Death (The Open Yale Courses Series)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
There is one thing we can be sure of: we are all going to die. But once we accept that fact, the questions begin. In this thought-provoking book, philosophy professor Shelly Kagan examines the myriad questions that arise when we confront the meaning of mortality. Do we have reason to believe in the existence of immortal souls? Or should we accept an account according to which people are just material objects, nothing more? Can we make sense of the idea of surviving the death of one’s body? If I won’t exist after I die, can death truly be bad for me? Would immortality be desirable? Is fear of death appropriate? Is suicide ever justified? How should I live in the face of death?
Written in an informal and conversational style, this stimulating and provocative book challenges many widely held views about death, as it invites the reader to take a fresh look at one of the central features of the human condition—the fact that we will die.
about what’s happening to world poverty or global justice while you are hooked up to the machine. Just imagine that everyone is hooked up to an experience machine, everybody is having the very best possible experiences. Remember, what I am asking you is whether you would want to spend your life hooked up to the experience machine. I’m not talking about whether it might be interesting or fun to try it out for a week, or a month, or even a year. Indeed, strictly speaking, the question isn’t even
truly the case that you would be better off dead. Taking this point as given—that in at least some cases, at some point, one would be better off dead—let me now try to say something a bit more precise about when suicide would make sense. Once again, I think it may be helpful to illustrate the main ideas with graphs that show how well-being varies over time. In Figure 15.1, as well as in the other graphs in this chapter, the X axis represents time, with later times shown further to the right. The
yourself alive for the sake of your children. So it all depends on the facts. Still, if we accept the utilitarian position we do end up with a moderate conclusion. In certain circumstances suicide will be morally justified. Roughly speaking, it will be justified in those cases where you would be better off dead and the effects on others aren’t so great as to outweigh that fact. Those will be the paradigm cases in which suicide would be morally legitimate, according to utilitarianism. But of
to the fact that we have free will, it had better be the case that we do indeed have free will. But that assumption—natural and widespread though it may be—can be challenged. There are philosophers who have said that while we certainly believe that we have free will, it’s just an illusion. Why do they think that? For precisely the sorts of reasons that are pointed to by the rest of the argument! These philosophers sometimes argue that since we are physical objects, we are subject to determinism.
I’ve survived from one minute to the next, from one hour to the next?” Locke thought the answer was no, that you can’t possibly take the soul view seriously if you think about what it implies. Notice, incidentally, that this is not an argument that souls don’t exist. If you find this argument convincing, what it’s an argument for is the claim that even if souls do exist, they may not be the key to personal identity. It’s not an argument against dualism; it’s an argument against the soul theory