Riddles of Existence

thoughtful chimp

Course description:  A traditional view holds that human life begins at conception, that an adult at the end of his or her life can be the same person that was once a child and who was before that that an embryo, and that this same person will go on to survive the death of his or her body.  Does this traditional conception of human existence hold up to critical scrutiny?  In this introductory philosophy course, we will address such fundamental questions of human existence as:  When does life begin?  When during the development of an embryo into an adult human being does one acquire moral rights?  What is a mind, and what is the mind’s relationship to the brain?  Do animals have minds?  Could robots or computers have minds someday?  Do you have an immaterial soul that is capable of surviving the death of your body and brain?  When does life end, and why is it bad?  Do human beings in a persistent vegetative state have the same right to life that most adult humans have?  Is euthanasia ever morally permissible?  No prior background in philosophy will be presupposed, although a willingness to ask difficult questions and develop careful and methodical reasoning in support of one’s answers will be essential.

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