Rationally facing death: Fear and other alternatives

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Abstract / Description of output

Explaining what emotions or attitudes it is rational for humans to have toward our own deaths and toward their mortality has been a central task within most philosophical traditions. This article critically examines the rationality of five emotions or attitudes that might be taken toward death: fear, insofar as death can harm us by reducing our overall level of well-being; the related attitude of existential terror, a feeling of dismay or uncanniness directed at the prospect of our eventual non-existence; regret, directed at our being constituted as mortals; anger or resentment; and gratitude. Our conclusion is that there is in all likelihood no specific emotion or attitude that we are rationally required to take toward death or mortality. Neither anger nor gratitude are rational attitudes toward death, and while fear, existential terror, and regret are stronger candidates for being rational attitudes toward death, it proves difficult to show that death rationally requires any particular emotions or attitudes on our part.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12931
JournalPhilosophy Compass
Issue number6
Early online date26 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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