'Death is Nothing to Us:' A Critical Analysis of the Epicurean Views Concerning the Dread of Death

Antiquity and Modern World: Interpretations of Antiquity 8:316-323 (2014)
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To the mind of humans death is an impossible riddle, the ultimate of mysteries; therefore it has always been considered a task of paramount importance for philosophers to provide a satisfactory account for death. Among the numerous efforts to deal with the riddle of death, Epicurus’ one stands out not only for its unsurpassed simplicity and lucidness, but also for the innovative manner in which it approaches the issue: Epicurus denounces the fear of death as a profoundly unfruitful, unreasonable and unjustifiable passion of the mind. In this short paper I will first provide a brief account of Epicurus’ argumentation. Then I will argue that, although Epicure’s efforts to annihilate the fear of death proved to be unconvincing (people never ceased to fear death), still in a way they have been successful. Epicurus managed to rationalize in a certain degree the most deeply rooted fear in the souls of humans, and this seems to have been his initial purpose: consolation sometimes is due not only to definite resolution, but also to doubt and inconclusiveness.

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Evangelos D. Protopapadakis
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens


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