CWU Philosophy Department comes together to discuss Life after Death.

CWU Philosophy Department comes together to discuss Life after Death.

Chuck Dickson, Staff Reporter

The possibility of immortality, death in marginalized communities, and the advent of pharmaceuticals in delaying death make for intriguing topics to discuss and thanks to the Philosophy Department. These topics and more were covered by varying experts.

On Nov. 15, members of the Philosophy department convened a panel on Zoom to discuss varying statistics, viewpoints and stances regarding the subject of death. Some instances included the debate between Daoist and Western philosophy, the deaths of peoples of different races and ethnicities, how people, such as physicians, choose to end their lives and many other interesting topics.

The primary panelists included Cynthia Coe, David Schwan, Griff Tester and Jeff Dippmann. Dippmann’s completion of a recent research project on Daoism and mortality was the catalyst for this panel. Schwan was the lead panelist and moderator of this discussion.

The topics included the saturation of death in the LGBTQ community, where Tester explained how those in the LGBTQ community were so used to death and abandonment from family, friends and other support systems. For that community, death became commonplace.

“Here were a group of people, or more groups of people, who upon getting sick with HIV/AIDS, were ostracized by the communities they were a part of,” Tester said. “They had no one to take care of them, so they had to care for themselves and each other.”

Dippmann, professor and department chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies, provided an introspective on Daoist philosophy and the concept of immortality, in addition to the lessons one may learn as an immortal. Dippmann cited a work of Bernard Williams (1929-2003) about the “tedium of mortality” and how in the work, a fictionalized opera, an elixir-taking woman lived for 300 years and found life as, “boring, indifferent, and cold.” She stops taking her elixir and dies an immediate death.

Coe, also a professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, provided insight into pharmaceutical influences on death and how people may elect to end their lives. She provided the perspective of how pharmaceuticals, while they may abate death, did not guarantee quality of life.

“There are many amazing things that have happened as the result of medical intervention in human life. Human lifespans have increased dramatically over the planet of the last 200 years,” Coe said, before proceeding to cite Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon. “But particularly at the end of life, medicine can cause more harm than good. Scientific advances have turned the processes of aging and dying into medical experiences, matters to be managed by health care professionals and we in the medical world have proved alarmingly unprepared for it.”