Grieving Our Way Back to Meaningfulness

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 90:235-251 (2021)
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The deaths of those on whom our practical identities rely generate a sense of disorientation or alienation from the world seemingly at odds with life being meaningful. In the terms put forth in Cheshire Calhoun’s recent account of meaningfulness in life, because their existence serves as a metaphysical presupposition of our practical identities, their deaths threaten to upend a background frame of agency against which much of our choice and deliberation takes place. Here I argue for a dual role for grief in addressing this threat to life’s meaningfulness. Inasmuch as grief’s object is the loss of our relationship with the deceased as it was prior to their death, grief serves to alert us to the threat to our practical identities that their deaths pose to us and motivates us to defuse this threat by revising our practical identities to reflect the modification in our relationship necessitated by their deaths. Simultaneously, the emotional complexity and richness of grief episodes provides an abundance of normative evidence regarding our relationship with the deceased and our practical identities, evidence that can enable us to re-establish our practical identities and thereby recover a sense of our lives as meaningful.

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Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh

Citations of this work

Replies to Garland, Ben-Ze'ev, Timmerman, and Beisecker.Michael Cholbi - 2022 - Journal of Philosophy of Emotion 4 (1):33-47.
Prolonged grief as a disease?Ronja Lutz, Cornelia Eibauer & Andreas Frewer - 2022 - Ethik in der Medizin 34 (4):609-626.

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References found in this work

Regret, Resilience, and the Nature of Grief.Michael Cholbi - 2019 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 16 (4):486-508.
Finding the Good in Grief: What Augustine Knew but Meursault Couldn't.Michael Cholbi - 2017 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 3 (1):91-105.

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