Graduate studies at Western
Sophia 50 (2):303-311 (2011)
|Abstract||Robert Solomon criticized the philosophy of death for abstracting from human reality to treat our mortality as a collection of metaphysical puzzles. Nowhere is death less abstract than in our response to the death of our loved ones. The public face of our response is the memorial service and the eulogies that move us. Our experience of a eulogy can be as cathartic as Aristotle theorized as part of great tragedy. However, treating the oration as a work of art seems inappropriate; seeking to understand our engagement in aesthetic terms disrespectful to the grieving. This paper attempts to resolve this paradox by exploring analogies between the structures of eulogies and those of tragedy, and showing that, rather than traditional aesthetics' "promise of happiness," our engagement is concerned with the "promise of meaning." Psychological research on the nature of empathy theorizes that humans are hard-wired to feel the experiences of others and this is undoubtedly at work in our emotional responses to literature and eulogies. Drawing on the work of Dacher Keltner, the paper argues that the key to the aesthetics of eulogies and literature lies in their power to invoke our "awe" in response to their words|
|Keywords||Robert Solomon Philosophy of death Tragedy Eulogies Aesthetics Evolutionary psychology Awe|
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