Great Traditions In Ethics Essay

The overcoming of the fear of death figures as a key component of Epicurean philosophy. Because the Epicureans valued above all other accomplishments, the living of a good life and that “pleasure is the end of all morality and that real pleasure is attained through a life of prudence, honor, and justice” the acknowledgment in Epicurean philosophy that the fear of death intrudes upon individual happiness is not at all the same as admission that fear of death is an insurmountable condition, (“Epicureanism”).

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To the contrary, the epicurean philosophy seeks forts to identify the root causes of the fear of death, which are: “1) The fear of being dead. 2) The fear that one will die, that one’s life is going to end. 3) The fear of premature death. 4) The fear of the process of dying” and for each of these considerations, Epicurean philosophy provides a response. The intention of epicurean philosophy is to persuade its adherents that “death is not bad for the person who dies although death is inevitable and is the total annihilation of that person”; despite the belief in “total annihilation” Epicurus held no regard for death itself.

The basic center of the Epicurean refusal to fear death lies in the epicurean belief that “God should not concern to us. Death is not to be feared” and these facts are unchangeable despite one’s subjective, emotional reactions. because death means the end of consciousness and the total annihilation of the individual, nothing exists beyond death which may cause fear at all,(Warren 4-7). It is only by admitting the fear of death and addressing it straight on through applied logic rather than religion or mysticism that the fear of death can be conquered.

The Epicureans regarded the overcoming of the fear of death “at the very heart of their ethical project. They identified the goal of a good life as the removal of mental and physical pain. Mental pain they further characterized as anxieties and fears” because fear of death causes pain to the individual it must be overcome and it can be overcome by logical acceptance of the fact that death holds no pain for the person who experiences it. (Warren 6)

Just as the fear of death prevented many individuals from achieving happiness in life, justice (or lack thereof) provides enmity to happiness in the Epicurean ethical tradition. For Epicurus, laws and justice are a matter of personal bearing and dignity as well as intelligence and experience. Under an Epicurean ethic, in a “world full of Epicurean sages there would be no need for written prescriptive laws. Everyone in that case would be able to see and remember what contributes to the utility of the community and would act accordingly” (Warren 183).

The idea of breaking a rule of justice is wrong because it causes the eventual pain or threat of pain or disturbance to oters’ happiness as well as one’s own. Unlike Epicurus, St. Augustine sees the need for rigid law to control human society and he envisions this law emanating directly fro the Divine. In his distinction between the “City of God” and the “City of Men” he makes clear that the “church is divinely established and leads humankind to eternal goodness, which is God” and that in the ideal city, “The state adheres to the virtues of politics and of the mind, formulating a political community.

Both of these societies are visible and seek to do good. ” (Bonner 54) By contrast, the City of Man exists to serve selfishly driven needs and does not partake of the Divine spirit of creation and Divine Law. ” The idea of self-love against the love of God separates the two cities an idea which “springs from what Augustine was afterwards to regard in The City of God as the architect of the Earthly City–love of self to the contempt of God” (Bonner 54).

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