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How Philosophy Can Help You Grieve

July 13, 2013, 12:42 PM

What's the Latest Development?

We all lose loved ones in life, but how we cope with the loss depends on our culture and on our thoughts. While some societies grieve openly over the bodies of the deceased, others prefer to skip the ordeal and have a quiet funeral instead. But the fact of death remains. Philosopher Julian Baggini argues that thinking of death as a material reality, rather than an an abstract idea, the shock of death can be diminished. "If we really do take on board the fickle nature of fate, the inevitability of death and the randomness of its timing, then although there might be other things about a death that leave us devastated, the mere surprise and shock of it need not be one of them."

What's the Big Idea?

A common line of thought taken by philosophers is that the loss of an adult life, which leaves future experiences and relationships unfulfilled, is logically indistinguishable from the unfulfilled experiences of an unborn child. And since we don't lament the inexistence of the infinite number of unborn children, it does not "make sense" to grieve over deceased adults. "But there is a huge difference between the time two people could have spent together in the real world were it not for an accident," said Baggini, "and the time two people who had never been born could have spent together in a parallel, imaginary universe."

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Read it at Aeon


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