Ryan Sayre Patrico thinks that Richard Dawkins is silly for saying that, if death is complete annihilation, then it is illogical to fear death. Nevertheless, this was the view of some of our greatest philosophers. Here’s Socrates in the Apology (40c-e):

There is good hope that death is a blessing, for it is one of two things: either the dead are nothing and have no perception of anything, or it is, as we are told, a change and a relocating for the soul from here to another place. If it is a complete lack of perception, like a dreamless sleep, then death would be a great advantage. For I think that if one had to pick out that night during which a man slept soundly and did not dream, put beside it the other nights and days of his life, and then see how many days and nights had been better and more pleasant than that night, not only a private person but the great king would find them easy to count compared with the other days and nights. If death is like this, I say it is an advantage, for all eternity would then seem to be no more than a single night.

And here’s Cicero, speaking through Cato the Elder in De Senectute (xix):
O wretched indeed is that old man who has not learned in the course of his long life that death should be held of no account! For clearly death is negligible, if it utterly annihilates the soul, or even desirable, if it conducts the soul to some place where it is to live forever. Surely no other alternative can be found. What, then, shall I fear, if after death I am destined to be either not unhappy or else happy?

This analysis might be wrong, but I don’t think it’s silly.

Articles by Robert T. Miller

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