I am not speaking about our conscious perspective that includes our conscious knowledge of what is rational and what is irrational. I am speaking about the deep perspective that controls our emotions. This example illustrates what i mean by the previous:
The epicurean cure for the fear of death proves that fear of death is irrational:
For Epicureans, including Lucretius, the way out of this psychological conundrum was straightforward. First, we must become aware of our fear of death; then, we must recognize that it is irrational to be afraid of death. After all, the Epicureans argued, bad things can only happen to those capable of sensation. Dead people are devoid of all sensations, just as we all were before we were conceived. *
But our conscious realization of the irrationality of the fear of death is not enough to eliminate death anxiety:
However, Epicurean efforts to eliminate death anxiety on rational grounds have been spectacularly unsuccessful to date. People have not changed all that much in the last three thousand years; they remain steadfastly disinclined to die. *
Seneca wants us to expect that the worst will happen, and then come to terms with it, as it's survivable after all. He wants us to realize that our fear of what might go wrong is irrational. This is what i understood from reading his letters to Lucilius and Marcia.
Seneca survived bankruptcy and eight years of exile in Corsica.
But, is it possible that Seneca could have arrived to this deep perspective without experiencing the worst already?
- [*]The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life, a book by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski.