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Finding the Good in Grief: What Augustine Knew that Meursault Could Not


Meursault, the protagonist of Camus's The Stranger, was unable to experience grief at his mother's death—and was in fact condemned for this inability. Should Meursault's inability to grieve be pitied, or should it be welcomed inasmuch as grief is a painful and highly distressing experience? With the assistance of Augustine's remarks on grief in his Confessions, I argue that Meursault's plight is to be pitied. The emotional pains of grief are genuine and cannot be recast either as masochistic pleasures or as instrumental costs to be borne in exchange for grief's benefits. These pains are instead experienced as good inasmuch as they are components of a complex valuable experience. More specifically, because we experience grief at the deaths of those with whom we stand in identity-constituting relationships, grief is both a powerful source of, and motivator for, substantial self-knowledge.

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Journal of the American Philosophical Association
  • ISSN: 2053-4477
  • EISSN: 2053-4485
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