Consolations of Mortality

Making Sense of Death

Andrew Stark

View Inside Price: $30.00


August 23, 2016
288 pages, 5-1/2 x 8-1/4
ISBN: 9780300219258
Hardcover

A penetrating and provocative exploration of human mortality, from Epicurus to Joan Didion

For those who don’t believe in an afterlife, the wisdom of the ages offers four great consolations for mortality: that death is benign and good; that mortal life provides its own kind of immortality; that true immortality would be awful; and that we experience the kinds of losses in life that we will eventually face in death. Can any of these consolations honestly reconcile us to our inevitable demise?
 
In this timely book, Andrew Stark tests the psychological truth of these consolations and searches our collective literary, philosophical, and cultural traditions for answers to the question of how we, in the twenty-first century, might accept our mortal condition. Ranging from Epicurus and Heidegger to bucket lists, the flaming out of rock stars, and the retiring of sports jerseys, Stark’s poignant and learned exploration shows how these consolations, taken together, reveal death as a blessing no matter how much we may love life.

Andrew Stark is professor of management and political science at the University of Toronto. His books include The Limits of Medicine and Drawing the Line: Public and Private in America. His articles have appeared in American Political Science Review, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, among others. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

"A deeply absorbing book, laced with humor and wisdom, that confronts the ultimate question–if we must die, how should we think about living? Andrew Stark’s answers will surprise you."—Mark Lilla, Columbia University

"Infallibly interesting, sensible, and mercifully accessible, The Consolations of Mortality guides us through the ways people across the centuries have thought about the end. Andrew Stark has  an uncanny talent for finding perfect quotes and anecdotes and is a gifted story teller."—William Ian Miller, author of Losing It

"Consolations of Mortality is a deeply literary engagement with a subject that will ever bedevil us. It persuasively—and unsentimentally—points the way to peace and even gratitude for the inevitable."—Michael Greenberg, author of Hurry Down Sunshine

"Charming . . . [Stark] considers four stories about why death might not be as bad as we tend to suppose."—Colin McGinn, Wall Street Journal 

"Exciting and accessible . . . each chapter is engaging."—William Simkulet, Library Journal

"Stark has an exceptionally rich, often playful, imagination, one that draws on highly engaging ideas, speculations, epigrams, and thought experiments with which to build his argument. . . . [A] lively and adventurous book."—Daniel Callahan, Commonweal

"[The Consolations of Mortality] provides arresting insights about how we think about being dead (and alive)."—Glenn C. Altschuler, Psychology Today

"A profound and at times moving philosophical meditation. . . . This is engaged philosophy at its best, designed to help the reader think about, and live, a better life."—A. W. Klink, Choice