Politeia

Volume 1, Issue 4, Fall 2019

Enrico Piergiacomi
Pages 73-92

Chasing Death while... Fleeing it
A common Critique in Democritus, Epicureans, and Seneca

Democritus, the Epicureans, and Seneca were deeply interested in the topic of the fear of death. They believed that this passion is generated by many wrong beliefs about its harmfulness that must be removed in order to help individuals lead a blissful mortal life. But all three also affirmed that, in some extreme cases, the fear of dying leads humans to paradoxically search for the very death they are trying to flee. Indeed, they argued that the fear of death sometimes results in self-destruction or suicide, and sometimes in a bad and unhappy form of life that is a state close to death, a condition comparable to «a long time in dying» (Democritus), of the sleepwalker (the Epicureans), or of a “half-life” (Seneca). In this paper, I try, on the one hand, to explain what this movement of the “escape-chase” of death is, and on the other, to recognize both the similarities and the differences between the three moralists.