Life and Death in Rock: Meditations on Tomb Stones

Stone has many symbolic resonances that suit it for use in commemorations of the dead, and many cultures make use of it for this purpose. In an effort to make sense of this phenomenon, Kathleen Higgins, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, considers some of the roles stones play in other aspects of human experience and the associations that arise from them. These associations give stone a certain aptness in connection with four projects that are involved in commemorations of the dead: defying death, preserving the deceased in memory, establishing boundaries with respect to the deceased, and symbolically restoring the deceased to life. In helping to accomplish multiple projects and fulfill associated psychological needs, stone memorials are a specific case of a broader phenomenon: the use of aesthetic means to cope with the disorientation that comes with bereavement.
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