Posted by: HAT | November 10, 2014

Job the Philosopher?

an image from an illuminated manuscript showing Job covered with boils and his three friends

A Symposium of sorts

Hi, Gang!

The idea of a “world free of suffering” seems to be one of the emblems of utopianism. That’s true in the good sense, in which “utopian” refers to visions of a better world, and in the bad sense, in which “utopian” refers to impractical, unrealistic schemes and expectations.

Soelle’s treatment of suffering and its relationship to mysticism suggests that, while freedom from suffering forms a horizon of ultimate expectation, willingness to suffer along with others is the practice that corresponds to that horizon. This insight arises from her reading of Job, the paradigmatic text about suffering in the western tradition. Job eventually connects his own suffering with that of other innocent victims. When he does so, the near-prophetic solidarity that results constitutes a counter-wager made by Job with Satan “in mystical love. I bet you that … God is the father of all victims of injustice, that their situation will not remain as it is today, and that the historical losers in the global economy are not forgotten, superfluous beings that can be ignored.” [1]

Job’s mystical, suffering love does not demand release from suffering as a condition of love or a reward for faith; neither does it regard innocent suffering as a positive, or as something to accept with a resigned “that’s just how it is.” Job suffers in part because he holds on to a vision of “a good life” that vindicates the innocent. That vision, in turn, is underwritten by the subject of Job’s counter-wager, God understood as the champion of the victims of injustice. I wonder whether this makes Job a practitioner of what Adorno termed “philosophy from the perspective of redemption.”

[1] Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry, trans. Barbara and Martin Rumscheidt (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001) 158 (Nook edition).

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