Oded Na'aman (Martin Buber Society of Fellows, Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Meaningful Suffering
“What actually arouses indignation over suffering,” Nietzsche writes, “is not the suffering itself, but the senselessness of suffering.” Though the distinction between meaningful and senseless suffering is only rarely discussed in contemporary moral philosophy, it is clearly significant. In this paper, I develop a fittingness-based account of meaningful suffering that explains the distinctive burden of senselessness and the way meaning can make suffering more bearable. In developing the account, I also argue that the common account of the distinction between rational and a-rational attitudes in terms of judgment-sensitivity is flawed; the distinction between rational and a-rational attitudes should be drawn, instead, in terms of fittingness. Meaningful suffering is a rational attitude in the sense that it purports to be fitting to what it is about; senseless suffering might occasionally be justified but it is not about anything at all. When suffering is meaningful it expresses the agent’s evaluative perspective on the world, it is the suffering of the person, unlike senseless suffering, which befalls the person.
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