[PHLB09 FINAL EXAM – ARTICLE NOTES]
Lucretius – fears are found in this world, and not in another world beyond death.
1. The fear of Tantalus: the fear of gods or a fear of what chance may impose on life
2. The fear of Sisyphus : the fear of the unattainable goal of power
3. The fear of Furies ( the seven circles of hell/ judgment day) : the fear of
Death is claimed to be an evil of privation, for it deprives its victim of whatever goods in
life that person otherwise would experience. Lucretius states that death cannot harm us
because we seize to exist after death. We feel no emotion or physical pain.
-“Nor do our selves which existed in the past concern us now: we feel no anguish
Human existence is comprised of the joining of the body and the spirit. One cannot exist
without the other.
-“Even if the nature of our mind and the power of our spirit do have sensation after
they are torn from our bodies that is still nothing to us, who are constituted by the
conjunction of body and spirit.”
-“There is nothing for us to fear in death, that he who does not exist cannot be
unhappy, and that when immortal death snatches away a mortal life it is no
different from never having been born”.
Lucretius asks why we feel grief and sadness upon the death of someone.
- (To the dead): “You at least, in death’s sleep, will be evermore free of all pain and
-“No day will come to purge our hearts of it. Of the person who says this, we
should ask what is so sad about a return to sleep and rest, that someone should be
able to pine in everlasting grief”.
Thomas Aquinas: Whether it is lawful to kill oneself?
1. Murder is a sin as it creates injustice to the victim. No man can do injustice to
himself therefore there is no wrong in man killing himself.
-Aquinas Response: This is opposed to charity which a man should have
towards himself: in this respect suicide is a sin in relation to oneself. In
relation to the community and to God, it is also sinful.
2. It is lawful for public authority figures to kill evil doers. If one who exercises
public authority is an evil doer than it is lawful for him to kill himself.
-Aquinas Response: No man is a judge of himself. Wherefore it is not
lawful for one who exercises public authority to put himself to death for
[PHLB09 FINAL EXAM – ARTICLE NOTES]
any sin whatever: he may still lawfully commit himself to the judgment of
3. In order to avoid greater danger, it is lawful for a man to cut off a decayed limb in
order to save his whole body. It is also lawful for a man to kill himself in order to
avoid greater evil such as an unhappy life or the shame of a sin.
-Aquinas Response: It is not lawful for a man to take his own life so that he
may pass to a happier life, nor may he escape any unhappiness whatsoever
of the present life, because the ultimate and most fearsome evil of this life
is death. Therefore to bring death upon oneself in order to escape the other
afflictions of this life is to adopt a greater evil in order to avoid a lesser.
-Aquinas Response: It is unlawful to take one's own life on account of
having committed a sin, both because by so doing one does oneself a great
injury, by depriving oneself of the time needful for repentance, and
because it is not lawful to slay an evildoer except by the sentence of the
4. Further, Samson killed himself, as related in Judges 16, and yet he is numbered
among the saints (Heb. 11). Therefore it is lawful for a man to kill himself
5. Choosing to die nobly rather than falling in the arms of an enemy. Nothing that is
down nobly and bravely is unlawful. Therefore this suicide is lawful.
-Aquinas Response: A man must endure the pain (of being killed by
another) with fortitude for the sake of the good of virtue, and that he may
avoid sin. A man who takes his own life in order to avoid evil has indeed
an appearance of fortitude, yet it is not true fortitude, but rather a weakness
of soul unable to bear evil.
According to Augustine: one who kills himself, kill nothing else than a man. It is
unlawful to kill a man and therefore it is unlawful to kill oneself.
-Aquinas Response: it is unlawful to kill oneself for three reasons :
•Everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything
naturally keeps itself in being and resists corruptions so far as it can.
Suicide is a contrary to the inclination of nature. Hence suicide is always a
•Every man is part of a community; by himself he wrongs the
•Life is God's gift to man, and is subject to His power, who kills and
makes to live. Hence whoever takes his own life, sins against God.
Thomas Nagel - Death
[PHLB09 FINAL EXAM – ARTICLE NOTES]
Death: The end of life in which one is no longer existent. It is considered evil because it is
the end of the greatly valued gift given – Life.
-What we find desirable in life are certain states, conditions, or types of activity. It
is being alive, doing certain things, having certain experiences that we consider
good. But if death is an evil, it is the loss of life, rather than the state of being
dead, or non-existent, or unconscious, that is objectionable.
Those who object to death have made the mistake of trying to imagine what it is like to be
dead. It is alleged that the failure to realize that this task is logically impossible (there is
nothing to imagine) leads to the conviction that death is a mysterious and therefore
terrifying prospective state.
-If we are to make sense of the view that to die is bad, it must be on the ground that
life is a good and death is the corresponding deprivation or loss, bad not because
of any positive features but because of the desirability of what it removes
There certainly are goods and evils of a simple kind (including some pleasures and pains)
which a person possesses at a given time simply in virtue of his condition at that time.
But this is not true of all the things we regard as good or bad for a man.
- Often we need to know his history to tell whether something is a misfortune or
not; this applies to ills like deterioration, deprivation, and damage.
-Sometimes his experiential state is relatively unimportant-as in the case of a man
who wastes his life in the cheerful pursuit of a method of communicating with
A man is the subject of good and evil as much because he has hopes which may or may
not be fulfilled, or possibilities which may or may not be realized, as because of his
capacity to suffer and enjoy.
-If death is an evil, it must be accounted for in these terms, and the impossibility of
locating it within life should not trouble us.
Lucretius observed that no one finds it disturbing to contemplate the eternity preceding
his own birth, and he took this to show that it must be irrational to fear death, since death
is simply the mirror image of the prior abyss.
-It is true that both the time before a man's birth and the time after his death are
times when he does not exist. But the time after his death is time of which his
death deprives him. It is time in which, had he not died then, he would be alive.
•Therefore any death entails the loss of some life that its victim would have
led had he not died at that or any earlier point.
A man's sense of his own experience does not embody this idea of a natural limit. His
existence defines for him an essentially open-ended possible future, containing the usual
mixture of goods and evils that he has found so tolerable in the past.
Death is claimed to be an evil of privation, for it deprives its victim of whatever goods in life that person otherwise would experience. Lucretius states that death cannot harm us because we seize to exist after death. Nor do our selves which existed in the past concern us now: we feel no anguish about them . Human existence is comprised of the joining of the body and the spirit. Even if the nature of our mind and the power of our spirit do have sensation after they are torn from our bodies that is still nothing to us, who are constituted by the conjunction of body and spirit. There is nothing for us to fear in death, that he who does not exist cannot be unhappy, and that when immortal death snatches away a mortal life it is no different from never having been born .