Life, Death & the Pursuit of Morality

In the Apology, Socrates states that death "either is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as we are told, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another." In either case, Socrates asserts, not only is death something that should not be feared, but it is precisely that in relation to which life must be lived. In other words, our existence and the manner in which we choose to conduct our lives is defined by and inextricably linked to our beliefs, values, and expectations regarding the inevitability of our finitude and/or the possibility of some form of existence after death.

Although we cannot yet know with certainty which of the two possibilities claimed by Socrates is correct, there have been those who have seemingly crossed the threshold of death and yet somehow returned to relate their experiences. What are we to make of these growing episodes of Near-Death Experiences? Are they simply artifacts produced by the dying brain, or do they reveal some preservation of, or change in, the nature of consciousness, as some in the scientific community have begun to claim? And what does this evolving scientific insight mean not only for our conception of death but also for the value and utility of our actions during life?

Often NDEs evoke life-altering effects upon those who have experienced them. In many cases, individuals adopt an entirely different outlook on their lives. Why is it that such brief experiences have evoked such a fundamental shift in their behaviors and perspectives? How might we engage these experiences to develop a better understanding of the nature of moral cognition, values, and actions?

In this light, the second part of this symposium addresses the question of how our understanding of the concepts of life and death may affect our moral sensibility, decisions, and actions. In short, it engages scientific and humanistic focus upon the ways in which human finitude can, and perhaps should, impact moral character, values, and conduct in the rich and varied fabric of differing situations, societies, and cultures.


Featured Speakers:

James Giordano, PhD, Director, Center for Neurotechnology Studies; Senior Research Associate, Wellcome Centre for Neuroethics, Oxford University.

Jeffrey Long, MD, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center at TGMC; Founder, Near Death Experience Research Foundation, Houma, Louisiana.  

Sam Parnia, MD, PhD, Fellow, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York; Honorary Research Fellow, Univ. of Southampton, UK.


Time:  6:30 p.m.
Date:  Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Location: The New York Academy of Sciences
              7 World Trade Center
              250 Greenwich Street, 40th Floor
              New York, NY 10007
Tickets: $20.00 (Refreshments Served)

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2010 Symposia Series

Shifting Realities: Myths, Models & Morality
The Contingent Nature of Reality
May 12, 2010
The New York Academy of Sciences
Life, Death & the Pursuit of Morality
June 22, 2010
The New York Academy of Sciences

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