Dr. Sol Goldberg

Professional Biography

Sol Goldberg is an Associate Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. In 2009 he was awarded a PhD in Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his dissertation, “Heidegger on the Possibility of Philosophical Education.” He also holds an MA in Philosophy and History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a BA Honours in Jewish Studies from McGill University. His primary areas of research are in modern European philosophy, especially where it intersects with modern Jewish thought. He first came to the University of Toronto in 2009 as the Senator Jerahmiel S. and Carole S. Grafstein Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Philosophy, and the following year accepted a two-year position as a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and the Centre for Jewish Studies. In 2012, he joined the Department for the Study of Religion. Besides several courses in continental philosophy, he has also taught courses on environmental philosophy; the Holocaust and contemporary philosophy; romanticism; modernism; and critical theory. Among his current research is a project on theories, concepts, and methods in the study of antisemitism, for which he and his co-investigators Kalman Weiser (York U) and Scott Ury (TAU) received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant.

See more at https://www.religion.utoronto.ca/people/directories/all-faculty/sol-goldberg 

Reflection Questions

How do you personally define ‘suffering’? 

In what ways are you able to find meaning in the suffering in your life? When is it challenging or impossible to do so?

What do you think of the concept of ‘evil’? Does it have a place in your worldview?

How might reflecting on big philosophical questions help you approach problems in your personal life?

How do you make meaning out of life? What does it mean, to you, to be alive?

If you could always be constantly happy, would you choose that? Why or why not?

How comfortable are you facing the unknown or mysterious? How might you become more comfortable?

In what way has your education changed you, for better or worse?

Reflect upon the possible reasons why the word ‘philosophy’ both refers to the study of fundamental questions, and also refers to one’s personal ‘philosophy’ or guiding principles on how to live life well. That is, why is it that understanding the nature of existence is related to human wellbeing? 

Further Resources

Coming soon

Introducing Sol Goldberg

Listen to Dr. Goldberg introduce his work at the University of Toronto.

How to Think about Suffering

Dr. Goldberg discusses suffering from the lens of the philosophy of religion. He distinguishes suffering into two categories: useless and useful. Sometimes, which category an experience falls under depends on the person who is experiencing it. For example, intense exercise is useless suffering for some, but for others it is useful – a type of suffering they willingly endure for a concomitant pleasure. Likewise, if we endure emotional or psychological suffering in life, but change in a positive way because of it, we can recognize this as useful (or worthwhile) suffering. But then, is suffering just a matter of perspective? Can any suffering be found to be useful? What about times when we can’t find meaning in suffering? Dr. Goldberg explores these questions and others.

Distinguishing Suffering and Evil

Dr. Goldberg discusses the meaning of the term ‘evil’ as a possible synonym for suffering. He brings up the classic distinction between ‘natural evil’ and ‘moral evil’ to illustrate his point.

Can Philosophical Reflection Benefit Us?

Dr. Goldberg discusses the possible pros and cons of having a philosophical outlook. On the one hand, if you become entrenched in a specific philosophical lens, this can cause you to struggle when actual events don’t line up with what you believe. On the other hand, philosophizing can help you recognize this discrepancy between beliefs and reality, and can help us engage meaningfully with events that may at first seem meaningless or mysterious.

Would you Want to Always be Happy?

Dr. Goldberg poses a philosophical thought experiment: if you could be hooked up to a machine that simulated a perfectly happy life, would you do it? Most people would not. Perhaps this says something about the potential value of suffering, and how much of the meaning we derive from life is based in suffering. Dr. Goldberg suggests that there is therapeutic benefit in facing philosophical questions head-on, in that they help us face the suffering in our lives instead of falling into patterns of avoidance. 

Education as a Process of Change

Dr. Goldberg starts by explaining Heidegger’s hermeneutical phenomenology – the idea that self-reflection is part of how we use concepts to gain knowledge. Many of Heidegger’s lectures are themselves self-reflective, discussing what it is to be teaching and learning in that environment. Education, Dr. Goldberg continues, can be understood as instigating change in the self. We might then think about how the educational process wields power that can be used towards different ends. 

Reflections on How We Manage Our Relationships with the World

Dr. Goldberg discusses his concerns for the younger generation – are they being taught to move through life effectively, emotionally and psychologically? Are they receiving enough guidance? As educators, our role is somewhat limited to the intellectual realm, but also vital to helping younger people find their way through life. Dr. Goldberg also discusses different modes of relating to life, such as through ‘saintliness,’ which prioritizes moral values over material ones, much unlike our mainstream society. There are so many possible ways to live.