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PHIL201: The Philosophy of Death

Unit 2: Personal Identity and the Nature of Death   What is death, exactly?  Many would say that death occurs when a person ceases to exist.  If this is true, then in order to understand death we first need to understand what a person is.  In this unit, we will consider three theories of personal identity—that is, three theories about what makes a person “the same person” from one day to the next.  Specifically, we will address the views that personal identity is rooted in the soul, in the body, and in the “personality” (understood as a cluster of psychological properties).  We will also consider the possibility that death has little or nothing to do with the death of the “person,” but can be accounted for in purely physical terms.  We will conclude the unit with a look at Leo Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich.  Tolstoy’s book raises a number of questions about death that are usually identified with “existentialist” schools of thought, e.g., How do people ordinarily think about death?  Do people really believe they are going to die?  Is it true that everybody dies alone?  How do our attitudes toward the fact of death affect the meaningfulness of our lives? 

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 13.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 6.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.2: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.3: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.4: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.5: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.6: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.7: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.8: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 2.2: 7 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 2.2.1: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.2.2: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.2.3: 2 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 2.2.4: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.2.5: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.2.6: 1 hour

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
 
- Explain the philosophical consequences of the attitude that death is the end of a person by theorizing about personal identity. - Describe how physicalism affects one’s notion of personhood during life and after death. - Discuss how Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich propounds specific attitudes about death that are often associated with existentialism.

2.1 Personal Identity   2.1.1 Personal Identity and the Possibility of Immortality   - Reading: Professor Dave Beisecker’s Summary of John Perry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality Link: Professor Dave Beisecker’s Summary of John Perry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this summary of John Perry’s book about personal identity and the possibility of immortality.  This reading is a brief summary of the arguments developed by John Perry in his Dialogue.  The premise of Perry’s work is that a terminally ill patient, Gretchen Weirob, challenges her friends Sam Miller and Dave Cohen to prove to her that surviving death is at least a conceivable possibility.  Perry approaches the problem of immortality by examining what it means to be the same person from one day to the next.  The key to deciding whether we might survive death must be found in whatever it is that makes us our personal identity continuous in time.
 
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2.1.2 Personal Identity: The Soul Theory   - Lecture: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity Part I: Identity across Space and Time and the Soul Theory” Lecture Link: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity Part I: Identity across Space and Time and the Soul Theory” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:

[Quicktime](http://openmedia.yale.edu/projects/media_viewer/video_viewer2.php?window_size=small&type=mov&title=PHIL%20176%20-%20Lecture%2010%20-%20Prof.%20Shelly%20Kagan&path=/courses/spring07/phil176/du/phil176_10_021507_REF.mov)
(Low Bandwidth/Slow Connection)  

[Quicktime](http://openmedia.yale.edu/projects/media_viewer/video_viewer2.php?window_size=large&type=mov&title=PHIL%20176%20-%20Lecture%2010%20-%20Prof.%20Shelly%20Kagan&path=/courses/spring07/phil176/mov/phil176_10_021507.mov)
(High Bandwidth/Fast Connection)  
 [Adobe
Flash](http://openmedia.yale.edu/projects/media_viewer/video_viewer2.php?window_size=medium&type=flv&title=PHIL%20176%20-%20Lecture%2010%20-%20Prof.%20Shelly%20Kagan&path=%2Fcourses%2Fspring07%2Fphil176%2Fflash%2Fphil176_10_021507)  
 [Transcript](http://oyc.yale.edu/transcript/704/phil-176) (HTML)  

[Mp3](http://openmedia.yale.edu/projects/media_viewer/video_viewer2.php?window_size=audio&type=mp3&title=PHIL%20176%20-%20Lecture%2010%20-%20Prof.%20Shelly%20Kagan&path=%2Fcourses%2Fspring07%2Fphil176%2Fmp3%2Fphil176_10_021507.mp3)  

