2023 Abstracts Stage 2

The Death of Death in Representation: A Heideggerian investigation into representations of death in mainstream media during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the media found itself burdened with the responsibility of informing members of the public of the deaths occurring around the world and the immanent potential of their own deaths from this disease. Studies have shown that consumption of this media coverage is associated with negative mental impacts, such as increased levels of anxiety and depression (Niel et al., 2021). This, therefore, indicates an important topic of investigation and a key opportunity to investigate media representations of death. In this project, the effect of media representations of death on our self understanding will be investigated through the philosophical framework provided in Martin Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’. Through a close reading of this text and a historical account of the representation of death in UK mainstream media during the ‘lockdown period’ of 2020, it will be shown that even in this case, where death is represented as an immanent possibility of the reader, media representations cannot provide an understanding of death that will enable an authentic mode of ‘Being-towards-death’. This project will also provide an understanding of complex concepts found in ‘Being and Time’ through their application to recent world events.

2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Divergent Critiques of Cryonics – An investigation into the preservation and revival of human life through a philosophical analysis of death.

This project centres around critiquing the preservation and revival of human life through cryonic procedures. Through looking at the object of cryonics within the territory of death and technological revival, this project explores ethical, transhumanist, existentialist and religious issues within cryonics. As a contemporary topic that may become more prevalent in life as science progresses, this project does not aim to dissuade individuals away from a subjective choice of life, rather, offers divergent critiques of cryonics. Through looking at the work of Martin Heidegger, this project discusses how death is an essential predicate of life that ultimately characterises the way that humans live. His existentialism is used to accuse cryonic procedures of diminishing an authentic life. This project then turns to the theologically centred work of John Hick to highlight the importance of life beyond death. Through investigating the conception of a resurrection alongside soul-making, one uses Hick’s theology to deem cryonics as unethical procedure that ultimately dismisses faith. This project offers plausible critiques of cryonics to discuss the limitations of modern science. Although critiques can be interpreted in different ways depending on religious outlook or scientific optimism, this project discusses critiques that are detrimental to the desirability of cryonics.

2022 Abstracts Stage 3

The Theatre of Dasein: A Heideggerian Analysis of Beckett’s Happy Days

Samuel Beckett’s Nineteen-Sixty-One play Happy Days is best understood as a parody of the human condition. Beckett seeks to reflect the experience of what it means to be human in stage directions, set design, and language. His methods of confinement and parody also allow for a vivid portrayal of existence. A philosopher who also wrote on the human condition was Martin Heidegger. For Heidegger, this experience is regulated entirely by his concept of “Dasein”. My essay centres around seeking to attribute an overlap between Heidegger’s and Beckett’s human condition through its possible representation on the stage of Happy Days. Although Beckett is notoriously difficult to analyse and attribute a specific philosophical framework, I have uncovered evidence of possible Heideggerian influence and inherent similarities. The themes of Heidegger analysed include: world disclosure, anxiety, death, and authenticity. I have also highlighted Beckett’s use of optimism in the play as a potential counterpoint to the outwardly pessimistic philosophy of Heidegger. My aim is to show how the performance medium of theatre can be an effective tool in communicating philosophical ideas, as opposed to text on a page.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

It’s Getting a Bit Warm in Here!: How Modern Cremation Practices Take the Human Touch From Death, And Why We Should Be Worried About It

We are, every one of us, mortal beings. Throughout the course of our lives we will deal with that knowledge and its consequences. We will suffer bereavement and loss. It is a universal condition, unavoidable and inevitable. Our mortality is what makes us human. We surround ourselves with habits and rituals to deal with that fact, and have since history began.

The modern funeral industry tries to hide that fact from us – we label funerals ‘celebrations of life’, insist that our loved one ‘passed on’, use deadly chemicals to preserve a body against signs of… well, death! The entire process seems stacked against allowing us any idea of what dying entails.

In this project I will use Martin Heidegger’s concept of the being-towards-death and Havi Carel’s ideas about ‘bodily doubt’ to explore how the crematorium as we know it today, of hidden steel ovens and pretty urns, contributes to the sanitisation of our understanding of death and mortality to the extent that we lose understanding of it, and fear it. In fearing it, we avoid it, and in avoiding it, we lose part of what it means to be authentically human.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

What do philosophers teach us about death and the afterlife?

