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Gatherings: The Heidegger Circle Annual

Volume 9, 2019

Paul Gyllenhammer
Pages 60-89

Heidegger’s Epicureanism
Death, Dwelling and Ataraxia

Heidegger and Epicurus seem to be separated by a great divide. Where Epicurus seeks ataraxia by minimizing anxiety and our concern with death, Heidegger describes how anxiety and death are factored into authentic living. But looks can be deceiving. A close study of Heidegger’s critique of das Man reveals a distinctly Epicurean line of thinking. His account of curiosity, in particular, parallels Epicurus’s own criticism of normal life as being mired in unnatural/empty desires due to an unconscious fear of death. Despite this similarity, Heidegger’s interest in ontological anxiety, i.e., homelessness, contrasts deeply with Epicurus’s goal of mental tranquility. Yet this difference is overcome, in part, in Heidegger’s turn to peaceful dwelling as an expression of authentic Being-in-the-world. Indeed, Heidegger’s account of the fourfold as the essence of dwelling can be seen as an Epicurean four-part cure to suffering (tetrapharmakos), bringing Heidegger into dialogue with the tradition of philosophical therapy.

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