To explore some key issues concerning value, and the different kinds of value, in particular as this relates to human and non-human life. We will ask, what makes a life worth living/worth starting/worth saving?
To consider, especially in connection with human life, notions of well-being, happiness, meaning, and to investigate the relations between these.
To provide a research-led approach to understanding and participating in important debates in value and life.
Academic and Graduate Skills
To develop students' abilities to apply philosophical tools and techniques, in order to advance understanding of intellectual problems, and to provide a grounding for further independent research.
Module learning outcomes
By the end of the module students should be able to display an in-depth and systematic understanding of:
issues such as competing accounts of value, moral status, sanctity and quality views of life, asymmetries concerning life and death
matters relating to happiness and meaning in human life, including the desirability of the former, the coherence of the latter, the bearing of death, God, and immortality on each.
Academic and graduate skills
Students should be able to analyse complex areas of knowledge, manifest critical awareness, synthesise from a variety of sources, evaluate up-to-date research, and show originality in the discussion and appraisal of ideas from the philosophical literature.
Students should display the ability to work autonomously and self-critically on an extended essay that goes beyond the framework that is provided in lectures and seminars.
We will first consider some questions about the value of life - what sorts of value different lives might have; what their having this value depends on; whether lives have this value equally; what follows for our dealings with lives, that they have this value. Questions about the sanctity of life, intrinsic value, moral status, will figure here. Also here will be discussion of whether (and how) it might be bad for us that our lives end; whether (and how) it might be good for us that our lives begin.
We will go on to consider questions about the meaning of life - whether life might be meaningful, and if so how; what bearing religion, death, beliefs about meaning have on life's meaning; whether meaning might be overrated.
The two areas contrast in this way - in the first we consider human, animal and plant life while in the second the focus is very much on human life. But also the two areas are linked - to what extent is a valuable human life a meaningful life?
Students attend relevant UG lectures and seminars (which are research led) to provide a background in the general area of research, while working with the module convenor over the course of the term to define and develop a topic for research and on which they will write their essay.
% of module mark
Special assessment rules
% of module mark
Students will receive written or verbal feedback on the essay proposal and reading list within two weeks of submission.
Students will meet with their module tutor in Week 10 to discuss their essay plan.
Students will receive feedback on the 4000-word summative assessment and re-assessment (where appropriate) within four weeks after submission.
Christopher Belshaw 10 Good Questions about Life and Death, Blackwell, 2005
Susan Wolf Meaning in Life and Why it Matters Princeton UP 2012