The Problem of Suffering and the Desires of the Heart Professor Eleonore Stump (Saint Louis University)
Eleonore Stump, Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
Commentator: Elizabeth Robinson (Department of Philosophy, Boston University)
Thursday, February 6, 5 p.m.
Boston University, Photonics Center
8 Saint Mary’s Street, Ninth Floor
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Supported by the Boston University Center for the Humanities. This event is free and open to the public.
The problem of evil is raised by the existence of suffering in the world. Can one hold consistently both that the world has such suffering in it and that it is governed by an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God, as the major monotheisms claim? A theodicy is an attempt to show that these claims are consistent by providing a morally sufficient reason for God to allow suffering. Generally, a putative morally sufficient reason for God to allow suffering is centered on a supposed benefit which could not be gotten without the suffering and which outweighs it. And the benefit is most commonly thought of as some intrinsically valuable thing supposed to be essential to general human flourishing. Attempted theodicies and attacks on them share the assumption that a person’s flourishing would be sufficient to justify God in allowing that person’s suffering if only the suffering and the flourishing were connected in the right way. In this paper, I call this assumption into question. Human beings can set their hearts on things which are not necessary for flourishing, and they suffer when they lose or fail to get what they set their hearts on. That suffering also needs to be addressed in consideration of the problem of evil.
Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, where she has taught since 1992. She has published extensively in philosophy of religion, contemporary metaphysics, and medieval philosophy. Her books include her major studyAquinas (Routledge, 2003) and her extensive treatment of the problem of evil, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford, 2010). She has given the Gifford Lectures (Aberdeen, 2003), the Wilde lectures (Oxford, 2006), and the Stewart lectures (Princeton, 2009). She is past president of the Society of Christian Philosophers, the American Catholic Philosophical Association, and the American Philosophical Association, Central Division; and she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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