Master Seminar / BA-keuzevak Ethiek najaar 2010: Questioning Life and Death

Masters Seminar ‘Ethics’ Autumn Term 2010

‘Questioning Life and Death’
«Und deshalb kann der Tod geradezu das Tor zur Metaphysik höchster Art heissen»
(“Therefore death can be called the gateway to a metaphysics of the highest degree.”)
(H. Driesch, Wirklichkeitslehre, p.291)
Instructor: Dr. H.W. Sneller, Institute for Religious Studies, University of Leiden

tel.: 071 527 25 83
5 ects
Thursday, 13-15pm
First meeting: September, 9th, 2010
Location: Matthias de Vrieshof 4/010.
Please register by e-mail or telephone!
 
A year after the celebration of Charles Darwin’s bicentenary, questions of life and death are more relevant than ever before. As the essence of life is closely related to death, life and death cannot be discussed separately. Unravelling mysteries of the one will inevitably shed a light on the other, and dealing with both seems a prerequisite for any moral reflection today that does not want to restrict itself to making superficial statements.
Death is as big a mystery as life. Not only has the life question not been sufficiently solved by the ‘mere’ discovery of DNA, reports about so-called ‘near death experiences’ complicate the predominantly biologico-materialistic explanations of death as well.
In this seminar, we will focus on several facets of death, e.g. the moribund’s perspective, mortality and immortality, the uninterrupted chain between life and death, (un)willingness to die, and the God question. These topics tend to be neglected in current philosophical, let alone medico-biological debates.
The metaphysical frameworks in which these topics are placed will be tested by a final confrontation with the case of voluntary death.
English translations or substitutes are available, though German is highly recommended.
Survey of the seminar:
1. September, 9th. Introduction. John Hardwig, ‘Going to Meet Death: The Art of Dying in the Early Part of the Twenty-First Century’, in: Hastings Center Report 39/4, 2009, 37-45. (Available at digit al library or to be distributed by course instructor).
2. September, 16th. In the Face of Death. Rousseau, Julie ou la nouvelle Héloïse, lettre 11-12.
3. September, 23rd. Crossing the Border between Life and Death. Schelling, Clara. Zusammenhang der Natur mit der Geisterwelt.
4. September, 30th. Willing not to Die. Ludwig Klages, Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele (1), IV. Buch: ‚Die Lehre vom Willen’. 1. Abschnitt ‘Gesetz und Willkür’. For an alternative reading in English, see here and here.
5. October, 7th. Willing not to Die. Ludwig Klages, Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele (2), IV. Buch: ‚Die Lehre vom Willen’. 2. Abschnitt ‘Trieb und Wille’.
6. October, 15th. Willing not to Die. Ludwig Klages, Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele (3), IV. Buch: ‚Die Lehre vom Willen’. 3. Abschnitt ‚Tat und Wirklichkeit’ Chs. 48-50.
7. October, 28th. Willing not to Die. Ludwig Klages, Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele (4), IV. Buch: ‚Die Lehre vom Willen’. 3. Abschnitt ‚Tat und Wirklichkeit’ Chs. 51-53
8. November, 4th. Death and Dualism. Hans Driesch, Wirklichkeitslehre. Ein metaphysischer Versuch, III ‚Übergang zum zweiten Teile der Wirklichkeitslehre: Vom Tode’.
9. November, 11th. Immortality. Hans Driesch, Wirklichkeitslehre. Ein metaphysischer Versuch, IV ‚Der Wirklichkeitslehre höhere Stufen: Die Lehre von den Wirklichkeitsformen’
10. November, 18th. Mortality. Hans Jonas, Metaphysische Untersuchungen und Vermutungen, 1. Teil ‚Theorie des Organismus und Sonderart des Menschen’
11. November, 25th. Death and God? Hans Jonas, Metaphysische Untersuchungen und Vermutungen, 3. Teil ‚Dem Fragenden unverwehrbar: Gedanken über Gott’.
12. December, 2nd. David Novak, The Sanctity of Human Life, Ch. 3 Physician-Assisted Suicide, Washington, Georgetown Un. Press, 2007.
Language:
The course will be taught in English except when all participants have a working knowledge of Dutch.
Procedure of the Seminar:
The participants of the seminar prepare themselves weekly by reading very carefully the texts that have been placed at their disposal beforehand, and by accomplishing several assignments. Those who read German will have to read the original text!
Final conclusion:
Weekly participation in and preparation for the courses is indispensable. The seminar has to be concluded by a written paper, containing 5-10 pages. Deadline January 31st, 2011.
The paper will have to be centered on some crucial or telling passage taken from one of the texts discussed. This passage will have to be considered and commented upon scrupulously. These are the criteria of evaluation:
1. originality and consistency of the argument
2. attested capability of integrating elements from the other texts into the argument
3. attested capability of actualizing the argument by referring to existing discussions and burning issues of today
Seminar: 4 ects. Paper: 1 ects.
Admission and requirements:
A satisfying knowledge of the history of philosophy, particularly of moral philosophy, is required and indispensable. This seminar is open to both master and bachelor students. Assignments can be reduced for BA-students.
Reading assignments:
Although texts may be available on the internet, students may wish to procure one or more books themselves. For antiquarian books, see http://www.eurobuch.com/, http://www.antiqbook.com/, http://www.zvab.de/ or http://www.amazon.com/. New: http://www.proxis.be/. These are the relevant titles :
o Schelling, Clara. Zusammenhang der Natur mit der Geisterwelt. In: Werke, Stuttgart 1976ff. Trans. Clara: Or, on Nature’s Connection to the Spirit World SUNY 2002.
o Ludwig Klages, Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele, Bonn, Bouvier Verlag, 2008 (1929-1932).(Sämtliche Werke Bd. I-II) Many copies available on http://www.eurobuch.com/). NB: Ludwig Klages, Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele, Studienausgabe. 2010. 1600 Seiten. Kartoniert. 978-3-416-03146-2 € 39.90, information: Boekhandel Atleest, Kort Rapenburg 12a, 2311 GC Leiden – Nederland, tel. 071 512.50.39. PS the link contains the pdf-file of the German text (8Mb).
o Hans Driesch, Wirklichkeitslehre. Ein metaphysischer Versuch, Leipzig : Emmanuel Reinicke, 1930 (1917) UB: 3596 A 15. For an English review see here or here. Easily available in antiquarian bookshops, e.g. here or here.
o Hans Jonas, Metaphysische Untersuchungen und Vermutungen, Frankfurt, Insel, 1992. If you don’t read German use this book: The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology, Northwestern University Press, 2001.
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