right thing, in his heart he knew that the world wouldn’t accept his ideology because it was morally wrong to kill anyone, be it a criminal or a person of good character. Ultimately, his role as the main character (whether good or bad) of Death Note was left to the viewer’s interpretation.

You can watch  Death Note on Hulu and Netflix.

Death Note Anime

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May 15, 2024

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Two decades of studies suggest health benefits associated with plant-based diets, but caution urged

by Public Library of Science

Two decades of studies suggest health benefits associated with plant-based diets

Vegetarian and vegan diets are generally associated with better status on various medical factors linked to cardiovascular health and cancer risk, as well as lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and death, according to a new review of 48 previously published papers. Angelo Capodici and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 15, 2024.

Prior studies have linked certain diets with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. A diet that is poor in plant products and rich in meat, refined grains, sugar, and salt is associated with higher risk of death. Reducing consumption of animal-based products in favor of plant-based products has been suggested to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, the overall benefits of such diets remain unclear.

To deepen an understanding of the potential benefits of plant-based diets, Capodici and colleagues reviewed 48 papers published between January 2000 and June 2023 that had compiled evidence from multiple prior studies. Following an "umbrella" review approach, they extracted and analyzed data from the 48 papers on links between plant-based diets, cardiovascular health , and cancer risk.

Their analysis showed that, overall, vegetarian and vegan diets have a robust statistical association with better health status on a number of risk factors associated with cardiometabolic diseases, cancer, and mortality, such as blood pressure , management of blood sugar, and body mass index. Such diets are associated with reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, gastrointestinal and prostate cancer , and death from cardiovascular disease.

However, among pregnant women specifically, those with vegetarian diets faced no difference in their risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension compared to those on non-plant-based diets.

Overall, these findings suggest that plant-based diets are associated with significant health benefits. However, the researchers note, the statistical strength of this association is significantly limited by the many differences between past studies in terms of the specific diet regimens followed, patient demographics, study duration, and other factors.

Moreover, some plant-based diets may introduce vitamin and mineral deficiencies for some people. Thus, the researchers caution against large-scale recommendation of plant-based diets until more research is completed.

The authors add, "Our study evaluates the different impacts of animal-free diets for cardiovascular health and cancer risk showing how a vegetarian diet can be beneficial to human health and be one of the effective preventive strategies for the two most impactful chronic diseases on human health in the 21st century."

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IMAGES

  1. Death Note Literary Analysis by

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  2. Guide d'utilisation du Death Note

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  3. Death Note Template: 13+ Sample Notes & Formats

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  4. Death Note

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  5. FREE 6+ Death Note Samples in MS Word

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  6. Death Note Template: 13+ Sample Notes & Formats

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VIDEO

  1. How death note really should have ended

  2. DEATH NOTE

  3. Death Note

  4. Death Proof Full Movie Facts & Review / Kurt Russell / Rosario Dawson

  5. Death note but L didn't died

  6. Death Note

COMMENTS

  1. Death Note Summary

    Death Note is the creation of the mangaka Tsugumi Ohba. The name is an alias, and whether Ohba is a man or a woman is not publicly known. Death Note was one of two "thumbnails" that Ohba ...

  2. Here's a mini essay about death note I wrote for my 11th ...

    Essay: In the series Death Note, by Tsugumi Ohba, juxtaposition is used to portray the theme of there being no determinate line between "bad" and "good" and that morals are both contextual and subjective. For context, in the first chapter, we are introduced to Light, a 17 year-old highschool student who encounters a stray notebook, but ...

  3. 'Death Note' Summary & Analysis

    Death Note is a psychological mystery thriller based on the famous manga series created by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. Death Note Animated Manga Series ' Season 1 ' is directed by fabled Attack On Titan director Tetsurō Araki of Madhouse and originally aired in 2006 and garnered a cult following around the globe.

  4. Writing a paper on Death Note and could use some advice

    Title. I've decided to write a five-paragraph MLA essay about Death Note (and possibly more). The first one is about the theme that morality is subjective and no two people have the exact same sense of justice. I'm using the worldviews of Light & Mikami, L & the task force, and Near as evidence. Light and Mikami: Only good and evil exist, with ...

  5. The Lie That Crushed God

    A Death Note Analysis that focuses on systems of people, and how Buddhism plays a role in the overall Philosophy of Deathnote. Talking about the moments cha...

  6. (PDF) Seeing With Shinigami Eyes: Death Note as a Case Study in

    On the other hand, the Death Note narrative obviously concludes a plot structure in which Light completes a character arc/change, the status quo of the story The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 3, No. 1, August 2017 100 reaches a counterpoise, and the antagonist of the story (L) is defeated.

  7. Death Note: The Killer in Me Is the Killer in You

    Like the essays in Mechademia itself, the essays in these two collections demand and repay our thoughtful attention. Death Note: The Killer in Me Is the Killer in You SUSAN NAPIER Tsugumi Oba and Takeshi Obata. Death Note. Translated by Pookie Rolf, Alexis Kirsch, and Tetsuchiro Miyaki. San Francisco: VIZ Media. Volumes 1-12, 2005-2007. ISBNs ...

