18 February 2008

Hick on suffering

John Hick on suffering

by suffering we mean that state of mind in which we wish violent or obsessively that our situation were otherwise. such a state of mind involves memory and anticipation, the capacity to imagine alternatives, and (in man) a moral conscience. For the characteristic elements of human suffering are such relatively complex and high-level modes of consciousness as regret and remorse; anxiety and despair; guilt, shame, and embarrassment; the loss of someone loved, the sense of rejection, of frustrated wishes, and of failure. These all differ from physical pain in that they refer beyond the present moment. To be miserable is to be aware of a larger context of existence than one's immediate physical sensations, and to be overcome by the anguished wish that this wider situation were other than it is. [Evil and the God of Love, pp.354-5]

Two questions:
(1) Is this a privation account of suffering's badness in any traditional sense?

(2) He certainly means that suffering is (usually?) worse than physical pain alone. But how broad a time span does he have in mind? That is, it's plausible that over a week long period, suffering --as distinct from physical pain-- might be intrinsically worse. But could he plausibly say this about a stubbed toe 2 seconds after impact?