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The rationality of grief

Price, Carolyn (2010). The rationality of grief. Inquiry, 53(1) pp. 20–40.

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Donald Gustafson has argued that grief centres on a combination of belief and desire:

The belief that the subject has suffered an irreparable loss.
The desire that this should not be the case.

And yet, as Gustafson points out, if the belief is true, the desire cannot be satisfied. Gustafson takes this to show that grief inevitably implies an irrational conflict between belief and desire.

I offer a partial defence of grief against Gustafson's charge of irrationality. My defence rests on two elements. First, I offer an alternative model of emotion, which presents emotions as complex episodes, initiated by emotional appraisals. Secondly, I appeal to John Bowlby's account of grief to argue that grief involves two forms of sadness (anguish and desolation) which Gustafson's analysis runs together. I concede that anguish does characteristically involve an element of irrationality. But the irrationality of anguish does not arise from an apparently gratuitous clash between belief and desire, but from a conflict between emotion and belief—a form of irrationality that is both familiar and easily explained. Moreover, desolation need not involve any irrationality.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2010 Routledge
ISSN: 0020-174X
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies > Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 19927
Depositing User: Carolyn Price
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2010 16:01
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2019 08:32
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