Death Education: Shelly Kagan, Yale University
Death Education Lecture 1: “The Nature of Persons: Dualism vs. Physicalism”
Shelly Kagan’s class, simply called “Death” has gained interest and popularity worldwide, as a great resource on learning views surrounding the objective side of death. There has recently been a rapid increase of death education and death and dying courses that are being offered at schools of higher education all across the country. As a professor of philosophy at Yale University, Shelly focuses on normative ethics, and has numerous publications, including Death, Yale (2012).
Signature Funerals and Cremation wants to gain a better understanding of ourselves and how we feel about death. Ultimately, the goal is to translate this knowledge to the care we provide to the families we serve. We are following along with Shelly’s death class and posting thoughts and impressions from his lectures to both our website as well as our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Signature-Funerals/127041617363494?ref=br_tf
In the beginning of his first death education class, Shelly points out that he will not attempt to cover some of the following aspects of the death and dying realm. Stages of grief or the process of grieving, and funeral industry ethics, will not be introduced in this course. The class covers topics related to metaphysics and philosophies surrounding death, including questions like “Do we have immaterial souls?” and “If death is the end, is it bad?”. Also to note; the last couple of lectures will focus on views surrounding rationality and morality as it relates to suicide. This is a sensitive topic to so many of us.
Find Shelly’s first full lecture below, and continue to follow our blog for future lecture postings on death education.
To me, the nature of this lecture dives into one of the first questions that Shelly asks, which is “Could I survive my own death?”
If we are to go by the definition of death by the book being “the cessation of life” then the answer would be a a simple no. But this is where metaphysics comes into play. Religious views aside, there are many who believe that we as humans are composed of more than a structure of materials. They feel that we also have a soul. This view would fall under the definition of “dualism” in which the mind and the body work together to make us who we are individually. There are also two different sides to dualism as well, Shelly describes. The first is that one can believe that the soul and the physical body work together as a unit, and that if the body dies so does the soul. The other beliefs dualists hold is that if the soul is immaterial, than it can not be destroyed by a material process (death of a body). This, in a sense is s general idea of forms of dualism.
A physicalist, however will argue that the human body is strictly made from materials. We are really well formed materials that can think, reason, and feel, but materials nonetheless.
Which view do you lean towards as you read these comments? And if you do believe in dualism, do you think that the soul can survive the body? The goal is to answer from a philosophical standpoint. Do you feel like you could benefit from more death education?
To view Shelly Kagan’s credentials, follow the link
Death Education Summary by Jill Badell
Get in Touch
406 #D E. Bannister Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64131
Facility photos by: Cheryl Dunning