College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences

Understanding Grief Through Philosophy

Philosophy Professor to Publish the First Book-Length Perspective on the Philosophy of Grief

Grief Bench in the Forest

If you search for books and articles about grief, hundreds upon hundreds of resources pop up, but few are related to philosophy. Philosophy Professor Michael Cholbi plans on changing that. Cholbi was recently awarded a research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to complete the first book to focus on grief from a philosophical perspective.

Cholbi’s interest in grief grew from teaching the philosophy department’s popular interdisciplinary Confrontation with the Reaper course. The course examines the nature and meaning of death, including whether death is survivable and whether it should be feared. Cal Poly Pomona was among the first universities to offer a course on the philosophy of death.

In investigating grief, Cholbi found that it is a neglected topic within philosophy, with fewer than twenty philosophical articles published about it in the past century. Cholbi believes philosophy can help answer questions that define the human experience, even the unpleasant experiences. He expects his book, which will investigate such questions as whether grief is rational and how grief contributes to human happiness, to be published in fall 2017.

Cholbi was awarded his NEH grant after a competitive process in which only about 7% of applications are funded. In combination with a university sabbatical, the grant will enable Cholbi to devote most of the next twelve months to completing the book. He believes the book will find an audience among scholars and the general public.

Cholbi’s work on grief continues his long standing interest in philosophical issues related to death and dying. He is alone of the world’s leading scholars on the philosophy of suicide. Cholbi has published 15 peer-reviewed articles on that topic, as well an award-winning book (Suicide: The Philosophical Dimensions), two edited collections on assisted dying, and an entry on suicide in the prestigious Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Cholbi is also a founding member of the International Association for the Philosophy of Death and Dying, a global scholarly organization that held its initial conference at Cal Poly Pomona in 2014.

In addition to Confrontations with the Reaper, Cholbi teaches courses such as Moral Philosophy, Ethical Problems in Contemporary Life, and Ethics Bowl. To learn more about Cholbi and his research, please visit his personal web page.