Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Searching for meaning in one's suffering

Here is a logically valid argument:

  1. If theism is false, most evils are meaningless.
  2. If most evils are meaningless, it is inadvisable for sufferers to put significant effort into searching for meaning in their suffering.
  3. It is not inadvisable for sufferers to put significant effort into searching for meaning in their suffering.
  4. So, theism is true.
All the conditionals here are material conditionals and I am not claiming any kind of necessity for them. I do find the premises fairly plausible. I am least sure of (2). I not clear on what "meaning in suffering" is, but there does seem to be such a thing—at least, many people report finding it.


Jonathan D. Jacobs said...

I think I would, were I not a theist, deny premise 1 in this way: the meaning of an event can come either before or after the event, and that is why we must *redeem* suffering after the fact. It would, then, be inadvisable to *search* for meaning, but not inadvisable to create it.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's a really good response.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I came across this in "Dark Night of the Soul" by Saint John of the Cross. This is from Book 2, "Of the Night of the Spirit", Chapter 12, paragraph 4 "Hence it follows, with respect to the higher and lower angels, the nearer they are to God the more they are purified and enlightened in the general purgation; the lowest in rank receiving their illumiation in a less perfect degree. But man, being in the last in order to whom this loving contemplation is to be granted, must treceive that enlightenment according to his capacity in a limited degree, and with suffering. For the light of God which illumines an angel enlightens him ... for he is a spirit already prepared for the infusion of that light; but man, being impure and weak, is ordinarily enlightened, as I said before, in darkness, in distress and pain ..."

I think John of the Cross is on the money here. "Dark Night of the Soul" was one of his writings he produced while he endured a very brutal imprisonment during which he was tortured on a regular basis.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I'm a bit late adding this to my comments. I've been out goose hunting. This has been a tough season all around. So here is my further contribution to "Searching for meaning in one's suffering":


This is a well worth reading article and the reader comments are quite interesting.

PS: Some one must be saying a novena for those geese. I've been plagued by gun jams, awkward work schedules, and other things all season.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I came across this article about two deaf male twins in Belgium who were going blind. Distraught that they will no longer be able to see each other, they were both euthanized by a physician at their own request. Both men were 45. What is even more disturbing is the reader response. The readers who post comments supporting or sympathizing with the decision these men made to be euthanized are the ones getting the most thumbs up votes, the post criticizing the decision based on some pro-life principles are getting the most thumbs down votes. It is troubling to be reading the reader comments that are getting overwehlming thumbs up votes. There are excpetions, and that is those readers who are making references to Helen Keller who was both blind and deaf from a childhood illness who lead a productive life as an activist and author. Here is the article with its reader comments:


This causes me to ask one question. Why did Helen Keller find her life meaningful, purposefull and worth living even though she was suffering from the same thing as theses two gentlemen? Same suffering, different response. Is it like the good thief and the bad thief on the cross - same suffering different response? I'm reminded of an anecdote I read many years ago: Two men were in prison looking at a windowm, one saw bars the other saw stars.

Let's take a look at Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven went deaf. He was frustrated as his hearing was leaving him and he suffered greatly. What would happen if some physician and friends would say: "You know, Ludwig, music is so dear to you and you suffer so much that you can no longer hear it, it would be alright if you let this physician end your sufferings permanently." I will tell you what we won't have if Beethoven had been persuaded down that route - we wouldn't have the 9th Symphony which Beethoven wrote while totally deaf. The finale of the 9th Symphony is the famous "Ode to Joy". The melody from this portion of the 9th Symphony has also become a Church hymn "Joyful, joyful we adore Thee."

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I will add one more thing. This just came to my mind. As a hunter I have observed this in wounded geese. No matter how badly injured, these birds don't give up on staying alive, they fight to live no matter what. I look back at a friend I had who died of lung cancer. He never gave up on living and believed that he would beat his illness. I talked to him some four or five weeks before he passed away. He sounded upbeat and told me he was taking each day as it comes. It was in the middle of February then, and he told me that he was waiting for the Spring. The individual belong to a different generation. He was at the tail end of my grandfather's generation. Looking back, that generation seems to me to have been able to live life on life's terms.

Wolfgang said...

I have found a different answer to the problem of suffering.