What About All The Suffering?

15 Mar

Debate on this perennial question can go on; thankfully Epicurus managed to boil it down to this beautifully succinct set of rhetorical questions:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
– Epicurus

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8 Responses to “What About All The Suffering?”

  1. 5i5i March 15, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    Here’s a fun discussion I found on this quote – http://kneedeepincode.com/topics/epicurus%E2%80%99s-quote-on-god/.

  2. 5i5i March 16, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    MP: Ah but what would be good if it were not for evil?

  3. 5i5i March 16, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Good point.

    Psychologists say we are predisposed to framing things in a polarised way; it’s a good way to simplify a system and it helps us understand. Light and dark, right and left, hot and cold; there’s even a philosophy around it with yin and yang. So given this cognitive bias it can be said that having bad things helps us to appreciate good things.

    However, (and a physicist may shoot me down here) isn’t dark simply an absence of light? I.e. do we need the opposite of something to appreciate it or just its absence? I still have a rather strong appreciation for my shiny bike but I’ve never seen an anti-bike.

    From another point of view, if not understanding – relatively – how good something is is the price I would have to pay for people to have less bad things happen to them then I’m happy with that.

    • 5i5i March 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      MP Said: But what lesson would you learn and what would be the point of your life? Dukkha is supposedly crucial to our understanding of happiness. Life is full of highs and lows but they are both temporary conditions and acceptance of that is a key to enlightenment.

  4. Damian March 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    So why the assumption that suffering is bad?

  5. 5i5i March 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I had to read some of the wikipedia page on Dukkha. That’s really interesting. This phrase certainly resonates with me: “Dukkha indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards”

    And I like the second bit – puts me in mind of Mr Kipling’s “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same”.

    I guess then a finer definition of suffering is required. If we’re talking about tsunamis, terminal illness, etc. then I’m not sure that I learn too much from those if they kill me.

    The suffering that comes from striving in life to achieve, to change, to better oneself, to deal with the shit that happens, well that’s an attitude issue. I mean the outcome of those things can be growth and wisdom, but they can get you down too – as Murakami said in his book “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
    I guess there are different ways of learning too and I wouldn’t want to limit it to suffering.
    I guess attaining that better attitude would be part of enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition?

  6. 5i5i June 18, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Another angle: Socrates said “Are God’s commandments good because they come from God, or does God issue them because they are good?”

    • Damian June 18, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      But then, you already know what I’m going to say…

      Both… and neither…

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