Philosophy Paper Example on Plato and Epicurus Opinion About Death

Published: 2021-08-07
1132 words
5 pages
10 min to read
University of California, Santa Barbara
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Plato and Epicurus are among the most well-known philosophers in the history of humanity. Epicurus was a Greek who lived during the Hellenistic period. He founded Epicureanism, an ancient Greek school of philosophy whose main aim was to achieve a happy and peaceful life with no pain or fear. Such a life could be attained through freedom, formation of friendships, and living an analyzed life. Plato was also a Greek who was best known for writing philosophical works of unmatched influence. In the course of his career, he focused attention on a class of entities he referred to as forms; the most notable of them being beauty, equality, and justice. This essay describes the opinions of Plato and Epicurus on death together with what they think of the human body, pleasure and other aspects of the day-to-day world.

Epicurus wrote only three letters. The third, titled Letter to Menoeceus, was the most important since it introduced his ethics as well as opinion about death. In it, he advices the recipient to carry on his life in accordance to certain prescripts and beliefs, so that his life could go as well as possible for him. The philosopher is of the opinion that the ultimate good thing about life is pleasure and the absence of pain, and that every other good thing stem from this main good. He recommends a rather peculiar view of the nature and value of life, especially with respect to death. He points out that death does not actually cause harm to the dead person, and that it is irrational to fear death although most people do. he says Death, the most frightening of bad things, is nothing to us; since when we exist death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist (Letter to Menoeceus, 125).

The Phaedo by Plato is among the most easy-to-read text containing his philosophy. The death of Socrates happens to be its main theme, and it enables the philosopher to introduce some of his masters main lines. Plato argues that there is life after death, and he is right judging from the contents of this text. He was a dualist, which means that he believed human beings are made up of two separate entities: a worldly body and an otherworldly soul. He was of the opinion that soul was made up of three elements, just like a chariot. There is the logical element that commands the two horses, an emotional drive, and a base desire. Life goes smoothly whenever reason is in control and coordinating the horses. On the other hand, if there is no logic and the horses are unruly, life becomes full of strife and stress. Plato argued that the tripartite soul is always rotating in a constant cycle. First, it is trapped within a human body; then escapes during death to go back to the so-called realm of the forms, and eventually back to the body. This process goes back and forth given that the soul is both immutable and eternal.

The argument by Epicurus that humans should be unconcerned with the fact that they will one day die is explored further in He points out that some people have a negative opinion of death not because it is painful when someone is dying, but because it causes pain to a living person who thinks about it. However, he argues that fear of death and the pain associated with it is irrational. Since death will cause no pain when it actually takes place, people should not inflict pain on themselves by fearing it. Epicurus argues that the living should not be afraid of death since it is yet to arrive; while death cannot harm the dead as they no longer exist. Bearing the above considerations in mind, the philosopher suggests that there is nothing intrinsically meaningful about living a long life. Pleasure is of immense value. Hence, how long someone lives does not affect the value of life, unless living for long presents a greater net pleasure. He maintains that a very short life is better than a long one if it contains a greater sum of pleasure. The philosopher uses a certain analogy to put across the point in a better way. People do not simply go for the largest portion of food, but rather that which tastes the best. The same way, humans should not simply prefer the longest life, but that having the greatest value.

Plato hypothesizes four arguments to explain the existence of the human soul. They are the cyclical argument, that from recollection, the one from affinity, and that from life form. It appears as if the first argument means that opposites suggest each other. For example, just as rain suggests that eventually there will be sunshine, sunshine means it will eventually rain. Similarly, death suggests life and the other way round- and will result in a new life. The second argument applies Platos belief in inherent knowledge to suggest that inborn knowledge should be present in the soul since it cannot emanate from the body. The affinity argument implies that human souls are indivisible, immutable, and ethereal, while the worldly bodies are perishable. The form of life argument points out that since the digit four takes the form of an even number while a carrot adopts the form of a vegetable, then the soul takes the form of life and thus cannot die.

In Letter to Menoeceus, Epicurus also discusses a number of consequences of his idea that pleasure is the main value in life. For one, he points out that his notion does not necessarily mean that humans should always go for something that brings immediate pleasure over that which brings immediate pain. Simply put, sometimes things that induce immediate pleasures will lead to a net loss of the pleasurable things in the future. On the other hand, things that cause immediate pain will eventually lead to a net acquisition of pleasure. This point shows that the philosopher is interested in maximizing pleasure in the future. His next argument is in favor of humans conditioning themselves to enjoy simple pleasures in life. By taking this step, a person can enable himself or herself easily indulge in the pleasures that are needed for happiness. The philosopher then goes to the pains of pointing out the kind of pleasure he suggests does not necessarily mean that the best life is that which is full of constant physical pleasures, as may be perceived by some of his critics. Epicurus thinks that the greatest amount of pleasure is gotten via intellectual pursuits. Also, the best life is that which is guided by wisdom. Another crucial point the philosopher puts across is that a happy life will be almost similar to a virtuous one.

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