Grief: Putting the Past before Us

Quaestiones Disputatae 7 (1):156-177 (2016)
Michael R. Kelly
University of San Diego
Grief research in philosophy agrees that one who grieves grieves over the irreversible loss of someone whom the griever loved deeply, and that someone thus factored centrally into the griever’s sense of purpose and meaning in the world. The analytic literature in general tends to focus its treatments on the paradigm case of grief as the death of a loved one. I want to restrict my account to the paradigm case because the paradigm case most persuades the mind that grief is a past-directed emotion. The phenomenological move I propose will enable us to respect the paradigm case of grief and a broader but still legitimate set of grief-generating states of affairs, liberate grief from the view that grief is past directed or about the past, and thus account for grief in a way that separates it from its closest emotion-neighbor, sorrow, without having to rely on the affective quality of those two emotions.If the passing of the beloved causes the grief but is not what the grief is about, then we can get at the nature of grief by saying its temporal orientation is in the past, but its temporal meaning is the present and future—the new significance of a world with the pervasive absence that is the world without the beloved. The no-longer of grief is a no-longer oriented by a past that is referred a present and future. Looking at the griever’s relation to time can tell us much about the pain and the object of grief, then. As the griever puts the past before himself with a certainty about this world “henceforth,” a look at the griever’s lived sense of the fi nality of the irreversibly lost liberates grief from the tendency in the literature to be reduced to a past-directed emotion, accounts for grief ’s intensity, its affective force or poignancy, and thus enables us to separate grief from sorrow according to its intentionalobject in light of the temporal meaning of these emotions.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  Emotion  Grief  Sorrow  Temporality  Moral Psychology  Phenomenology
Categories No categories specified
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ISBN(s) 2150-5756  
DOI 10.5840/qd20167120
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