1st Edition

Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying
Classical and Contemporary Perspectives

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after December 31, 2020
ISBN 9781138393585
December 31, 2020 Forthcoming by Routledge
336 Pages

USD $49.95

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Book Description

Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives is the first book to offer students the full breadth of philosophical issues that are raised by the end of life. Included are many of the essential voices that have contributed to the philosophy of death and dying throughout history and in contemporary research. The 38 chapters in its nine sections contain classic texts (by authors such as Epicurus, Hume, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer) and short argumentative essays by world-leading contemporary experts.

Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying introduces students to both theoretical issues (whether we can survive death, whether death is truly bad for us, whether immortality would be desirable, etc.) as well as urgent practical issues (the ethics of suicide, the value of grief, the appropriate medical criteria for declaring death, etc.) raised by human mortality, enabling instructors to adapt it to a wide array of institutions and student audiences.

As a pedagogical benefit, PowerPoints, discussion questions, and test questions for each chapter are included as online ancillary materials.

Table of Contents

Michael Cholbi and Travis Timmerman

Part I: When Do We Die?

Introduction to Part I

1. Defining Death: A Report on the Medical, Legal and Ethical Issues in the Determination of Death (excerpts from)
President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research

2. Defining Death in a Technological World: Why Brain Death is Death
John Lizza

3. We Die When Entropy Overwhelms Homeostasis
Michael Nair-Collins 

4. What it is to Die
Cody Gilmore 

Part II: Can We Survive Our Death?

Introduction to Part II

5. The Tragic Sense of Life (excerpts from)
Miguel de Unamuno

6. Can We Survive Our Deaths?
Stephen Cave

7. The Possibility of an Afterlife
David Hershenov and Rose Hershenov

Part III: Can Death Be Good or Bad for Us? If So, When Is It Good or Bad for Us?

Introduction to Part III

8. Letter to Menoeceus (excerpts from)

9. Two Arguments for Epicureanism
Jens Johansson

10. Why Death is Not Bad for the One Who Dies
James Stacey Taylor

11. Death is Bad for us when we’re Dead
Neil Feit

12. Making Death not Quite as Bad for the One Who Dies
Kirsten Egerstrom

Part IV: Can Lucretius’ Symmetry Problem Be Solved?

Introduction to Part IV

13. On the Nature of Things (excerpts from)

14. If You Want to Die Later, Why Don’t You Want to Be Born Earlier?
Travis Timmerman

15. Coming Into and Going Out of Existence
Frederik Kaufman

Part V: Would Immortality Be Good for Us?

Introduction to Part V

16. Epic of Gilgamesh (excerpts from)

17. The Story of the Man Who Did Not Wish to Die
Yei Theodora Ozaki

18. How to Live a Never-ending Novela (or, Why Immortality Needn’t Undermine Identity)
Ben Mitchell-Yellin

19. Taking Stock of the Risks of Life Without Death
August Gorman

20. Immortality, Boredom, and Standing for Something
David Beglin

Part VI: What is the Best Attitude to Take Toward Our Mortality?

Introduction to Part VI

21. Death, Mortality, and Meaning
Todd May

22. Fitting Attitudes Toward Deprivations
Ben Bradley

23. The Enchiridion (excerpts from)

24. The Four Noble Truths (excerpts from The Buddha and His Teachings)
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

25. Voluntary Death (excerpts from Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
Friedrich Nietzsche

Part VII: How Should We React to the Deaths of Others?

Introduction to Part VII

26. Letter to Lucillus (excerpts from)
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

27. Why Grieve?
Michael Cholbi

28. The Significance of Future Generations
Roman Altshuler

29. Death and Survival Online
Patrick Stokes

Part VIII: Is Suicide Rationally or Morally Defensible?

Introduction to Part VIII

30. Whether One is Allowed to Kill Oneself (excerpts from Summa Theologiae)
St. Thomas Aquinas

31. Of Suicide (excerpts from)
David Hume

32. Suicide is Sometimes Rational and Morally Defensible
David Benatar

33. Suicide and Its Discontents
Philip Reed

34. An Irrational Suicide?
Jukka Varelius

Part IX: How Does Death Affect the Meaningfulness of Our Lives?

Introduction to Part IX

35. World as Will and Representation (excerpts from)
Arthur Schopenhauer

36. Death in Mind: Life, Meaning, and Mortality
Kathy Behrendt

37. Meaning in Life in Spite of Death
Thaddeus Metz

38. Out of the Blue Into the Black: Reflections on Life and Meaning
Michael Hauskeller

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Michael Cholbi is Chair in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and the founder of the International Association for the Philosophy of Death and Dying. His publications include Suicide: The Philosophical Dimensions (2011), Immortality and the Philosophy of Death (2015), and Grief: A Philosophical Guide (2021).

Travis Timmerman is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Seton Hall University and executive committee member of the International Association for the Philosophy of Death and Dying who specializes in the philosophy of death, normative ethics, and applied ethics. He has been the recipient of a National Endowment of the Humanities grant and co-recipient of an Immortality Project grant for his work in ethics and death respectively.


"The area of death, immortality, meaning in life, and related issues are hot topics in contemporary philosophy. They used to be the domain only of European philosophers, especially the existentialists, but in the last few decades Anglo-American analytic philosophers have jumped in. This book is an excellent introduction to the best work on these interrelated issues. The editors have done an outstanding job of selecting authors who know their stuff and write very accessibly. This book would be perfect for an undergraduate class, and it would also be invaluable to anyone interested in learning the lay of the philosophical land in this lively area of historical and contemporary interest. The book shows how philosophy is engaging with issues of deep human interest."
John Martin Fischer, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Riverside

"This splendid collection is distinctive in many ways. The essays address issues that really matter to us, such as whether it is bad to die, and if so why, whether we might survive death, and whether the inevitability of death undermines meaning in our lives. Although most of the essays were written by contemporary philosophers specially for this collection, there are also judicious selections from classic writings in the history of philosophy, including works by ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and works from Eastern traditions as well. Those who are haunted in one way or another by the specter of death, as most of us are, will find much careful argument, and some genuine wisdom as well, in these pages."
Jeff McMahan, White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford