Moral Philosophy Seminar (Monday - Week 8, HT20)

Moral Philosophy Seminar

“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.


Conveners: Ed Lamb and Jeremy Fix
Members of the audience are invited to join the speaker and the convener for drinks and dinner at a local restaurant following the talk (at their own expense). There will be some limit on the number of people who can attend. Please RSVP to Ed Lamb to reserve a place. Please note that we will no longer be going to dinner afterwards at Somerville College to continue questioning the speaker.