In this letter from Epicurus on death, Epicurus claims that death is nothing to us, because the only things that are good or bad are states of awareness, and death is not a state of awareness. We are asked to recognise that death, contra dying, is simply the non-existence of the person (or if one identifies the person with the body as materialists do, then we can say that death is the non-existence of the conscious person).As Epicurus explain death it
“I]s nothing to us, seeing that, when we exist death is not present, and when death is present we do not exist. 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.”
Epicurus goes on to say that the wise person does not depreciate life, nor fear its non-existence. He suggests that the wise person chooses a certain quality of life, a pleasant life, over a life that lasts longest but we may suppose is duller. This seems a fair point, after all, what is the point of living without obtaining some form of pleasant life? Perhaps there are other options to explore here, such as whether we might want to live a meaningful life, over a pleasant life, but such questions will be left for a future post. At this point we can accept Epicurus’s contention that a pleasant life is to be preferred over an extended but extremely dull life.