Friday, January 29

The Philosophy of Death - Steven Luper

I have an academic interest in death and deathwork studies, and have only myself to blame for my unmet expectations of this comprehensive introduction to the philosophical issues that underpin the topic.
Divided into two sections, dying and killing, Professor Luper explores the topic from a hard philosophical perspective. He opens by exploring what it means to be alive, then questions about whether death is harmful to the individual, before moving on to more applied aspects - killing, suicide and assisted suicide, and abortion. Throughout the tone is that of theoretical philosopher, incorporating hypothetical scenarios and argument theory, and drawing on the work of philosophers past and present, from Epicurus, Socrates and Plato, through Kant, Rawls and Schopenhauer, to Nagel, Nozick and Feinburg.
This is, for the most part, familiar ground for me - I have a background in applied and theoretical ethical philosophy, and considerable applied and theoretical experience with death and dying. I saw the book on the library's recommended stand and jumped on it without examining the content at all. This lead me to expect a more applied, social science-based approach.
The Philosophy of Death is, as its cover blurb announces, instead a "discussion of the basic philosophical issues concerning death, and a critical introduction tot he relevant contemporary literature." For anyone interested in, but new to the field, curious about how this richly explored subject has been approached over the ages, or keen to see argument theory applied, this is the book for you. I must admit that I flicked through it after the first chapter, and sadly found it more theoretical that my current interest allows. - Alex

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