The Igbo notion of the living dead as a critique of death in Heidegger’s existentialism: a solution to the fear of death
The concepts existence, death and destiny seem to contain some ambiguities, which, if neglected, could lead to protracted and unnecessary disputes. Following from existentialism, which makes human existence the focal point of philosophy and stresses the need for man to aspire to authenticity in his daily commerce, we note that Martin Heidegger employs the notion of death in man’s authenticity. Death is enshrined in the existence or life of man. Hence, man faces the glaring but deep reality of death as soon as he comes to life. One is qualified to die as soon as he is born. Heidegger views death as the end of Dasein (man). Death is the possibility of being which Dasein has to take over. Furthermore, the Igbo concept of the Living Dead, which is the main thrust of this essay, goes a bit further to sustain death in man as a stage of existence, which makes for a continuous life though in death. This work is therefore an attempt to use the Igbo notion of the Living Dead to address the limitations, shortcomings and perceived inadequacies of the Heideggerian notion of death. It is our view that the Igbo notion of the living dead overcomes the problem of nothingless of death as conceived in Heidegger’s existentialism and therefore provides not only psychological assurance for the individual but also enhances social control and progress since man would always continue to be part of his community either as an ancestor or in a reincarnated form. As a result, this reduces the fear of death.