Synopses & Reviews
As humans, deathits certainty, its inevitabilityconsumes us. We make it the subject of our literature, our art, our philosophy, and our religion. Our feelings and attitudes toward our mortality and its possible afterlives have evolved greatly from the early days of mankind. Collecting these views in this topical and instructive book, W. M. Spellman considers death and dying from every angle in the Western tradition, exploring how humans understand and come to terms with the end of life.
Using the work of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists, Spellman examines how interpreting physical remains gives us insight into prehistoric perspectives on death. He traces how humans have died over the centuries, both in the causes of death and in the views of actions that lead to death. He spotlights the great philosophical and scientific traditions of the West, which did not believe in an afterlife or see the purpose of bereavement, while also casting new light on the major religious beliefs that emerged in the ancient world, particularly the centuries-long development of Christianity. He delves into three approaches to the meaning of deaththe negation of life, continuity in another form, and agnosticismfrom both religious and secular-scientific perspectives.
Providing a deeper context for contemporary debates over end-of-life issues and the tension between longevity and quality of life, A Brief History of Death is an illuminating look at the complex ways humans face death and the dying.
Praise for The Energy of Life: "Guy Brown provides a wonderfully lucid and stimulating survey of all aspects of modern biology."--John Horgan, author of The Undiscovered Mind"A subject so basic, so pervasive, and yet no one has written a book about it before. Guy Brown has done an excellent job."--Susan Greenfield, Oxford University, author of The Human Brain: A Guided Tour Praise for The Living End - the Future of Death, Aging, and Immortality "This book...is thought provoking, will expand our professional development and may enhance the way we lead our lives." --Sam Chenery-Morris, Nursing Standard
“After the spate of near-death and out-of-the-body experience books comes this refreshing step back to examine the nature of the death experience culturally, historically, psychologically, and personally. . . . Recommended reading as an antidote to modern life.”
The decline of infections, starvation, heart attack, and stroke has allowed people to reach extreme old age--and ushered in disability, dementia, and degenerative disease, with profound consequences for the self and society. In chapters echoing Dante's nine circles of hell, Dr. Guy Brown explores these vital issues at various levels, from the cell, to the whole body, to society and how all this new medical technology affects the meaning of death. He tracks the seismic shifts in the causes and character of death that are rocking medicine and reveals how technological innovations, such as cloning and electronic interfaces, hint at new modes of "survival" after death.
A Brief History of Death
offers a topical survey of views concerning death and its aftermath in the Western tradition from prehistory to the present. It explores how humans understand and come to terms with the fact of mortality, and looks at the physical and social aspects of death, how dying people are treated, how the dying conduct themselves in the knowledge of their approaching demise, and how survivors choose to remember the dead. The book provides a deeper context for contemporary debates over end-of-life issues, especially the emerging tension between longevity and quality of life.
W. M. Spellman examines the work of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists to give insight into pre-historic perspectives on death through the interpretation of physical remains. He spotlights the great philosophical and scientific traditions of the West, or what can be termed the rationalist approach to end-of-life issues. The book also examines the major religious traditions that emerged during the so-called axial” age of the ancient world, focusing particularly on the centuries-long evolution of the Western Christian tradition. Three approaches to the meaning of death: negation of life, continuity in another form, and agnosticism, are examined in both religious and secular-scientific contexts.
About the Author
W. M. Spellman is professor of history and humanities at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is the author of The Latitudinarians and the Church of England, 1660–1700 (1993) and European Political Thought, 1600–1700 (1998).
Table of Contents
1. Preliminary Patterns
2. Thinking Things Through
3. Extraordinary Narratives
4. Adverse Environments
5. Modern Reconsiderations