Death: Its Nature and Significance





Jeffrey Behrends (Department of Philosophy)
Freshman Seminar 60S     4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Here's a hard truth: you are going to die. That's nothing against you, of course. I'm going to die, too, and so is everyone else—it's just the way of things for creatures like us. Yet, despite the central role that death plays in our existence, it seems to remain deeply mysterious in a number of ways. It is difficult even to say precisely what death is—is it a mere biological phenomenon? If so, is there any sense to be made of the idea that I might continue to exist after my death, perhaps as a soul? Or is death instead final, in the sense that it causes me to cease existing altogether? Beyond these kinds of questions about death's nature, there are also questions about death's significance or value: Is death bad for the person who dies? If they go out of existence, how could it be bad—things can't be good or bad for us if we don't exist, it seems! Is it better to die at a certain age or time than some other? What should I think about my future death—should I fear it? Would it be better for us if we were immortal? In this class, we'll examine important philosophical work that responds to each of these questions, and more.


See also: Fall 2020