Monique Wonderly

2020 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Philosophy
UC San Diego

Project title: Attachment, Agency, and Virtue: A Philosophical Treatment of Emotional Attachment

Project description: Despite the pervasiveness, complexity, and import of emotional attachment in our everyday lives, the topic of attachment per se has been largely ignored in the philosophical literature. In my earlier work, I began to address this omission by offering a preliminary account of a particular kind of attachment. I then identified attachment as a felt need for a particular, non- substitutable object without which we suffer a reduced sense of security. I employed insights from ancient Stoicism and Eastern philosophy, as well as empirical work from clinical and developmental psychology to articulate the relevant concepts of need and security. Security, as I use the term, does not denote mere feelings of “safety,” but should be construed as a kind of confidence in one’s well-being and one’s ability to navigate the world as an effective agent. Without our attachment objects, we tend to feel off-kilter, “out of sorts,” or “no longer all of a piece,” while engagement with our attachment objects helps us to feel as though we are “on solid ground” and “empowered to take on life’s challenges.” I take it that these phrases, while admittedly colloquial, capture something very real about the emotional lives of human beings and the relationships that both move us and hold us together as agents.