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James Tiles, Retired Professor of Philosophy

From: Mary & Jim Tiles
Date: Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:41 AM
To: J Musto
Subject: Jim Tiles

Jim died on Monday
evening.  He was found on the country lane leading to Micheldever having
come off his bike, he cannot have been there long before a passing car stopped
and called the police and ambulance services since he had a pulse at that time.
 Even though an air ambulance helicopter arrived very quickly he was not
responsive, never recovered consciousness and was pronounced dead at the scene.
  No witnesses have come forward and the cause of death remains uncertain
even after yesterday’s post mortem.  Further tests will be carried out but
may take a couple of weeks.  There was no heart attack or stroke but he
had no injuries consistent with coming off a bike at any speed and there was no
evidence of collision with a vehicle.  He did hit his head on the ground
but it is not clear that it would have killed him.  There was a brain
aneurism found which might have been the cause.  It may even be one of
those cases epistemologists like talk about – a case of multiple causation,
although a death certificate requires the coroner to write down a single cause.

As police procedures
require my brother and I made a formal identification late yesterday afternoon
on completion of the initial post mortem exam.

We have arranged for a
direct cremation (no ceremony at the crematorium) at whatever time the coroner
releases the body.  There will be a local memorial event in the village
hall next weekend.

In preparation for this,
as might be the habit of a philosopher, I tried to think about its function:-

Whether people do or do
not have immortal souls it remains the case that a person’s life, which is
shaped by its end as well as its beginning, is something only ever known to
those who survive. It is up to them to give shape to the life lived and to
prolong it in memory. The nuances of such a task are discussed by Umberto Eco
in an essay which Jim and I found important in thinking about issues of life
and death. (Both being philosophy teachers, our conversations were perhaps not
always those of a normal couples.) The essay is about a letter the younger
Pliny writes to the historian Tacitus about the life, and mostly death, of his
uncle, Pliny the elder who died in the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed
Pompeii. The younger Pliny recognises the importance of his role in determining
the memory of his uncle’s life in a culture in which an unexpected death was
not necessarily bad, however hard on those who remain, since what was important
was to have had and led a good life up to the point of death. Jim and I shared
the view that contemporary western culture places too much emphasis on the mere
prolongation of the biological life of a human being, and too little on the
need to incorporate death into the conception of a life; every life must after
all have an end.

So Jim’s death, however sudden
and unforeseen and not yet fully explained, was mercifully brief and he was
living in a way that he found fulfilling right up to his last moments. It is up
to those of us who saw his different aspects to form a conception of his now
completed life – something he could never share no matter when it ended – and I
welcome your perspectives on someone I knew as a husband and life companion but
others knew in other capacities.



[UHPA received permission from Mary Tiles to print her email.]