Matters of Life and Death
course description.



We all have to die sometime, but is that death good for us, bad for us, or nothing to us? How is death defined, and what influences its definition? What do our practices around dying and death — from the traditional to the cutting edge of medical technology — say about our attitudes toward death? And what implications does our mortality have for the meaningfulness of our lives?

This course will explore these questions by engaging with works in philosophy, history, anthropology, literature, and film. It will consider historical and cultural contexts ranging from ancient Rome to 19th century Europe, from the Amazonian rainforest to the Himalayan foothills, from medical ethics committees in the U.S. and Japan to the modern American funeral industry. This multidisciplinary approach to the question of what our mortality means to us will give you experience in using different kinds of texts to approach a question. Further, the course will help you develop the critical thinking skills necessary to help you decide how the recognition of your own mortality will influence your understanding of your own life.


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