"Death is nothing to us." How good are the Epicurean arguments for this claim?

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iii. “Death is nothing to us.”  How good are the Epicurean arguments for this claim?

Epicureanism is one of the philosophical schools of thought that was very popular during the Hellenistic period and was originally founded by Epicurus who lived from 341-270 BC.  Epicurus continuously rejected the belief that gods interfered in human life and/or caused natural events to occur.  One of his arguments was that if they don’t interfere in human life, they don’t interfere in human death.  If they have no interference in human affairs why should humans fear their interference later, and if they are not concerned with human affairs why should humans be concerned with them?  He denied and dismissed Greek religion as mere mythology.  He believes that if the gods were divine and immortal they have no need, no time, and no interest to interfere in human life, because they are outside it and live in another realm.  “They dwell in no world but in the spaces which separate one world from another.”

He views happiness as a freedom from pain and attaining virtuous desires which are desires that are necessary such as food and sleep, etc.  

Epicurus believes that the mind and soul perishes when the body does, therefore there is no way one survives after death in anyway and he finds it silly for someone intellectual to believe in a judgement after death where one will be rewarded and punished for one’s own actions in their lifetime.  Lucretius presented a symmetry argument in which if we did not feel the events before we were born we won’t feel them after we die.  

Epicurus believes the soul gives life to the body and so the soul cannot exist independently of the body, and for there to be life there needs to be the co-existence of both soul and body.  He believes that if there is no body, the soul ceases to exist, as the body is then replaced by void and void cannot be affected by any interference or anything.  The soul is believed (by Epicureans) to be the “primary cause of sensation”.

Epicurus thinks that we should match our actions in determining them by a moral code, by checking each desire to see if it is the approved kind or not.

There are two kinds of pleasure according to Epicureanism, kinetic and static and the “pleasure we seek as our final end is not kinetic pleasure, but katastematic or static pleasure”.  Kinetic pleasure is the pleasure that is a pain or the removal of something that you want, whereas static pleasure is the pleasure you have when there is no pain in the first place or want to be removed.  Kinetic pleasure is the pleasure of being in static pleasure: absence of pain is just (static) pleasure”.  Pleasure, Epicurus taught, is the absence of pain and ‘ataraxia’, pleasure which is complete, is the absence of trouble which he claims to be our final end.  He sees pleasure as a fulfillment of a desire that is natural, such as feeding yourself if you are hungry. Satisfying needs gives kinetic pleasure and satisfying them in a wrong way results in trouble.

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Natural desires are fulfilled by following our nature and it is important to fulfill natural desires in ways that don’t rely on empty beliefs thus removing the pains and lacks that we can’t help but have.  By fulfilling empty desires due to empty beliefs, we will remove some pains and lacks, but in ways which renew them, bring them back, or bring back even worse pains, which then lead to a life of dissatisfaction leading unhappy lives.  According to the Epicureans, to avoid empty mental troubles by empty beliefs the best way is to live by their principles.  


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