Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering

Jun 22, 2018

Suffering is part of the human condition, but hardship isn’t distributed equally. For centuries humans have tried to make sense of suffering, personal suffering, and the pain of others.

In his latest book, Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering, philosophy professor Scott Samuelson brings together the ideas of some of the world’s greatest philosophers, as well as his own thoughts and lessons he has learned from his students at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Samuelson shares with Charity Nebbe why he thinks the questions we ask about suffering are important, and how it is often the things that bring us the most pain that also fill our lives with the most meaning. They discuss the ideas of John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, and others. Samuelson reflects on what he learned from the students in a philosophy class he taught at an Iowa prison and shares his concerns about what he sees as an unwillingness to engage with suffering in our culture today.

“I think we’re in danger right now in society," says Samuelson. "We view boredom as suffering and we turn to our electronic devices. If you can get past a little bit of boredom, you can get into what makes life sing.”