The Philosophy of Pain & Suffering

Dear Friends of the Salon,

For the May salon we will will explore the philosophy and psychology of pain and suffering and the implications for the human experience.

The salon will be an experiment. At the beginning of the salon each participant will be blindfolded so that they do not know with whom they are conversing and can therefore speak freely about their deepest convictions , ideas, and personal experiences. We will see how this dynamic changes the nature of the conversation.

Afterwards Dr. Jessica Frazier, Faculty of Theology and Religion at The University of Oxford will speak with us about the nature of pain and suffering. (Abstract and conversation menu below.)

Please note, that there will be a literature salon on the same topic just before the philosophy salon from 2-4 pm on Alexandre Dumas’s The Lady of the Camellias or “La Dame Aux Camelias

RSVP to this event is required. Please indicate in your RSVP if you would like to attend one or both of the salons. jk554@cam.ac.uk

Abstract:

What sort of schizophrenia are we creating in ourselves when we strive for pleasurable comfort, but fantasise about suffering and pain? Civilised life is essentially a pursuit of pleasures, large and small… yet the majority of heroes throughout history are figures characterised by suffering rather than happiness: married couples thrill to tales of star-crossed lovers, homebuilders love tales of soldiers and desperate gang-members, and Christianity offers heaven, but places an image of torture at the heart of its spiritual life. It sometimes seems that it is our ability to choose suffering that raises us above our merely ‘animal’ search for security.

In this salon, we will explore the curious place of suffering in our dreams and desires, and look at one way in which this tension played out in medieval India… when Buddhism chose to numb itself to pain, and Hinduism hit back by asking for more and better suffering.