Why does Euthyphro hurt?

Leonato criticizes philosophers for pontificating about “chance and sufferance” when they can’t even deal with their own toothaches.  Philosophers like Socrates can be irritating in another way.  They ask questions about the obvious.

Particularly in these days of war and horror in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Honduras, and Burma, to name just a few, it seems almost obscene to ask a question that Socrates might have asked Euthyphro.  If Euthyphro had started whining about his pain, instead of taking his father to court for murdering a servant, Socrates might have asked:

Does it hurt you because it is something painful,
or is it something painful because it hurts you?

If Euthyphro-in-pain sounds inane, as so many of Socrates’ arguments do to the modern reader, let me ask how many of us moderns have taken seriously the New Age nostrum that “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”?  Kabat-Zinn [2002]

To say that “suffering is optional” assumes (1) that we can do something about suffering, and (2) that suffering is all in our head.

The fallacy in the statement “suffering is optional” is that we are in control.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is trying to explain the practice of opening up to pain.

You change your relationship to the pain by opening up to it and paying attention to it. You “put out the welcome mat.” Not because you’re masochistic, but because the pain is there.

He starts going astray when he seems to categorize this opening as a cognitive exercise having to do with learning, meaning, and understanding.  And then he expresses the possibility of changing our relationship with pain and suffering in terms of necessity and control.”As the saying goes, ‘Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.'”

Cute, but not helpful.


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