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Socrates And Epicurus Live Life Without Fear Of Death

2768 words - 11 pages

Many people seem to fear death, but philosophers such as Socrates and Epicurus would argue that one has no reason to fear it. Socrates sees death as a blessing to be wished for if death is either nothingness or a relocation of the soul, whereas Epicurus argues that one shouldn't worry themselves about death since, once we are gone, death is annihilation which is neither good nor bad. Epicurus believes that death itself is a total lack of perception, wherein there is no pleasure or pain. I agree with Epicurus because Socrates doesn't give a sound argument for death as a blessing, whereas Epicurus' argument is cogent. I would also argue personally that death is not something to be feared because, like Epicurus, I see no sufficient evidence showing we even exist after death.

Socrates argues that one shouldn't fear death because it is actually a blessing. His premises for this conclusion are as follows. First of all, either death is nothingness or a relocation of the soul. If death is nothingness, then it is a blessing. If death is a relocation of the soul, then it is a blessing. Therefore death is a blessing (Plato's Apology (1981) 40c-41c.) In examining this argument, it is valid because the premises do entail the conclusion. Socrates doesn't have to argue that death is nothingness or relocation. He simply had to show that if death is one or the other, it is a blessing.

In order for this argument to be sound, however, the premises need to be true. The first premise immediately comes in to question because it appears to be a false dilemma. Socrates is asserting in his argument that there are only two avenues death might take, when in fact there could be other possibilities. For instance, couldn't death be an eternity of staring at the inside of a coffin six feet under (because your soul wasn't lucky enough to get relocated) as you are slowly eaten away by bugs and such? That might not be considered a blessing by some. Socrates doesn't seem to address this issue, but he does provide further support for his second and third premises.

Socrates argues that if death is nothingness or a lack of perception, it can be likened to a dreamless sleep. Everyone enjoys a dreamless sleep because one wakes up refreshed. Therefore, since a dreamless sleep is so pleasant, it could be considered a blessing. Socrates argues that nothingness is like a dreamless sleep because they are both a lack of perception, so one can conclude that death is a blessing because "all eternity would then seem to be no more than a single night" (Apology (1981) 40e.)

One might argue that Socrates can't assume that a dreamless sleep is counted among the most pleasurable of nights and days. I think that Socrates would reply that this is a reasonable assumption since, at times other than dreamless sleep, our body is carrying various perceptions of the senses for the mind to sort out. A lack of perception in which the mind is not inundated with so many messages could...

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