On being (not quite) dead with Derrida

Bob Plant

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If mortality is the most important fact about us, then it is reasonable to think that fear of death is our most fundamental fear. Indeed, while philosophers continue to disagree about whether it is rational to fear death, they tend to assume that fear is the most common, natural response our mortality provokes. I neither want to deny the reality of this fear nor evaluate its rationality. Rather, drawing on Derrida’s remarks on ‘quasi-death’, I will argue that (1) fearful or not, death pervades everyday life; (2) imagining one’s own death, and thereby remaining semi-present as a spectral observer, is not (as some allege) inherently misleading; and (3) taking these imaginings seriously highlights another response we have toward our own mortality that is at least as significant as fear; namely, prospective, self-directed grief.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-338
Number of pages19
JournalPhilosophy & Social Criticism
Issue number3
Early online date2 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Thanks to Gerry Hough for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.


  • fear
  • immortality
  • quasi-death
  • prospective grief
  • ghost


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