Sobering thoughts on Death means Socrates is right

Philosophers love to think about things. We make it our habit of thinking about everything, even things that most people don’t — or to the point, won’t think about. A philosopher’s thoughts are usually limited to thinking about round squares, the nature of reality, or some obscure Leibniz text that no one has ever read or wants to read. This activity usually satisfies the intellectual curiosity of most philosophers. However, one of the sobering side effects of thinking about everything has us contemplating subjects that no one, not even philosophers, like to think about.

The subject at the top of that list of subjects is death.

That’s right. Death.

I must admit, I hadn’t thought that much about the subject for quite awhile. But just as each rising dawn and setting sunset reminds us that each day we slowly trudge closer to our own inevitable end, sometimes death jumps right in our faces and tells us that we are all doomed to fall into her inescapable hands.

May 4, 2012. For some people, May fourth was a joyous day — and as I rose that morning I looked forward to celebrating my undying fandom of Star Wars (for those of you who don’t know May 4th is Star Wars Day). But, a quick glance on MSN ruined my commemoration of  George Lucas’ science fantasy masterpiece. May 4, 2012, Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, died. He was only 47 years old. Now, if I was a younger person, Yauch’s age wouldn’t have bothered me. But seeing that I am closer to 40 than I am to 20, Adam Yauch’s death has affected me much more than it would have (even) several years ago.

As a Beastie Boys fan, I am saddened by the loss of such a talented artist. But even since Adam’s Yauch’s death two weeks ago, the philosopher inside me is wondering: Why am I still bothered by the idea of death?

In Phaedo, Socrates said that the philosopher, more than other people, wants to be free from “association witht the body as much as possible.” Death, according to Socrates, frees the soul from it’s impure body. Once we die our souls are free to be virtuous — we are pure. The point of philosophy, Socrates says, is to prepare us for death. I know that this is how I’m supposed to think about death, but somehow the thought of having to die a painful death from cancer, heart disease, or a shark attack in order to be freed of my impure body so my soul can be virtuous is not at all comforting.

In my philosophical opinion, that idea kind of sucks.