A More Palatable Epicureanism
Hershenov (David)
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, 44:2, April 2007, 171-180
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. The Epicurean position is well known: if a person ceases to exist when he dies, then death isn’t bad for him. Where there is no one to have an interest, no interest can be frustrated. Given that the dead don’t exist, they don’t have any interests that can be thwarted.
  2. The Epicurean stance towards death can be maintained independently of Epicurus’ personal adherence to hedonism. The point that your death cannot be bad for you holds even if it is accepted that there are non-experiential, relational harms such as someone talking poorly about you behind your back or preventing some good from reaching you that you forever remain ignorant about.
  3. The Epicurean can claim that even non-experiential harms need a subject of harm and at death that subject ceases to exist.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. This paper sought to illuminate an important aspect of the wrongness of killing while defending the claim that death is not a harm.
  2. If this endeavor has been successful, readers can accept what is right about the Epicurean claim - that death is not a harm and an evil - without having to abandon the very reasonable claims that (in most cases) more life is good, it is prudent to make efforts to stay alive, allowing death when rescue is easy is wrong, and killing the innocent is very evil and should be prevented and punished.
  3. This should remove much of the motivation they may otherwise have had to misconstrue Epicurus’ challenge (i.e., change the subject) or to meet it with some very controversial metaphysical theories about existence, reality, and time.


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