Death (Spring 2008)
Epicurus argued that we should not fear death, since it could not cause us harm: where death is, we are not; where we are, death is not. Although this argument may seem patently absurd, it and similar arguments have been difficult to refute conclusively. In this course we will try to answer the question: Is death an evil? In order to answer this question we will first need to know what “death” is. We will explore several major puzzles surrounding the value and nature of death. We will also examine the inverse of the harm question: would immortality be desirable? Although it seems obvious that we would like to live forever, philosophers have presented a few serious problems that cast doubt on the value of an immortal life. Independent of its harmfulness, we will consider reasons to think that death might add value to our lives. In addition we will ask whether it is possible to survive the death of our bodies. In closing, we will ask what attitudes are appropriate to take toward death.