Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics

Paperback | May 26, 2006

byJames Warren

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The ancient philosophical school of Epicureanism tried to argue that death is 'nothing to us'. Were they right? James Warren provides a comprehensive study and articulation of the interlocking arguments against the fear of death found not only in the writings of Epicurus himself, but also inLucretius' poem De rerum natura and in Philodemus' work De morte. These arguments are central to the Epicurean project of providing ataraxia (freedom from anxiety) and therefore central to an understanding of Epicureanism as a whole. They also offer significant resources for modern discussions ofthe value of death - one which stands at the intersection of metaphysics and ethics. If death is the end of the subject, and the subject can not be benefited nor harmed after death, is it reasonable nevertheless to fear the ceasing-to-be? If the Epicureans are not right to claim that the dead canneither be benefited nor harmed, what alternative models might be offered for understanding the harm done by death and do these alternatives suffer from any further difficulties? The discussion involves consideration of both ethical and metaphysical topics since it requires analysis not only of thenature of a good life but also the nature of personal identity and time. A number of modern philosophers have offered criticisms or defences of the Epicureans' views. Warren explores and evaluates these in the light of a systematic and detailed study of the precise form and intention of theEpicureans' original arguments. Warren argues that the Epicureans also were interested in showing that mortality is not to be regretted and that premature death is not to be feared. Their arguments for these conclusions are to be found in their positive conception of the nature of a good and complete life, which divorce thecompleteness of a life as far as possible from considerations of its duration. Later chapters investigate the nature of a life lived without the fear of death and pose serious problems for the Epicureans being able to allow any concern for the post mortem future and being able to offer a positivereason for prolonging a life which is already complete in their terms.

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The ancient philosophical school of Epicureanism tried to argue that death is 'nothing to us'. Were they right? James Warren provides a comprehensive study and articulation of the interlocking arguments against the fear of death found not only in the writings of Epicurus himself, but also inLucretius' poem De rerum natura and in Philod...

James Warren is at Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.56 inPublished:May 26, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019929769X

ISBN - 13:9780199297696

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Table of Contents

1. Fears of death2. Death and deprivation3. Symmetry arguments4. Premature death and a complete life5. Living an Epicurean life6. Conclusions

Editorial Reviews

`Review from previous edition [Warren] is the first writer to provide a comprehensive analysis of Epicurean reflections on death, with full reference both to their original contexts and to their ethical and metaphysical underpinnings ... readers of [Warren's] book will probably not beconverted to fully-fledged Epicureanism, but they will find themselves in excellent philosophical company and stimulated to look at death, and therefore life, with fresh eyes. All in all, James Warren has written a scholarly monograph that admirably transcends the normal limitations of that genre.'A. A. Long, Times Literary Supplement