The Force to Bear and to Suffer

CFS Lecture by Rudolf Bernet, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Belgium.

Title: "The Force to Bear and to Suffer"


My talk is dedicated to a phenomenological exploration of the vast realm of activities in passivity, of positive, negative, and possibly neutral modes of the force to bear and to suffer an external or internal affection. It begins by considering how material bodies respond to the transforming power of a human poièsis. This leads to a distinction between the passive-active forces belonging to the materials of human production and the natural forces belonging to the cosmic ‘elements’. Consecutively, the passive-active forces that belong to plants and animals are examined. It is, however, only with human beings composed of body and mind that external and internal affections and the forces to bear or not bear them, gain a truly dramatic character. In human existence, an illness of body or mind is met with the power to consciously suffer one’s pain and to desire to regain health. Suffering human beings are also capable of expressing their pain by language and of addressing themselves to other human beings with a demand for a healing treatment. The Conclusion stresses the essential and dynamic bond between health and illness, and how death-drives take possession of a human life that is exclusively devoted to the wish to become ever more healthy.