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Volume 49 • Number 4

October 2012




by Stephan Blatti

The Harm Thesis (HT) states that death can harm the one who dies. The Epicurean rejection of this claim relies on the following familiar argument: before death there is no harm (i.e., prior to its occurrence, death inflicts no injury on its eventual victim); after death there is no victim (since, it is assumed, death brings about the subject's nonexistence, and thus there exists no postmortem subject to whom a harm could accrue); therefore, HT is false: death cannot harm the one who dies. "The most awful of evils," as Epicurus notoriously put it in his Letter to Menoeceus, "is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not." Indeed, insofar as one's fear of death is predicated upon a fear of harm to oneself, Epicurus held, the falsity of HT exposes such fear as irrational. Again from the Letter: "He speaks idly who says that he fears death, not because it will be painful when present but because it is painful in anticipation. For if something causes no distress when present, it is fruitless to be pained by the expectation of it."

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ISSN: 2152-1123