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Res Philosophica

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published on August 18, 2015

Kristján Kristjánsson
DOI: 10.11612/resphil.2015.92.4.1

Grief
An Aristotelian Justification of an Emotional Virtue

This article has three interrelated aims. The first is to analyze the concept of grief; the second is to argue for the putative rationality of grief (against Donald Gustafson’s contention to the contrary); and the third is to offer a moral justification of grief along broadly Aristotelian lines as an intrinsically valuable trait of character—a virtue. With regard to this third and ultimate aim, I argue not only that grief plays an unappreciated positive role in our moral experiences but flesh out a case for what exactly that positive moral role is. More precisely, I argue that grief is best justified as an Aristotelian desert-based emotional trait, incorporating two distinct desert-motivated desires, one specifically directed at the memory of the dead person as deserving of homage, the other more cosmically focusing on the general undeservingness of good people passing away. The argument goes against the grain of most previous instrumental justifications of grief and palpably violates David Konstan’s contention that grief involves “no reference to desert.”

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