I don't mean specifically felicity etc. at philosophy, but whether a state of ambivalence toward death, while alive, can be intrinsically valuable because of some knowledge or wisdom that ambivalence embodies, and how important the possibility of doing so is to that state of mind.

FWIW, I think yes, and I don't think via special pleading, but on the grounds of what it means to die at the wrong time: that a premature death is "unwise". Not a sophisticated argument though.

How would Heidegger respond to the claim it was?

2 Answers 2


What even is this question? Only about his indifference to death, or all of his philosophical impact?

Socrates was paradigmatic in defining philosophy, philosophy was exactly defined by what Socrates did, though once defined it could be applied retrospectively. And Plato's Academy, and so academia, is the fusion of the Socratic method, and the Pythagorean math cult.

I would put Socrates in a key position in regard to defining philosophy, because his story, and especially his 'martyrdom for wisdom', was the lense, that previous roles were focused into one by: into what was distinctly 'philosopher'. That is, not sage or mystic, but someone actively going out and questioning people, helping them to think through answers, in Socratic dialogue. His choice to accept the hemlock instead of exile (like Aristotle did) was about staying true to his role even over life. Like Digenes, he put his money where his mouth was.

I'd argue there is a crucial difference between pre- & post-socratics, due to this. And that what happened in Greece was subtly but importantly different than in Egypt, India or China, for complex reasons (the Needham question implies, mainly geography).

Aristotle was tutor to Alexander the Great, who's pursuit of his own legitimacy put huge resources behind promoting Greek scholarship, and copying texts.

Wisdom is out of fashion in philosophy, but I argue here it's never been more needed in the world: Wisdom and John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises?

It would be sensible to recognise I willingness to die fir things beyond pur own life and our own genes as a cornerstone of civilisation. No army or war can happen without it. And no unusually good method of living defended without those. This is an ancient human programme, to heroise people that choose to die for things beyond themselves. It's power can be corrupted, in the search for 'kleos', eternal renown. I like this discussion of pursuit of it's hold on us: Lies of Heroism - Redefining the Antiwar Film.

To live with integrity is to live reconciled with your whole life, not be subject only to now. To withstand the intimation of Eternal Recurrance. And that is the true source of people who's lives outlive them.

  • yeah I dunno. was less asking about influence / "heirs" / "dying too late" than I was "dying too soon".... asking what wisdom is in those terms
    – user57343
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 19:56

If I understand your question correctly it asks if Socrates would allow me to be ambivalent towards dying in some cases. That is maybe I don't want to die too soon, but still I want to be wise as Socrates.

I think Socrates' answer to ambivalence would be "know thyself".

Death is a fact that triggered great philosophy, both theoretical and practical.

Is ambivalence towards death unusual? Not at all.

If one knows the reasons to live for, one also knows the reasons to die for.

Dying without grasping these would be a pity and a waste. Socrates surely knew what he was dying for.

So ambivalence can mean that one has not yet arrived at these (personal) reasons. So "know thyself" would probably be Socrates' answer, so don't die yet!

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