The Social Potential of “Doing, Suffering, and Creating”

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Through a philosophical insight, Psychologist and philosopher William James, (1842-1910) was able to transcend his states of "depression," concluding "life shall be built in doing and suffering and creating." (1)

      If we attempt to interpret this statement to be included within a social context, it might very well prove useful in the struggle to awaken society’s acquired consciousness. At the present, the world is a seemingly endless stream of suffering. Indeed, the oppression, inequality, and violence - including that committed against non-human animals, as well as the environment - is inherent in the capitalist structure which plays an enormous role in this climate of suffering. As pessimistic as this image of society is, critical thinking, I believe, is the key to social enlightenment, and is no doubt the source of all social movements that have sought to end the human suffering and subjugation perpetrated by others.

      The "doing" is in the personal and collective actions we must take everyday to rail against the systems of tyranny. This process will not be achieved overnight, but can be achieved by solidarity, respect for our selves and each other, as well as the will to persevere.

      "Creating" will be accomplished by the metamorphosis of a ruthless, de-humanizing society, into one where the human potential for good is no longer restrained, but is maximized to the highest degree.

      If we believe the suffering that is caused by oppression can be used for a greater purpose, e.g., the deconstruction of a broken, alienated, authoritarian society, and the construction of true community, then this belief will become our reality.


1. James quoted by Richardson Jr. D. Robert, William James: The Maelstrom of American Modernism. NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, First Mariner Edition, 2007. Pg. 122.

Bruce E. Levine, “Depression Treatment: What works and How We Know.” Skeptic: Extraordinary Claims, Revolutionary Ideas & the Promotion of Science Vol. 17, No. 2, 2012: 23-27