Intensive Course: The End Syndrome

Intensive Seminar for Nordic-Baltic Philosophy Symposia Master’s students

May 11-15, 2015 | Tallinn University, Mare building, M-328 | 5 ECTS

What is ‘the end’: final point, culmination, transcendence, exhaustion, disappearance, afterlife or nothingness?

Duration: 5 days

Teachers Siobhan Kattago (Tallinn University) | Olli Loukola (University of Helsinki) | Klemen Slabina (Tallinn University).

Students: 24 (max)

Purpose of the courseStudents will have a more thorough understanding of how philosophers from both the continental and analytic traditions have defined ‘the end’: death, end of history, the death of God, being-towards-death, mourning, end of the world and afterlife.

Course description: Death as an endpoint is a perennial theme for philosophical reflection. Whether examined from the point of view of our own death or that of others, how one thinks about mortality affects how one lives. The intensive seminar will examine philosophical reflections on ‘the end’: as final point, culmination, transcendence, exhaustion, disappearance, afterlife and nothingness.

In keeping with the spirit of the Nordic-Baltic Philosophy Symposia, we will read texts from both continental and analytic philosophy. The first half of the course examines how major continental philosophers have reflected on death and the endpoint. Beginning with Nietzsche’s proclamation that God is dead and Hegel’s argument for the end of history, philosophers have reflected on ‘the end’ as finality or as culmination. In the 20th century, Heidegger argued that man is a being-towards-death and placed individual finality at the centre of his existential reflection. On the other hand, Derrida suggested that the death of others most deeply shapes how we live, rather than preoccupation with our own death.

The second half of the course concentrates on how ‘the end’ has been examined from the perspective of analytic philosophy. The current environmental crisis has thrown the possibility of the end of our world in our faces very concretely and painstakingly. Most of our doomsday visions are thoroughly anthropocentric: both their causes as well as their remedies. And the current environmental crisis is no exception to the rule. By asking about the root causes for the destruction of the world, postnaturalism offers a far wider scope to reflect on questions of the endpoint. In addition, the recent Tanner Lectures by Samuel Scheffler reflect on how individuals think about death and the afterlife, knowing that the world will continue to exist after we die. On the final day of our seminar, we will examine ways in which various conceptions of death and the endpoint influence how we think about education and the good life.

Grading:  The five-day intensive course consists of daily lectures, seminars and students presentations. PDF readings will be distributed among participating students at least three weeks before the course begins. During this time, students will be given a deadline in which to register for their seminar presentations and to list, in order of preference, when they wish to present. While we will try to accommodate each request, the instructors will ensure that student presentations are evenly distributed for each day. Assessment will be based on a class presentation of 10 minutes, active participation in the seminars (30%) and a written essay of 10-15 pages (70%) to be submitted one month after the final day of the course (15th of June). After successful completion of the course, students will be awarded 5 ECTS.

Course schedule:

Monday, 11th of  May:

The end of history and death of God

10.00-10.15 Introduction to the course: Siobhan Kattago, Olli Loukola & Klemen Slabina

10.15-11.30 Georg Friedrich Hegel: End of history. Philosophy of History | Siobhan Kattago

12.00-13.30 Friedrich Nietzsche: the death of God and end of metaphysics. The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Siobhan Kattago & Klemen Slabina

15.00-17.00 Seminar and student presentations | Olli Loukola

Tuesday, 12th of May:

One’s own death versus the death of others

10.00-11.30 Martin Heidegger: man as being-towards-death. Selections from Being & Time | Siobhan Kattago & Klemen Slabina

12.00-13.30 Jacques Derrida: friendship, eulogy, mourning the death of others. The Work of Mourning & selections by Montaigne, Seneca | Siobhan Kattago

15.00-17.00 Seminar and student presentations | Olli Loukola

Wednesday, 13th of May:

Death and the Afterlife

10.00-11.30 Samuel Scheffler. Death and the Afterlife: the Berkeley Tanner Lectures | Olli Loukola

12.00-13.30 Schleffler and responses to his Tanner Lectures. Harry Frankfurt, Susan Wolf and others | Olli Loukola  & Siobhan Kattago

15.00-17.00 Seminar and student presentations | Klemen Slabina

Thursday, 14th of May:


10-11.30 Is our existing vocabulary of nature and ethics viable? | Olli Loukola

12-13.30 Root causes for the destruction of the world | Olli Loukola

15.00-17.00 Seminar and student presentations | Klemen Slabina

Readings: Bill McKibben, Dale Jamieson, Andrew Light, Bryan Norton, Steve Fuller, Roger Scruton, Robert L. Nadeau, Shierry Weber Nicholsen and Stuart Sim.

Friday, 15th of May:

The end of education or endless education?  

10.00-11.30 Endless education. Readings by Rousseau & Bourdieau | Klemen Slabina

12.00-13.30 Seminar and student presentations | Siobhan Kattago

15.00-17.00 Concluding discussion | Siobhan Kattago, Olli Loukola & Klemen Slabina

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