Philosophy of Death (Fall 2013) - First Exam

Philosophy of Death - First Exam

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer three (3) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. You have 1,800 words. (There is a 1,500 word minimum.)

Answer question 1. (Life)

1. Consider the general life-functional theory of "life." Feldman argues that none of the life functions are necessary conditions. But are any sufficient? What about some combination of life-functions. If so which? Consider each of the life functions. Determine whether it is sufficient for life or whether it in combination with some other life function is sufficient.

(Suggested plan: Explain the general life functional theory. Briefly explain why the major contenders are not necessary. For instance, you should say something about the cecropia moth and nutrition. Be brief. Then consider each life function to see whether it is sufficient for life. If you can think of something that has the function and is not alive, then the function is not sufficient. You should consider whether some combination of life-functions is sufficient.)

Answer question 2. (Death)

2. Is remission a problem for Feldman's analysis of "dying2." Why or why not?

(Suggested plan: Explain Feldman's analysis of dying2. Make all the details clear. You should not summarize the entire chapter. Simply explain the theory. Then consider whether remission is a problem. You should consider the objection and then say whether it is successful. Either way you will likely need to be a bit more specific about what "interference" amounts to.)

Answer one question from 3-4. (Personal Identity)

3*. At the beginning of the Second Night, Miller argues for the personality theory of personal identity. In your own words, explain the argument he presents on (roughly) pages 19-22. How does the conceivability of Kafka's metamorphosis lend support to the personality theory over the body theory.

4*. At the end of the Second Night, Weirob raised an important objection to the personality theory. In your own words, explain the objection she presents on (roughly) pages 32-36. How is it a problem for the personality theory that God could make more than one heavenly being with with my personality?

(*Note: Neither of these two questions asks for evaluation. I simply want you to explain the arguments as clearly and convincingly as you can. Don't use any quotations or external sources. Your roommate should be able to understand every sentence. In answering these questions, you need to explain the concept of personal identity and the personality theory.)

Note: In order to evaluate an argument, you need to build up the argument before showing where it might go wrong. To build up an argument, you must do more than merely offer a formalization. You must explain the argument. Typically, showing where an argument goes wrong will require arguing that one of the premises is false. Be sure to consider obvious, compelling replies to your objections. If you think an argument is good, then you will need to defend it against the strongest objections that you can think of.

Note: Keep quotations to an absolute minimum. Never use a quotation to speak for you. The only quotations in your exam should be of formalizations or for textual evidence to support an interpretation of a story or a complex argument.

Due Date

Tuesday 10/15/2013


The exam should be in total no more than 1,800 words. This is approximately 6 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. The exam should be no less than 1,500 words. (I will deduct a letter grade for every 200 words shy of the minimum.)


You don't have much space, so you will need to be clear and to the point. Clarity should be your chief goal in writing the answers. Pick your words carefully. Write to be understood. Assume that you are writing the paper to be read by someone completely unfamiliar with the issues.

I want you to explain the theories and objections as clearly as you can within the space allotted. I do not want papers that are longer than the word limit. The space limitation is designed to force you to practice verbal economy. That said, it is impossible to write a set of adequate answers in much less than the allocated space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


The exam must be typed. It should be double spaced. It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font. I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read. Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "writing" section on the course Blackboard page.

Write a separate essay for each answer. Do not try to answer all the questions in a single essay. Formal introductions and conclusions are unnecessary, though you must use paragraphs.

Please skip a line or two between your answers. You do not need to start a new page. Include the number of the question at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.

You should include a bibliography on the final page. Use the Chicago manual "notes and bibliography" citation style:


You are required to hand in a paper copy at the start of class on the due date. In addition you must submit the midterm through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. (11:59 pm is after class, not to be confused with the night before.) Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool. It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, RIC, and from all other universities that use the software.

*If you are unable to submit the paper to Safe Assign due to technical difficulties, you must send an email to the helpdesk <> explaining the problem. Make sure to CC me. If this happens, send me a copy of your paper as an attachment. Note: I will not accept your paper if you don't report the problem to the helpdesk.

Note: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment. I recommend that you not use any outside sources. If you do, you must cite them even if you don't quote them. You must attribute all ideas to their proper sources.


Before writing, you must read three documents under the writing section of the course Blackboard page: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. Pryor's "Writing Philosophy Papers."