 Instructions: Watch this YouTube video lecture about the problem of
personal identity (50 minutes).  This lecture is also accessible via
Yale University’s Open Yale Course website at: [Philosophy of Death
with Professor Kagan](http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/) (Adobe
Flash and Quicktime).  Alternatively, you may select the Flash or
Quicktime video link that is appropriate for your Internet
connection to launch the video.  You can also hear the lecture as an
.mp3 file, or read the transcript.  What we really want to know is:
can a person survive his or her own death?  In order to answer this
question, we must first understand what it means to survive *at
all*, during the ordinary course of life.  “I have survived since
yesterday” implies that the same person—me—has continued to exist
since across time.  Clearly, this happens to everyone every day. 
But what makes it possible?  In this lecture, Professor Kagan
considers the argument that it is the soul that accounts for
personal identity across time.  
    
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displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.3 Overview of the Problem of Personal Identity   - Reading: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Eric T. Olson’s “Personal Identity” Article Link: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Eric T. Olson’s “Personal Identity” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this encyclopedia article for an understanding of the problem of personal identity and the major proposals for solving it.  This article provides a general overview of the problem of personal identity—that is, the problem of how we can account for the fact that someone maintains the same identity as a person across time.  The article covers a number of possibilities, including psychological and somatic approaches.  Although the terminology in this article is sometimes very different from the language Professor Kagan uses in his video lectures (“Somatic Theory” = “Body Theory” and “Psychological Theory” = “Personality Theory”), the substance of the positions discussed is the same.
 
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2.1.4 Personal Identity: The Body Theory and the Personality Theory   - Lecture: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity, Part II: The Body Theory and the Personality Theory” Lecture Link: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity, Part II: The Body Theory and the Personality Theory” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Quicktime, Flash, MP3, Transcript

 Instructions: Watch this video lecture about the body theory of
personal identity (50 minutes).  This lecture is also accessible via
Yale University’s Open Yale Course website at: [Philosophy of Death
with Professor Kagan](http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/) (Adobe
Flash and Quicktime).  Alternatively, you may select the Flash or
Quicktime video that is appropriate for your Internet connection to
launch the video.  You can also hear the lecture as an .mp3 file, or
read the transcript.  Suppose that all it means for someone to be
the same person from one moment to the next is for him or her to
have the same body.  This seems like a plausible view of identity
for someone who does not believe in souls.  Would it be possible to
survive death if one is simply identified with one’s body?  In this
lecture, Professor Kagan considers this question and explores the
possibility of “bodily resurrection,” where the recombination of a
body’s original atoms and molecules results in a person’s returning
to life.    
    
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displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.5 John Locke’s Theory of Personal Identity   - Reading: John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Book II, Chapter XXVII “Of Identity and Diversity” Link: John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Book II, Chapter XXVII “Of Identity and Diversity” (PDF)
 
Also available in:

[HTML](http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/locke/locke1/Book2c.html#Chapter%20XXVII)  
 [Google Books (p.
217)](http://books.google.com/books?id=YxwGAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=essay+concerning+human+understanding+john+locke&hl=en&ei=w5-PTN2VCYT58AaPrNy4DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=twopage&q&f=false)  
 [Kindle
($.99)](http://www.amazon.com/Concerning-Understanding-Optimized-Kindle-ebook/dp/B002WPZT34/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1284481133&sr=1-2-spell)  
    
 Instructions: Read this chapter from Locke’s *Essay* about the
nature of personal identity.  In this 1690 text, John Locke
introduced what is now called the “personality theory” of personal
identity, according to which a person is said to have the same
identity as long as he or she has the same consciousness, i.e., the
same thoughts, memories, desires and so on.  Before he gets around
to giving us his account of personal identity, though, Locke reasons
through what it means for various other types of things to be
identical, such as plants and animals.   
    
 Terms of Use: This material is in the Public Domain.

