Epicurus's Philosophy on the Fear of Death Essay

Epicurus's Philosophy on the Fear of Death Essay

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Death, and people's perception of it are a major part of many philosophies. It could be argued that the questions surrounding death and the afterlife form the basis of many philosophic concepts. To some philosophers, not only is the concept of death itself important, but also how people perceive it, and why they perceive it the way they do. Epicurus's claim that the soul is mortal, is an excellent explanation for why we should not fear death.
To understand Epicurus's philosophy on the fear of death, we fist have to understand Epicurus's perception of the universe, and why he believes the soul is mortal. Epicurus believes that the totality of the universe consists only of "bodies and void" (Letter to Herodotus 39). He says that using out senses, we can observe that there are bodies, and using reasoning we must therefore conclude that there must be something (a "void") for the bodies to exist in (Letter to Herodotus 39-40). He claims there can be nothing conceivable outside the totality, since there can be no sense-evidence of anything outside the totality (Letter to Herodotus 40). By this logic, all observable things must be bodies or combinations of bodies, of which the smallest bodies (atoms) are unsplittable (Letter to Herodotus 40).
If, as Epicurus claims, everything is either body or void, the soul must also be one of these two things. It cannot be void, as the void is nothing and can consist only of nothing, so therefore it must be a body or compound of bodies (Letter to Herodotus 63). He believes that the soul is most responsible for sense-perception, and that it must be enclosed within the body to facilitate this (Letter to Herodotus 63-64). If this is the case, it must therefore be acknowledged that the soul must exist...

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...erstand the nature of the soul are, as Epicurus says "incomparably stronger than other men" (Letter to Herodotus 83), since they will be able to understand and set aside their fears and worries about themselves after death.
Overall, I believe that Epicurus's view on the mortality of the soul and the fear of death are very plausible and hold up well under scrutiny. His basic principles on the topic are believable and well supported even if some of the premises are rejected or modified. To me, this is an argument that is not difficult to understand, but can be used even in modern discussions of the soul and death.

Works Cited

Lucretius. On the Nature of Things. Trans. Walter Englert. Newburyport, MA: Focus Philosophical Library, 2003.
Epicurus. The Epicurus Reader. Trans. Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994.

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