Shelly Kagan argues that contra Lucretius, we should fear death, because death necessarily involves the loss of the good things we enjoyed in life. Is Kagan’s argument a strong one, do we have legitimate reasons to fear death?

  • "It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have." -- Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. – user4894 May 19 at 21:56
  • That's assuming a person actually experienced something good in life. Many people choose suicide as a form of escape. – David Blomstrom May 20 at 4:35
  • Generally speaking, as life after death has not been proved to exist, we should fear death because it ends our everything (our feelings, our thinking, our future, etc.) and we’ll become nothing, as far as we know, permanently. Evolutionarily speaking, fear of death is a primitive trait or instinct that has been selected to remain in the billions-of-years evolutionary process because it helps increase the survival chance of species that have it. Thus, evolution-wise, fear of death is a legitimate feeling. And you’re still alive today partly because of it. – user287279 May 20 at 7:48
  • 6.431 (Tractatus Logico Philosophicus): So too at death the world does not alter, but comes to an end 6.4311: Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. That is, because you don't experience death, there is nothing to be afraid of it. It has to happen, and will happen. You should, however, not invite death by doing stupid (or unhealthy) things. Apart from this, fear of death has no value. – Ajax May 20 at 14:26
  • Epicurus (whom Lucretius channels) was advising followers on which way they should manage their emotions to feel happier, and since fear is a negative emotion it is best to think oneself out of it. This is quite different from having reasons to fear. We obviously do fear death, and hence have reasons (such as they are) to do so, Kagan's formulation of them seems as good as any. It seems to me that Epicurus and Kagan are using "should" in different ways, so they may not have a real disagreement. – Conifold May 20 at 18:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.