Epicurus on the fear of Death

“Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and when death is come, we are not.”

If this line of reasoning is good, then it is a curious thing that we should have a natural fear of death. People say that death will ‘take away from us all the good things in life which we cherish’ and that this is why we naturally fear death. However, death obviously takes nothing away from us if we cease to be at death.

  1. The fear of death is natural and rational
  2. It is only rational and natural to fear that which brings us harm
  3. If the fear of death is natural and rational, then death must bring harm to us
  4. Only subjects can experience harm
  5. If death brings us any harm then there must be some sense in which we exist as subjects beyond death.
  6. Therefore, we do exist as subjects beyond death

I think that the first premise is the only real contentious one. An objector will have to say either that the fear is not natural, or that it is not rational, or both that it is neither natural nor rational. To say that it is not natural seems to strain credulity. To say that it is not rational seems unjustified; in defence of its being rational we could say that the fear of death is rationally maintained precisely because we each have a properly basic intuition about our selves (about the kinds of things which we are) which makes a distinction between that which we have (including our bodies) and that which we are (which is a simple idea). If the self is a simple, then it follows that it cannot be destroyed by any kind of decomposition, but only by annihilation. It is because we recognize ourselves intuitively (even if not explicitly) to be indissolubly simple subjects, that it seems natural and rational to have a fear of what death brings to us. That this is a properly basic belief seems easy enough to argue, since it is obviously a very natural belief, and it is one for which we have no defeater.

If the argument outlined above is successful, then it demonstrates that the natural and rational fear of death is a strong indication that man has a soul which is a simple substance.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Metaphysics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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