Death - Audio
by Professor Shelly Kagan
To listen to an audio podcast, mouse over the title and click Play. Open iTunes to download and subscribe to iTunes U collections.
(PHIL 176) 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? This class was recorded in Spring 2007.
||01 - Course introduction||Professor Kagan introduces the course and the material that will be covered during the semester. He aims to clarify what the class will focus on in particular and which subjects it will steer away from. The emphasis will be placed on philosophical...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||02 - The nature of persons: dualism vs. physicalism||Professor Kagan discusses the two main positions with regard to the question, "What is a person?" On the one hand, there is the dualist view, according to which a person is a body and a soul. On the other hand, the physicalist view argues that a...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||03 - Arguments for the existence of the soul, Part I||The lecture focuses on arguments that might be offered as proof for the existence of the soul. The first series of arguments discussed is those known as "inferences to the best explanation." That is, we posit the existence of things we cannot see ...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||04 - Introduction to Plato's Phaedo; Arguments for the existence of the soul, Part II||After a brief introduction to Plato's Phaedo, more arguments are offered in this lecture in defense of the existence of an immaterial soul. The emphasis here is on the fact that we need to believe in the existence of a soul in order to explain the...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||05 - Arguments for the existence of the soul, Part III: Free will and near-death experiences||Professor Kagan discusses in detail the argument of free will as proof for the existence of an immaterial soul. The argument consists of three premises: 1) We have free will. 2) Nothing subject to determinism has free will. 3) All purely physical...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||06 - Arguments for the existence of the soul, Part IV; Plato, Part I||The lecture begins with a continued discussion of the Cartesian argument and its weaknesses. The lecture then turns to Plato's metaphysical views in the context of his work, Phaedo. The key point in the discussion is the idea that in addition to the...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||07 - Plato, Part II: Arguments for the immortality of the soul||The discussion of Plato's Phaedo continues, presenting more arguments for the existence and immortality of the soul. One such argument is "the argument from the nature of the forms," which states that because the forms are non-physical objects...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||08 - Plato, Part III: Arguments for the immortality of the soul (cont.)||The lecture focuses exclusively on one argument for the immortality of the soul from Plato's Phaedo, namely, "the argument from simplicity." Plato suggests that in order for something to be destroyed, it must have parts, that is, it must be possible...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||09 - Plato, Part IV: Arguments for the immortality of the soul (cont.)||Professor Kagan elaborates on the "argument from simplicity" and discusses in detail Plato's claims that the soul is simple, changeless and therefore indestructible. The final Platonic argument under discussion is the "argument from essential...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||10 - Personal identity, Part I: Identity across space and time and the soul theory||The lecture focuses on the question of the metaphysical key to personal identity. What does it mean for a person that presently exists to be the very same person in the future? The first approach to answering this question is the "soul theory,"...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||11 - Personal identity, Part II: The body theory and the personality theory||Two more views regarding the metaphysical key to personal identity are discussed: the body view and the personality view. According to the body view, an individual is identified in terms of his or her physical body. According to the personality...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||12 - Personal identity, Part III: Objections to the personality theory||The lecture focuses on the problems directly related to the personality theory as key to personal identity. The theory states that a person retains his or her individuality so long as he or she has the same ongoing personality. The main objection...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||13 - Personal identity, Part IV; What matters?||The personality theory is revised to state that the key to personal identity is having the same personality provided that there is no branching, that is, provided there is no transfer or duplication of the same personality from one body to another...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||14 - What matters (cont.); The nature of death, Part I||The suggestion is made that what matters in survival is the future existence of someone with a personality similar to one's own. Professor Kagan then turns to the question, "what is it to die?". In answering this question, attention is first drawn...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||15 - The nature of death (cont.); Believing you will die||The lecture explores the question of the state of being dead. Even though the most logical claim seems to be that when a person stops P-functioning he or she is dead, a more careful consideration must allow for exceptions, such as when one...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||16 - Dying alone; The badness of death, Part I||Professor Kagan puts forward the claim that Tolstoy's character Ivan Ilych is quite the typical man in terms of his views on mortality. All of his life he has known that death is imminent but has never really believed it. When he suddenly falls ill...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||17 - The badness of death, Part II: The deprivation account||This lecture continues to explore the issue of why death may be bad. According to the deprivation account, what is bad about death is the fact that because one ceases to exist, one becomes deprived of the good things in life. Being dead is ...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||18 - The badness of death, Part III; Immortality, Part I||The discussion of the badness of death continues by asking whether it is bad that we do not exist before our birth. The views of a number of contemporary philosophers, such as Tom Nagle, Fred Feldman, and Derek Parfit, are introduced.||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||19 - Immortality Part II; The value of life, Part I||The lecture begins with further exploration of the question of whether it is desirable to live forever under the right circumstances, and then turns to consideration of some alternative theories of the nature of well-being. What makes a life worth living?||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||20 - The value of life, Part II; Other bad aspects of death, Part I||Lecture 20 continues the discussion of the value of life. It considers the neutral container theory, which holds that the value of life is simply a function of its contents, both pleasant and painful, and contrasts this with the valuable container...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||21 - Other bad aspects of death, Part II||Further bad aspects of death are considered, including ubiquity, or the fact that death may occur at any time and strike anyone. Professor Kagan invites students to contemplate the possibility of death-free time periods, vacation spots, and ...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||22 - Fear of death||Professor Kagan explores the issue of how thinking about death may influence the way we live. Fear as an emotional response to death is discussed as well as whether it is appropriate and under what conditions. A distinction is made between fear...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||23 - How to live given the certainty of death||In this lecture, Professor Kagan invites students to pose the question of how one should live life knowing that it will certainly end in death. He also explores the issue of how we should set our goals and how we should go about achieving them...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||24 - Suicide, Part I: The rationality of suicide||This is the first of a series of lectures on suicide. Two very distinct contexts are presented in which the subject can be further explored. The first is rationality and the question of under what circumstances it makes sense to end one's own life.||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||25 - Suicide, Part II: Deciding under uncertainty||The discussion of suicide continues. A few more cases are introduced to consider circumstances under which it might be rational to end one's life, and more graphs are drawn that show relevant variations in the quality of one's life. A question...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
||26 - Suicide, Part III: The morality of suicide and course conclusion||The lecture begins by examining the consequences a suicide has on both the person committing it and those around this person. The question is raised, however, whether this factor is the only that counts morally, as utilitarians claim...||10/9/2009||Free||View In iTunes|
Have just started reading Ernest Becker, and this was a great "companion" lecture to listen to in light of Becker's theories. Dr. Kagan is an energetic and dynamic speaker who keeps your attention, even in an audio lecture. I am very glad I found this series, and I enjoyed each lecture immensely.
Good course with some caveats
I rate these lectures 4 stars with some caveats. First the energy and clarity of the presentation are superb. The first half of the course was outstanding. The main focus was does there exist a soul within a person. Dr. Kagen examines the issue from all sides including what previous philosophers such as Plato thought. The second half of the course was only mediocre. After assuming the materialistic/naturalistic starting point, the search for the value of human life was muddled. Dr. Kagen frequently used phrases such as “it seems to me that …”, “that doesn’t seem right” and “it appears to me”. There didn’t seem to be any foundation of objective human values. He doesn’t address the relativistic approach. Maybe "it seems to me" is relative. It appears that the materialistic worldview can never lead to objective values.
Only just getting into it, but very clear and exceptionally interesting.