BOOK I, CHAPTER XIV
tale that they make so much of — what meaning has it with respect to contempt of pain? It is only a quibble about the words; and meanwhile, if those twinges do not affect him, why does he interrupt his talk? Why does he think that he does such a great thing in not calling it an evil?
Here it is not all imagination. We argue about other matters, here it is absolute knowledge that comes into play; our very senses are judges of it;
Shall we persuade our skin that the blows of a stirrup-leather tickle it, and our palate that aloes is Bordeaux wine? Pyrrho’s pig is of our company here: he is unterrified by death, but if he is beaten, he squeals and squirms. Shall we run counter to the universal law of Nature, — which is seen in every living thing under the sky, — of trembling under pain? The very trees seem to groan at the injuries we inflict on them. Death is felt only through the reason, as it is the action of an instant.
A thousand beasts, a thousand men are dead unthreatened. And, in truth, we confess that what we chiefly dread in death is pain, its customary forerunner,
(c) None the less, if we are to believe a holy father, malam mortem non facit, nisi quod sequitur mortem. And I will say even more plausibly that neither what precedes nor what follows death is an appurtenance of death. We excuse ourselves falsely; and I find by experience that it is chiefly the unendurableness of the thought of death that makes pain unendurable to us, and that we feel it as doubly griev-
- Unless the senses be true, reason itself must be wholly deceived. — Lucretius, IV, 485.
- [Death] either has come or is yet to come; there is nothing in it of the present. — Étienne La Boëtie, Satire addressed to Montaigne.
- And death itself is easier to endure than the awaiting death. — Ovid, Heroïdes, X, 82 (Epistle of Ariadne to Theseus).
- Death is made an evil only by what follows death. — St. Augustine, De Civ. Dei, I, 11.