Epicurus and the singularity of death : defending radical Epicureanism David B. Suits


Should we be concerned about our own death? The question seems to be frivolous, as if we could be otherwise than be afraid of it. However, the Greek philosopher Epicurus (in)famously claimed that death actually is of no concern to us. Indeed, he argued that if death is annihilation, than there is nobody to be in a state of being dead. Indeed, we speak of dead persons as if we were able to predicate of them the attribute of being dead. Nevertheless, if death actually means the concerned person’s end, and thus its absence, than strictly speaking we do not undergo or experience death. Therefore, our death cannot be to our detriment, but not to our benefit, either. Since we only should be concerned about future states that are either to our benefit our detriment, than we should not worry now about our future death.

In Epicurus and the Singularity of Death, David B. Suits explores and expands on the Epicurean stance on death, in particular arguing against the deprivation view of death: death cannot mean any loss or gain for that which doesn’t exist anymore. In consequence, so Suits argues, while there is a right not to be hurt or put into pain, there cannot be a right not to be killed, though it should be stressed that a person’s death affects and thus harms the rights of those that are close to it. Hence, abortion, in particular, does not infringe on any presumed right to live. However, since death cannot be of any benefit to the one that has died, the Epicurean account of death is surprisingly neutral with respect to the question of assisted suicide or euthanasia. Finally, it may be necessary that we revise our view on so-called last wills, since a person’s intentions and desires cannot survive its demise (a corpse has no will to be respected).

I recommend this monograph because it updates an argumentation of ancient philosophy on an existential subject in an original and thought-provoking manner. It contains a discussion of relevant modern philosophical literature, but is also interest to the general reader who is confronted with the issues of death, abortion, or assisted suicide.

Available at the library

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