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date: 05 December 2020

Philosophy, Death, and Educationlocked

  • Peter RobertsPeter RobertsUniversity of Canterbury

Summary

Often regarded as one of life’s few certainties, death is both instantly familiar to us and deeply mysterious. Every adult will have encountered death in some form, sometimes through the loss of a family member, sometimes less directly via friendships with others or the viewing of news items on television or the Internet. Yet, few take the time to examine death closely and to consider its significance in shaping human lives. Death is of interest both for what we know about it (in observing and living with others who die) and for what we do not know about it (“What will happen to me after I die?”). Death seems, on the face of it, to lend itself well to both philosophical and educational inquiry. For, if, as Socrates claimed, philosophy prepares us for death, this suggests an educational process (“How does it prepare us?”) that warrants careful investigation. It is, however, not just philosophy that prepares us for death but also death that prepares us for philosophy. Our understanding of death can exert a powerful but often unnoticed influence over our ontological and epistemological views, our ethical commitments, and our educational endeavors. Death can prompt us to ask: What does it mean to be a human being? What do we value and why? What and how should we seek to know? How should we live?

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