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In answering these questions, May brings together two divergent perspectives on death. The first holds that death is not an evil, or at least that immortality would be far worse than dying. The second holds that death is indeed an evil, and that there is no escaping that fact. May shows that in order to live with death, we need to hold these two perspectives at once. Their convergence gives our lives a beauty and a tragedy that are inextricably entwined. Drawing on the thoughts of many philosophers and writers - both ancient and modern - as well as personal reflection and experience, May puts forward a view of how we might think about and, more importantly, live our lives in view of the inescapability of our dying. In the end, he argues, the contingency of our lives must be grasped and folded into the time remaining to each of us. In so doing, we can live each moment as though it were at once a link to an uncertain future and also the only thing we have.
Todd May is Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Professor of Philosophy at Clemson University, South Carolina.