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Experience as a prelude to disaster: American philosophy and the fear of death

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By focusing on the thought of Classical American philosophers, this article addresses the existential problem of the fear of death. Drawing on the experiences and philosophies of Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, and Jane Addams as a theoretical framework, a prescriptive claim regarding how to confront human mortality is advanced. It is suggested that embracing the notion of experience as a prelude to the disaster of death can be – despite appearances to the contrary – a useful approach to navigating exigencies connected with mortality and, in particular, fear of death. The essay contributes to a small but growing body of literature on the topic of death in American philosophy scholarship, while addressing a perennial problem receiving treatment in contemporary popular discourse.
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Keywords: American philosophy; experience; fear of death; grief; mourning; pragmatism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of History & Philosophy,Lander University, Greenwood, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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