Tag Archives: Emmanuel Levinas

QA 42. Notes on “Useless suffering”

LevinasA brief reading of the essay by Emmanuel Levinas

Phenomenology

What is the lived experience of suffering? To an extent, it’s like any other sensory experience, like seeing green or tasting sweet. What sets suffering apart is the way it is too much to bear. We can’t get on top of it or get hold of it. It’s an experience of frustrated revulsion or rejection. Levinas describes it a “quasi-contradictory structure” – suffering is given to us as a sensation that we can’t take – which is categorically ambiguous: suffering is “at once what disturbs order and this disturbance itself”. Suffering shows the profound vulnerability and passivity of our sensibility: all we can do is undergo it (and we can’t even do that). Suffering is “precisely an evil” for the way it rips into us and overwhelms our humanity. It is an impasse, an absurdity. It is utterly useless.

And yet.

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QA 38. January 2013. Rocking the foundations of thought

Education systems that render people stupid, mental health treatment that renders people mad, religions that render people wicked, economies that render people poor, political systems that render people powerless. How is it that our social systems break down (render) precisely what they are meant to serve (render to)? Continue reading

QA 26. (Nov 10) To change our thinking

If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?  The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments. Clay Shirky

We have a duty to change our mode of thinking. David Harvey

There appears to be magic simply in the willingness to tackle life’s hardest problems from the humble position of simply being one among many in a circle of individuals caring for the common lot. Alice Walker

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them. Albert Einstein (attributed)

Having these words slung my way from many directions recently, I have decided to shift the focus of my philosophy café. To change our mode of thinking. Could there be a more philosophical challenge? But how is this even possible, if the mind we use to think with is the thing we have to change? I don’t know, but I have a few clues. Continue reading