Full Length Research Paper

On Human Sorrow and Sufferance: A Theophilosophical Discourse on St Augustine, Aquinas, and Levinas

Ghose Bishwajit and Tadhg O’Sullivan

Article Number - 5FD7949B50C60  | Vol. 1(1), pp. 1-7., December 2020  | 
 Received: 30 September 2020 |  Accepted: 5 December 2020  |   Published: 31 December 2020

Copyright © 2024 Author(s) retain the copyright of this article.
This article is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0.


Does suffering happen to exist as a will intrinsic to creation? Or as a result of genetic accident; is mankind better or worse-off without sorrow? Would the absence of distress facilitate or constraint the attainment of the purposes of life? These intriguing questions have puzzled philosophers, theologians, psychologists alike from time immemorial. However, with the advancement of life science and emergence of medical technologies as sophisticated as neuroimaging (e.g. fMRI) which allows visualizing the neuronal changes associated with emotional processing, scientists are becoming more involved than ever in exploring the underlying molecular mechanisms. This trend is co-occurring with lesser research attention on the metaphysical aspects of the complex psychological constructs with ever diminishing space for insights derived from outside the realm of neuropsychiatry. In this study, the authors endeavor to articulate the phenomenological perspectives of pain and suffering both at individual and collective level, by synthesizing from the works from three key philosophical thinkers of three distinct points in the history western philosophy: St. Augustin AKA Aurelius Augustinus (354-430), St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995). For contrasting analysis, explanations were drawn from Buddhism and Hinduism as two mainstream schools of theophilosophical thinking in Asia. Special attention was given to Hindu concepts of Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म) and Moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष), and Buddhist concepts of Dukkha, meaning sorrow/suffering (Sanskrit: दुःख), which is first of The Four Noble Truths, and Samsara (Sanskrit: संसार) which refers to the concept of cyclicality of all life.


Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dukkha, Theology of Suffering.


Aich, T. K. (2013). Buddha philosophy and western psychology. Indian J. Psychiatry, 55 Suppl 2:S165-170.

Anningson, R. (2017). Theories of the Self, Race, and Essentialization in Buddhism in the United States during the “Yellow Peril,” 1899-1957. Theses Dissertation Compr.

Bytetime (2014). 365 Places: Rishikesh. Geokult. Accessed 28 Nov 2020.

Exline, J. J., Pargament, K.I., Grubbs, J. B. & Yali, A. M. (2014). The Religious and Spiritual Struggles Scale: Development and initial validation. Psychol. Relig. Spiritual. 6:208-222.

Farley, L. (2004). Useless suffering: Learning from the unintelligible and the re-formation of community. Interchange. 35:325-336.

Floyd, S. D. (2004). How to Cure Self-Deception: An Augustinian Remedy. Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, Vol. 7, Num. 3, University of St. Thomas. Accessed 28 Nov 2020.

Franklin, J. (2009). Leibniz’s solution to the problem of evil. Published online by Cambridge University Press: Accessed 28 Nov 2020.

Geddes, J. L. (2015). Violence and Vulnerability: Kafka and Levinas On Human Suffering. Lit. Theol. 29:400-414.

Greib, R. (1997). Understanding God’s Love: A Study of the Misunderstanding and Misrepresentation of God - AbeBooks - Greib, Ronald: 0965640302. Accessed 28 Nov 2020.

Hale-Smith, A., Park, C. L. & Edmondson, D. (2012). Measuring Beliefs about Suffering: Development of the Views of Suffering Scale. Psychol. Assess. 24:855-866.

Kaye, S. & Prisco, R. (2009). In the end it’s the tail: Thomas Aquinas’s fifth proof of the existence of god. Published online by Cambridge University Press: Accessed 28 Nov 2020.

Kuwornu-Adjaottor, J. E. T. (2013). God and the Suffering of His People. J. Sci. Technol. Ghana. 33:114-120.

Lindsay, J. (1904). La philosophie de saint Thomas. Rev Philos Louvain. 11:58-69.

Markus, R. A. (1961). The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine. Philos Books, 2:8-9.

McCoy, D., Corduan, W. & Stoker, H. (2016). Christian and Buddhist approach to religious exclusivity. Do interfaith scholars have it right? HTS Theol. Stud. 72:1-8.

Simon, J. (2009). Making Ethical Sense of Useless Suffering with Levinas. In: Geddes JL, Roth JK, Simon J, (eds). The Double Binds of Ethics after the Holocaust: Salvaging the Fragments. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US; p. 133-154, doi:10.1057/9780230620940_9.

Spargo, R. C. (2006). Vigilant Memory: Emmanuel Levinas, the Holocaust, and the Unjust Death. JHU Press.

Sri, K. (2014). The Buddhist Concept of Heaven and Hell. Accessed 28 Nov 2020.

Teubner, J. (2015). Contemplation and Classical Christianity: A Study in Augustine by John Peter Kenney, Oxford University Press, 2013 (ISBN 978-0-19-956370-8), xi + 191 pp., Rev. Relig. Theol. 22:159-163.

Utopian Surgery: Early Arguments Against Anesthesia in Surgery, Dentistry, and Childbirth. By David Pearce. Accessed 28 Nov 2020.

Visuddhangkoon, D. (2018). The Battle Within: Developing a Virtuous Self for the Attainment of Communal Peace and Harmony. J. Int. Assoc. Buddh. Univ. JIABU. 10:50-58.

White, R. (2012). Levinas, the Philosophy of Suffering, and the Ethics of Compassion. Heythrop. J. 53:111-123.


Ghose Bishwajit1,2* and Tadhg O’Sullivan3

1Department of Russian Language, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, 1000, Bangladesh.    

2Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada.

3Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland.


*Corresponding author Email: [email protected]

How to Cite this Article

Bishwajit, G. & O’Sullivan, T. (2020). On Human Sorrow and Sufferance: A Theophilosophical Discourse on St Augustine, Aquinas, and Levinas. Journal of Research in Science and Technology, 1(1): 1-7.

Full-Text (PDF)

View / Download

 Back to Articles
 Back to Journals

Abbreviation: J. Res. Sci. Technol.
ISSN: 2971-7728 (Online)
Start Year: 2020
Published Articles:

On Google

On Google Scholar

Ghose Bishwajit

Tadhg O’Sullivan