• "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Apologies for the lateness in reply, I have educational commitments I have to attend to.

    Pessimists focused traditionally on quieting the Will, the unrest that is the metaphysical kernel at the heart of existence. What you discuss is what I call "contingent harms"- they are circumstantial harms that humans face based on their biological/psychological/social/cultural/environmental circumstances. Traditionally, pessimists are concerned with the kernel. To admonish them for not focusing on contingent harms, is a bit misleading as Pessimists rarely focused on contingent harms- it is what makes a Pessimist a Pessimist. It is like admonishing a cat for not being a dog.schopenhauer1

    I will grant that the metaphysical "kernel" as you mention is at the heart of pessimism, but I'll also argue that it's not just the "Will" (as that's Schopenhauer's thing), and neither is it exclusively these kernels.

    In fact I would argue that contingent harms are necessarily part of human existence. To exist means to be harmed in some random and unpredictable manner. Schopenhauer himself used many examples of contingent harms - think back to his analysis of the pain of the prey and the pleasure of a predator. This isn't the "kernel" he speaks of, but it's nevertheless an example of a contingent harm that characterizes an unfairly and unequally-distributed experience machine we call life.

    Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmannschopenhauer1

    Great stuff by von Hartmann, I had forgotten his name and couldn't seem to find him. Bit of an obscure philosopher, unfortunately, who nevertheless mirrors a lot of my own thinking.

    If everyone simply went off to help in whatever situation they can, that would leave little time to develop things and improve them in terms of technology, ideas, social change, etc.. There are so many ways that people create utility unintentionally. Who are you to decide which actions lead to the greatest good? The sports-watching couch potato could think of something on his spare time that immensely increases the utility of people and animals around the world, that he would never have done simply by directly providing aid/volunteer opportunities. In fact, if this guy volunteered, he would have not thought of that novel innovation that increased utility way more than direct aid. Further, the factors that lead to outcomes for greatest utility are so numerous, there is no reliable probability one can calculate to account for everything in terms of which action leads to greatest utility. Instead, direct aid would simply be following one's own notions of what's good, not bringing about the actual greatest good. This then would mean that one would simply follow one's own inclinations, neuroses, and etc. and not what is logically the best thing to do to increase utility at that particular time.schopenhauer1

    Well, again I mentioned earlier how it's not that we all have to get up and slave away doing things. There's charities that we can donate to and local events that we can participate in to help out the community and society at large.

    You mention how many good things can come unintentionally. Yet I would argue that you're missing the far greater goods that come with intentional focus! For every lazy sports-watching couch potato that comes up with a marvelous new idea, how many other lazy sports-watching couch potatoes don't, and live their whole lives with their asses glued to their seats?

    The fact is that, just as you said, we don't know how to perfectly maximize utility. We don't know whether or not excessive luxury or leisure will result in these marvelous new inventions that will save countless lives. So the best thing we can do, given our epistemic stance, is to do what we do know will help. Not sit around waiting for inspiration to pop into the minds of your everyday hill-billy in Alabama.

    Even the starving Ethiopian, if he/she was ethical himself would hope that you would also pursue a life with some happiness that goes beyond helping him/her.. even if he/she appreciates the immediate aid you gave him right there and then.. The hypothetical starving Ethiopian hopefully has ends THEY would like to pursue.. just like you or I.. Pessimists are under no more obligation to have a tormenting life of than others merely because they see life as unrest.schopenhauer1

    True, I accept that the Ethiopian would be ethically obligated to want you to also be happy, even if she's starving. This goes back to Cabrera's analysis of pain, specifically torture and extreme suffering. He draws from Hannah Arendt and talks about how pain is isolating and controlling. Cabrera describes it as one of the ways a person becomes ethically disqualified.

    For example, we cannot honestly expect a spy to keep his secrets if he's being horribly tortured by the enemy. Even if what this man does (spill the beans) is immoral and leads to countless deaths, we can't honestly blame him for his blunder. It's too extreme to act ethically under these circumstances.

    Now, again before anyone else jumps on my tail on this, I personally believe we do have ethical obligations towards those who are suffering greatly (what Maw called "gratuitous suffering") within a certain threshold and some other minor qualifications. But you can disagree with this without changing anything about the OP, as the OP sets out to describe the differences between active and passive pessimism. The latter being more contemplative, removed, aesthetically-oriented and redemptive, the former being more pragmatic, radical, forceful and openly-disgusted with the world at large. For the active pessimist, then, there's really no place for any talk of "aesthetics" as a top priority or grand schema. There's really no place for "TRUTH" unless it's instrumental to our own ends. There's really no place for comfort, security, or loftiness unless it's in the service of some greater goal.

