Review of Warren, Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics [Book Review]

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 7:68 (2005)
  Copy   BIBTEX


To modern ears, the word Epicurean indicates (if anything) an interest in fine dining. But at least throughout the early modern period up until the 19th century, Epicureanism was known less for its relation to food preparation and more so, if not scandalously so, for its doctrine about the annihilation of the human soul at death, its denial of human immortality, and its attempt to justify the claim that death should not be feared since “Death is nothing to us” ( Kyriai Doxai [hereafter KD] 2). Epicureans — like many ancient schools of thought — sought to establish an objective “morality of happiness” or rational teaching about right conduct which allowed its practitioners to arrive at a kind of well-being. Epicureans identified such well-being or happiness with “freedom from disturbance” ( ἀταραξία), and insofar as the fear of death undermined such contentedness in life, they presented arguments against the claim that death was a bad thing. Put more concisely, Epicureans believe that (as James Warren [JW] puts it), “if we think about death correctly, we think about living a good life correctly, and vice versa” (7). But whereas other ancient thinkers — most famously Socrates and his students — had sought to cure the fear of death by positing an immortal soul which philosophy was to prepare for life after the death of one’s body, Epicureans took the opposite route and argued that in part it was the longing for an impossible immortality that contributed to the fearfulness of death.

Author's Profile

Thornton Lockwood
Quinnipiac University


Added to PP

93 (#71,801)

6 months
33 (#62,181)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?