Thomas W. Laqueur | Why Do We Care for the Dead?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thomas W. Laqueur: Why Do We Care for the Dead? || Radcliffe Institute

When his friends asked Diogenes the Cynic what he wanted done with his body after he died, he told them that they should throw it over the wall to be eaten by the beasts and birds. And why not? It was no longer his; he would not notice.

For more than 2,000 years, conversations in the West—and elsewhere—have acknowledged that Diogenes had a point. And yet we as a species care for our dead. This lecture by Thomas W. Laqueur offers an answer for why this should be the case from both a general anthropological perspective and from the vantage of particular historical cases.