The Acorn

Volume 17, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2017

Sanjay Lal
Pages 33-51

Affirming a Vital Connection
Nonviolence and the Disavowal of Death as a Harm

Having freedom from the fear of death is a quality needed not just by peace activists; however, it is in particular need of affirmation by those espousing a philosophy of nonviolence. A rich philosophical literature explores the supposed harmfulness of death, but the topic is scarcely discussed by peace theorists. This paper shows the significance of the topic for highlighting the attractiveness of nonviolent philosophy given certain non-religious understandings of death that are well suited for advancing nonviolence. Classic Stoic and Epicurean disavowals of the harmfulness of death are presented, criticisms of the Epicurean position are outlined, and the example of Mahatma Gandhi is provided as an ally to Epicureans in response to the criticisms discussed. The second part of the paper more concretely illuminates the implications that a Gandhian rejection of the harmfulness of death has for living nonviolently in everyday life.