Are there any reputable philosophical works that talk about the fear of non-existence as opposed to the fear of death? (Of course no one can imagine what it 'feels like' to not exist but if many people have a strong desire or drive to 'keep existing' in a manner to which they are used to they will fear anything that could stop them in their tracks and wipe out their existence forever.)

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    Can you tease out more what you take to be different between "non-existence" and "death"? The terms by themselves don't make it at all clear.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 13:48
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    I don't find the question particularly unclear... you can believe that there is some sort of afterlife, and still be afraid of death. He's trying to distinguish between fear of death, which could be fear of the unknown, fear of eternal punishment, fear of leaving the earthly plane, etc., and fear of actual nonexistence. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 18:30
  • seems to me that the question is sorta central to a dualist view of consciousness . i'm sorta a dualist (maybe more of a theist). Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 1:20
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    what about disreputable philosophical works?
    – M. le Fou
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 5:54
  • Epicure, as noted below. I seem to recall something to this effect in Pascal. Strangely enough, there is a lot about the fear of no final nonexistence, Nietzsche, Buddhism, etc. Heidegger and Sartre? Sorry, kind of a scattershot reply. Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 22:47

3 Answers 3


To give an immediate answer, yes philosophers have traversed the subject. Epicurus was the first to pose the challenge of non existence after death, Thomas nagel more recently discussed the subject, that's a good place to start.


It might be possible to argue that Roquentin, in Sartres Nausee, when faced with the pure facticity of his surroundings experiences angst and unease; the nothingness of matter without mind, is that it lacks subject hood; and our his subjecthood not being affirmed, fragments.

This is not quite non-existence, for the surroundings surely exist for Roquentin in their very material haeccitas (thisness); and not is Roquentin being faced with a sense of his mortality; but that he is not kin to a rock, or a table or tree.


Many would argue, including Freud, that the concepts of after life and eternal soul were invented as a response to fear of non existence. People were so traumatized by the idea of non-existence after death, that they invented religion and mythology as a coping mechanism.

  • it's not just fear. it's sorta about a deep sadness or feeling of meaninglessness that seems to come with the strict materialist view of consciousness. you know, pale blue dot. Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 1:33
  • If some religious concepts were invented to cope with a real fear of non-existence , where does this fear come from? Can't say it comes from religious concepts if they were invented to cope with the fear..
    – 201044
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 4:54
  • What is this fear of non-existence that existed before religions were invented , unless nobody feared non-existence before any formal religious philosophies coalesced ?
    – 201044
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:28

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