Epicurus\'s Views on Death Essay

  • Length: 4 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: Philosophy
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #72320184

Excerpt from Essay :

Epicurus Maintained That Our Deaths Will Do Us No Harm

Explanation and Critical Assessment

Death represents a subject that is commonly contemplated, often with anxiety. At least, people were anxious when this subject was raised during the era when Epicurus was establishing his personal lifestyle and conveying it to fellow human beings. However, Epicurus held that one ought not to be afraid of dying as, "Death, the most frightening of bad things, is nothing to us; since when we exist death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist" (Epicurus, 1966). There are a number of reasons that make death a terrifying subject for people: they are afraid of God's wrath; they are unaware of what will come with it, they are worried about not achieving particular life goals, and so forth. According to Epicurus, a person ceases to exist subsequent to death and such a state of non-existence isn't bad. Even if it were bad, one wouldn't experience anything bad simply because one was non-existent. Therefore, death is no event to fear.

Epicurus's most powerful, and perhaps most debatable, argument regarding death arises from his idea that our soul is an impermanent and material thing. The empiricist, Epicurus, used his senses for obtaining the facts he utilized in assessing and judging his surrounding world (Glannon, 1993; Warren, 2001). In his opinion, a person's soul offered physical locomotion, gave rise to facial expressions, etc. But in order to achieve this, it was imperative for the soul to be material. This is a materialism-related argument made simpler, which would correspond to Epicurus's thoughts on the soul: a causal body-soul interaction is only possible if the latter was material. As such a causal interaction, indeed, exists; the soul is material.

The above materialistic outlook of the human soul brought about Epicurus's strongest argument against fearing death, for if our soul is dead along with our body, one need not fear death at all as one
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will cease to exist and thus won't experience death. Here, again, the philosopher seeks counsel from his senses, which offer him knowledge regarding the world, aiding him in drawing conclusions therefrom with respect to the soul. Upon death, an individual no longer has locomotion; he/she decays and his/her body becomes cold. The soul, which is material in nature, ought to scatter upon death, thus resulting in the body becoming cold. The soul is no longer able to hold the body together (Glannon, 1993; Warren, 2001). The atomist Epicurus would maintain that every atom or element of the human body, even the soul, just disperses back into its surrounding universe. This removes the potential of sense perceptions as one's soul is only able to access sense perceptions inside the body. It can only access sense organs via the body. This also accounts for why disembodied souls are incapable of emotional response. Thus, either way, death isn't painful.

In certain matters, Epicurus's claim may be considered vague. A chief ambiguous element is his very definition of death. Supposing he means the process of life's ending, this gives rise to another interpretive issue: he may intend to establish that death and events after death never impact us. From this follows the idea that such events, and even death, are harmless, if an event is believed to cause harm only if we are impacted by it in some way, at some point of time (possibly well after its occurrence) (Partridge, 1981).

However, no statement made thus far excludes the possibility of death impacting a person at the precise moment of its occurrence. The subject's issue especially doesn't surface as it is an extant, breathing individual who suffers harm at the time of its occurrence. Can we prove that death has no impact on an individual at its time of occurrence? There are, perhaps, a couple of ways (Partridge, 1981). Firstly, one may argue that death happens only after a person ceases to exist. This…

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