Human Suffering as a Challenge for the Meaning of Life

Existenz. An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts (2009)
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When people suffer they always suffer as a whole human being. The emotional, cognitive and spiritual suffering of human beings cannot be completely separated from all other kinds of suffering, such as from harmful natural, ecological, political, economic and social conditions. In reality they interact with each other and influence each other. Human beings do not only suffer from somatic illnesses, physical pain, and the lack of decent opportunities to satisfy their basic vital, social and emotional needs. They also suffer when they are not able to experience and grasp any meaning of life even if such suffering is not quite as obvious as most forms of physical, social and emotional suffering. Suffering from the lack for the sense of the meaning of life is a special form of emotional, cognitive, and spiritual suffering. Although all human beings share the same basic human need for some meaning of life, the fulfilment of this need is highly individual and personal. Although all forms of human suffering can be a challenge to the meaning of life, the personal conditions of suffering usually are a stronger challenge for the meaning of life. Among the personal conditions of human suffering, the Grenzsituationen cannot be cancelled or raised at all, but only accepted and coped with as existential aspects of the conditio humana. According to Karl Jaspers these are: death, suffering, struggling, guilt, and failing. The challenge for human beings to cope with these Grenzsituationen is a way to move from the mere Being-there to true human Existence.



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Ulrich Walter Diehl
University of Heidelberg

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