The concept of death is one that philosophers have looked into since the ancient Greeks. Similarly to other topics, such as God, the soul and the universe, death and the afterlife is one that we will never fully understand. Both religious and non-religious ideas have formed relating to what different groups and thinkers believe happen after death, and this also intrudes on discussions relating to who we really are- whether we are only our body, only our mind, or a mixture of both. Certainly in the 21st Century, not only do we have the many writings of previous thinker’s opinions on death and the afterlife, but with medical advancements, we also have the experiences of some who have died and been resuscitated- many of whom speak about the overwhelming feeling of peace, welcomeness, support and even recall images of their past, calming settings and a bright light. However, there are previous philosophers, for instance Epicurus, who we will see later, doesn’t believe that death is something that we experience, thus we cannot ever truly know what happens after we die. Freud builds on this with his idea, asserting that humanity cannot imagine not existing as a thinking thing, therefore will fantasise attending their own funeral, which could also explain the experiences of those who have passed on and been resuscitated. Essentially, there is a suggestion that their beliefs about death could have an impact on what they believe they experience in the afterlife.
In this essay, I will discuss non-religious and religious views about the afterlife, as well as arguments for the possibility of reincarnation, from a range of different philosophical thinkers. I will explore this deeper through employing secondary sources that critically analyse these arguments and review how valid these arguments may be.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

When We Have Shuffled Off This Mortal Coil: A philosophical exploration of posthumous existence in the form of legacy and how this prevails over the dread of death.

Heidegger understands death as the end to existence in the world. But with the presence and pursuit of posthumous legacy, is this accurately represented in modern secular society? This project explores the notion of legacy, investigating the way legacy can be understood as a continuation of existence after death, and establishing posthumous existence as a way of coming to terms with the fear of death. In opposition to Heidegger’s thought, this notion of legacy is explored by analysing the limitations of Heidegger’s notion of existence and the ‘being-towards-death’, and discussing the impact of Western religious beliefs regarding death and posthumous existence. The continuation of existence through posthumous legacy and the way this contradicts Heidegger’s thought by providing an alternative to the acceptance of mortality is supported by analysis of societal customs and traditions surrounding death in the world and the representation of death in literature.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

How does death in philosophy impact human significance?

The study of death has been looked into in both scientific and theological terms. Something I wish to delve into is the philosophical discussion regarding death as the reason for human significance.
By using the works of thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Karl Löwith, and Karl Marx, I aim to discuss and compare the variety of ways in which death derives or disproves humanity’s ’innate’ purpose.
Death is presented to do this in Heidegger’s ahistorical argument through the death of nature– i.e. the death of our external world and the individual– in comparison to Löwith’s historical argument regarding secularised eschatology.
Marxist ideology and literature is considered throughout as this best relates to modernity.

2017 Abstracts Stage 3

Kaliai Cargo Cults: Understanding Death and Western Influences in Papua New Guinea.

“O Father Consel, you are sorry for us. You can help us. We have nothing – no aircraft, no ships, no jeeps, nothing at all. The Europeans steal it from us. You will be sorry for us and send us something” – cargo cult prayer.

Jarvie, I.C. (1964). The Revolution in Anthropology. New York, Routledge. (p64)

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Capital Punishment: Killing, Doing Right, Feeling Guilty, Taking Responsibility ….. The Philosophical psychology of the Executioner

Objective/Territory – In relation to the experience on an executioner, I wish to map our conventional views of human responsibility and the sanctity of life, and question whether they can exist rationally in our contemporary world. From this, I shall be assessing the role of an executioner and exploring the state of mind required to perform such a difficult and controversial job. In doing so, I shall be questioning how anyone, even in 21st century society, can so willingly take the life of another human being. What are the consequences of such a job?

