Grief as Attention

Journal of Consciousness Studies 29 (9-10):63-83 (2022)
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Grief seems difficult to locate within familiar emotion taxonomies, as it not a basic emotion nor a hybrid thereof. Here I propose that grief is better conceptualized as an emotionally rich attentional phenomenon rather than an emotion or sequence of emotions. In grieving, that another person has died, the loss incurred by the grieving, etc., occupy the forefront of the grieving subject’s consciousness while other candidate facts for their attention recede into the background. The former set of facts thus sist near the top of their mental “priority structures” throughout a grief event. The hypothesis that grief is attentional helps to explain several common phenomenological features of grief experience, underpins a credible ‘metaphysics’ of grief, accounts for the extent to which grief is susceptible to choice and agency, and addresses a recent puzzle regarding our reasons to grieve and our apparent proclivity toward ‘resilience’ in the face of grief.

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Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh

Citations of this work

Transformative grief.Jelena Markovic - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Grief: A Philosophical Guide.Michael Cholbi - 2022 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.
The Ontology of Mind: Events, Processes, and States.Helen Steward - 1997 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Suffering and Virtue.Michael Brady - 2018 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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