Fukushima Daiichi: Making Atmospheres Explicit

It has now been over a week since the ‘double disaster’ earthquake-tsunami combination ravaged the northeastern region of Japan and the full scale of the tragedy remains as of yet unknown. As rescue crews and aid workers make their way to the affected region, increased media attention in North America is being turned to the ‘Fukushima Fifty’, a group of unknown workers struggling tirelessly to prevent a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, about 80 km south of Sendai and 250 km north of Tokyo. As soon as the nuclear troubles began, media sources began making comparisons with previous disasters: would this be another Three Mile Island? Another Chernobyl? And panic began almost as quickly. In Japan, whose history with nuclear fallout now runs back almost seventy years, the level of concern was perhaps understandable, especially given the proximity of the reactor to large urban centres and the quick escalation of the situation in the early days. What is perhaps more curious, however, is the level of panic in North America. Continue reading “Fukushima Daiichi: Making Atmospheres Explicit”

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”