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Death (The Open Yale Courses Series) Paperback – May 15, 2012
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About the Author
Shelly Kagan is Clark Professor of Philosophy, Yale University. He is the author of Normative Ethics and The Limits of Morality. He lives in Hamden, CT.
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Top Customer Reviews
Kagan introduces the book by making it clear what he is and his not doing. He is going to think philosophically about Death but he is going to exclude any religious material or consideration. He will first consider what the person is, consider the body- mind question. He will make an effort in the work to prove that the soul is not real.
He also says that he is not dogmatically trying to teach any doctrine about Death. He is going to explore certain basic questions regarding Death and is eager that each student will think through these questions.
He does this in a generally clear way, though I suspect that certain chapters of the work will be pretty tough going for the general reader.
He works hard to analyze the notion of personal identity. He concludes the work with the question of whether Suicide can be moral or not. He in the course of this evaluates different value systems. He also has a chapter on how we live when we know that we are going to die. And he too argues that Immortality is not a desirable alternative. In other chapters he discusses why Death is Bad.
It is possible to learn a great deal one does not necessarily want to know from this book without endorsing Kagan's positions. Kagan is well aware that this is far from the last word on the subject. And this when he as a philosopher does make arguments for a position on Death which certainly is out of keeping with, and far less consoling than traditional religious positions.
Shelly tells us that some things are intrinsically bad. That is, some things, such as pain for example are bad in and of itself.
If something that leads to things that are bad, that is considered instrumentally bad. He cites losing a job which may not be bad in and of itself but can lead to poverty.
Something can be comparatively bad by virtue of the fact that on what we have missed out on. It is in this sense that death is bad since the "opportunity costs" of living far outweigh non-existence. In a sense reminds me of the verse in the bible that says "a living dog is better than a dead lion".
Shelly writes in a very conversational tone while philosophizing on the nature of death, considering words and arguments in the light of what we currently know. Arguments in favor of the immortality of the soul are laid out, examined, and shown to not have any real merit. What Shelly advances, seems to be common sense about death. And understanding death can perhaps take the sting out of it when we face it. When I was going through my cancer treatment years ago, I would have been less anxious than I was if I had read this book over having read "The Death of Ivan Illich", which is extremely depressing.
We all have to face the end someday, and thinking about it as Shelly lays it out can make this life, our ONLY life meaningful. When you realize how short our years are, and the fact that no immortality awaits us, this to me underscores our responsibility to be nicer to each other, appreciate life on higher levels, love a little more, be ethical in all that we do.
Shelly is a great philosopher and I highly recommend this work and all his other works:
1. Normative Ethics
2. The Limits of Morality
So maybe the book might better have been called something a bit less morbid, such as "Thinking about mortality", or "What makes life worth living?"
And I'd much rather have seen a picture of a gentleman in a black cloak carrying a sythe on the cover, instead of the unsubtle skull that was chosen.
And I would have preferred the picture of Dr Kagan on the back cover to have been much larger. Then it would be clear that this book is not by a stuffy elderly professor, but a by bright young guy with a sense of humor.
"Death" is the very interesting book based on a course on death that Professor Kagan has taught at Yale University. This accessible book covers philosophical questions about the nature of death. The first half of the book covers questions about the existence of souls and the nature of death while the second half deals with value questions. This is a very engaging and thought-provocative book that has well a lecture feel. This instructive 392-page book includes the following sixteen chapters: 1. Thinking about Death, 2. Dualism versus Physicalism, 3. Arguments for the Existence of the Soul, 4. Descartes' Argument, 5. Plato on the Immortality of the Soul, 6. Personal Identity, 7. Choosing between the Theories, 8. The Nature of Death, 9. Two Surprising Claims about Death, 10. The Badness of Death, 11. Immortality, 12. The Value of Life, 13. Other Aspects of Death, 14. Living in the Face of Death, 15. Suicide, and 16. Conclusion: An Invitation.
1. Well written, engaging prose. Professor Kagan maintains a respectful, conversational, dare I say professorial tone throughout.
2. Fascinating yet difficult topic handled with care and expertise. This is as you would expect, a thought-provoking book.
3. Accessible philosophical book. Professor Kagan goes out of his way to make this book reachable to the masses. He explains every new term clearly and provides a number of examples that enhances the educational experience.
4. Great approach! The professor tells the reader which views he accepts and then he proceeds to defend his positions. I prefer that approach. "I'm going to try to convince you that there is no soul. I'm going to try to convince you that immortality would not be a good thing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Death by Shelly Kagan
Death is an unpleasant topic and we try to put it out of our mind. We would rather talk about the weather, the stock market, celebrity gossips or... Read more
I have to think of death more..
My death will be like what? After my death, I will be like a broken computer?
If you enjoyed his iTunes-U lecture you will enjoy this book.Published 5 months ago by Kindle Customer
Exactly what I was looking for. Really got into the heart of death, was very upfront about what he was going to do and did it perfectly.Published 6 months ago by Thomas Gannon
Very good and interesting book. I recommend for many college students to read up on it.Published 9 months ago by Walter Cifuentes
Interesting at first. I've set it down about halfway through for a little while now. At some point I said, "Man this guy is just FOS" - and this coming from a reader that... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Moab