Précis: Grief: A Philosophical Guide

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Abstract / Description of output

Philosophy has a long history of investigating the significance of our mortality—whether, for example, death is a harm to us, whether it merits fear, etc. But these investigations have focused almost exclusively on the significance our own deaths have for us, instead of on the significance that others’ deaths have for us. Most notably, grief, the paradigmatic human response to the deaths of others, receives only very sporadic attention from philosophers, and when philosophers have investigated grief, their attitude toward it has often been negative, even hostile. The prevailing attitude toward grief in the ancient Mediterranean philosophical tradition, for example, was a grudging acceptance that we humans grieve, juxtaposed with a dismissal of grief as a grandiose or ‘womanly’ emotion that betrays an unhealthy dependence on others rather than the self-sufficiency that characterizes the virtuous person (LaBarge 2012).
Grief: A Philosophical Guide aims to remedy both this philosophical inattention to grief and the antagonism that grief has often elicited among philosophers: Not only is grief a worthy subject for philosophers, it represents a defining human experience. The book argues that though grief is not always a desirable or rational response to others’ death, it often is, and it in fact manifests some of the most admirable human qualities, including the sophistication of our emotional palette, our capacity for adaptation, and our ability to interweave past, present, and future. At the very least, we ought to feel grateful, rather than ashamed, at the fact that we grieve others’ deaths.
Grief: A Philosophical Guide develops the rudiments of a philosophical theory of grief across seven chapters. Grief is not our response to the fact of mortality as such. Only some of our responses to others’ deaths are grief responses. Rather, we undergo grief in response to the deaths of specific, identifiable individuals. This raises the question of what facts must hold true in order for us to grieve the deaths of others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Emotion
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • grief
  • mortality
  • emotions
  • well-being
  • self-knowledge
  • rationality
  • mental illness


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