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Nature and Meaning of Death

One of man’s earliest preoccupations was with the question of death: throughout recorded history, man has asked the question of whether or not death is bad, seeking ways of overcoming what might well be an instinctive fear of death and to find explanations for the very necessity of death. In all religious or philosophic systems, death is addressed to some extent. This brief essay will draw upon several different philosophical and religious traditions and examinations of this issue to demonstrate that death is neither “bad” nor “good” and that though it may be rational to fear death, death must be accepted as inevitable. First, the views of several philosophers or religious traditions will be presented; finally, the writer’s own synthesis of those opinions and answers to the question will be discussed.

In Greek mythical thought, Death and Terror were regarded as the two great natural fatalities which govern all mortal lives; only the gods, or the “Immortals,” were exempt from either age or death (McClean and Aspell 9). Homer posited a human existed in which death marks the end of both physiological and intellectual life; he did not believe that the “torch of human life” was extinguished with death, but rather that it continued to burn in another world (McClean and Aspell 12). After the death of the physical body, man’s psyche descends to the underworld where it is reunited with a shadow of the physical self. The Homeric man found the idea of death abhorrent and filled with terror; the afterlife itself was an empty and meaningless form of existence, and men during the Homeric age feared death.

As Hellenic philosophy developed over time, Heraclitus proposed a vision of death in which the soul of the virtuous man was reunited with an “ethereal fire” and man became united with Logos, or the principal of reality (McClean and Aspell 54). Death was to be feared only by the individual who had trod a “dow...

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Nature and Meaning of Death. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:26, July 01, 2022, from