The Good Death I: Consequentialism

Mon, Oct 26

Death presents us with perhaps the most formidable challenge to living a good life. Philosophical questions about death abound: what is it to die? Is the state of death separable from the process of dying? If so, which of these -- if either -- are bad? And how could they be bad for us, if we don't exist once we die? 

In this class period and the next, we'll revisit the competing views of the good life we've been considering all semester, and ask what they have to say about the role death should play in our thinking about this topic. In part one, we'll look at consequentialist and and existentialist approaches to death. By the end of this class period, you will: 

  1. Understand how consequentialists think about death and the good life, and why some argue that it would be better -- for us or for the world -- if we, humans, had never been born.
  2. Evaluate the underlying logic of these positions, and reflect on whether or not you think we should employ such logic in making decisions about our own good life.
  3. Contrast both of these positions with the role the virtue ethicist thinks death should play in one's attempts to make a plan for living a good life.

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Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • In today's reading, David Benatar argues that it would have been better for you if you'd never have been born. What reasons does he give? Do you think he's right?
    • What do you think about the argument Ezekiel Emmanuel gives? Should we hope to die before we grow extremely old?
  • Optional: test yourself by taking a practice comprehension check.

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