Absence experience in grief

European Journal of Philosophy 31 (1):163-178 (2022)
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In this paper, I consider the implications of grief for philosophical theorising about absence experience. I argue that whilst some absence experiences that occur in grief might be explained by extant philosophical accounts of absence experience, others need different treatment. I propose that grieving subjects' descriptions of feeling as if the world seems empty or a part of them seems missing can be understood as referring to a distinctive type of absence experience. In these profound absence experiences, I will argue, the absence of a person as a condition on various possibilities is made manifest in the structure of experience over time. Thus, by paying close attention to grief, we can see that even accounts of absence experience that are presented as in competition with one another may not be so, and that to explain all kinds of absence experience we sometimes need to appeal to something overlooked in other accounts, and which is neither straightforwardly perceptual or cognitive. I also suggest that we would have good reason to take such experiences to be part of and not merely psychological effects of grief.

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Louise Richardson
University of York


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