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Discussion explores philosophical, spiritual aspects of death and dying


September 28, 2009

A panel of Arizona State University professors will share their diverse perspectives and expertise about death and dying during an event on Oct. 8 at ASU’s West campus.

“Philosophical & Spiritual Questions Concerning Death & Dying: An interdisciplinary-interfaith panel discussion” will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the La Sala Ballroom on the campus at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix. The public is invited; there is no admission charge. Light refreshments will be served.

“This event will give interested community members the chance to engage with faculty and students in a conversation about death and dying as a topic that is broadly philosophical and practical, personal and universal,” says Martin Beck Matuštík, Lincoln Professor of Ethics and Religion in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and one of the five professors who will participate as panelists on Oct. 8. “The discussion is intended for those with interest in ethics and ontology as well as those who work in care, grief, trauma, and bereavement settings.”

In addition to Matuštík, panelists include Ramsey Eric Ramsey, associate professor in New College and Barrett, The Honors College. Ramsey will lead off the discussion by reflecting on Socrates’ “The Apology” in the context of philosophy as a way of life.

Next, Patricia Huntington will consider death and dying in Buddhist and Western philosophical traditions that view “Great Death” as a core curriculum required for living well. Huntington is a professor in the West campus-based New College.

Social work faculty member Joanne Cacciatore from the College of Public Programs will speak about death and dying from the perspective of the social work field. Cacciatore is a founder of the MISS Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing support to grieving families, public policy and legislative education, and programs to reduce infant and toddler death.

The next speaker is Monica Casper, professor and director of New College’s Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies (HArCS), who will approach the topic of death and dying from her viewpoint as a specialist in trauma studies and cultural studies.

Matuštík will conclude the presentations with an examination of Ernest Becker’s existential-psychoanalytic work, “The Denial of Death.”

The panel discussion is co-sponsored by the HArCS Division and Barrett, The Honors College at the West campus, and is organized by the New College research cluster in philosophy and literature.

For more information, call the HArCS Division office at (602) 543-4444.