SHOULD WE FEAR DEATH? EPICUREAN AND
Russell Blackford, Ph.D.
Most of us fear death, to a greater or lesser extent, though
some philosophers believe that we would do well to accept it
and to fear any prospect of immortality. Bernard Williams, in
particular, has argued that we would eventually suffer unbear-
able boredom, and come to welcome death, if we had the abil-
ity to live for hundreds of years (p8998).  Though we
might die earlier than we would like, he suggests, the fact that
we all die is actually a good thing. Many others have argued,
ever since antiquity, that death is at least not something to be
In this essay, I argue that it is rational to be attached to life
and live as long as we can, though not to fear death with the
intensity, or nagging anxiety, that human beings often do.
Furthermore, our reasons for being attached to life are also
reasons why we should want to live indefinitely.
In the ancient world, the first philosophical attacks were made
on the rationality of fearing death, based on the assumption
that there is no afterlife and that death extinguishes all sensa-
tion, thought, and awareness. Separate issues arise, if we have
religious grounds to believe that there is an afterlife of eternal
bliss or punishment. I will set those aside and consider the fear
of death and our attachment to life purely from a secular phil-