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Ekstrom, Laura W, , . Suffering as Religious Experience
2004, in Peter Van Inwagen (ed.) Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Press: 95-110.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Summary: In this paper, Ekstrom argues that some instances of suffering might reasonably be viewed as religious experiences that serve as a means of intimacy with God. Thus, where atheologians typically take suffering as evidence against the existence of God, Ekstrom argues that it might in fact be a route of knowledge to God.

Comment: This chapter would probably be most useful in arguments for/against the existence of God. In particular, it could follow on from a unit on the problem of evil. It is of particular interest because it's commonly argued that suffering is an argument against God's existence, but Ekstrom argues to the contrary.

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Griffioen, Amber, , . Theraputic Theodicy? Suffering, Struggle, and the Shift from the Gods-Eye View
2018, Religions 9(4).
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: From a theoretical standpoint, the problem of human suffering can be understood as one formulation of the classical problem of evil, which calls into question the compatibility of the existence of a perfect God with the extent to which human beings suffer. Philosophical responses to this problem have traditionally been posed in the form of theodicies, or justifications of the divine. In this article, I argue that the theodical approach in analytic philosophy of religion exhibits both morally and epistemically harmful tendencies and that philosophers would do better to shift their perspective from the hypothetical ‘God’s-eye view’ to the standpoint of those who actually suffer. By focusing less on defending the epistemic rationality of religious belief and more on the therapeutic effectiveness of particular imaginings of God with respect to suffering, we can recover, (re)construct, and/or (re)appropriate more virtuous approaches to the individual and collective struggle with the life of faith in the face of suffering.

Comment: Useful for an introductory or intermediate Philosophy of Religion course - probably following or preceding the study of a 'classical' theodicy. It would be interesting to then have seminar questions in which students are invited to compare the two approaches to theodicy.

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Humpherys, , . Contractarianism: On the Incoherence of the Exclusion of Non-Human Beings
2008, Percipi 2, 28-38
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Rebekah Humphreys

Abstract: Although the practices of animal experimentation and intensive rearing involve a considerable amount of animal suffering they continue to be supported. Why is the suffering of animals in these practices so often accepted? This paper will explore some of the reasons given in support of the use of animals for such practices. In particular I will focus on contractarianism as one of the many positions that argues that morally relevant differences between species justify animal experimentation and factory farming. These differences include rationality and moral agency. On this position non-humans are excluded from direct moral concern on the basis that they lack such qualities. I will argue that in order for contractarianism to be coherent it necessarily has to include non-humans in the contract. This has implications for the application of contractarianism to the ethics of factory farming and animal experimentation.

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Stump, Eleonore, , . Wandering in Darkness: Narrative And The Problem Of Suffering
2010, Oxford: Oxford University Press
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Only the most naive or tendentious among us would deny the extent and intensity of suffering in the world. Can one hold, consistently with the common view of suffering in the world, that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God? This book argues that one can. Wandering in Darkness first presents the moral psychology and value theory within which one typical traditional theodicy, namely, that of Thomas Aquinas, is embedded. It explicates Aquinas’s account of the good for human beings, including the nature of love and union among persons. Eleonore Stump also makes use of developments in neurobiology and developmental psychology to illuminate the nature of such union.

Stump then turns to an examination of narratives. In a methodological section focused on epistemological issues, the book uses recent research involving autism spectrum disorder to argue that some philosophical problems are best considered in the context of narratives. Using the methodology argued for, the book gives detailed, innovative exegeses of the stories of Job, Samson, Abraham and Isaac, and Mary of Bethany.

In the context of these stories and against the backdrop of Aquinas’s other views, Stump presents Aquinas’s own theodicy, and shows that Aquinas’s theodicy gives a powerful explanation for God’s allowing suffering. She concludes by arguing that this explanation constitutes a consistent and cogent defense for the problem of suffering.

Comment: The book, or extracts from the book, could be used in postgraduate teaching on philosophy of religion. Though the book functions as a whole, individual chapters could be used in teaching to address specific subtopics of the book. Part 1 of the book is useful as an account of the use of narrative in philosophy, and an illustration of the broader range of methods now deployed in analytic philosophy. Part 2 gives a detailed overview of accounts of the nature of love. Part 4 could be profitably used on its own in a course dealing with the problem of evil, though it does contain back-reference to earlier parts of the book.

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