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When Victor Frankenstein says “To examine the causes of life, we must for have recourse to death,” it carries more than one meaning. On the surface, it is difficult from a scientific perspective – Victor’s perspective – to study the nature of life. One simply cannot conduct surgery to find out what makes someone tick. Victor instead elects to go to graveyards and dig up the dead, so that he may conduct his experiments. In a manner characteristic of Enlightenment thinking, Victor breaks down the body into its constituent parts, perceiving it very much like a machine. In death, the human body has essentially just stopped. Victor, however, seeks to understand how the body stops working, not just that it does stop working. Life and death are simply aspects of the same overall process. By arriving at an understanding of one aspect, learning about the others poses less of a problem than it would otherwise. Victor concludes that the human body is much like a machine, so to reverse the process of death and thus achieve life, he must give power to the machine. In doing so, not only will he have created life, but he will also have arrived at the causes of life.
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