PART A: Shelly Kagan and the Unpredictability of Death
The narrative arc matters. The story bad to good is the kind of story we want for ourselves, while the story good to bad is the kind of story we don’t want for ourselves. Shelly Kagan, p270.
It is a platitude that we live our whole lives in the shadow of death; it is also true that we die in the shadow of our whole lives. Ronald Dworkin, p199
Answer BOTH questions [(i) & (ii) below] (clearly label your answers):
(i) Shelly Kagan argues that the unpredictability of death adds to the badness of death. It makes death worse (beyond deprivation of the goods of life). Discuss how Kagan uses the Horatio Alger graphs to argue that The overall shape of your life matters[The] narrative arc of your life makes a difference to its overall value [p269] and how the unpredictability of death impacts on ones narrative arc. Drawing from Ronald Dworkins reflections on life and death, explain how his distinction between experiential and critical interests and his notion of integrity complement Kagans thesis. Your answer should include commentary on Kagans/Dworkins views regarding the inadequacy of hedonism for understanding the badness of death. [15 marks]
[Suggested length: 350-400 words]
Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead [person], see what’s left as a bonus and live according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting? Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Shelly Kagans (true) story about his former student diagnosed with terminal cancer illustrates the sense in which the structure or narrative arc of ones life is something we deeply care about. But it also suggests that being able to predict (roughly) when one is going to die makes death a little more bearable if only because it allows for needed reflection on critical interests and advance planning for ones pending date of expiry. Suppose that a 70 mile-wide asteroid was hurling towards earth and it was known with certainty that upon impact in approximately 30 days all life would be wiped out (all organic life would perish). Kagan posed the question, if you did know how much time you had left, would you act differently from what you are doing now? Would that knowledge lead you to refocus your attention on doing the things that are most important to you? Thinking about this question can provide a useful way of recognizing what it is in life that you most value.[p272] How would you answer Kagans question? How does the Stoic advice of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (see above passage) relate to this issue? [competent answers will make some reference to the Kagan/Dworkin readings. Answers that do not engage with either Kagan or Dworkin will receive a score no higher than 2/5] [5 marks]
[Suggested length: 250 words]
TOTAL: 15 + 5 = 20 MARKS
PART B: The Existence Condition, Cambridge Change, and Possible Worlds
So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more. – Epicurus
Death is nothing to Epicureans. They do not fear or hate death. They do not view death as a misfortune for the deceased…Why do they hold these odd views? Fred Feldman (p205)
ANSWER ONE OF THE QUESTIONS BELOW [10 marks]:
(1) Epicuruss No Subject of Harm argument purports to demonstrate that death is not bad for the person that dies and the deceased cannot be harmed (or benefited). Geoffrey Scarre thinks theres a way to avoid contravening Epicuruss Existence Condition (one must exist to be harmed or benefited) while preserving the intuitive thesis that death is bad/harmful for the post-mortem subject and that the deceased can be harmed/benefited, namely, by invoking the notion of Cambridge change. Explain the distinction between real change and Cambridge change (including intrinsic/extrinsic properties) and provide your own example to illustrate (do not use Scarres John/Mary or Karen/Christine examples, nor any examples from lectures/tutorials). How does his Tolstoy/Turgenev example show that bad things can happen to the dead? Do you think Scarre successfully answers Epicurus? Support your answer. [Suggested length: 400 words]
(2) Why does the Epicurean deny that the death of Heath Ledger on Jan 22, 2008 was bad for Heath Ledger and also that he did not benefit whatsoever after being posthumously awarded the Oscar in 2009? Explain the Epicureans argument. How does Fred Feldman (Some Puzzles About the Evil of Death) use the possible worlds model in conjunction with the axiological assumption of hedonism to challenge the Epicurean argument? Instead of Feldmans Delores example (p213-215), which shows how it would be bad for a certain person, s, to die at a certain time, t,” substitute your own example that illustrates how the possible worlds model and axiological hedonism combine as a response to the Epicurean argument. [Suggested length: 400 words]
EXAM TOTAL: PART A [20 MARKS] + PART B [10 MARKS] = 30 MARKS
IMPORTANT NOTE: THE ABOVE QUESTIONS [Part A & Part B] ARE SPECIFICALLY CONSTRUCTED TO TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONTENT CONTAINED IN THE COURSE FOLDERS. IF YOU INCLUDE CONTENT FROM OUTSIDE THE COURSE, THEN YOU HAVE NOT FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS AND YOU WILL RECEIVE A FAILING MARK (and you are almost certainly plagiarizing, and an Academic Integrity Report is likely in your future).
Competent answers are those that demonstrate sufficient understanding of the concepts, arguments, and themes contained in the readings, related Powerpoint docs, and class discussions. Evaluation will be based squarely on the students familiarity with the readings covered in the weekly folders. Answers that do not show evidence of careful engagement with the texts will receive a failing mark.
Careful engagement with the texts involves close reading of the relevant pdf essays/articles and accurate paraphrasing of the authors arguments and/or related discussions. All descriptions of an authors view must be translated in your own words (paraphrased). If you need a refresher on paraphrasing technique, see the Week 6 folder (Midterm Prep) in Bb. Direct quoting from the readings is strictly prohibited (marks will be deducted otherwise). The purpose is to demonstrate your familiarity with the material by producing clear and accurate paraphrases of the content; quoting, however, simply repeats the original text word-for-word and therefore is antithetical to the basic task. In short, the best and only pathway to writing a successful Final Exam is to work closely with the course material.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN COMPOSING YOUR ANSWERS
Introductory/concluding paragraphs are not required. Your answers are not formal essays. Simply answer the questions. An introductory sentence is appropriate for broaching the issue/topic.
Where appropriate, use concrete examples to illustrate points.
Identify the author of the text you are explaining. Continue referring to the author throughout your answer. Why? Because it is important to let your reader know whose ideas/arguments you are discussing.
Refrain from quoting directly from the readings. Paraphrase everything in your own words, expanding on the most important points. Avoid mimicking the original structure/pattern of the text you are drawing from. Marks will be deducted otherwise. Exceptions are for unique words/terms/phrases used by the author.
Write in complete sentences. (no point form/bullets)
Separate into paragraphs where appropriate.
Single-spaced or double-spaced (either)
Proof-read your answers (read aloud to yourself). Poor grammar/faulty syntax compromises clarity of expression and ultimately my understanding of your work [which results in a lower score]
You will be evaluated in accordance with the following criteria: (i) accuracy/comprehensiveness, (ii) clarity: organization, expression. (iii) quality of arguments.
The kind of questions I will be asking myself when marking your assignment are the following: Does the student genuinely understand the arguments/concepts discussed in the readings/PPts/tutorials? Has the student clearly articulated the essential points of the arguments/concepts? Is there evidence that the student has made a sincere effort to read the assigned material carefully? Does the students answers reflect a competent awareness of the issues/arguments/concepts discussed in tutorials? Does the student provide sufficient detail in his or her answers (are the answers too brief?)?
Outside resources are not to be consulted. All information/data needed to construct your answers is to come from the course materials, and the evaluation will be based on the students fluency with that material.