Ermanno Malaspina

La douleur et la mort: L’«idolâtrie de la vie» entre Sénèque et la postmodernité (pandémique)

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Drawing on the ethical reflections of Olivier Rey, who sees in the way in which the Covid-19 pandemic was handled the expression of the “idolatry of lifeµ characterising postmodern societies, which have abdicated transcendence, this article aims to study the foundations of this contemporary condition in classical philosophy and particularly in Seneca’s work. We recognise that the “idolatry of lifeµ in its present form presupposes the predominant position of the state and consequently citizens’ delegation to it of all responsibility in matters of health, education, etc. However, the polarisation on life in its materiality corresponds exactly to the Stoic portrayal of the stultus, who considers the materiality of existence the only true good. As an antidote to this tendency, we know how Seneca disseminates through his works a kind of sepcular cult, if not “idolatryµ of pain, death and suicide, with the last of these being considered as the highest form of freedom. Seneca’s management of suffering presupposes the impossibility of a painful sensation that is both strong and long-lasting, a human risk that, on the other hand, contemporary society is well aware of, since clinical progress has extended life expectancy, but unfortunately often at the cost of acute and chronic pain. The acceptance of death has ultimately proven to be the recipe for an authentic life both today, according to Rey, and in classical times, according to Seneca, although one still needs to acknowledge the great distance that still exists between the suicide he extolled and modern euthanasia.


  • Seneca
  • Covid-19
  • Idolatry of Life
  • Pain
  • Death


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