Reconciliation and Justifying the World09-02-2021
The locution “Amor Mundi” was Hannah Arendt’s shorthand for the effort and at times the failure—but above all the ambition—to learn to love the world as a gift of fortune in spite of the evil and tragedy that inform that world. In Arendt’s writing, the question of how and whether to love the world goes by the title reconciliation. More traditionally, the effort to love the world as it is goes by the name theodicy, the decision to justify “God’s good government of the world in the face of evil and pain.” Arendt’s approach to reconciliation abandons the theological effort at justification and also the Hegelian and metaphysical assumption that the world as it is is meaningful. For Arendt, reconciliation is a political judgment to love the world in spite of its ultimate meaninglessness; as such, Arendt’s love of the world has its limits. There are times, she argues, when the world is simply not reconcilable, not lovable. In those rare instances, the political act of reconciliation must turn into the political refusal to reconcile, as, for example, in her final judgment of Adolf Eichmann. Against the Arendtian background of Amor Mundi, it is worth thinking about the Norwegian novelist Jon Fosse’s effort to justify the world in his novels. Wyatt Mason writes:
Many novels have attempted to reconcile, through experiences in various faith traditions, the questions that arise out of human suffering in God’s world. The Brothers Karamazov, Lucky Per, The Seven Storey Mountain, Siddhartha, The Guide, The Chosen—I could exhaust what space I have remaining by listing them all. Each, in its way, engages with questions of theodicy. As I came to the term via James Wood, I’ll provide his definition—“the justification of God’s good government of the world in the face of evil and pain.” This is softly at odds with the OED, which prefers “vindication” to “justification.” Septology lives somewhere between justification and vindication, as Asle attempts, through reflection and prayer, a reconciliation with the way things are, with what his life has cost him and lost him.