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Unit information: Death, dying and disease in 2017/18

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Unit name Death, dying and disease
Unit code PHIL20049
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Ana-Maria Cretu
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

none

School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description

In this unit, we consider a range of closely inter-related philosophical questions that are raised by death and dying. While topics and readings may change from year to year, we will typically cover the following questions: Is it rational to fear our own death? Is death bad for the one who dies? What do we care about in our survival? What gives value to life? What do we mean by 'the meaning of life'? What is the badness of never having existed at all? Should we desire immortality? When, if ever, is assisted suicide permissible? What is it genuinely to know that you are mortal? Our thinking about these questions will be informed by readings from across the history of philosophy, from Epicurus and Lucretius in the ancient world, to Thomas Nagel, Susan Wolf, and Elizabeth Harman in the twentieth century; we will also draw on works of literature.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a strong intermediate-level knowledge of the main philosophical literature on death; (2) developed a critical understanding of the central concepts in the death literature, e.g. immortality, posthumous harm, being-towards-death; (3) acquired an understanding of philosophical approaches to death including deprivation theory, Epicureanism, and phenomenology; (4) demonstrated their ability to philosophically analyse the main arguments in the literature; (5) strengthened their skills in philosophical writing and argumentation, and (6) strengthened their skills in oral presentation of philosophical argument.

Teaching details

11 one-hour lectures and 11 one-hour seminars

Assessment Details

Summative assessment in three forms:

  • Presentation, individual, 10 minutes (20%)
  • Essay, 2000 words (40%)
  • Examination, 2 questions in 2 hours (40%)

No formative essays – instead, the instructor will use the presentation (which contributes moderately to the final mark) as a chance to give feedback on progress.

The essay and exam will assess ILOs 1-5: (1) knowledge of the main philosophical literature on death; (2) critical understanding of the central concepts in the death literature, e.g. immortality, posthumous harm, being-towards-death; (3) understanding of philosophical approaches to death including deprivation theory, Epicureanism, and phenomenology; (4) ability to philosophically analyse the main arguments in the literature; (5) skills in philosophical writing and argumentation.

The class presentation will assess learning outcomes (1), (3), and (4), as well as (6) skills in oral presentation of philosophical argument.

Reading and References

Fischer JM (1993). The Metaphysics of Death. Stanford CA: Stanford UP. Warren J. (2004). Facing Death: Epicurus and His Critics. Oxford: Oxford UP. Heidegger M. (1962 [1927]). Being and time. London: Blackwell.

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