Lucretius on the Finality of Death: The Problem of Self­Recollection

Matthew Small
A good deal of the literature on Lucretius' discussion of death has tended to dwell, ahistorically, upon the soundness of his symmetry argument, with most of the controversy centering around the question of whether pre­vital and post­mortem states of nonexistence are really symmetrical. I recommend taking a more historical approach by focusing on the consistency of Lucretius' argument that death is permanent. In his defense of this claim, Lucretius entertains hypothetical scenarios wherein the
more » ... narios wherein the soul is able to persist and continue perceiving in the absence of the body, and wherein the entire aggregate of the body and the soul might be restored and resume perceiving after death. In both cases, he denies that the perceiving being in question would be the same person who existed prior to the dissociation of the body and the soul. From Lucretius' justification of this claim, we can derive two theses concerning the relation between personal­identity and the union of the body and the soul. The weaker thesis treats self­recollection as a criterion for personal­identity. The stronger thesis treats the continuity of self­recollection as a criterion for personal­identity.