Due November 30th
Epicurus is famous for arguing that death is not to be feared: "Death is nothing to us, because a body that has been dispersed into elements experiences no sensations, and the absence of sensation is nothing to us." This is echoed in his Letter to Menoeccus, when he says: "Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer."
Towards the end of the Apology, Socrates also came to the same conclusion, but for different reasons. If both of their claims are correct, it would follow that death is not really bad. At the same time, human beings live with great fear about death. This experience is in conflict with the philosophical evidence presented by Epicurus and Socrates.
Where does the truth lie?
To answer this question, first explain Epicurus' argument and compare it with Socrates'. How are they similar? How do they differ? Then examine Robert Nagel's analysis of death at
What does Nagel think of Epicurus' position? Why does he think this? (Nagel's argument is rather complex, so be sure to examine and explain it carefully.)
Finally, who's view of death is most convincing--Epicurus', Socrates', or Nagel's--and why?
You might find these sources useful:
http://marklindner.info/writings/Epicurus.htm This is a general overview of Epicurus' view.
History of Early Philosophy
Length: 6-8 pages
Due: Monday, November 7th , 2011 in class
Instructions: Choose and write an essay on one of the topics below.
PHILOS 110 -- Early Philosophy
Paper One Topic
Due: No Later Than Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 in class
Length: 4-5 double-spaced, one-sided pages with a 12 font
For this paper topic, you'll be focusing on the Pre-Socratics. Your goal will be threefold:
1) You will be explaining the theories of at least two Pre-Socratic thinkers;
2) You will be considering possible reasons for and against each theory you discuss, i.e. in addition to explaining why a particular thinker might believe "x" is true, you'll be reflecting on possible criticisms of (and potential responses to) this thinker's views;
3) Finally, you will be arguing for your own thesis on the topic in question. This thesis must be clearly stated in the paper in your first paragraph.