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Shaun Stevenson

Understanding the nature of death and our relationship with it is crucial to knowing how best to live. In Albert Camus' sombre yet gripping novel The Plague the terrifying numbers of dead numb the unfortunate citizens of Oran to the fear of death and their lives appear to grow poorer and yet more frantic, given the way death's diminished importance and their oppressive isolation makes their lives almost trivial. Much of this echoes the narrative of Lucretius' harrowing description of a plague in Athens, in which the citizens were driven mad at the fear of death, rather than the anaethsthetisation of it. Lucretius arguably considered the Athenians to have been better prepared if they had thought on the maxim "Death is nothing to us". Does death's unimportance help us to live better lives without fear, or does it leave our lives empty and without motivation?

Deleuze praises Lucretius in his essay 'Lucretius and the Simulacrum' in Logic of Sense, applauding him for using naturalism to great effect, demystifying false illusions such as eternity and image. It would seem appropriate that Deleuze take up the cause of naturalism in dismissing death, and yet he doesn't appear to do this. Deleuze refers to death often, and it plays an important role in his philosophy of difference. Is Deleuze choosing to ignore naturalism's efforts to dismiss thanataphobia, the irrational fear of death, in favour of a philosophy which relies on death? Or is there perhaps a greater depth to his use of death?

Research Interests: Epicureanism, the concept of death, naturalism, materialism, Deleuze, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, pessimism.