Phenomenology 2010

Volume 4, 2011

Selected Essays from Northern Europe

René Kaufmann
Pages 434-468

„Body in pain“
Ein phänomenologischer Blick auf Aporien der philosophischen Leidbetrachtung

One can find a very strong objection against many kinds of philosophical thematizing of suffering: this objection criticizes and entertains suspicion that these philosophical efforts adopt an arrogant and cynical position toward the sufferer. In the context of the question of theodicy one e.g. criticizes approaches which practice a functionalisation, relativization and depotentialization of the evil and suffering: Toward them one basically objects that these approaches finally result in a rationalisation and instrumentalisation of the annoying and scandalizing moment of suffering. First of all, the distance from the suffering and the sufferer seems questionable, alarming and dubious. This implies the more general and more fundamental question of the relation between experience (concernment) and reflection (consideration) of suffering. The following attempt to reflect philosophically the suffering will thematize this relation and point out some specific limits of the philosophical reflection which will become evident thereby. The central starting point of the following phenomenological considerations is the assumption that suffering represents a paradigmatic boundary-phenomenon of human reality and that this phenomenon departs from the stringent proposition forms of philosophy and thereby limits and denies a philosophical access. By keeping in mind this awareness of the problem, the question to be asked is: What essentially characterizes suffering?