Wishes of the Dead
Where: The Strand
212-473-1452 Price: $20, includes complimentary beer
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Our lives are controlled by invisible hands from the grave. Trillions of dollars of the US economy are devoted to executing the wishes of people who died long ago, rather than satisfying the needs, preferences, and values of those living now. In this Olio we are going to look at some of the legal mechanism surrounding property rights that allow people to hold onto wealth and power dozens or even hundreds of years after their death, and the role these practice play in perpetuating wealth and power inequalities in American life.
From there, we look into the complicated philosophical questions about why we give the dead so much power over our lives, and what this says about how we find meaning in our own lives given foreknowledge of our mortality.
Barry Lam is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College, and executive producer and host of Hi-Phi Nation from Slate, a show about philosophy that turns stories into ideas (www.hiphination.org). His academic interests are in epistemology, philosophy of language, and statistical reasoning.