2.1.6 Understanding Locke’s Personality Theory of Identity   - Reading: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor William Uzgalis’ “Supplement to John Locke: Immateriality of the Soul and Personal Identity” Article Link: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor William Uzgalis’ “Supplement to John Locke: Immateriality of the Soul and Personal Identity” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this encyclopedia article explaining Locke’s theory of personal identity.  Locke’s theory has been widely influential because it solves a basic problem about personal identity: the question of what makes the identity of persons different from the identity of simpler physical things, like atoms?  Since the material that makes up the body is constantly being replaced, any purely physical explanation of personal identity—such as the body theory—cannot be true.  This is why Locke introduces a psychological explanation for the persistence of personal identity through time.
 
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2.1.7 Personal Identity: The Personality Theory   - Lecture: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity, Part III: Objections to the Personality Theory” Lecture Link: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity, Part III: Objections to the Personality Theory” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Quicktime, Flash, MP3, Transcript

 Instructions: Watch this video lecture about the personality theory
of personal identity (52 minutes).  This lecture is also accessible
via Yale University’s Open Yale Course website at: [Philosophy of
Death with Professor Kagan](http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/)
(Adobe Flash and Quicktime).  Alternatively, you may select the
Flash or Quicktime video link that is appropriate for your Internet
connection to launch the video.  You can also hear the lecture as an
.mp3 file, or read the transcript.  The idea that one’s
personality—one’s memories, beliefs and desires—is what accounts for
one’s identity across time is a plausible and intuitive view.  In
this lecture, however, Professor Kagan challenges us to test our
intuitions about this view.  Does personality provide a complete
explanation of personal identity?  What if, for example, one’s
personality was “transferred” to another body?  What if it were
placed in multiple bodies?  Who would be the real you?    
    
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2.1.8 Surviving Death: It Is All about Personality   - Lecture: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity, Part IV: What Matters?” Lecture Link: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Personal Identity, Part IV: What Matters?” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Quicktime, Flash, MP3, Transcript

 Instructions: Watch this video lecture about personal identity and
surviving death (49 minutes).  This lecture is also accessible via
Yale University’s Open Yale Course website at: [Philosophy of Death
with Professor Kagan](http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/) (Adobe
Flash and Quicktime).  Alternatively, you may select the Flash or
Quicktime video link that is appropriate for your Internet
connection to launch the video.  You can also hear the lecture as an
.mp3 file, or read the transcript.  In this lecture, Professor Kagan
settles on what seems to be a satisfactory, revised version of the
personality theory of personal identity.  His theory depends on what
he terms the “no-branching rule,” which means that personality can
account for personal identity as long as there is no “splitting” or
copying of the personality into different bodies.  Professor Kagan
then refocuses the discussion on a new question: instead of asking
“What are the conditions for surviving death?”, we should ask: “What
matters in surviving death?”  In other words, what is it we want
when we want to survive death?  
    
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2.2 The Nature of Death   2.2.1 What Is Death?   - Reading: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor David DeGrazia’s “Definition of Death” Article Link: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor David DeGrazia’s “Definition of Death” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this encyclopedia article discussing several alternative definitions of death.  Surely knowledge of what death is means knowledge of when death has occurred and when it has not.  In this article, Professor DeGrazia discusses a number of possibilities for determining the moment of death, mostly cast in terms of biological functioning.  The fact that each view is problematic also prompts him to consider other views, such as the idea that death is a “cluster concept,” rather than a neat and simple condition.
 
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2.2.2 What Matters about Death and What Death Is   - Lecture: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “What matters (cont.); The Nature of Death, Part I” Lecture Link: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “What matters (cont.); The Nature of Death, Part I” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Quicktime, Flash, MP3, Transcript

 Instructions: Watch this video lecture about what it is we are
after when we ask whether we can survive death (47 minutes).  This
lecture is also accessible via Yale University’s Open Yale Course
website at: [Philosophy of Death with Professor
Kagan](http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/) (Adobe Flash and
Quicktime).  Alternatively, you may select the Flash or Quicktime
video that is appropriate for your Internet connection to launch the
video.  You can also hear the lecture as an .mp3 file, or read the
transcript.  Having decided that the personality theory of personal
identity is the correct one, Professor Kagan argues that what really
matters about death does not ultimately have so much to do with
personality in a technical sense.  In other words, it is more
important that the person who survives death be *like* me, than that
he *be* me.  Although this sounds strange at first, the rationale is
that although an extremely old version of oneself might technically
be the inheritor of one’s personality, it will have been so greatly
transformed that it no longer resembles the original person.  
    
