The Art of Useless Suffering

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 10 (4):95-405 (2007)
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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role that modernism in the arts might have in articulating the uselessness and incomprehensibility of physical and mental suffering. It is argued that the experience of illness is frequently resistant to interpretation, and as such, it will be suggested, to conventional forms of artistic expression and communication. Conventional narratives, and other beautiful or conventionally expressive aesthetic structures, that presuppose the possibility and desirability of an harmonious and meaningful resolution to conflicts and tensions, may fundamentally misrepresent the patients experience. By drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas (on useless suffering) and the aesthetic theories of Nietzsche and T. W. Adorno, it will be argued first that a faith in the possibility of harmonious resolution of suffering is misplaced and does violence to the experience of suffering. Second, it will be argued that the expression of suffering lies not in finding words, images or sounds that communicate the experience of that suffering to others, but rather in the persistent and radical disruption of any illusion of meaning and coherence that might be imposed upon the experience, so that the very possibility of communication is also disrupted.

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Andrew Edgar
Cardiff University

Citations of this work

Flourishing in Health Care.Andrew Edgar & Stephen Pattison - 2016 - Health Care Analysis 24 (2):161-173.
Medical humanities: Introduction to the theme. [REVIEW]William E. Stempsey - 2007 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 10 (4):359-361.

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References found in this work

Totality and infinity: an essay on exteriority.Emmanuel Levinas - 1961 - Hingham, MA: distribution for the U.S. and Canada, Kluwer Boston.
The wounded storyteller: body, illness, and ethics.Arthur W. Frank - 1995 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Dialectic of enlightenment: philosophical fragments.Max Horkheimer - 2002 - Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Edited by Theodor W. Adorno & Gunzelin Schmid Noerr.

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