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Death, Dying and Meaning

The course consists of four sessions and the material for the course may be used in various different ways.

The main topics raised in each session are:

1. What’s so bad about death?
The nature of death – annihilation and non-existence;
Surviving as the same person over time;
Death as a harm – assessment of the argument of Lucretius;
What do you lose through death?
The harm of dying young.

2. Ending lives
Some case studies of suicide/euthanasia;
Some distinctions: epistemic/metaphysical; legal/moral;
The sanctity of human life: the right to life / the right to death;
Hume on suicide;
Mill’s Liberty Principle and respect for individuals’ autonomy;
Slippery slope arguments;
Euthanasia and palliative care.

3. Respecting the dying and the deceased
How we do respect the dead;
Lucretius argument re ‘no harms when dead’;
How to be harmed even when dead;
Betrayal example / Kafka’s request example;
Respecting euthanasia requests – binding ourselves in the future;
Non-voluntary euthanasia / organ donation etc.

4. Death and the meaning of life
‘What’s the point?’ Eternal life solves nothing;
Valuing both ends and means;
‘We are but specks in the universe;’
Non-existence before birth: a mirror to death;
Drinking the elixir of life – the need for death;
Perspectives on life.

Download the notes for course leaders (PDF).

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