If there were a pill that would allow you to bypass the painful parts of grief—taking you directly to the ‘acceptance’ stage—after the loss of a beloved, would you take it? Is there anything wrong (in whatever sense) in doing so? This hypothetical raises novel questions about the value of grief and whether one would err in deliberately forgoing it. In this essay, I examine several views concerning the value of grief, which offer plausible grounds for explaining why it would be a mistake to take the ‘grief pill’. In particular, I explore the idea that taking the pill constitutes an evaluative error (by failing to appreciate some value); a prudential error (by making oneself worse off); an aretaic error (by showing poor character); and a moral error (by failing to discharge one’s duties). I argue that none of these approaches offer a satisfying explanation of the alleged error in taking the grief pill. My claim is not that declining the grief pill would be a mistake, just as there is nothing fundamentally wrong with declining anesthetic before surgery. My claim, rather, is that there appears to be nothing wrong with taking the pill.
Dr. Jeremy Davis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Georgia. His research is primarily in normative and applied ethics, especially on issues surrounding the ethics of killing and harming, the special relationships among individuals and institutions that claim a monopoly on the use of force and other significant interventions (military, police, physicians), and ethical issues raised by novel technologies.