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  • Michel De Montaigne
The Philosophy of Death
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This course provides an in-depth introduction to the philosophical problems surrounding death; ...

This course provides an in-depth introduction to the philosophical problems surrounding death; it is organized around the lectures of Shelly Kagan, Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, who develops his own philosophy of death over the length of the course. Its major purpose, aside from familiarizing you with the writings of major philosophers on the subject of death, is to teach you how to think about death philosophically to decide for yourself what you believe about death and to provide careful and convincing arguments for those beliefs. Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to: Discuss the philosophical issues connected with death: what it is, whether it is good or bad, and its significance in terms of the way we choose to live; Explain the inter-relatedness of questions about death and questions about personal identity and the self; Differentiate between dualist and physicalist conceptions of death and specify the particular consequences of each approach; Describe the multiplicity of cultural, religious, and philosophical views about death and the soul; Discuss major philosophical arguments for and against the immortality of the soul; Articulate major theories of personal identity, and provide reasoned criticisms of these major theories of personal identity; Explain and evaluate the view of death presented in literary works such as Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich; Discuss in a philosophical way certain value-theoretic questions about death: whether it is inherently good or bad, whether it presents us with obligations to live our lives in a certain way, and whether it is permissible to end life prematurely; Describe the existentialist view of death and the notion that it gives life meaning by restricting its shape and scope; Explain the various ways in which this limiting feature of death has been interpreted. (Philosophy 201)

Arts and Humanities
Material Type:
Full Course
Lecture Notes
The Saylor Foundation