Pessimism and the Problem of Suffering

Mara van der Lugt with Alexander Douglas

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, philosophers engaged in heated debates on the question of how God could have allowed evil and suffering in a creation that is supposedly good. In this conversation with Alexander Douglas, historian and philosopher Mara van der Lugt will show how the competing philosophical traditions of optimism and pessimism arose from early modern debates about the problem of evil, making a compelling case for the rediscovery of pessimism as a source for compassion, consolation, and perhaps even hope. The crucial moral aim of pessimism, van der Lugt will argue, is to find a way of speaking about suffering that offers consolation and does justice to the fragility of life.

Mara van der Lugt is lecturer in philosophy at the University of St Andrews, where she specializes in early modern intellectual history and philosophy. Her new book Dark Matters: Pessimism and the Problem of Suffering is published in September by Princeton University Press.

Alexander Douglas is a lecturer in the School of Philosophical, Anthropological, and Film Studies at the University of St Andrews. He studies early modern rationalism, particularly various forms of Cartesianism and especially that of Spinoza. He is also interested in critiques of political economy and is the author of The Philosophy of Debt.
https://axdouglas.com / twitter.com/alexxdouglas

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Monday 27th September

7.00 p.m. (UK time)/2.00 p.m. (EST)