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ERIC Number: EJ901797
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0021-8510
Ethics and the Experience of Death: Some Lessons from Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Donne
Sansom, Dennis L.
Journal of Aesthetic Education, v44 n4 p18-32 Win 2010
I argue in this paper that the ability of art to express a holistic experience of life challenges the abstractness and formulaic tendencies of some philosophical ethics. The paper examines the presentation of death in three poet-playwrights--Sophocles's "Oedipus Rex," Shakespeare's "Hamlet," and John Donne's "Meditation XVII." Sophocles's depiction of the experience of death undercuts the presumption of preferential utilitarianism that we can control our lives by maximizing our desires. Hamlet's musings and dread of death exposes the tenuousness of basing a life and an ethic upon the purity of the human conscience and will to act dutifully from the moral law. However, Donne's meditation ("No Man Is an Island") on hearing the funeral bell expresses a foundation for ethics, which can both affirm the value of being human and be sustained in the experience of death--compassion for humanity. I reinforce this foundation with Hegel's accounting of our sense of humanity in the experience of the death of family members and also with Emmanuel Levinas's ethic based on command of goodness experienced in the face of others. (Contains 20 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A