Sources – To achieve this, I shall be looking at Kant’s Moral Theory, and looking at the concepts of duty and universalisation and asking whether they can be achieved through the experience of an executioner. Moreover, I shall be using Hegel’s philosophy, particularly to his concern with human intention and responsibility and questioning whether an executioner should be solely responsible for the killing of life. Additionally, I shall be exploring the Utilitarian position, which Mill shall be representing, to consider if welfare is achieved in society through the performance of an executioner.

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Singularity, Freedom & Chaos: Sartre’s Philosophy in a Backwards Universe

The object of my project is the premise behind Machine of Death, an anthology of stories about a world where people can know in advance how they will die.

The aim of my project is to establish the nature of existence as singular, through an examination of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ontological work Being and Nothingness in tandem with the collection of stories presented in Machine of Death. The question is: what is ‘singular’ existence in Sartre’s philosophy? What does it entail? And what are its implications for human existence, freedom and responsibility?

The thesis behind this endeavour is that, by examining the ontological status of the world found in Machine of Death in light of Sartre’s philosophy, we can both establish answers to these questions and open up for ourselves a new possibility; the possibility of conceiving of an existence whose fundamental state is not a stable mode of Being, but patterns of organisation in a sea of fundamental differentiation and chaos. In so doing, we point ourselves towards a new ontology: the ontology of Deleuze in Difference and Repetition.

2009 Abstracts Stage 2

The Truth Behind the Jonestown Massacre – Insight into the Character of Jim Jones in Light of Bataille’s Thought

Territory: In the autumn of 1978 in a rural area of Guyana, South America, a tragic event occurred, making headlines and remaining in the minds of many for years to come. A religious leader known as Rev. Jim Jones orchestrated a mass ‘suicide’ of over 900 people in a remote area known as Jonestown. Aims: To uncover the truth behind such an unusual event and really focus my attention upon the character of Jim Jones to see what led him to such an unfortunate end. I shall aim to do this by looking at the works of George Bataille. I intend to unmask not only the character of Jim Jones’ character and his followers, but also that of Bataille. I shall focus on Bataille’s own thought to see how it sheds light on the Jonestown massacre. Concepts: Bataille’s notion of homogeneity versus heterogeneity. Bataille’s views on religion in relation to Jim Jones’. Bataille’s on fascism versus Jones’ on socialism Georges Bataille versus Jim Jones. Research: Bataille: Visions of Excess, Gemerchak, The Sunday of the Negative, Tim Reiterman, Raven-The untold story of the People’s Temple.

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Dying in Denial: the Industrialisation of Death in Contemporary Society

For my stage three project I have decided to explore the industrialisation of death in our current society. My examination begins with a look at the gradual change in the perception of death, from the classical age to the modern day. By taking a genealogical approach to this historical change I am able to identify the specific reasons for these changes and reflect upon what significance these changes have on the perceived meaning of death. Beginning with the role in which death played in the Classical Age, I examined how death was once understood as a harsh reality of life to which everyone was made aware through events such as the bubonic plague and the limitations in medical knowledge. After which I explored the gradual development of anatomical pathology in the modern age and the effect that demography, pathology and sociology had and currently have on how death is now approached. In particular I looked at the importance that has been placed on defining death in terms of its physiological cause and the implication that this definition has on each of the specific areas of study I have mentioned. By understanding the changes that have occurred between these two points of history, I highlight the key issues that are involved in the industrialisation of death and what exactly this means in relation to our individual approach to death and our common understanding.

Following this I introduced the philosophical theory of Martin Heidegger and his explanation of death in relation to his phenomenological task to uncover true meaning in ‘Being and Time’. By setting out a brief explanation of how Heidegger attempts to understand the meaning of being in general through human experience, I examine the significance that death has in making possible the discovery of true meaning. From this I moved onto Heidegger’s later work, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ and his thought on the role of technology in the pursuit of understanding being and the distinction he makes between authentic and inauthentic perception. It is at this point where I applied the issues I raised, in the study of my concept, to Heideggerian theory and translate what effect the industrialisation of death has had on the authenticity of understanding the true meaning of death in the modern day. In conclusion I offered a personal insight to my opinion on the impact that contemporary society has had on our perceived meaning of death and what significance this has to our eventual confrontation with death.

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Fighting for Peace: a Contradiction in Terms or the Harsh Reality?

