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PHL 280 Life and Death (3 credits)

The focus of the course is primarily metaphysical. The course begins with an examination of what it means to be alive. Historically, this is a question that has had philosophical and scientific roots, and we will examine both. Early ideas about life included the view of life as breath, a view that persists etymologically in words such as "spirit". We will survey these ideas leading up to Enlightenment debates between vitalism and mechanism. After completing this survey, we will consider what is meant by a life, as a process extended in time. This leads directly to a consideration of human life, and the life of a person. In the death part of the course, we will deal with some fairly standard issues, including the Harm Thesis, and the question of whether it is ever or always rational to fear (or at least want to avoid) death. In addition, conceptions of the afterlife will be considered, in light of points previously made concerning the nature of a life in general. The conditions that would make for a meaningful afterlife will be considered in light of the question of what makes for a meaningful life in the first place.