On sorrow and sufferance: a theo-philosophical discourse on St Augustine, Aquinas, and Levinas
In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Genesis 3:16-17.
Does suffering happen to exist as a will intrinsic to creation; or as a result of genetic accident; is mankind better or worse-off without sorrow; would the absence of distress facilitate or constraint the attainment of the purposes of life - questions so profoundly intriguing have puzzled philosophers, theologians, psychologists alike from time immemorial. However, with the advancement of life science and emergence of medical technologies as sophisticated as neuroimaging (e.g. fMRI) which allows visualizing the neuronal changes associated with emotional processing, scientists are becoming more involved than ever in exploring the underlying molecular mechanisms. This trend is co-occurring with lesser research attention on the metaphysical aspects of the complex psychological constructs with ever diminishing space for insights derived from outside the realm of neuropsychiatry. In this study, authors endeavor to articulate the phenomenological perspectives of pain and suffering both at individual and collective level, by synthesizing from the works from three key philosophical thinkers of three distinct points in the history western philosophy: St. Augustin AKA Aurelius Augustinus (354-430), St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995). For contrasting analysis, explanations were drawn from Buddhism and Hinduism as two mainstream schools of theophilosophical thinking in Asia. Special attention was given to Hindu concepts of Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म) and Moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष), and Buddhist concepts of Dukkha, meaning sorrow/suffering (Sanskrit: दुःख), which is first of The Four Noble Truths, and Samsara (Sanskrit: संसार) which refers to the concept of cyclicality of all life.