Fear of death is commonly seen as the underlying reason for a secure and civil society to exist. Hobbes’ argues in Leviathan the need for a sovereign ruler is caused primarily by the fear of death. Likewise, he also interprets the fear of death as a natural human aversion that everyone shares. However, there is evidence that suggest that our natural inclination to avoid and fear dying is not omnipresent. Suicide, willingly giving up one’s life for a cause, and even courage can all be considered a lack of fear of death. So what exactly is the fear of death, and is it truly shared by everyone? I will focus in this post primarily on the most common cause of death, aging.
For the most part, death of human individuals, and of most living things is caused by aging. Every person is aware that as time goes on, they will eventually die. Understandably, the elderly are the closest to death out of anybody. Yet do they fear death? Most older people tend to worry less and less about dying as time goes by. Accepting death, while a struggle to most, is not much unlike accepting the other things we don’t have control over, namely nature. The death of others, the law of gravity, and even our birth are all things everyone comes to accept, as there are no alternatives. It seems then, that when other factors that cause death are held constant, that very few people actually fear death.
Fear of death is also a driving factor in our own self-fulfillment. It can be argued that a fear death is merely fear of an unfulfilling life. Most people fear that on the brink of death they would look back on their bad choices and regrets with contempt. From this perspective, everyone’s decisions must be rooted in a fear of death. Furthermore, fear of death can also be considered the desire to live. Life, by all means, is better than death. This would imply that everyone wishes for immortality, yet this is not the case of everybody. Many wish they could experience the pleasures of life for eternity, yet many argue that the burdens of life would eventually outweigh the burdens of death.
In conclusion, two groups can be drawn. On one hand, there are many that do not fear death but still desire to live. These people generally accept death at the end of their lifespan as inevitable. On the other hand, there are those that fear the fatal aspect of old age and seek constant fulfillment. Ultimately, the fear of death is not necessarily shared by everyone. Should Hobbes’ fear of death be shared by everybody, it should instead be called the “desire to not die”.