Object: I chose to examine the concept of war and terror and if it is really possible to fight in order to restore peace. The main focus of my project lay in the idea that war will only spawn more hatred, and so creating a war with the objective of bringing peace to a society is an impossibility. In conjunction with this I attempted to look at the reasons why people agree to war, and the freedom of British citizens when they agree to join the Army. Territory: When I originally decided upon a territory I chose the ‘War on Terror’, namely the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Upon further investigation it became clear to me that these were two separate wars with different focuses and motivations, and so I shifted the focus of my project solely to the war in Iraq, and the reasons for and against this war. I also looked at the concept of the British Army and the reasons behind why soldiers are deployed to fight in what was not a British fight to begin with. The Philosophy behind my project: Gadamer and Death: One of the concepts that became most clear to me was that of the idea of the repression of death. Gadamer notes that society’s perception of death had changed, and I examined if this affected the decision of those joining the Army. Kant, Freedom and Duty: I also looked at the idea of whether the innate sense of duty that we possess, according to Kant, affects the decisions we make in everyday life, such as joining the Army. I also discussed how much freedom we actually have, when, if you join the Army, you have to sign up for a minimum period of time, and you can be forcibly deployed to fight in wars you might not believe in.

2007 Abstracts Stage 3

The Afterlife: can we ever really know what happens when we die?

Since the beginning of man, the question of what happens to us when we die has been one of the fundamental questions of ‘life’. It seems to be up to the individual as to what one believes the answer to the question is, and these beliefs vary widely. From those who believe in a definite happening after we die, to those who believe nothing happens, from those who believe we can’t possibly know, to those who believe we could find out before we get there. In this project I will look at different beliefs in the afterlife, whether religious, atheistic, or agnostic and try to see how possible it is to know what happens to us when we die, and whether people’s beliefs are based on fact, fantasy or faith. I will discuss a number of different views of the afterlife, outlining the fundamental attributes of each belief, and evidence for holding such beliefs. I will also discuss the ritual surrounding people’s death and how important these are to the loved ones of the deceased and how they vary depending on what one believes happens after death. I will also examine why people hold these views of the afterlife and how strong these views are and how they affect the lives and deaths of the believers.

2006 Abstracts Stage 3

What Affect has Human Awareness of its own Mortality had upon the Formation of its Self-Identity?

Objective: My main objective in researching and writing this project is to understand as far as I can how the fluid thing which we can generalise by terming ‘self-identity’ is shaped by the idea of impending death. My objective is not to make the claim that death, or our awareness of its implications to our ‘being’ is the only factor or even the most important factor in shaping our identity; but rather to explore what parts of our identity are affected by this impending doom and in what way. Further, I mean to do this by means of an example, that being my territory which is the site where the twin towers once stood: Ground zero. I aim to use this territory as almost a platform from which to show mortality’s affects. What I mean in saying this, is that our understanding of what Ground zero represents because of its links with the concept of terrorism and thus with the concept of death, through our exposure to the events surrounding it in the media, has had an affect upon the way in which many people relate to the world around us; thus altering, or shaping to a certain extent the manner in which we form our identities. Concepts: The concepts which hold the most importance for this investigation are the concepts of a) Death, b) self-identity and c) human awareness. In looking at the concept of death we must somehow determine what death actually is. What does death really mean for a living entity, does it have boundaries as a term, and to what extent is it truly definable within the limits of language? In looking at self-identity we are looking at the essence of what makes a person who they are, how it is that they identify with themselves and with their surroundings by a method of differentiation and association. In examining this concept we must also note that identity is not as might be misconstrued, a fixed thing, but rather a fluid process of becoming or being. My third main concept is that of human awareness which is implicitly linked with the fluid concept of self-identity. I must undertake an examination of the idea of awareness in order to understand where the connection between death and identity takes place. This is the faculty, if you will, which allows the conception of impending death to affect the continuing process of forming self-identity. Sources: For this project I shall be using diverse sources which spread through a range of different Disciplines i.e. Social-anthropology, evolutionary-biology, sociology and of course Philosophy. I shall refer to older philosophical ideas of death and its effects, however the texts which are most central to my investigation are: Heidegger: Being and Time, and Blanchot: The Death Sentence

