Epicurus and Annihilation
Rosenbaum (Stephen)
Source: Fischer - The Metaphysics of Death
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. This paper constitutes a partial clarification and defense of Epicurus's view that "death is nothing to us."
  2. The arguments and ideas are juxtaposed to a critical appraisal of an earlier article in The Philosophical Quarterly, "Annihilation," published in 1987.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Steven Luper-Foy's recent article, "Luper-Foy (Steven) - Annihilation" joins a steadily growing body of writings attacking the Epicurean view of death. That view of death is the striking idea that 'death is nothing to us', in Epicurus' own insouciant words, that being dead is not bad for us.
  2. Being deeply convinced that annihilation is a terrible fate, Luper-Foy dismisses Epicurus' argument as 'inane' and 'absurd'. However inane and absurd he may feel Epicurus' reasoning was, he, like numerous others, takes the argument seriously enough to devote considerable intellectual effort to its defeat. He, like others, may believe that the view has a vague plausibility.
  3. However, not only is the Epicurean idea vaguely plausible but also it can be effectively defended.
  4. Furthermore, it has far-reaching implications for many moral issues concerning death and killing.
  5. Defending the view is not simply an engaging historical exercise, but an important philosophical enterprise.
  6. In this essay, I wish to do two things:
    • first, to sketch the Epicurean view and the way in which one may support it;
    • second, to reveal the misconceptions which Luper-Foy has and to use them as a basis on which to describe more fully the Epicurean view and what it entails.


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