Epicurus Essay

660 Words3 Pages
The Fear of Death. Given, however, that Epicurus maintains that philosophical inquiry is driven by our need to understand the sources of unhappiness, it might be helpful to turn to his analysis of these, chief among them the fear death. In contrast to most contemporary philosophers, Epicurus argues that we have no reason to fear death because it cannot harm us in the slightest. That said, however, he thinks that most people at some level do indeed fear death and that their mental lives, along with many of their actions, are affected in unhappy ways because of what turns out to be simply an irrational and readily eliminable misconception. So for instance, we find in Epicurean texts a version of the so-called symmetry argument. Assume for the moment the Epicurean claim that death annihilates us. Before we were conceived, we also did not exist. Yet we typically are troubled only by our post mortem non-existence. How are we to explain this asymmetry in our attitudes to two apparently similar states of our non-existence? Epicurus argues that whenever we think about our future non-existence, we find it difficult to view it as the total annihilation of our consciousness and to eliminate ourselves from our conception of it in the required way. This is because whenever I try to conceive of my death, I become a kind of conscious eyewitness to it in my imagination. I thus have the illusory experience of witnessing my ongoing annihilation, with death continually depriving me of things I value. When I look back at the time before I was conceived, however, I readily see it as the state of nothingness that it is. However explicable, holding asymmetrical attitudes to two equivalent states of our non-existence, Epicureans argue, is irrational and we should come to view both death and the time before our conception with equal indifference. This argument, no doubt, raises

More about Epicurus Essay

Open Document