  8. Philosophical Exploration of Justice in Death Note: Battle of Moral Ideals

    In Death Note, Light employs the Death Note to punish those he deems guilty. It raises questions about whether Light's actions violate Rawls' principles of justice or if Light perceives his actions as a means to establish fair equality by purging the world of wrongdoing. Rawls discusses the role of the state in preserving justice as fair ...

  9. Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba Analysis Essay

    Tsugumi Ohba's famous manga and anime Death Note has risen in fame since its debut in 2003. The story follows a high school boy named Light Yagami who comes across a mysterious notebook. ... ⚠️ Note: All essays placed on IvyDuck.net are written by students who kindly donate their papers to us. Thus, these essays are of lower quality than ...

  10. Anime Analysis & Review: Death Note

    Death Note has clearly outdone most of its contemporaries in the world of anime. Unlike a whole lot of animes out there, Death Note explores a deeply psychological plot and a highly questionable ethical dilemma in a dark and somewhat taboo-filled manner. The story opens interestingly with an object of death previously unheard of in the human ...

  11. A pretty big essay, about the second half of Death note and ...

    anyways, death note is beautiful and i always get so emotionally charged (in so many different directions) thinking about it, so i completely understand your writing an essay. it's so deep, feels so real, relies on a battle of minds, deals with justice, crime, human connection, and literally too much to list. great job on all of your points i ...

  12. Death Note : L, Anonymity & Eluding Entropy

    In an appendix, I discuss the maximum amount of information leakage possible from using a Death Note as a communication device. (Note: This essay assumes a familiarity with the early plot of Death Note and Light Yagami. If you are unfamiliar with DN, see my Death Note Ending essay or consult Wikipedia or read the DN rules.)

  13. Death Note: Finding Meaning in a Meaningless World

    In this video, I try to parse through the supposed themes of justice and morality in Death Note to find a deeper understanding of what the series was going f...

  14. Death Note: Therapeutic Analysis

    Death Note is an anime series produced in 2006 by writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata. This series can also be found as a manga and movie. The anime series confronts justice as a system of power.¹ An individual in the series, Light Yagami, attempts to reform the world through the use of the death note, a notebook.

  15. Death Note / Analysis

    Light is also often labled a sociopath by fandom, however L and Near fit the criteria better than Light does! See more at this fan essay: "Light is not a Sociopath" Post-Death Note Light is absolutely a sociopath. The linked essay provides a list of seven symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Light fits the four most important ones: 1.

  16. Death Note Philosophy essay: mizzshy

    The manga series Death Note is one which deals, in its own way, with many philosophical questions. Despite the fact that creator Tsugumi Ohba said that he "did not intend for Death Note to push an ideology or make a statement about good and evil", the series does ask these kinds of questions and others. The ones that will be investigated in ...

  17. Reflections on Death in Philosophical/Existential Context

    The central argument of this essay has been that death has always been and remains at the centre of life. Philosophically and existentially the meaning of death is problematic, and the natural sciences cannot produce knowledge on this problem. ... Publisher's Note. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in ...

  18. Capital Punishment In Death Note

    The Death Note story has a ton to do with the present day Japan and with its present good, social, and cultural dilemmas, such as the utilization of capital punishment, the fear of crime, the issue of tormenting, and a pervasive feeling of hollowness and estrangement that appears to influence expanding number of contemporary Japanese.

  19. Metaphysics essay : r/deathnote

    In my philosophy class I am supposed to write an essay on death note. I'm supposed to explain the following: explain the process of reasoning that the character takes when searching for their true selves ︎ determine a response to one of the following writing prompts; and ensure that you provide examples of the steps in her/his search, especially those that explain how he/she recognized what ...

  20. A World Without Light

    00:00 Pilot Story00:12:16 Los Angeles BB Murder Case00:25:58 Chapter 1 (Light vs L Arc)00:39:49 Chapter 2 (Light vs L Arc)00:46:40 Chapter 3 (Light vs L Arc)...

  21. Death Note Essay Example

    Death Note Essay Example 🎓 Get access to high-quality and unique 50 000 college essay examples and more than 100 000 flashcards and test answers from around the world! ... Although death note is both anime online and a movie, but if it is a reality, I will never use it. It may be a good way to rid the world of criminals and other lawless and ...

  22. Death Note Essays

    Death Note Volume 1 Essay 604 Words | 2 Pages. The book I read this week is called Death Note Volume 1, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. I am currently finished with this volume and would like to blog about it. The book first introduced the main character, Light Yagami, who is an ace student and is currently bored.

  23. Essays About Death: Top 5 Examples and 9 Essay Prompts

    1. Life After Death. Your imagination is the limit when you pick this prompt for your essay. Because no one can confirm what happens to people after death, you can create an essay describing what kind of world exists after death. For instance, you can imagine yourself as a ghost that lingers on the Earth for a bit.

  24. Light Yagami Was Filled With Flaws By The End of Death Note

    Death Note fans have always debated the role of Light Yagami as a protagonist in the series. Some fans believe that his actions by the end of the series make him an antagonist, while others ...

  25. Two decades of studies suggest health benefits associated with plant

    To deepen an understanding of the potential benefits of plant-based diets, Capodici and colleagues reviewed 48 papers published between January 2000 and June 2023 that had compiled evidence from ...