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Stephen jubilant and celebration.
Scott Samuelson his book is 7 ways of looking at pointless suffering what philosophy can tell us about the hardest mystery of all we’ll take a break and come back in a moment you’re listening to Radio West. Okay . We .
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This is radio Western for pre-sale today in the program , we’re talking about , probably the biggest question there is , why do we suffer we have with us the philosopher Scott Samuelson and we’re talking about his new book 7 ways of looking at pointless suffering what philosophy can tell us about the hardest mystery of all : why only 7 why only 7 ways of looking at pointless suffering there’s got to be a lot more than that but. But it turns out you’ve really worked this through a knife . It seems like you’ve really distilled it seems like you think that there’s , there may be more but 7 get about get to it , and in a way you think .
Well , I think 7 gives us at least the basic or approaches I’d I joke in the book that you know if I found 13 ways of looking at pointless suffering the last might be that of the devil himself and so am I. I thought stuff in a lucky number was a good way of dealing with a very difficult subject , but no , I do , I mean I , it’s not purely random I I’d I’d in the book I talk about how we’ve sort of had 3 modern ways of really wrestling with it and then I talk about what I consider to be 4 just perennial ways that we have of trying to to to deal with it within all of those ways I look out there of course any number of variations . So you’re quite right that it’s that the subject is not exhausted by by my book by a long stretch of the man stretch of the imagination .
Well , when one of the things you do. Also as you do , you don’t really just dig into a Buddhist approach or a Christian approach . It doesn’t mention why I mean those are encompassed in some of the others , I have to say , but you don’t specifically dig into those particular approaches .
Yeah I I Russell without a little bit I I talk about Buddhism and Christianity. Throughout the book and then both of those ways very deeply and form how I thought about it , I mean in a way , arguably , those are the 2 greatest traditions for thinking about suffering of course in Christianity . You know , one of its central symbols . Maybe it’s very central symbol is a symbol of in a way of unfair suffering of Jesus on the cross , but that is at the same time , the most redemptive suffering imaginable and in the Buddhist tradition , the first noble truth is that life is suffused with suffering and the the other noble truth in some ways are about dealing with that coming to terms with that and and rising above it in the Buddhist tradition gives you know elaborate tradition with the many different voices I , as does the Christian tradition , but I feel like those traditions are ones that people are insofar as they’re familiar with this stuff that there are probably more likely to be familiar with that and so I wanted to kind of wander down some roads that would put those traditions in the play , but also maybe open up some new insights for people .
I want to dig into those these 3 sort modern ways that we’ve dealt with suffering this first sections of the book and what’s begin though with the story of Ashley she’s a daughter of some former neighbors of yours and I think she’s a good way into a conversation about this you say when you think of Ashley it made you think of a line from Sophocles never to have lived as best as one of the references there , let’s , let’s talk about Ashley and in this story.
Yeah. See . She was my neighbor for a while . A great family that my family was close to , in some ways when I’m met Ashley she was oh I think an early teenager the way her sisters put it , that she was born with a broken brain her dark the doctors didn’t get for a very long to live when she was born but in fact she did live on . But her mental development was pretty much nonexistent really was , you know , stayed at the level of of a of a baby . I am , she couldn’t speak she can’t really move she was in a wheelchair . She couldn’t you know thrash around a little bit , she needed to be fed and she would frequently cry out she would frequently scream and she kind of just powerfully embodied this the sort of suffering that comes with being alive without really any tools for dealing with it herself . She , of course , have the compassion of her family and you know and those around her who who loved her but but you know it was , who I think everyone who met her , you know you had to wonder like , is this a , is this a life or worth having and and I think that ultimately the answer to that is is is yes , but it’s a , it’s a very hard just to have to yet to come to and it’s , it’s very difficult and I feel as if our strong impulse is we would like to fix Ashley and I would of course like to help her in any way possible . And so far as medicine could be able to do that , that would be wonderful . And of course so far as it can ease your pain . That’s it . You know , good . And and and . Right . And so far as we can just have institutions that Hopper , that’s all good . But even after all that , it seems like there’s a lot that just can’t be fixed there . And so what do we do with that . Well that poses that problem and I think in maternity we be really struggle with that .
Yeah , a lot of the questions that come up in Ashley’s life will look honestly would would actually have been better off dead was her life in some way some kind of mistake , but you also write this , you see since her life is part of the life we share is life itself , something of a mistake which is that big exist until question , I mean what is the point of all of this.
Yeah , that’s right and I and I think it’s important though for us to remember and maybe this is one of the great things that Ashley did for me was you know she does remind me of that. I do share that life with her and in that even though she is on the kind of borderline of being human , and in that she has you know no real possibilities of cognitive development that she still is but as a sister put it you know someone with a broken brain she’s a human being , but , but broken in some ways and that broken this I suppose we all have them in and in some way , shape or form . And so , her life is a part of my life , and a part of our life . The problems that she poses are the problems that that we have . Period . I see my BA .
Edvard Munch’s The Scream that painting that iconic painting you write about. In the book , it’s the ideas . It’s supposed to convey the very essence of pointless suffering , but you say you have mixed feelings about that painting .
Well , it just it lends itself to parodies for one you know but I I I get I mean insofar as I think it is so powerful for us yet it does embody this issue it sort of says look , here’s someone crying out you’re someone screaming in pain and there is no story around it , you know , if you think of classical images of suffering the crucifixion being probably the most well-known one for people you know that’s a terrible act of suffering and sometimes Jesus is portrayed in great agony and crying out but of course the surrounding story of that kind of allows us to , you know deal without suffering because we know that it’s redemptive or there is another great image that I actually have on the cover of my book , released the face of of lay go on who was no Trojan priest who tried to keep the Trojan horse from coming in and the gods wanted the Greeks to win and so they send sea serpents to kill himself for being a good , decent human being trying to protect a city he is he’s violently mass.