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Socrates and Epicurus: Why death should not be feared.

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Socrates and Epicurus: Why death should not be feared.

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  • November 18, 2006
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Many people seem to fear death, but philosophers such as Socrates and Epicurus would argue that death is something that should not be feared. Socrates believes death is either nothingness, or something involving an afterlife (Plato, p. 8), whereas Epicurus argues that one shouldn't worry about death, because death is simply a termination of consciousness, which is neither good nor bad, where there is no awareness of pain or of pleasure(Jackman 2006 (1)). This essay will examine both Socrates and Epicurus' views as to why death should not be feared, and will also express my personal opinion on which I found most convincing.

Socrates' argument that we should not fear death comes from the premises that death is either nothingness, or involves an afterlife. Socrates argues that if death is nothingness, then it is like an endless sleep. He argues this because he believes they are both a lack of perception, with no sensation of consciousness. He says an endless sleep should not be feared because it is enjoyable and pleasing. He argues that when we have deep sleeps we wake up refreshed and content therefore an endless sleep cannot be bad (Plato, p. 8). One could argue that Socrates can't assume that an endless sleep is like a pleasurable sleep, because it is in fact not the sleep itself that brings us pleasure, but rather the awakening from sleep that leaves us satisfied and refreshed. So if the best part of a deep sleep is waking up to feel refreshed, then maybe an endless sleep isn't so appealing (Jackman 2006 (2)).

Aside from the possibility of death being an endless sleep, Socrates suggests an alternate possibility, that death involves some form of afterlife. He argues that if this is the case, death cannot be a bad thing, because you'd get to meat great people like Homer and Orpheus, and would have the opportunity to talk with them and ask questions. He believes they would all be in the same place as him after death, a place that is just and that would give...