Wager: Beauty, Suffering, and Being in the World

Raymond Barfield
Wipf and Stock Publishers (Cascade Books)
Published Year: 
Cover image of Raymond Barfield book

Raymond Barfield, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and Christian philosophy at Duke University and a pediatric oncologist, has written a philosophy book on how humans explore beauty, virtue, love, justice, and goodness by paying philosophical attention to their lives.

The book, Wager: Beauty, Suffering, and Being in the World, was published by Wipf and Stock Publishers (Cascade Books) in March. Barfield holds dual faculty positions with both Duke Divinity School and Duke University Medical School. He is also the director for Medical Humanities in the Trent Center for Bioethics, Medical Humanities, and History of Medicine at the university.

In the book, Barfield argues that paying philosophical attention to our lives, shaped in part by our choices, is the instrument for investigating these parts of reality  ̶  beauty, virtue, love, justice, and goodness  ̶  that make up a good life.

He discusses how everyone develops a philosophical style based on the way they live in the world through their bodies, reason, imagination, and virtue. In essence, it is about what people love and how they are loved. Beauty, suffering, and being in the world are placeholders for everything that makes up our lived experience, explains Barfield, adding that as we live our lives between beauty and suffering, we learn most about being in the world.

Through this lens, the book then arrives at a reworking of 16th century French mathematician and Christian theologian Blaise Pascal's wager about living in relationship to the presence or absence of God as a way of understanding the commitments that are human beings only way into the truth of their life.