Cover image for Seven ways of looking at pointless suffering : what philosophy can tell us about the hardest mystery of all / Scott Samuelson.
Title:
Seven ways of looking at pointless suffering : what philosophy can tell us about the hardest mystery of all / Scott Samuelson.
Title Variants:
7 ways of looking at pointless suffering
ISBN:
9780226407081
Publication Information:
Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
270 pages ; 24 cm
Contents:
Introduction : the paradox of pointless suffering -- Three modern ways of looking at pointless suffering -- We should eliminate pointless suffering : on John Stuart Mill and the paradox of Utilitarianism -- We should embrace pointless suffering : on Friedrich Nietzsche and the challenge of the Eternal return -- We must take responsibility for pointless suffering : on Hannah Arendt and the banality of evil -- Interlude on the problem of evil -- Four perennial ways of looking at pointless suffering -- Pointless suffering reveals God : on the Book of Job and the significance of freedom -- Pointless suffering atones us with nature : on Epictetus and the gratitude for existence -- Interlude on heaven and hell -- Pointless suffering evokes our humanity : on Confucius and the and the rituals of compassion -- Pointless suffering inspires art : on Sidney Bechet and the music of Blues-understanding -- Conclusion : the way of suffering humanly -- A sad postlude.
Abstract:
It's right there in the Book of Job: "Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward." Suffering is an inescapable part of the human condition -- which leads to a question that has proved just as inescapable: Why? Why do we suffer? Why do people die young? Is there any point to our pain, physical or emotional? Do horrors like hurricanes have meaning? In Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering, Scott Samuelson tackles that hardest question of all, traveling through the history of philosophy and religion, but he also attending closely to the everyday world we live in. While always taking the question of suffering seriously, Samuelson is just as likely to draw lessons from Bugs Bunny as from Confucius, from his time teaching philosophy to prisoners as from Hannah Arendt’s attempts to come to terms with the Holocaust. He guides us with care and clarity through the centuries of arguments that have been offered to answer this fundamental question, explores the many ways that we have tried to minimize or eliminate suffering, and -- most important -- shows our attempts to find ways to live with pointless suffering. Ultimately, Samuelson shows, to be fully human means to acknowledge a mysterious paradox: we must simultaneously accept suffering and oppose it. And understanding that is itself a step towards acceptance.
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Summary

Summary

It's right there in the Book of Job: "Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward." Suffering is an inescapable part of the human condition--which leads to a question that has proved just as inescapable throughout the centuries: Why? Why do we suffer? Why do people die young? Is there any point to our pain, physical or emotional? Do horrors like hurricanes have meaning?

In Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering , Scott Samuelson tackles that hardest question of all. To do so, he travels through the history of philosophy and religion, but he also attends closely to the real world we live in. While always taking the question of suffering seriously, Samuelson is just as likely to draw lessons from Bugs Bunny as from Confucius, from his time teaching philosophy to prisoners as from Hannah Arendt's attempts to come to terms with the Holocaust. He guides us through the arguments people have offered to answer this fundamental question, explores the many ways that we have tried to minimize or eliminate suffering, and examines people's attempts to find ways to live with pointless suffering. Ultimately, Samuelson shows, to be fully human means to acknowledge a mysterious paradox: we must simultaneously accept suffering and oppose it. And understanding that is itself a step towards acceptance.

Wholly accessible, and thoroughly thought-provoking, Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering is a masterpiece of philosophy, returning the field to its roots--helping us see new ways to understand, explain, and live in our world, fully alive to both its light and its darkness.


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Samuelson (philosophy, Kirkwood Community Coll.; The Deepest Human Life) terms responses to pointless suffering as "fix-it" and "face-it." Modern civilization, dominated by technology, seeks to deal with evils by eliminating them. Samuelson does not reject this utilitarian approach altogether. He questions, though, that an overly technological approach makes us neglect a fundamental truth. Accepting and learning from suffering is essential to leading a meaningful life. From this perspective, he examines the views of John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, the Book of Job, the Stoic Epictetus, Confucius, and traditions in blues music. The book stems from lectures Samuelson gave at Iowa's Oakdale Prison. The insights of prisoners as well as the author's views of the American prison system enhance a narrative that deals with a topic everyone must confront in an unforgettable way. Samuelson has read widely and addresses each of his perspectives with depth. The account of Stoicism is especially well done. Compare to Peter Kreeft's Three Philosophies of Life. VERDICT Will be of interest to not only students of philosophy, religion, and literature but also to general readers.-David Gordon, Ludwig von Mises Inst., Auburn, AL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Introduction: The Paradox of Pointless Sufferingp. 1
Part 1 Three Modern Ways of Looking at Pointless Sufferingp. 19
1 We Should Eliminate Pointless Suffering: On John Stuart Mill and the Paradox of Utilitarianismp. 33
2 We Should Embrace Pointless Suffering: On Friedrich Nietzsche and the Challenge of the Eternal Returnp. 55
3 We Must Take Responsibility for Pointless Suffering: On Hannah Arendt and the Banality of Evilp. 77
Interlude on the Problem of Evilp. 101
Part 2 Four Perennial Ways of Looking at Pointless Sufferingp. 113
4 Pointless Suffering Reveals God: On the Book of Job and the Significance of Freedomp. 121
5 Pointless Suffering Atones Us with Nature: On Epictetus and the Gratitude for Existencep. 145
Interlude on Heaven and Hellp. 165
6 Pointless Suffering Evokes Our Humanity: On Confucius and the Rituals of Compassionp. 179
7 Pointless Suffering Inspires Art: On Sidney Bechet and the Music of Blues-Understandingp. 203
Conclusion: The Way of Suffering Humanlyp. 223
A Sad Postludep. 239
Acknowledgmentsp. 243
Notesp. 249
Indexp. 265