Death
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41 Death Philosophy begins with the exemplary death of Socrates. Much subsequent philosophy has been concerned, obsessed even, with the idea of dying well, or dying well as the consequence of living well. Cicero writes, in words that echo down the tradition through Montaigne to Heidegger, that ‘to philosophize is to learn how to die’. One imagines the portly David Hume dying a lucid and happy atheist until the end. However, the history of philosophers’ deaths is also a tale of madness, suicide, unhappiness, banality, bad luck, and some dark humour. One thinks of Descartes’ death by pneumonia after early morning tutorials in chilly Stockholm with Queen Christina, Nietzsche’s soft-brained babbling descent into oblivion , Roland Barthes hit by a laundry truck, Deleuze defenestrating himself while listening to a David 42 Bowie album, Foucault dying of AIDS, MerleauPonty discovered dead in his office with his face in a book by Descartes, Derrida dying of the exactly the same disease and at the same age as his father, or of my teacher Dominique Janicaud dying alone on a beach outside Nice after suffering a heart attack while swimming. I would like my own view of death to be closer to Epicurus and what is known as ‘the four-part cure’: don’t fear God, don’t worry about death, what is good is easy to get and what is terrible is easy to endure. The problem with this position is that it fails to provide a cure to that which affects us most powerfully and what is so difficult to endure with mortality: not our own death, but the death of those we love. It is the deaths of those we are bound to through love that undo us, that unstitch our carefully tailored suit of the self, that unmake whatever meaning we have made. It is in mourning and grief that we most become ourselves, when we acknowledge that part of our selves that we have lost and which we will forever have lost. ...