Death : Art of Living
The fact that we will die, and that our death can come at any time, pervades the entirety of our living. There are many ways to think about and deal with death. Among those ways, however, a good number of them are attempts to escape its grip. In this book, Todd May seeks to confront death in its power. He considers the possibility that our mortal deaths are the end of us, and asks what this might mean for our living. What lessons can we draw from our mortality? And how might we live as creatures who die, and who know we are going to die?
In answering these questions, May brings together two divergent perspectives on death. The first holds that death is not an evil, or at least that immortality would be far worse than dying. The second holds that death is indeed an evil, and that there is no escaping that fact. May shows that if we are to live with death, we need to hold these two perspectives together. Their convergence yields both a beauty and a tragedy to our living that are inextricably entwined.
Drawing on the thoughts of many philosophers and writers – ancient and modern – as well as his own experience, May puts forward a particular view of how we might think about and, more importantly, live our lives in view of the inescapability of our dying. In the end, he argues, it is precisely the contingency of our lives that must be grasped and which must be folded into the hours or years that remain to each of us, so that we can live each moment as though it were at once a link to an uncertain future and yet perhaps the only link we have left.REVIEWS:
"Excellent. A fine example of what popular philosophy can be: wide-ranging and thought-provoking, in little more than 100 pages. May grasps the real paradox of mortality: that the fact of death imbues our life with passion and urgency, but it is that very passion for life that makes death tragic." – Financial Times
"Death exemplifies how popular philosophy should be done. It is a thoughtful, engaging, and carefully written reflection on the nature of death and what our response to it, as mortals who are aware that we will die, should be. Moreover, although it is aimed at a general audience Death is also likely to be of interest to philosophers who are professionally engaged with the questions that it addresses. May's philosophical range is broad, and so this book could profitably be used as an introduction to Ancient, Anglo-American, Continental, and Eastern views on death for persons unfamiliar with one or more of these traditions." – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"May draws on insights ranging from the Stoics to Heidegger with incursions into famous arguments by Thomas Nagel and Bernard Williams on the way. Yet, May never loses his ability to write clearly and engagingly. Many books on death discuss a wider range of issues. Some discuss clinical definitions of death in order to resolve bioethical issues. Others discuss the morality of killing and whether abortion and euthanasia are cases of murder. This book does neither. It focuses only upon the existential significance of death and on the difference it should make to the way we live our lives. If it spends a lot of time on what may seem in the end to be simple and homely truths it does so because only be considering all the aspects of this issue and by exploring them in depth can the reader be taken on a journey that will truly be one of discovery and inspiration." – Metapsychology
"Death is scholarly enough for the academic interested in a critical examination of theory and argument concerning death, while at the same time accessible enough for the reader interested in an introduction to philosophical thought on the topic, and to philosophical thought in general. All readers will appreciate this book's ability to encourage and compel its reader to reflect on life and death in a philosophical and personal way. It is a fine achievement to make philosophy personally meaningful, and Death succeeds in this regard." – Philosophy in Review
Todd May is Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Professor of Philosophy at Clemson University, North Carolina.
1. Our dealings with death
2. Death and immortality
3. Living with death