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Unit information: Death, dying and disease in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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. Karim Thebault
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


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 be able to:

(1) demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the central philosophical issues concerning, and philosophical approaches to, death,

(2) demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the key literature concerning those issues and approaches,

(3) demonstrate the ability to critically engage with, and philosophically analyse, these issues and approaches, together with the key literature concerning them, in a manner appropriate to level I/5.

(4) demonstrate skills in the written presentation of complex material on these debates and positions, as appropriate to Level I/5,

(5) work together collaboratively with others to collectively present and explain philosophical material orally in a manner accessible to a public audience.

Teaching details

11 two-hour lectures and 11 one-hour seminars

Assessment Details


Group Presentation, (20%) [ILOs (1)-(3), (5)]

1x 1500-word essay, (40%) [ILOs (1)-(4)]

2-hour unseen examination (40%) [ILOs (1)-(4)]

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.