13 January 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: mourning

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Mourning.

No doubt this is a subject none of us would like to experience and even
less, discuss it. Moreover, we might rightfully think that, at best,
mourning is a topic at the peripheral edges of philosophy. Perhaps even
more appropriate in psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Our task is
not to show people how to mourn or overcome their grief caused by grief
caused the loss of someone close, but more to understand the scope of

Indeed the process of mourning seems to happen in two planes: we have
the personal level and the social level. Thus, at a private and personal
level we find a way to deal with the grief and the loss of another
person. And at the social level we are expected to behave in a manner
that is prescribed and recognised as mourning by our social group.

Despite the fact that we should know better we still judge people in
society by their behaviour; especially people we are not familiar with.
Thus the public act of mourning also affects our personal instinct to
mourn. In times gone by, it was customary to mourn by wearing black,
even though we might have hated the person that passed on. Thus the
public display of mourning might be in conflict with the personal
private state of the person. And sometimes, for social reasons, we could
not manifest our private mourning in public.

Either the word itself or the experience of mourning refers to the
grief, pain or sorrow we feel when someone passes on. But this grief is
caused by the loss to us and not necessarily by the absence of the
person. We don't really mourn when a friend goes to live in another
city, but we do mourn when that friend passes away. So could it be that
our grief, and hence our mourning is not caused by the death of a person
but by our loss of that other person: meaning that the grief is cause by
the fact that we have lost someone and not by someone dying?

There is a big difference here: if we feel grief and pain because the
other person passing away this suggests some form of empathy with that
person. However, if we mourn for the loss of the other person then
surely it's because we sense a personal event of deprivation something
that is no longer ours.

Of course, these two options of interpreting mourning shift the emphasis
of mourning from the person who has passed away to the person(s) that
are still alive. Could it be, therefore, that we mourn not from empathic
motivation or causes but rather from selfish instincts of a loss?

Indeed, a loss of someone we relate to means that we have to readjust
our character and our mode of life. Hence, a loss of someone is more
than just the death of a dear person, but more importantly a loss that
has a direct and radical change and impact on our life. After all we are
social creatures, and we function best when surrounded by other people
especially by people we trust and people we have a connection with.

This might go a long way to explain why we mourn certain people in the
public eye; film stars, political leaders, royalty and so forth. These
people are not friends or relatives and yet many mourn them as if they
were friends or relatives. There life must surely have affected us in a
meaningful way which is something not everyone can have on us.

The personal loss approach interpretation to mourning might explain why
mourning hasn't evolved out of our mental set up. But just because we
mourn because it is our loss it does not follow that mourning ought to
be optional or that the social act of mourning is unnecessary. On the
contrary if we lose someone close or dear to us it follows that others
who might equally be close to us will also experience a personal loss in
their life. And if we have not empathy with the dead many of us still
have empathy with the living. And the first principle of our social
survival and personal existence is that we depend on others as much as
our own skills to survive and deal with the changes in the world around us.

To sum up, mourning might be interpreted as some sort of empathy with
the passing away of someone close or dear to us. But grief is usually
associated with loss of what belongs to us and pain is usually
associated with personal injury. But someone passing away might explain
the grief, but what explains the pain we feel? It seems that maybe
mourning might take us a level further: those who are in mourning for
the same person means that they all have lost a personal "belonging".
This means that there is an imbalance in the status of cooperation in
the group; given that stability in a group can only be achieved by
cooperation or a state of equilibrium over time. Indeed, the loss of a
person in a family can sometimes lead to an acrimonious division in the
family. Thus pain can both be real pain through stress or mental pain
through psychological emotions.

Hence, mourning, it seems, is much more about the living than about the
dead. The dead live in out private world, but the living live in the
real world.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: mourning

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