Should We Fear Death?

Stephen Cahn, at Blog of the APA, rejects what he calls ‘Two Ancient and Unpersuasive Arguments about Death‘. But it is not clear to me that he is interpreting the claims correctly.

The word “death”, like many other words in most human languages, has more than one meaning. If it refers to the state of being dead then the classical arguments would be quite persuasive to me (if I didn’t already consider them obvious).

On the other hand the process of becoming dead fills me with terror – both because the actual cause of death is often painful and because, as Cahn notes, we derive much of our joy in life from anticipation of expected pleasures and awareness of imminent death makes us realize that those pleasures will be lost. Perhaps the classical scholars, along with teachers from many other traditions, are primarily concerned with weaning us from dependency on future rewards so that we will suffer less in the final moment when we realize that those are denied us.

Not being a linguist, I don’t know if the Greek and Latin languages reslove this dichotomy in a way that makes Cahn’s interpretation either true or false, nor if the ambiguity persists and his interpretation becomes a matter of choice – in which case might fault him for uncharitably imposing the less sustainable interpretation.

Source: Two Ancient and Unpersuasive Arguments about Death | Blog of the APA

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