the Book of Job
Religions. Mythology. Rationalism
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AbstractThis paper examines the ethical failure of theodicies by integrating the perspectives of philosophical argumentation and literary reading and analysis. The paper consists of two main parts. In the first part, we propose an ethical critique of metaphysical realism by analyzing its inability to recognize the perspectival plurality and diversity of suffering. As theodicies seek to explain how an omnipotent, omniscient, and absolutely benevolent God could allow the world to contain evil and suffering, it can be argued that metaphysical realism—i.e., the thesis that the world possesses its own fundamental structure independently of human perspectives of conceptualization and inquiry—is a problematic starting point of theodicism. We examine the failure of recognition of others’ suffering inherent in theodicies as a failure based on the search for an overall reductive and objectifying picture (a “God’s-Eye View”) that is constitutive of metaphysical realism. The second part of the paper shows why we should include insights from imaginative literature in our attempts to understand the recognition failures of theodicies. Emphasizing the literary, philosophical, and theological relevance of various modern rewritings of the Book of Job, which has been a crucially important sub-text for many later literary works in which the protagonists render a particular kind of human experience—unmerited suffering—we turn more closely to some literary examples, such as Joseph Roth’s novels Hiob and Die Rebellion. The tensions that are created around the moral controversy of the experiences of injustice and suffering and the human and religious reasoning and justification of violence are examined. The ambiguous ending of Hiob that adds an apparently hopeful and almost fairytale-like redemption to the story plays a crucial role in the interpretation provided in the paper. By analyzing some literary examples and their relation to the literary Job tradition, the recognition-failures of theodicist attempts to provide meaning into suffering—attempts based on metaphysical realism, as argued in the first part of the paper—are highlighted. Finally, we also critically consider the charge that theodicism could only be theoretically formulated and argue that a sharp distinction between theory and practice in this area is itself an act of non-recognition, or a failure to recognize suffering.