Philosophy 482 Seminar:  Matters of Life and Death


Professor:  Dr. Gary L. Angel

Time:  TR 11:00                                                          

Office:  Britt 211                                                                                     

Telephone:  4343

Office Hours:   MWF 2:45-5:15




            Primary Research/Build the text




1.     Students will learn various ways of defining death. 

2.     Students will be able to do ethical analyses of certain matters of life and death.

3.     Students will learn to think critically about the significance of death for life.

4.     Students will learn to think critically about the prospect of an afterlife.



1.     Students are required to attend every class, and to participate in the class discussion.  Participation should demonstrate that the readings have been read.  The general participation grade will constitute 20% of the final grade.

2.     Students will write a semester-long, ten page (or more) position paper worth 50% of the final grade. The paper will be double-spaced and typed in Calibri 12 point with four margins of one inch each. The first part of this paper will be due, in its rough form, at the end of the second week, and will constitute 10% of the grade on the paper. A revision of part one and a rough version of part two will be due at mid-term, and will constitute 20% of the paper grade.  Part three of this paper, as well as a revision of the first two parts, will be due at the end of the tenth week and will constitute 20% of the paper grade.  These papers should reflect adequate research, and will be read in class periodically in order to demonstrate progress in understanding the chosen issue and to receive feedback from the class.  The paper, in its entirety, will be due on the last day of scheduled classes and will constitute 50% of the paper grade.  The paper will include the following parts: 1. a general understanding of the meaning and significance of death; 2. an articulation and defense of the ethical perspective from which a moral issue will be discussed; 3. a defense of a position on one of the moral issues in the course outline.   The paper will have no fewer than ten citations from a minimum of five difference academic sources.  Remember that to take a position on anything is not to pontificate, but rather to argue.  The final grades for these papers will be based upon the quality of the arguments offered.  Any paper that is less than ten pages, as defined above, will receive an F.  Any portion of the paper that misses its due date will receive a grade of F.  An e-version of the finished paper must be made available to every member of the class.

3.     Students are required to do primary research to find readings on assigned topics that they will make available to the class on Angel’s e-reserve.  The readings must be from respected philosophers or medical experts.  Students will then summarize and critique these readings in a number of class presentations.  Grades will be based on the quality of the articles chosen as well as the quality of the presentations.  Students will not be absent on days they are to make presentations (see requirement 1).  This research, along with the presentations will constitute 25% of the final grade.

4.     Students will build a textbook using their own format that will include the articles from requirement 2, as well as the student papers, so that they might have it for future reference.  This textbook will constitute 5% of the final grade.


1.     Entering the seminar room late is disruptive and rude.  Do not be late to class.

2.     Cell phones are also disruptive.  Active texting or receiving text messages in class is prohibited.  Cell phones must be turned off.

3.     Proper classroom attire includes neither underwear nor pajamas.  Leave the PJs at home and keep the underwear under the outerwear.

4.     Do not leave the seminar room during class.

5.     Become quiet when the professor enters the room.

Course outline:

I.  Conceptual issues:

A.    Plato’s view of the significance of death

B.     What is death?  Various definitions


II. Normative issues:

A.  Why is death so bad?  What makes murder the ultimate crime, and death

      the ultimate punishment?

B.  Is killing always morally wrong?

            1.  Utilitarianism

            2.  Kant

            3.  Rights and Obligations

                        a. Is there a right to life?

                        b. Who has a right to life?

C.  Moral Issues:

            1.  Suicide/Euthanasia/Sacrifice

            2.  Abortion

            3.  Capital Punishment

4.  Do Animals Die?  Do Animals Have Rights?  Do Human Beings Have

      Obligations to Animals?

III. Metaphysical Issues:

            A.  Arguments for Immortality

            B.  Near Death Experiences

IV. The Significance of Death:

            A.  The Existential Meaning of Death

                        1.  Myself or the Other

                        2.  Death or Demise

                        3.  Being-Towards-Death

            B.  Does Death Contribute Anything to Life?