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2.2.3 Living without Believing We Will Die: Tolsoy’s Ivan Ilyich   - Reading: Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich Link: Leo Tolstoy’s The Classical Library’s version of Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” (PDF)
 
Also available in:
HTML
Kindle ($0.99)
 
Instructions: Read all chapters of this novella by Leo Tolstoy to learn about what becomes of our lives when we fail to acknowledge the fact of our death.  Tolstoy’s 1886 novella is a realistic portrait of a man who, because of a fatal accident, is forced to confront his own impending death.  The fact that Ivan will die is both inescapable and, somehow, unbelievable.  The unwavering necessity of his death finally leads Ivan to reevaluate the way he has lived his life and to realize that death is a death sentence, so to speak, only so long as we are able to avoid coming to terms with it.
 
Terms of Use: This material is in the Public Domain.

2.2.4 A Physicalist Definition of Death   - Lecture: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “The Nature of Death (cont.); Believing You Will Die” Lecture Link: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “The Nature of Death (cont.); Believing You Will Die” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Quicktime, Flash, MP3, Transcript

 Instructions: Watch this video lecture about how to construct a
physicalist definition of death and what it means to believe we will
die (44 minutes).  This lecture is also accessible via Yale
University’s Open Yale Course website at: [Philosophy of Death with
Professor Kagan](http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/) (Adobe Flash
and Quicktime).  Alternatively, you may select the Flash or
Quicktime video link that is appropriate for your Internet
connection to launch the video.  You can also hear the lecture as an
.mp3 file, or read the transcript.  In this lecture, Professor Kagan
settles on a physicalist definition of death in terms of a person’s
“P-functioning,” or the sum of physical and biological processes
that gives rise to conscious personality.  On its own, however,
P-functioning does not furnish a sufficient definition of death,
since we have to make exceptions for people who are asleep or in
comas.  This leads to a discussion of one important question that is
raised by Tolstoy’s novella: Do people really believe they are going
to die?  
    
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2.2.5 Overview of Existentialism   - Reading: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Stephen Crowell’s “Existentialism” Article Link: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Professor Stephen Crowell’s “Existentialism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this article for a detailed overview of existentialism.  Existentialism was an influential movement in philosophy from the late nineteenth to the mid twentieth centuries.  It shifted the focus away from questions about the nature of reality and knowledge to questions about the meaning of life and existence.  The concept of death took on greater significance for existential philosophers, who sought to understand how human beings really understand the reality of their own deaths.  For most existentialists, recognizing that we will die is an essential part of living “authentically.” 
 
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2.2.6 The Ordinary Attitude toward Death   - Lecture: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Dying Alone; The Badness of Death, Part I” Lecture Link: YouTube: Yale University: Professor Shelly Kagan’s “Dying Alone; The Badness of Death, Part I” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Quicktime, Flash, MP3, Transcript

 Instructions: Watch this video lecture about how we ordinarily
think about death and the idea that we all die alone (50 minutes). 
This lecture is also accessible via Yale University’s Open Yale
Course website at: [Philosophy of Death with Professor
Kagan](http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/death/) (Adobe Flash and
Quicktime).  Alternatively, you may select the Flash or Quicktime
video link that is appropriate for your Internet connection to
launch the video.  You can also hear the lecture as an .mp3 file, or
read the transcript.  In this lecture, Professor Kagan argues that,
fundamentally, nobody really believes that he or she is going to
die.  Otherwise, we would behave like Tolstoy’s character Ivan
Ilyich and live in a perpetual panic about our deaths.  He also
considers the common idea that we all die alone (which is also
important to many existentialist views) and argues that it is not
true, or, at least, that it needs a more precise interpretation.   
    
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