2006 Abstracts Stage 3

“If a body meet a body comin’ through the rye” Death and the presence of the ‘other’ in literature, in particular, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

Brief Overview of The Catcher in the Rye
The novel is narrated Holden Caulfield, who reveals that he is undergoing treatment for a mental breakdown. He has been informed that he is to be expelled from school at the end of the current semester. Following a distressing evening, Holden decides to return to Manhattan a few days early but instead of going home he chooses rather to book into a hotel. The novel is comprised of the events that take place in the few days between booking into the hotel and his return home. Holden narrates his encounters with various people, both strangers and acquaintances.
Alienation as proof of the presence of the ‘other’
Holden describes himself as trapped on “the other side” of life but it soon becomes clear that his alienation is, at least in part, self-inflicted and that he deliberately employs it as a means of protection. He is continually overwhelmed by his interactions with other people. He is constantly confronted by that which is unfamiliar and ‘other’ to himself. Though his alienation acts as a guard against that which he sees as ‘other’ it is also that which is the source of his pain and anxiety.
Holden’s inautheticity
Throughout the novel Holden expresses his unwillingness to accept change. He is constantly overwhelmed by complexity and wants everything to be eternally fixed. He does not understand everything about his surroundings which is a source of anxiety for him yet he refuses to acknowledge this anxiety. For Heidegger it is through anxiety that we are able to become authentic, however, Holden refuses to acknowledge his anxiety and as such remains in a state of inauthenticity. The apparent “phoniness” of the adult world comes to represent inauthentic living in Holden’s mind, adults seem to be driven by what one ought to do in a particular situation. In Heidegger’s words, the actions of adults are determined by what the anonymous ‘they’ consider to be appropriate. Childhood on the other hand, for Holden, represents an authentic living. As a result Holden is reluctant to enter in adulthood himself. He mistakenly believes that eccentricity is authentic and as such strives to assert his socalled uniqueness, this is represented in the red hunting hat. However, it is clear that he is not entirely comfortable with wearing it. As such it becomes a symbol of his inauthenticity rather than his authenticity.
Two instances of death in the novel, the first is the metaphorical death of innocence. The novel is concerned with what seems to be an ongoing dying of innocence which represents that which Holden cannot quite grasp about the adult world. It is a constant opening up of his relationship with the other. Holden’s breakdown too symbolises the struggle of the ego to remain itself over time, his illness, becomes that which separates him from himself. The second instance of death is the death of his brother, Allie, which serves as a reminder of the impossibility of possibility (Blanchot).

2005 Abstracts Stage 2

Holy Romanticism, Batman!

An exploration of romanticism in the world of the caped crusader with reference to the work and ideas of Goethe and Schopenhauer. Characteristics of Goethe’s Romanticism present in Batman: • Heroic despair – isolation of Batman, melancholy that leads to the creation of Batman prominent feature in Romanticism. • Attraction to the darkside – evil forces in Gotham City hold a mystifying hold over Batman. • Nightmare landscape – Gothic architecture, Gotham is a physical manifestation of Bruce’s fears. • Wasteland – Wayne manor is the wasteland representing some aspect of lack in Batman’s world. • Ambivalence – present in the ordinary citizen in Gotham City, resolved themselves to a life where crime and fear are a major factor. • Villainy – endless supply of villains and arch-enemies in Gotham City. • Murder – Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered when he is a child. • Death – death of Bruce’s parents marks the death of his innocence. • Impossible love – Bruce’s lack of relationship is a source of sorrow and insanity. Relevance of Schopenhauer in Batman: • Batman is unable to achieve happiness because it is something that does not exist. • Suffering is an essential part of life. • Batman displays a great amount of sympathy for others and is particularly sensitive to their pain, characteristics of Schopenhauer’s good man. • However, he has not quite freed himself from his will and as such will never achieve any value in his life according to Schopenhauer. Only in non-existence can he seek refuge.

