Alleviating Death Anxiety in Epicureanism
Eradicating the fear of death is a central concern in Epicurean philosophy. As hedonists, the Epicureans seek to pursue pleasure and avoid pain in order to achieve a life of eudaimonia. The fear of death is viewed as a particularly damaging form of mental pain, and the Epicureans go to great lengths to demonstrate that it is, in fact, irrational. The ‘fear of death’ is a relatively broad term. It not only encompasses the fear of being dead, but also the fear of dying, the fear of mortality, and the fear of premature death. How adequately the Epicureans address each of these fears has been the subject of much debate. I argue that the Epicureans do successfully recognise and abolish these four strands of anxiety. They use a network of arguments to combat the multi-faceted nature of the fear of death. A close examination of these arguments reveals that they are deeply entrenched in the Epicureans’ underlying physical and ethical theories. The individual arguments each form one part of a holistic attempt to remove the fear that is seen to obstruct a life of pleasure. As such, the arguments must not be viewed independently, but rather as a collective whole. I demonstrate that the Epicurean efforts to alleviate death-related concerns are comprehensive, cogent, and internally consistent. Therefore, when Epicureanism is embraced as a whole, the fundamental goal of a pleasurable life that free from the fear of death is entirely attainable.
Advisor: McConnell, Sean
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Classics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Epicureanism; Greek Philosophy; Fear of Death; Symmetry
Research Type: Thesis