Thursday, July 21, 2011

Listening to university lectures

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Philosophy of Death, Yale University Introductory Lecture: Listen and write the missing words.

Professor Shelly Kagan: All right, so this is Philosophy 176. The class is on death. My name is Shelly Kagan. The very first thing I want to do is to invite you to call me Shelly. That is, if we meet on the street, you come talk to me during office hours, you ask some question; Shelly's the name that I respond to. I will, eventually, respond to Professor Kagan, but the synapses take a bit longer for that. It's not the name I immediately 1.__________________. I have found that over the years, fewer and fewer students feel comfortable calling me Shelly. When I was young, it seemed to work. Now I'm gray and august. But if you're comfortable with it, it's the name that I prefer to be called by.

Now, as I say, this is a class on death. But it's a philosophy class, and what that means is that the set of topics that we're going to be talking about in this class are not 2._________ to the topics that other classes on death might try to cover. So the first thing I want to do is say something about the things we won't be talking about that you might 3.____________ expect or hope that a class on death would talk about, so that if this is not the class you were looking for, you still have time to go check out some other class.

So here are some things that a class on death could cover that we won't talk about. What I primarily have in mind are sort of 4.________________and 5._____________ questions about the nature of death, or the phenomenon of death. So, a class on death might well have a discussion of the process of dying and coming to 6.____________ yourself with the fact that you're going to die. Some of you may know about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' discussion of the so-called five stages of dying. There's 7.__________, and then there's anger, and then there's bargaining. I actually don't remember the five stages. We're not going to talk about that.

Similarly, we're not going to talk about the funeral industry in America and how it rips off people, which it does, in their moments of grief and 8.______________ and overcharges them for the various things that it offers. We're not going to talk about that. We're not going to talk about the process of grieving or 9.___________________. We're not going to talk about sociological attitudes that we have towards the dying in our culture and how we tend to try to keep the dying hidden from the rest of us. These are all perfectly important topics, but they're not, as I say, topics that we're going to be talking about in this class.

So what will we talk about? Well, the things we'll talk about are philosophical questions that 10.___________ as we begin to think about the nature of death. Like this. In broad scope, the first half of the class is going to be metaphysics, for those of you who are familiar with the philosophical piece of 11.___________. And roughly, the second half of the class is going to be value theory.

So, the first half of the class is going to be concerned with questions about the nature of death. What happens when we die? Indeed, to get at that question, the first thing we're going to have to think about is what are we? What kind of an 12.__________ is a person? In particular, do we have souls, and for this class when I talk about a soul, what I'm going to mean is sort of a bit of philosophical jargon. I'm going to mean something 13.______________, something distinct from our bodies. Do we have immaterial souls, something that might survive the death of our body? And if not, what does that 14.______ about the nature of death?

What kind of an event is death? What is it for me to survive? What would it mean for me to survive my death? What does it mean for me to survive tonight? That is, you know, somebody's going to be here 15.___________ to the class on Thursday, 16.___________ that will be me. What is it for that person who's there on Thursday to be the same person as the person who's sitting here lecturing to you today? These are questions about the nature of personal 17._____________. Pretty clearly, to think about death and continued existence and survival, we have to get clear about the nature of personal identity. These sorts of questions will occupy us for 18.___________ the first half of the semester.

And then we'll turn to value questions. If death is the end, is death bad? Now, of course, most of us are immediately and strongly inclined to think that death is bad. But there are a set of philosophical puzzles about how death could be bad. To sort of give you a quick taste, if after my death I won't exist, how could anything be bad for me? How could anything be bad for something that doesn't exist? So how could death be bad?

So it's not that the result is going to be that I'm going to try to convince you that death isn't bad, but it takes actually a little bit of work to pin down precisely what is it about death that's bad and how can it be death? Is there more than one thing about death that makes it bad? We'll turn to questions like that. If death is bad, then one might wonder would 19. ___________ be a good thing? That's a question that we'll think about.

Or, more generally, we'll worry about how should the fact that I'm going to die affect the way I live? What should my attitude be towards my mortality? Should I be afraid of death, for example? Should I despair at the fact that I'm going to die?

Finally, we'll turn to questions about suicide. Many of us think that given the valuable and precious thing that life is, suicide makes no sense. You're throwing away the only life you're ever going to have. And so we'll end the semester by thinking about questions along the lines of the 20._______________ and morality of suicide. So roughly speaking, that's where we're going. First half of the class, metaphysics; second half of the class, value theory.

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