#TFOS (The Faculty Of Suffering, December 15, 2018):
Is it nonsensical to think that suffering is a part of the ‘human condition’? Are you a passive victim? Can you easily be more or less of yourself? Who suffers? Do we suffer because we are highly (self) conscious creatures? Are you forced to engage with the everyday? Does suffering have a duration, and can we live purely (& independently) in the present? Is violence inevitable in all lives? Can one voluntarily incur suffering? Does being a victim have any moral consequences? Can sacrifice be practised narcissistically? Is sacrifice a way of taking violence, and turning it inwards? Does everyone have something to sacrifice? Do those who do not suffer lead shallow lives? Do human beings differ in the amounts they suffer? Do you decide generically? Can the underprivileged be moral heroes, & when? Why does fasting-unto-death sometimes work? Are language and suffering very closely connected? How can one suffer better? Is vulnerability (or the performance of it) potentially a political force? Is a moral life fearless? Why do people with no hope of survival fight and die for everyone else? &, must one learn to die ‘appropriately’? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from history (Prof. Faisal Devji, University of Oxford, Oxford), sociology (Prof. Pushpesh Kumar, University of Hyderabad (UoH), Hyderabad), & philosophy (Dr. David Weberman, Central European University (CEU), Budapest).
SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TFOS show.
Prof. Faisal Devji (history) is Professor of Indian History and Fellow of St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford (UK), where he is also the Director of the Asian Studies Centre. His research interests are in global intellectual history, and Indian political thought as well as that of Modern Islam. His broader concerns are ethics and violence in a globalized world. Prof. Devji completed his B.A. in History & Anthropology from University of British Columbia (1986), and then went to University of Chicago to complete an M.A. and Ph.D. in Intellectual History. He has held academic positions at multiple institutes such as the University of Chicago (USA, 1996-1997), Institute of Ismaili Studies (UK, 1997-2003), Yale University (2003-2005), the New School for Social Research in New York (USA, 2005-2009), Institute of Human Sciences (Vienna, 2009), and the Koc University (Istanbul, 2018). He is also the author of four books: ‘Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity’ (2005), ‘The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics’ (2009), ‘The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence’ (2012) and ‘Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea’ (2013). His research has been published in multiple journals such as: Political Theology, Seminar, South Asian History and Culture, Critical Muslim, and International Journal of Middle East Studies. He is Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2017), Senior Fellow, the School of Criticism and Theory (Cornell University,2018-2023), & Institute for Public Knowledge Scholar (NYU, 2009). He was earlier a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows (1993-1996).
Prof. Pushpesh Kumar (sociology) is currently Professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad (UoH), Hyderabad. His research interests are gender and sexuality, shifts in marriage, family and kinship, globalization and social/cultural changes, theory and pedagogy, body and culture, & ethnography. He completed his M.A. (1994) & M.Phil. (1997) in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, Delhi), and then completed his Ph.D. (2007) from the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG, Delhi University), and Jamia Millia Islamia (Delhi). His Ph.D. thesis was titled: ‘Kinship and Gender: A study of the Kolams of Maharashtra’. His research has been published in multiple journals such as: Explorations Ejournal of The Indian Sociological Society, Qualitative Health Research, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, & Journal of Social Sciences. He has co-edited a book titled ‘Gender and Human Rights: Narratives on Macro-Micro Realities’, and is currently working on another title with Routledge (Sexuality, Abjection and Queer Existence in Contemporary India). Prof. Kumar has presented seminars, & invited lectures at multiple institutes including Hofstra University (USA, 2017), Department of Sociology, Pune University (2012), London School of Economics and Political Science (UK, 2009), & Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study and Conference Center (Italy, 2008). He is a life member of Indian Sociological Society, and is also a member of the American Sociological Association. Prof. Kumar received the M.N. Srinivas Memorial Prize for Young Sociologist (2007) from Indian Sociological Society, Delhi.
Dr. David Weberman (philosophy) is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary. His research interests are 19th and 20th century European philosophy, philosophy of history and aesthetics, the history of philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy. His essays have dealt with figures such as Heidegger, Gadamer, Sartre, Foucault and McDowell, and on topics such as ideology, history, phenomenology, epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, racial identity and post-modernism. Currently, his main project concerns hermeneutics, wherein he argues for an interpretive pluralism based on the idea that the object of interpretation is plastic or non-fixed. He completed his B.A. in French and Philosophy from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (USA), an M.A. (1982) in Philosophy from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat (Munich, Germany), and then went to Columbia University (USA) where he received an M.Phil. (1987), and a Ph.D. (1990) in Philosophy. Dr. Weberman has taught at Columbia University, New York University (NYU), Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Georgia State University before moving to Budapest. He has also held fellowships at Harvard Law School (USA, 1998-1999), & the Mellon Foundation Humanities Fellowship at the Illinois Institute of Technology (1989-1990). He has published books on the philosophy of history (‘Historische Objektivität’, 1991), and on space and politics (co-edited & titled ‘Space and Pluralism: Can Our Cities Be Places of Tolerance?’, 2016). He is a member of the American Philosophical Association.
Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.
#TFOS mentions: Socrates, Søren Kierkegaard, Marquis de Sade, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Martin Heidegger, Mahatma Gandhi, Allama Iqbal, Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, Jean Paul Sartre, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Judith Butler, & Ashis Nandy, among others.