This study group provides an opportunity to explore fundamental philosophical problems surrounding death.
The Philosophy of Death study group provides an opportunity to ask questions such as: “What does it mean to die and who or what is the ‘person’ that dies? Is it merely a physical body, or is it also something like a soul, and, if so, does the existence of a soul indicate that there is some hope of immortality? What should our attitude toward death be and what effect should that have on the way we live our lives?” The study group uses a number of prominent philosophical and literary works—including those by Plato, Tolstoy, Montaigne, Jonathan Swift, Walter Kauffmann and Lucretius—to think about death philosophically.
posted message: Judaism, Christianity and Islam contend that we are not existentially free but that existence is bound by another layer of reality—the divine. Thus, time becomes a mechanism (an instrument) by which we pass through various phases in life to arrive at a relationship with God. Extension, that is to say the physical dimensions as we know them, are certainly restricting for humans but for the divine represent an opportunity to “speak more directly” to humans; namely, through miracles, which are suspensions of the physical laws of nature. Causality, cause and effect, is a mechanism whereby the divine judges us, it is the opportunity for divine justice and the ultimate judgment in which the good are rewarded and the unjust are punished.
posted message: In the Christian paradigm, humans descend (or are expelled from the Garden and forced) into the physical world. This physical world is not “free” of constrictions; rather it is full of them. To begin with, human life is bound by time, extension, causality and mortality. Existentialism, at this point, would have to agree. But where Existentialism seems content (or authentic from its viewpoint) is at this level of constriction. Outside of recognizing the requirements of temporality, physical extension, causality and mortality, Existentialism suggests that life (within this matrix) is what you make of it. This is at once, terrifying, dreadful and lonely, and honest and liberating. We sure can see this in Tolstoy’s work.
posted message: I am finishing up some of the readings and will be adding to the discussion on the activity wall shortly. Thank you for your flexibility regarding deadlines. I enjoyed tremendously reading The Death of Ivan Illyich. It seemed so familiar. It echoed so much of my experience working with patients and families while I worked with hospice. It seems that no matter who we are in life, with our vastly different experiences, we can be very much the same at our end. I have known many Ivans.
posted message: Greetings friends: It seems that most of us (myself included) are having a bit of a slow start. A few have just joined us as well. So, I thought it best to keep the comments going on Unit 1. Why don't we aim for having everyone post and/or reply to comments relating to Unit 1 by the end of this weekend (10/15)? Please post your comments on the following issues on the Activity Wall: 1) Describe the philosophical questions that surround the inevitable biological event of death; 2)Compare the philosophical notion of mind/body dualism with the idea of physicalism and how these doctrines imply different attitudes about death; 3) Discuss the fundamental arguments that Plato makes in his work Phaedo in regards to the immortality of the soul.
posted message: Welcome to the study group. My name is Chad Redwing and I am a professor of Humanities in California. I look forward to reading through and watching this material, available through the Saylor Foundation, with you over the next 5 weeks and then sharing ideas. I look at this as a professional development opportunity to vet some ideas and materials before they are used in my classes and also as a very personal journey to engage one of the most important quandries of human existence, that of the issues related to our mortality. I look forward to everyone (myself included) posting some initial comments on Unit 1 by 10/10. Have a wonderful first week of exploration and though, and welcome again to this very unique community of learners.
posted message: Here are the reminders for the Unit Activity Wall posts:
10/3--The study group formally begins, please take a minute to post a few things about your self and your interest in this group on the Activity Wall. This way, we get to learn more about one another and we have practice posting on the Activity Wall.
10/10--Unit I initial post
10/13--Unit I reply to other posts
10/21--Unit II initial post
10/24--Unit II reply to other posts
11/1--Unit III initial post
11/4--Unit III reply to other posts
11/4--End of study group evaluation
posted message: Greetings to you all and welcome to the "Philosophy of Death" study group. This group is really a guided auto-didactic experience in which we each read some important primary works and watch some online lectures that relate to "how to think about death philosophically." The "tasks" that lead you to the content are posted at the left side of the study group home page. After every unit's materials, you are each asked to post your comments, ideas and questions about the materials in the unit. As this is a study group, the real idea is to help one another come to deeper understandings about the readings and lectures. In the next activity wall post, I will give an overview of the deadlines for Unit Activity Wall postings.