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The Nature Of Death Essay

1567 words - 6 pages

Human beings often have preconceived notions or fears regarding the abstract idea of death. Two Hellenistic philosophers Epicurus and Epictetus take very different approaches to prove that death is insignificant and nothing to worry about. Epicurus argues that death is the unequivocal end of our existence, and Epictetus claims it is something that we have no control over. Both examine the nature of death in an attempt to achieve ataraxia or a tranquil state of mind. However, Epicurus and Epictetus fail to address the true emotional nature of death and its impact on the human psyche. Accepting these philosophies requires an inherent selfishness that cannot possibly lead to achieving a tranquil and essentially good life.
Epicurus argues all good and bad things derive from a sensation of pleasure or pain. He advocated the absence of pain and the attainment of a happy, tranquil life. Achieving this state of mind includes expelling the fear of death, which he attempted to philosophically refute. According to Epicurus, “Death is nothing to us. For what has been dissolved has no sense experience, and what has no sense-experience is nothing to us.” (32) He asserts that death robs us of our senses so we cannot possibly fear it, for we do not exist at all. This also asserts that we fear the anticipation of death rather than death itself. When we are dead we are not afraid, for it is a state of unconsciousness and the end to any and all sensation, therefore there is neither pleasure nor pain. He explains that we fear death because we incorrectly assume that there is awareness during death. Epicurus logically explains, “Since when we exist, death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist” (29). When addressing a sentence there are two parts, the subject and the predicate. If a human being such as Sam is the subject, the predicate modifies the subject. However, death eradicates the subject, so if Sam does not exist nothing can be said of him. The predicate cannot logically be bound to a subject that does not exist. Following this explanation, death cannot be bad because good or bad can only be connected to something if it exists. Epicurus aims to achieve ataraxia with the absence of pain, and he attempts to do so by rendering the nature of death as insignificant. He promotes a life of hedonism and fails to mention that although a person who dies will feel nothing, it has a profound effect on the lives of those around them. Essentially Epicurus’ philosophy does not incorporate the lives or ataraxia of other people. It promotes one to live a life dedicated simply to one’s own pleasure and happiness.
Another Hellenistic philosopher Epictetus also argues that death is nothing to us. However, he claims that death is not within our control, and being unhappy about the nature of it will only prevent us from achieving a state of happiness or tranquility. He explains that it is against nature to try to change one’s inevitable fate, but...

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