Death is Nothing! A Defense of Epicureanism

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2020

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Abstract

Death can be terrible for the survivors of the deceased, but can it be bad for the deceased themselves? Epicurus argued that it could not be, apparently because there is no temporal overlap between death and the deceased person—no time at which both are present. This argument has received a great deal of philosophical attention in recent decades, but few philosophers of death find it convincing. Most believe that death can be bad for the deceased and some fear that grave moral implications would follow if it could not be. This dissertation argues otherwise. It begins by defending Epicurus’ argument against a host of the most promising contemporary objections to it. Finding that these objections fail, it concludes that the prevailing philosophical consensus is unjustified: although death may be a great misfortune for the survivors of the deceased, it cannot be bad for the deceased themselves. The dissertation then examines the implications of this conclusion for some other issues in ethics, arguing that these implications are not as unpleasant as is sometimes believed. In doing so, it hopes to establish a foothold for the larger project of showing that Epicureanism, deeply important though it is, does not wreak havoc upon the moral landscape.

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Burkhardt, Tim (2020). Death is Nothing! A Defense of Epicureanism. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/21481.

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