No computer, or artificial intelligence, either weeps or wonders. Computers do not weep because computers do not hurt. They have no feelings, physical or spiritual. And computers do not wonder, do not question, either.
We alone, we humans, weep and wonder. This book is some wondering about our weeping — wondering why we suffer.
But Aristotle, and nearly all premodern writers, meant that happiness was an objective state first of all, not merely a subjective feeling. The Greek word for happiness, eudaimonia, literally means good spirit, or good soul. To be happy is to be good. By this definition, Job on his dung heap is happy. Socrates unjustly condemned to die is happy. Hitler exulting over the conquest of France is not happy. Happiness is not a warm puppy. Happiness is goodness.
The most popular modern answer to the question of what it means to be a good person is to be kind. Do not make other people suffer. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s O.K. By this standard, God is not good if he lets us suffer. But by ancient standards, God might be good even hough he lets us suffer, if he does it for the sake of the greater end of happiness, perfection of life and character and soul, that is, self.
It could be formulated this way: things have different values, some greater than others. Whenever we reverse this real hierarchy of values and treat a lesser value as though it had a greater value, whenever we sacrifice a first thing for a second thing, we not only lose the first thing but the second thing as well.
Similarly, it never works to treat really second things first and really first things second, any more than it works to walk on your head or grow a tree with its roots in the air.
If we need to suffer to become wise, if we need to sacrifice some pleasure to be virtuous, if too much pleasure would make us fools, if an easy life would make us less virtuous — this were so, then suffering would not contradict a good God. God might use suffering to train us, sacrificing the lesser good for the greater. The principle of first and second things is another way of seeing or saying the thing we have already seen in two or three other ways. The clues converge.
- Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering