The Relationship Between Suffering and ExistenceJune 27, 2021
The Spanish philosopher Unamuno is probably best known for his “The Tragic Sense of Life” (1913).
In this book, all consciousness consists of consciousness about death and suffering (We are painfully aware that we are not immortal). It is the fact that we suffer that makes us human.
At first glance, it may seem that this idea is very close to that of Siddhartha Gautama, that is, Buddha, who said that suffering is an integral part of human life. But Unamuno’s response to pain is very different. Unlike Buddha, Unamuno does not see suffering as a problem that can be overcome through separation. Instead, he sees pain as a vital experience and a necessary part of the meaning of existence as a human being.
According to Unamuno, if all consciousness consists of consciousness of human mortality and suffering, and if consciousness is the difference that makes us human, then the only way to confine our lives to some kind of weight and substance is to embrace that suffering. If we turn our back on pain, we turn our back on what makes us human, on consciousness itself.
There is another dimension to Unamuno’s ideas about pain. We need to accept our pain because only when we can face our own pain can we truly love other beings who are suffering. This leaves us with a bare choice. On the one hand, we can choose happiness and do our best to avoid pain. On the other hand, we can choose to suffer and love. The first option may be easier, but ultimately limits us; it actually disconnects us from a necessary part of ourselves. The second is more difficult, but only this option opens the door to the possibility of a life with depth and significance.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook