DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A049-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved February 26, 2024, from

13. Death

That the soul must itself be composed of atoms has, in Epicurus’ judgment, one very cheering implication. It can easily be shown to perish with the body. Lucretius (III 417–829) presents a whole battery of arguments for this, based not only on the evidence for the soul’s dissolubility but also on other indications, such as the continuous parallelism between its development and decay and those of the body. From the finding that there is no conscious survival after death Epicurus concludes that ‘death is nothing to us’. To fear your own future non-existence is as groundless as to regret the time when you had not yet been born, and involves the absurdity of imagining yourself being there to witness and lament your own non-existence. To regret that your pleasures will be cut short is to make the computational mistake of supposing that a finite lifespan is ipso facto less pleasant than an infinite one. In a brilliant diatribe against the fear of death, Lucretius (III 830–1094) interprets the myths of punishment in the afterlife as allegories for moral malaise in this life, and portrays much human unhappiness, manifested in the vain search for security through wealth and power, as subconsciously nourished by the fear of death.

Citing this article:
Sedley, David. Death. Epicureanism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A049-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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