Stanley Hauerwas: Naming the Silences. God, Mediciene, and the Problem of Suffering.

Note: Also published as God, Mediciene, and the Problem of Suffering.

This book contains in essence Hauerwas very particular argument about medicine and medical ethics. It is a powerful book, it uses child leukemia at a time when it was largely an incurable disease as the most prominent example. Its nowadays quite widely accepted argument is that there is no theodicy, in the sense that suffering cannot and should not be explained. However, Hauerwas also, more controversially, argues that modern medicine in its quest to cure neglects to care, which for example leads to children having to ”die horribly alone”.

Hauerwas discussion on medicine is interesting because in a sense it is a completely separate position from his ”main” interests: ethics, the church, non-violence etc. which are all closely connected. In this book, for exampel the church features in a role that would fit well in any ”non-Hauerwasian” book on ethics – i occasinally features in the background, mostly as a silent tradition, no community and so on. Though one could argue that his concern for the mentally disabled sort of bridges these two interests.

It is a tough book to read, especially if you like me has a child with cancer, because I simply cannot relate its argument to my world, where it is obvious that we expect medicine to cure my boy. Some of its arguments are very powerful: Hauerwas for example points out that we today can cure a lot of children with cancer, but that this is not because of some major scientific breakthrough but because medicine has been allowed to essentially experiment on dying children. Our hope that Joel will be well is founded on the often unnecessary suffering of children 10 to 40 years ago. What can you say to that? I am still thankful that there are drugs that work for Joel.

The three chapters in this book are clearly separate texts but they have been edited together well enough for this to qualify as ”a proper” book, and clearly an important one.


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