“Death is nothing to us” according to Epicurus
The theory that the wise man knows no fear of death is based on the materialism of Epicurus. Indeed, the soul is material, which is destroyed by death. Neither heaven nor hell are to be feared in Epicureanism. This is why death is not painful experience for men, because there is no more soul to suffer, no more sensitivity.
Epicurus simplifies the argument by the notion of meeting: if death is here, then I’m gone, it is impossible for me to meet it. Wisdom consists in gaining distance with respect to the idea of death. If one keeps thinking about death, he can not be happy.
Epicurus taughtus that death should be ignored as it’s actually not part of life. Hence, Epicurus defends a philosophy of detachment, of ataraxia (peace of mind).
Extract from the Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus:
“Take the habit of thinking that death is nothing for us. For all good and evil lie in sensation: but death is deprivation of any sensitivity. Therefore, knowledge of the truth that death is nothing to us, enables us to enjoy this mortal life, not by adding the prospect of infinite duration, but by taking away the desire of the immortality. For there is nothing left to fear in life, who really understood that out of life there is nothing terrible. So pronounced empty words when it is argued that death is feared, not because it is painful being made, but because of the wait is painful. It would indeed be a futile and pointless fear than would be produced by the expectation of something that does not cause any trouble with his presence.
And that of all the evils that gives us more horror, death is nothing to us, since we exist as ourselves, death is not, and when death exists, we are not. So death is neither the living nor the dead, since it has nothing to do with the former and the latter are not.
But the multitude sometimes flees death as the worst of evils, sometimes called as the term of the ills of life. The wise, however, does not ignore life and did not afraid of no longer living, for life he is not dependent, and it does not consider that there the lesser evil not to live “