The Real Problem of Evil

The 17th century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz famously argued that this world of ours is “the best of all possible worlds”, and in doing so founded the philosophical study that he named ‘theodicy’ – the attempt to answer the question of why we suffer in a world supposedly watched over be an all-powerful and benevolent God. The scenes of devastation created by the tsunami that recently hit the east coast of Japan make these kinds of proclamations hard to swallow to say the least. Some philosophers after Leibniz made a point of how blindly indulgent and insensitive such claims can seem in the face of these reminders of the relentless and destructive powers of nature. Voltaire’s famous literary lampoon Candide: Or, the Optimist mocked the academic sophistry of such arm-chair speculation about suffering, and fellow German Schopenhauer, philosophy’s eternal pessimist, was perhaps the most damning of them all, saying once that:

 

…I cannot here withhold the statement that optimism, where it is not merely the thoughtless talk of those who harbour nothing but words under their shallow foreheads, seems to me to be not merely an absurd, but also a really wicked way of thinking, a bitter mockery of the unspeakable sufferings of mankind. Let no one imagine that the Christian teaching is favourable to optimism; on the contrary, in the Gospels world and evil are used as synonymous expressions. Continue reading “The Real Problem of Evil”

When Good Philosophers Do Bad Things

596px-Scale_of_justice_2_new Contemporary developments in Hermeneutics have compellingly defended the claim that one cannot ‘put down’ the self in the act of picking up a pen.  Our contexts and ideologies, our histories and stories, bleed into our work. However, while it may be reasonable (and even desirable) to expect readers to juggle the possible influences of a writer’s life and times, one might ask if it is equally so when a particular ‘authorial context’ is judged to be far more dangerous than an ill-fated love affair or the Renaissance.

Recent headlines offer one such example.  An English edition of Emmanuel Faye’s work Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy hits the shelves next month.  And, while ‘Continentals’ have long since known of Heidegger’s ties to Nazism, it is of little doubt that this new translation will further fuel already burning questions: does this imply that Heidegger’s corpus was inspired by National Socialism and, if so, does his philosophy serve to advance it as well? Continue reading “When Good Philosophers Do Bad Things”

What’s in A Signature?

UnderwoodKeyboard Does the medium of pen and paper allow for a greater intimacy than the keyboard? Is the distance between the author and the ‘written word’ somehow smaller than that of ‘typed words?’ In a lecture course on the Pre-Socratics, Martin Heidegger poses similar questions. The late German thinker suggests that the advent of the typewriter marks a clear transition towards a kind of ‘sign-less’ writing, a writing cut off and ‘concealed.’

But have such concerns become vastly outdated? Modern technology has prompted a new set of terms, a new comparison of ‘distance:’ the ‘typed’ versus the ‘cyber.’ The New York Times recently posted a ‘running debate’ on the positive and negative aspects of ‘E-books.’ The many perspectives offered especially focus on questions concerning the ability of E-books to meet the educational ‘needs’ of the ‘human brain.’ Continue reading “What’s in A Signature?”