2003 Abstracts Stage 2

An Investigation into Attitudes Towards Death: Tibetan Buddhism and the Modern West

Part One: Exploring the Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Tibetan Buddhist way of Life and Death. The first part of this project will focus mainly on the Buddhist conception of Death, as promulgated in, what is known in the West, as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. For the Tibetans, one must become accustomed to the reality and possible immediacy of death, for this they say, can give greater vitality to life, as well as liberate us from the petty confusion we find ourselves in in our daily lives. What is more, the Tibetans have great sensitivity towards the dying to ensure that they come to terms with death, and are guided through the whole process with as little suffering as possible. The main points I will cover in this first section are:- A summary of the TIbetan Book of the Dead – Rebirth and the stages of death – Illusion of the self – Impermanence – Liberation from suffering – Caring for the dying. Part Two: Exploring Western attitudes towards death: The struggle for self preservation and the denial of death. The second part of this project will address the problem of death, as that is what it is for Westerners. I will look at how our whole culture revolves around avoiding death and decay, and the mechanisms we have in place that give us the illusion that we can escape this natural process. In the west, we find it difficult to come to terms with death, in fact, we do not have to, for there is much to distract our attention. The material world, for instance, creates the illusion that the world is fixed, and many of us identify ourselves with that fixity until the end of our life, when, in fact, the world is in a constant state of flux, death and rebirth. The main points I will cover in this first section are: – Fear of death and what this leads us to do in our lives – Death as an evil, a catastrophe, as morbid, or even unnatural – Can we learn anything about our attitude towards death from Buddhism? – Instinct for self preservation and immortality – Fascination with death: murder in the media – How we care for the dying – Would it be beneficial for us to have a greater awareness of death?

2003 Abstracts Stage 3

The Journals of Kurt Cobain in Relation to Kafka’s Diaries

The title of my Stage 3 project asks the question ‘Is It Ethically Acceptable That The Journals of Kurt Cobain Have Been Made Accessible To The Public?’ Objectives: 1. To determine whether one can justify the posthumous publication of the Nirvana singers’ extremely personal journals when it will become abundantly clear that the publication would have been against his will. 2. To compare and contrast Cobain to Franz Kafka in terms of both having had their diaries published posthumously against their will. To compare the similarities in their personalities and writings. 3. To argue against Max Brod, friend of Kafka and publisher of his diaries, who, owing much to the Kantian tradition, would say that one does not own one’s own thoughts, therefore endorsing such publications. Change: In terms of viewing specific changes, I will investigate into how the views of reading somebody’s personal thoughts may have changed in the seventy years between their deaths (Kafka- 1924, Cobain- 1994), or indeed the publications of their diaries by those close to them (Max Brod- 1958, Courtney Love, Cobain’s widow- 2002). I will ask if the changing nature of the diary and the celebrity could justify the publications. Sources: Primary sources will of course be the published diaries of Cobain and Kafka themselves, with additional material in the form of commentaries on the diaries, and biographies on the subject (one written by Brod himself). Expectations: I expect to discover that by the end of the project I will have found no explanation or excuse that will justify the publication of Cobain’s diaries, or even Kafka’s by arguing for the authenticity of the individual as we may find within the work of Heidegger and Nietzsche.

2002 Abstracts Stage 3

Baroque and ‘the Wasp Factory’

‘The Wasp Factory’ – Written in 1984 by Ian Banks – Tells the story of Frank aged 16 – The murders: · Aged 6 kills his cousin Blyth by poisoning him · Aged 8 kills his brother Paul with a bomb · Aged 11 kills his cousin Esmerelda with a kite – Eric his older brother is on the run from a mental hospital The ruin – Represented by the rusting old bomb on the beach, causes the death of Paul – Is a baroque symbol due to the melancholy contemplation of ruin and death The Labyrinth – Represented by the wasp factory that gives the book its title – Popular baroque image as it represents uncertainty, riddle and melancholy The inevitable arrival of catastrophe – The arrival of Eric, a destructive force represents the arrival of catastrophe – His progress is fragmented and there is an increasing awareness of catastrophe, which causes insecurity The androgynous other – Frank represents the androgynous other. Totally unaware of his gender or sexuality he is a baroque image – Women are regarded as the weaker sex and Frank agrees with the baroque notion that humans are weak due to their sexuality