EPICURUS (341-270 BCE)
’Twas an old Epicurean sheep
Who thought death was no different from sleep.
As he lay down to die
To his friends he did cry,
“Boy, I sure hope that nap ain't too deep!”
Note: According to Epicurus, we only have reason to fear painful or unpleasant experiences. But we all cease to exist when we are dead. It follows that, when dead, we do not experience anything painful or unpleasant. Hence, there is no call for us to fear death. Lucretius (99-55 BCE) defends Epicureanism in On the Nature of Things. There he explicitly draws an analogy between death and sleep. Of course, thanks to my Jewish upbringing, I know that there is something profoundly mistaken about Epicureanism. But it turns out to be difficult to explain exactly what the nature of the error is. Oy, as if there weren’t already enough to worry about…