PHIL 721: Advanced Seminar in Philosophy

PHIL 721-001: Birth, Death and the Human
(Fall 2021)

04:30 PM to 07:10 PM W

Innovation Hall 330

Section Information for Fall 2021

In the western philosophical tradition, mortality has typically been taken as the defining horizon of human existence. The philosophical (existential, metaphysical, ontological) significance of the necessary counterpart of death – birth or natality – has largely been occluded. On this course, we will begin with a brief engagement with Plato and Heidegger, whose work discloses the deep connections between western philosophy and the horizon of death. We will then turn to a number of recent thinkers who have interrogated the constitutive forgetting of birth and sexual difference within this tradition and explored the philosophical significance of natality, focusing on the relational ontologies of Luce Irigaray, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Adriana Cavarero.

In the second part of the course, we will ask how the recent turn to birth and natality itself needs itself to be re-situated via the lens of race and colonialism, drawing on thinkers such as Françoise Vergès, Hortense Spillers, Sylvia Wynter, Édouard Glissant, Saidiya Hartman, Christina Sharpe, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, and Calvin Warren. Through their work, we will explore how both birth and death are radically refigured through the slave hold, the invention of Blackness, and anti-Black racism, in ways that demand new modalities of philosophical thought. 

At the end of the course, we will return to the question of the human, not so much as a post-human gesture but to consider the possibilities for thinking otherwise that are harbored by an attentiveness to both birth and death in the conjoined contexts of sexual difference, colonialism, and race.


Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Close study of selected topics in current philosophical discourse. Notes: May be repeated for credit when topic is different. May be repeated within the term.
Specialized Designation: Topic Varies
Registration Restrictions:

Enrollment is limited to Graduate or Non-Degree level students.

Students in a Non-Degree Undergraduate degree may not enroll.

Schedule Type: Lec/Sem #1, Lec/Sem #2, Lec/Sem #3, Lec/Sem #4, Lec/Sem #5, Lec/Sem #6, Lec/Sem #7, Lec/Sem #8, Lec/Sem #9, Sem/Lec #10, Sem/Lec #11, Sem/Lec #12, Sem/Lec #13, Sem/Lec #14, Sem/Lec #15, Sem/Lec #16, Sem/Lec #17, Sem/Lec #18, Seminar
This course is graded on the Graduate Regular scale.

The University Catalog is the authoritative source for information on courses. The Schedule of Classes is the authoritative source for information on classes scheduled for this semester. See the Schedule for the most up-to-date information and see Patriot web to register for classes.