Why do we suffer?

In Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering (University of Chicago Press, 2018), Scott Samuelson ’95 tackles the hardest question of all. While always taking the question of suffering seriously, Samuelson is just as likely to draw lessons from Bugs Bunny as from Confucius, from his time teaching philosophy to prisoners as from Hannah Arendt’s attempts to come to terms with the Holocaust. He guides readers through the arguments people have offered to answer this fundamental question, explores the many ways that we have tried to minimize or eliminate suffering, and examines people’s attempts to find ways to live with pointless suffering. Ultimately, Samuelson shows, to be fully human means to acknowledge a mysterious paradox: We must simultaneously accept suffering and oppose it. And understanding that is itself a step toward acceptance.