Death Assignments


11/10. First paper workshops! Read paper drafts by Guile and Bacorn. Reading responses to drafts by Esther (for Guile) and Chowdhury (for Bacorn).
11/8. Read Carlo Filice, "The moral case for reincarnation." Reading response paper (Guile, Johnson): in your own words, summarize and evaluate either one of Filice's arguments in favor of reincarnation, or his response to one of the objections to reincarnation.
11/1 and 11/3. 11/1: discuss Williams, and also read Moore's "Williams, Nietzsche, and the Meaninglessness of Immortality." Paper (Kim, Schlandt): Explain in your own words and evaluate either one of Moore's arguments on behalf of Williams, or one of the objections to Williams that Moore raises and then tries to rebut. 11/3: read Hume on suicide and Warren on prolonging life. Paper (Wroble, Bailey). (1) Explain and evaluate one of Hume's arguments for why suicide is morally permissible. (2) Warren thinks that the Epicurean attitude toward suicide and continuing to live is unpalatable. Explain why, and explain why you agree with him or not.
10/25 and 10/27. Parfit on Tuesday, Williams on tedium of immortality Thursday. No paper for Tuesday, for Thursday, explain and evaluate one of Williams' arguments either about why death is often bad, or why immortality would be bad.
For 10/18 and 10/20. Finish up Suits on Tuesday, start Parfit on time, Thursday, finish up Parfit on time, start Rosenberg on the symmetry argument. Papers Tuesday by Agasarkian and Bacorn, Thursday Chowdhury and D'aigle. Suits: same as before. Parfit: give and evaluate one of his arguments concerning whether we do, or should, have asymmetrical attitudes towards the past and future. Or consider whether Parfit's arguments undermine the symmetry argument. Rosenberg: give and evaluate one of his arguments on behalf of the symmetry argument.
For 10/11 and 10/13. Tuesday, continue Feinberg and Portmore on posthumous harms. Same paper topics as before on that, papers by Wroble and Bailey. For Thursday, read Suits on why bad isn't bad, papers by Guile and Johnson. Topic: summarize and evaluate one of Suits' arguments against the deprivation account of why death is harmful.
For 10/4 and 10/6. Readings: Re-read Nagel, and read Feinberg and Portmore on posthumous harms. We'll cover Nagel on Tuesday, and Feinberg and Portmore on Thursday. Tuesday papers: Davis and Hullinger, Thursday Kim and Schlandt. For each day, explain and evaluate one of the arguments in the readings: can people be harmed by their deaths? Can events after one's death harm somebody?
For 9/27 and 9/29. Finish up van Inwagen, and read Lucretius and Epicurus against the fear of death, and Nagel on death. Papers:
  1. Explain and evaluate briefly one of the arguments against the fear of death given by Epicurus or Lucretius.
  2. Explain and evaluate one of the arguments given by Nagel.

9/22. No paper, again. Continue discussion of Clarke, Hume, Lucretius, plus articles on whether resurrection is possible: van Inwagen. Do you find the concerns he raises about the possibility of resurrection cogent? Why or why not? What about his purported solution?

For 9/20. Is death annihilation? Please read Clarke on death, Hume on death, and Lucretius on mortality (all on uLearn). Do you think death is annihilation? No paper, but think about it. For 9/15. Eric Olson, "An Argument for Animalism." Papers (Julianne Wroble, Elise Bailey)

  1. Give and evaluate one of Olson's arguments for why we are animals. (Best would be the 'thinking-animal' argument.)
  2. Give and evaluate Olson's reasons against rejecting any one of the 3 premises to the 'thinking animal' argument.
  3. Olson believes that we way we think and talk about fetuses and people in persistent vegetative states supports animalism. Explain and evaluate his reasons.

For 9/13. Continue Parfit. Read the selections from Reason and Persons posted on uLearn and continue discussing Personal Identity. Papers (Ashley Spadafora, Ben Guile):

Explain why Parfit asserts one of the following claims, what it means, and why you agree or disagree with it.



For 9/6 and 9/8. Read Parfit's article "Personal Identity". Papers. Tuesday Davis, Dwayne O. and Hullinger, Jess P. (either the questions below or the ones on Bernard Williams for last Thursday) Thursday Kim, Esther E. and Schlandt, Jordan D. (just the Parfit Qs below):

Explain why Parfit asserts one of the following claims, what it means, and why you agree or disagree with it.


For 9/1. Read Williams "The self and the future." Papers (Fahad Chowdhury, Sean D'aigle), on Williams or Tuesday material we didn't cover in class yet):

Give and evaluate one of William's arguments for why we should not regard A and B as having "switched bodies" in the imagined operation. Or give and evaluate what Williams says about some detail of one of the operations that he discusses, and which attitudes about (e.g.,) future pain it would make sense to adopt. Or give and evaluate what Williams has to say about this being a "borderline" or "indeterminate" case of personal identity.


For 8/30. Read Butler and Reid against Locke, plus Hume on the self plus the selection on Buddhism and no self.

Possible paper topics (Lousine Agasarkisian, Matthew Bacorn):

  • Why does Butler think that memory cannot constitute personal identity, but presupposes it? Is he right? Why, or why not>
  • Why does Butler think that 'sameness of persons' and 'sameness of plants' aren't analogous, whereas 'sameness of persons' can be 'sameness of substance'? Is he right? Why, or why not?
  • Explain and evaluate Reid's objection to Locke from the example of the brave office.
  • Explain and evaluate some other objection against Locke by Reid.
  • Why does Hume think that he is unaware of his self? Is he right?
  • Why does Hume think that to suppose that there is a continuous self across time is a mistake, adn why does he think we make this mistake? Is he right? Why or why not?
  • Why does Rahula think that there is no 'self' or 'soul', and that belief in a self or soul is harmful? Explain and analyze his arguments.
  • Why would Rahula think that the desire to have life after death is harmful? Explain and analyze his argument.
    For 8/25.

    Please read the selection from John Locke about personal identity. Also play (and post your results for Staying Alive: the personal identity game.

    Paper topics (to think about; would have been assigned if we were doing papers for Thursday):

    1. Explain and evaluate one of Locke's arguments for why personal identity cannot be the same as identity of substance.
    2. Explain the evaluate Locke's thought experiment about the prince and the cobbler.
    3. Explain and evaluate one of Locke's arguments for why personal identity cannot be the same as identity as a 'man' (i.e., a himan being).
    4. Locke's claims that on his criterion of personal identity, resurrection of the dead is unproblematic. Explain why and evaluate his claim.
    5. Locke considers and rebuts several objections to his view. Explain and evaluate his response to one of them.

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