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    PHI 380 Death, Dying & the Quality of Life Spring 2014

    002 MWF 9:00 9:50 CB 205

    001 MWF 1:00 1:50 CB 205


    Professor Office Hours

    Kyle Burchett

    Department Phone

    (859) 257-1861

    W 10:00 12:00

    1406 Patterson Office Tower


    1443 Patterson Office Tower



    Death is a phenomenon that has transfixed and inspired humanity for as long as humans have walked the Earth. Art, religion, and philosophy are some of humanitys most profound responses to the inevitability of death. We are all too aware that our breaths are numbered, so we strive to live well, to die well, to achieve something significant, profound, or lasting before our final exhalation. Or, identifying with Sisyphus, we may surrender to the unbearable weight of absurdity and despair. On the other hand, we may simply deny death altogether.

    This semester we will examine a host of questions about life, death, living, and dying. We will undertake a philosophical and interdisciplinary

    investigation of a cluster of prominent issues about the meaning of life and deathfor individuals as well as for species. Among the topics covered are death definitions and criteria, abortion, euthanasia, killing and letting die, suicide, the rights of the dying, the rights of future beings, life extension, transhumanism, posthumanity, and extinction.

    Throughout the semester, students will critically reflect upon their attitudes and opinions about life and death in an ongoing dialogue with a number of fascinating readings and classic films (perennial as well as modern), and in response to points raised during classroom discussions.

    Students will divulge their conclusions in presentations and paper assignments.

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    Required Texts


    The Philosophy of Death

    Cambridge University Press, 1st Edition, 2009 Steven Luper

    ISBN: 0521709121

    Extinction: Evolution and the End of Man

    Columbia University Press, 2002 Michael Boulter

    ISBN: 0231128371


    Acumen Publishing, 2009 Todd May

    ISBN: 1844651649

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    Students will maximize the possibility of receiving a satisfactory grade in this course by completing all assignments and attending every class ready to discuss that days material. It is each students responsibility to request make-up quizzes, presentations, etc.; although there will be no make-ups without an excused absence.

    The grading scale is as follows: A = 90 100%, B = 80 89%, C = 70 79%, D = 60 69%, E = 0 59%.

    1. Quizzes: (30%) There will be a number of quizzes administered throughout the semester. Quizzes will test students comprehension of assigned readings & viewings. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped. Missed quizzes cannot be made up without an excused absence.

    2. Papers: (50%) There will be two 10-15-page paper assignments, a midterm and a final, each worth 25%. Students will be given a choice of topics that correspond to assigned readings. Refer to paper handouts for exact details.

    Students who struggle with spelling or grammar are advised to make use of the free services provided by UKs Writing Center, located in the W. T. Young Library:

    3. Presentations: (20%) Each student will give two 15-minute PowerPoint presentations on assigned readings. (Presentations will be assigned at the beginning of the semester.) Students are expected to demonstrate adequate understanding and critical evaluation of the readings by providing coherent summaries and by facilitating classroom discussion. PowerPoint files must be e-mailed to the instructor and brought to class on a flash drive.

    4. Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. Students will be permitted two unexcused absences, although perfect attendance is highly recommended. Each subsequent unexcused absence will result in a deduction of two percentage points from the final grade. If a student is tardy, leaves class early without permission, is mentally absent, or is otherwise disruptive, a further deduction may result. If you are going to be absent and have a legitimate reason, it is in your best interest to let me know.

    5. Extra Credit: Students who maintain perfect attendance and consistently contribute to classroom discussions will be awarded two bonus percentage points at the end of the semester. Students may also have opportunities to receive bonus points by attending and participating in outside events that will be announced by the instructor during the semester.

    Letters of Accommodation

    If you have a documented disability which requires academic accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible

    with a letter of accommodation from the Disability Resource Center:


    Be Advised: A Text messaging or listening to headphones is strictly forbidden. Cell phones must be muted or turned off during class. Up to five points (half a letter grade) will be deducted from a students GPA for each violation. Repeat offenders risk expulsion from class. Computers and tablets are allowed only if used for taking notes or accessing assigned materials.

    Appointments are not necessary. If you would prefer to privately discuss the materials or anything else, please do not hesitate to visit me during my scheduled office hours or contact me by e-mail.

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    Assignment Schedule*


    The Philosophy of Death = (PD) Hyperlinked or E-mailed PDF = (PDF) Death = (D) Extinction: Evolution and the End of Man = (EX)

    1. W 1.15

    GreetingsWhat We Are Doing in This Class

    2. F 1.17

    Death Thomas Nagel (PDF) pp. 73 - 80

    3. M 1.20

    Academic Holiday Recommended: The Death of Martin Luther King YouTube

    4. W 1.22

    MOVIE The Seventh Seal (1957) YouTube (1) YouTube (2) Amazon Netflix iTunes Hulu Plus

    Annihilation Steven Luper-Foy (PDF) pp. 233 252

    5. F 1.24

    The Termination Thesis Fred Feldman (PDF) pp. 98 - 115

    6. M 1.27

    Death: A Propitious Misfortune William Ferraiolo (PDF) pp. 1 - 10 Death's Distinctive Harm Stephan Blatti (PDF) pp. 317 - 330

    7. W 1.29

    Our Dealings with Death Todd May (D Ch. 1) pp. 1 - 43

    8. F 1.31

    DOCUMENTARY Epicurus on Happiness (2000) Alain de Botton YouTube Introduction, Life Steven Luper (PD Ch. 1, 2) pp. 1 - 38

    9. M 2.03

    MOVIE Groundhog Day (1993) Crackle Amazon Netflix iTunes Xbox Video Death, Challenges Steven Luper (PD Ch. 3, 4) pp. 39 - 81

    * To be revised at the instructors discretion.


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