Real (and) Imaginal Relationships with the Dead

Journal of Value Inquiry 51 (2):341-356 (2017)
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Open Access: Appreciating the relationship of the living to our dead is an aspect of human life that seems to be neglected in philosophy. I argue that living individuals can have ongoing, non-imaginary, valuable relationships with deceased loved ones. This is important to establish because arguments for such relationships better generate claims in applied ethics about our conduct with respect to our dead. In the first half of the paper I advance the narrower claim that psychological literature affirmative of “imaginal relationships” with the dead is relevant to philosophical literature on metaphysical arguments for the dead as relata. The relevance of those psychological insights to philosophers’ metaphysical insights matters for understanding the value of relationships with deceased loved ones. In the second half of the paper I advance the wider claim that the importance of one’s most dearly held relationships with living individuals is best explained in terms of imaginal content, as well; in other words, some interpersonal relationships between the living are personally important because of their imaginal content. Once we appreciate this, it is clearer why recognizably real, imaginally informed relationships with the living are not necessarily cut off on the day someone dies, and permit the possibilities for ethical activities including forgiving the dead, honoring the dead, and carrying out their wishes after they are gone.



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Kathryn J. Norlock
Trent University

References found in this work

The dead.Palle Yourgrau - 1987 - Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):84-101.
The Dead.Palle Yourgrau - 1987 - Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):84-101.
How the Dead Live.Niall Connolly - 2011 - Philosophia 39 (1):83-103.
Narrative and Moral Life.Diana Meyers - 2004 - In Cheshire Calhoun (ed.), Setting the moral compass: essays by women philosophers. Oxford University Press.
Miscarriage and the Stories We Live By.Hilde Lindemann - 2015 - Journal of Social Philosophy 46 (1):80-90.

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