Epicurean Argumentative Analysis

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I will argue that being dead will not be bad for the person who dies. I will do so by first constructing the Epicurean approach to the badness of the state of death with several minor clarifications, before highlighting the inadequacies of standard anti-Epicurean arguments operating with counterfactual theories of harm in refuting Epicurus when his argument is interpreted within the parameter of death as a state. Additionally, as Epicureanism’s break with commonsense values is often what motivates the search for a metaphysics compatible with the morality of killing, I aim to reduce the inclination of those who desire to countenance Epicurus in a revisionist manner by reconciling commonsense values- most notably, the morality of killing-
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First, as attempting a careful exploration of the issue raised by Epicurus using only the term “death” would be troublesome, for the term is ambiguous, I wish to differentiate three concepts from one another, that of dying, death and being dead. This will allow us to better understand Epicurus’ view about death in the most logically fluid way, while also enabling us to become more attuned to the equivocal usage of “death”, which often exemplifies rhetorically convincing ways of implying the falsity of Epicurus’ view. Dying, we may say, is the process whereby a thing loses life, whereas death is the time at which the process of dying ends. Both dying and death should be carefully distinguished with the state of being dead, which is a sort of tertiary state in one’s history, succeeding life . Secondly, I will follow custom and assume that one’s death results in permanent annihilation. This will effectively preclude the possibility of an afterlife, thus greatly narrowing this essay in scope.

Epicurus’ main argument for why death is not bad for the person who dies, often referred to as the “no subject of harm” argument , is contained in his Letter to Menoeceus (341-270). His position is relatively well-known and can be formulated briefly as follows: if something harms a person P, there must exist a subject who is harmed, a clear
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Firstly, for example, a toothache can only harm a subject of harm, such as a person P and not a rock. Nagel (citation), quite prominently rejects this premise on the grounds of a perceived insistence on a connection between badness (goodness) and experience. He offers the example of an individual unknowingly betrayed behind her back as countenance. In spite of the subject involved never directly experiencing the harm (or unpleasant consequences of betrayal), Nagel alleges that the act of betrayal is nevertheless a harm for the individual. However, one might question the success of Nagel’s argument in undermining the existence requirement I have outlined above. Although Nagel successfully demonstrates the plausibility of there being non-experiential, relational harms, strictly speaking, the existence of such harms are still logically compatible with fundamental Epicureanism, since all the basic argument requires is form harms (including non-experiential harms) to have a corresponding subject of harm. As Nussbaum points out (citation), Nagel fails to address the proposition that once a person dies, the person no longer exists and thus does not and cannot be harmed (even by non-experiential harms). Secondly, if P is harmed, P cannot be harmed by nothing (i.e. a clear harm, such as a toothache, must be received). Thirdly, there must be a clear period of

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