What is Gratefulness?

Gratitude, gratefulness and our view of ourselves

Welcome back to another instalment of our year-long project to live six theories of happiness in our everyday lives; and welcome also to all new subscribers to this newsletter! I hope you’ll like it here and that you’ll enjoy your journeys through the world of philosophy with us!

Today, we begin discussing gratefulness — and how gratefulness as an everyday attitude can be a cause of happiness in life. We will go on discussing the various aspects of gratefulness for the next seven weeks, until the end of August, when we will switch to hermits, monks, and later finish the year with a discussion of Stoicism. I hope you’re having fun, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please do comment below and tell me how I’m doing and whether you find our challenge and these posts useful and interesting!

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In the past week, we again had a number of fascinating articles on Daily Philosophy. As always, I will only give you a short overview here, because this newsletter would become far too long if I wanted to include the full text of all the articles. So here’s what you may have missed, and the gratefulness article follows right after this list:

  • In our Accented Philosophy podcast, Dr Ezechiel Thibaud and I talked about Deep Ecology. What is it, where does the idea come from, and is it always clear what the theory demands of us? Listen here to find out!

  • Prof. David E. Cooper, incidentally the editor of two of my favourite collections of philosophy sources and one of the few philosophers to be knowledgeable in both Western and Eastern philosophies, gave us a great and insightful article on the “Rhetoric of Refuge”. Here’s just a short quote from this article:

“The rhetoric or metaphor of refuge from the world has largely disappeared from religious, social and ethical debate. The contrast with the past is striking. Over the millennia, references to houses, homes, rooms, gardens, monasteries and temples as refuges were not to these places considered simply as physical structures whose walls afforded protection against whatever was outside them. A room may literally be a refuge for a mouse pursued by a cat, but the little back room that Montaigne set aside was an ‘asylum’ because it was somewhere the soul ‘can keep herself company’, a small arena in which the soul ‘turns back on itself’.”

You can read the whole article on Daily Philosophy.

“I’m not gonna lie to you: when I finally received the cybermail notification that my purchase was approved and I could pick it up from the Companions ‘R’ Us warehouse in Manchester, I was literally electrified. In fact, I was so excited that I decided to ‘throw a stickie’ (as they used to call it in the old days) and not show up at the institute that day. The boss was not going to like it, but they would have to live with it. I had waited long enough and just couldn’t bring myself to wait any longer. So I got myself some speed wheels and took off to get it.”

Read the whole story here!

I hope that this will be the first in a new series of philosophical short stories that we will publish on the site, so if you have written one yourself or you know someone who did, or if you are in a writers’ group on Facebook or something like that, please spread the word!

One last request from me: If you have a personal or a professional homepage and you see a way to link and recommend Daily Philosophy on your page, please do so. It helps us immensely to get better rankings on Google, which again is necessary for others to discover the site and, in turn, might benefit them by bringing a little more philosophy into their lives. I believe that, the world being what it is nowadays, we need every little bit of thoughtfulness that we can get. Thanks!

Gratitude and resentment

If we want to understand gratefulness, we probably have to start with the distinction between gratefulness and gratitude. In English, strangely, there is only an adjective “grateful” for both. I cannot be “gratituded,” and being “gratified” is something else entirely. This confuses matters because, despite the missing adjective, gratitude is not the same as gratefulness.

Both are states of being thankful for something that we received, and generally we must have received that as a gift, not in exchange for something else. If I buy a chocolate cookie by paying through the nose for it in my favourite old-world artisan bakery chain, I have no reason to be grateful. I got what I paid for.

Even if I get three cookies for the price of one as part of a promotion campaign, I might be happy to get the deal, but I won’t, generally, feel that I have to be grateful for that. I can safely assume that this beneficence is not directed towards me, but that, in the end, it is going to benefit the bakery and that this is why they do it.

Read on...