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YALE PHIL 176 - Death (Spring, 2007)   

YALE PHIL 176 - Death with Professor Shelly Kagan

author: Shelly Kagan, Department of Philosophy, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)

There is one thing I can be sure of: I am going to die. But what am I to make of that fact? This course will examine a number of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mortality. The possibility that death may not actually be the end is considered. Are we, in some sense, immortal? Would immortality be desirable? Also a clearer notion of what it is to die is examined. What does it mean to say that a person has died? What kind of fact is that? And, finally, different attitudes to death are evaluated. Is death an evil? How? Why? Is suicide morally permissible? Is it rational? How should the knowledge that I am going to die affect the way I live my life?

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Reviews and comments:

Comment1 stanley giordano, July 21, 2010 at 10:04 p.m.:

I am a 46 yr old x postal worker. I barely made it threw high school. the parents often told me how stupid or dumb i was and wold not amount to any thing. I have proved them wrong... Suicide was like a cloud that chased me thew life. My grandfarther killed himself in 1971. My farther 18 years older then me was th oldest of 10 brothers and 1 sister. 5 have committed suicide.1 is mentaly retarded.My farther and 1 others have made attempes.1 i am unsure of and 1 leads a total normal life.I was so drawn to your class on line i wanted to go find you just to shack your hand <i am not a crazy stacker>.I find your logic in suicide amazing You are without a dought i highly inteligent man.I was once hospitalized for thinking about "checking out" when i ask the docters if suicide was hereditary. they said no!! of corse not its not like blue eyes or brown hair.Depretion thow is witch my lead you to suicide.
thank you your students dont know how lucky they are.
keep up your great work.

stanley giordano

Comment2 juspichi, April 3, 2012 at 5:47 a.m.:

Regarding the argument concerning a chess program -

The "chess program" is made up of
1) the hardware that delivers signals and responses, and
2) the software (program code)

If my computer has this ingenious chess program installed and my computer crashes, then if I simply reinstall the program on a different computer, then the chess program lives on, does it not? Say I happen to be the developer of this amazing program and I happened to watch every game the program played. Then, I could recreate not only the original program, but also build in code so that all the program's old "experiences" are also as it was right before the hardware crash. I don't think belief in physicalism necessitates that we cannot survive our bodily deaths.

Comment3 OneFour, March 12, 2014 at 7:07 p.m.:

What a course. I can see why people either love or hate Dr. Kagan. There are a few things that I would like to have resolved. Dr. Kagan said that he was disinclined to believe in the soul but never really stated his exact reasons. That wasn't fair. We needed to hear why. On the discussion of death, he dismissed the idea that we all die alone. As my mother was dying, I came to believe this very strongly. She was dying alone. While we were all losing her, she was the only one losing everything and everyone. We went home or we went about our business while she was dying. We could escape from the situation for a few minutes or a few hours. She was stuck in the situation. She couldn't forget about it. On the discussion of the badness of death, he dismissed the idea that death was bad. We as humans have the ability to anticipate death. We can anticipate losing everything. That can be terribly sad. It can be something to fear. All we have ever known is life. We are going to lose that. Fear of the unknown can be fearful. Also, he never dealt with the survival instinct of living things. How might the survival instinct be experienced? Might it be experienced as fear of death. He controlled the discussions by his premises. Seems to me that his premises weren't always the right ones.

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