Death and the Dead
Robert Pogue Harrison. The Dominion of the Dead. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
John Martin Fischer, ed. The Metaphysics of Death. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.
This course will focus on philosophical issues surrounding death, the dead, and the place of both among the living. We will start by looking in some detail at the view that human beings are essentially in denial about death, and that this denial, moreover, explains much of what we do in the world-murder, art, sex, etc. Next, we will turn our attention to death itself: what is it? Is it a harm for the person who dies? Is it a significant source of meaning in life? We will explore these questions by looking in detail at some of the views of philosophers, both ancient and contemporary. Finally, we will turn our attention to the many dead. In the last section of the course, we'll explore the question of our obligations to the dead (if we have any) as well as how these might be fulfilled (in memorials, holidays, grave-markers, and so on).
Quizzes (some pop, some take home): 20%
Exam #1: 20%
Exam #2: 20%
Exam #3: 20%
Final Paper (5-7 pages): 20% (due the last day of class)
Note: Readings on Blackboard have each been assigned a number. Readings without numbers are in the course texts.
Part 1: The Denial Of Death
W, 9-5: Intro to the course, movie: Flight from Death
M, 9-10: #1, Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, Chapters 1-4. (Blackboard)
W, 9-12: #2, Yalom, Chapter 2, Existential Psychotherapy, (Blackboard)
#3, Yalom, Chapter 4, Existential Psychotherapy, (Blackboard)
M, 9-17: #4, Piven, Chapters 1-4, Death and Delusion , (Blackboard)
W, 9-19: #5, Piven, Chapters 6, 9, Death and Delusion, (Blackboard)
M, 9-24: #6, Solomon et al, "Evidence for Terror Management Theory" (on Blackboard)
#7, Solomon et al, "Subliminal Exposure to Death Related Stimuli Increases Defense of the Cultural World-View" (Blackboard)
#8, Philippe Aries, Western Attitudes Toward Death (Blackboard)
W, 9-26: #9, Slote, "Existentialism and the Fear of Dying" (Blackboard)
#10, Buben, "Kierkegaard and the Norm (MacDonald) of Death" (Blackboard).
M, 10-1: EXAM #1
Part 2: The Metaphysics of Death
W, 10-3: Feldman, Confrontations with the Reaper, Chapters 7 and 8, (Blackboard)
#11, Epicurus, "Death"
#12, Mary Roach, "How to Know When you're Dead"
[See also Plato, Phaedo, on Blackboard]
M, 10-8: Nagel, "Death," The Metaphysics of Death, 59-70
Yourgrau, "The Dead," The Metaphysics of Death, 135-156.
W, 10-10: Williams, "The Makropolous Case" The Metaphysics of Death, 71-92
#13, Wisnewski, "Is the Immortal Life Worth Living?"
M, 10-15: October Break
W, 10-17: Feinberg, "Harm to Others," The Metaphysics of Death, 169-190
M, 10-22: Parfit, "Reasons and Persons," The Metaphysics of Death, 193-217
W, 10-24: Velleman, "Well-Being and Time" The Metaphysics of Death, 327-357.
M, 10-29: EXAM #2
Part 3: The Dead
W, 10-31: Harrison, Chapters 1-3, Dominion of the Dead
M, 11-5: Harrison, Chapters 4-5, Dominion of the Dead
W, 11-7: Harrison, Chapters 6-7, Dominion of the Dead
M, 11-12: Harrison, Chapter 8-9, Dominion of the Dead
#14 Donohoe, NAME
W, 11-14: #15, Brecher, "Our Obligations to the Dead" (Blackboard)
#16, Wisnewski, "What we owe the dead"
M, 11-19: Movie: A Certain Kind of Death
W, 11-21: Thanksgiving Break
M, 11-26: #16, Tarlow, "Archaeological Ethics"
#17, Scarre, "Can Archaeology Harm the Dead?"
W, 11-28: #18, Mulgan, "The Place of the Dead in Liberal Political Philosophy"
#19, De Baets, "A Declaration of the Responsibilities…"
M, 12-3: #20, Wicclair, "Informed Consent and Research Involving the Newly Dead"
#21, T.M. Wilkinson, "Last Rights: the ethics of research on the dead," Journal of Applied Philosophy, 19, 2002.
#22, Wisnewski, "When the Dead Do Not Consent"
W, 12-5: #23, Wisnewski, A Defense of Cannibalism
#24, Wisnewski, Murder, Cannibalism, and Indirect Suicide
ACCOMMODATIONS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: Reasonable accommodations will be provided to qualified students with documented disabilities. If you have a disability requiring accommodations in any class, contact and meet the Coordinator of Disability Services, Patty Jacobsen, in Yager 504 or call 431-4546 or 431-4435. Your request for accommodation will be discussed and if determined to be reasonable, you will be provided with the verification letter that must be returned to the course instructor.