    If I had to try to summarize it, then, it would be that the passive pessimist, when confronted with the reality of existence, tends to retreat from the world, while the active pessimist tends to swallow the bitterness and remain a player on the field.

    So then, from a more personal view, as I tried to explain earlier, I don't see how these great fantastic amazing things like "TRUTH" or "A E S T H E T I C S" or "Transcendence" or any of that crap legitimately "fits" in the worldview of a pessimist. It's the same thing when a tragedy happens and someone says "look on the bright side!" and you just want to slap them silly for saying such a stupid thing. There is no beauty in this world, at least no beauty that doesn't come with a heavy price - and what sort of beauty is that? It's this kind of "clinginess" of passive pessimism that makes it what it is, like it accepts pessimism but doesn't "go all the way". One can wonder if someone like Schopenhauer would have pushed that big red button to end the world immediately and painlessly, or if he would have rather not done this for some abstract idealistic ethics or because he wanted to pursue his metaphysics more or whatever. I get the feeling, when reading his work (and others'), that they actually enjoy complaining about the world, in general at least, and it seems out of place and disingenuous. At least to me.

    Assuming there aren't any objections, then, I would argue that unless someone is willing to embrace hypotheses like world destruction or biological sterilization or what have you, they really have no business talking about the suffering that inevitably calls for such action. It's like saying there's a fire down the street but being opposed to calling 9-11: like, then why did you even bring it up? Nobody really seemed to have gone far enough, from my ethical perspective, and it's disheartening. Nobody seemed to have the stomach to seriously consider how their pessimism might be implemented. The state of the world doesn't call for calligraphy or fine cuisine. It's out-of-place, like wearing a wedding dress in a war zone. It just doesn't fit, simple as that.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    Considering most animals are incapable of committing suicide, and considering evolution (usually) has no strict cut-offs, I don't think it's controversial to think we aren't the only organisms on Earth who are conscious of "death" and fear it.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Thanks for the response Maw. I missed your post before.

    Though I don't agree with much of your characterization or the usage of non-neutral terms such as "comfortable" or "convenient", what you are discussing reminds me of Joshua Foa Dienstag's thesis in his excellent work, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit which delineates the common themes and minor divergences between prominent Pessimists from Rousseau to Unamuno.Maw

    Is that book any good? I heard you're re-reading it. I was thinking of picking it up.

    I'm actually surprised that you would group Leopardi with the latter considering that Leopardi writes positively about taking action despite the unhappiness often generated by it. He uses the figure of Christopher Columbus as an exemplar of one who took action despite the risks it involved.Maw

    I mentioned Leopardi because I'm currently reading The Philosophy of Disenchantment by Edgar Saltus, and Saltus spends almost an entire chapter talking about Leopardi's life and how he, at least for a while, intentionally isolated himself from everyone else, and thought the only duty one had was to oneself: "be true to oneself".

    An Active Pessimist may attempt to mitigate or eradicate gratuitous forms of human suffering, but would need to acknowledge that such attempts can fail, or that such problems can always return during or after the lifetime of the Pessimist.Maw

    Right, exactly. Some people seem to be missing this point. It's not about making the world a utopia, but making it comparatively better than it is right now. We have made progress. It's not perfect and it never will be, but progress has still happened. It's ridiculous, I think, to say we haven't progressed at all. Of course we have.

    No amount of passive lamenting is going to stop the machine of blind ambition from spreading to places where it ought not go. The active pessimist, then, is one who does not approve of this continuation, but nevertheless follows along to offer advice and clean up the mess made by these fools.

    Also I will point out that it's not just about anthropocentric suffering, but sentio-centric suffering.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Your basic complaint is still, "these figures didn't quite live up to their own ideals or the ones I propose to the degree that I would like."Thorongil

    No, again, you're misconstruing the argument. They don't live up to my ideals, true. But I have specifically stated that the actual argument here is that they don't live up the ideals of an active pessimist. They did not advocate what I have articulated to be active pessimism.

    The fact you seem to be getting all pissed off about this says more about yourself than anything I've said.

    “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

    >:O Are you for real right now?

    Since character, so far as we understand its nature, is above and beyond time, it cannot undergo any change under the influence of life

    I disagree. Why can't it change? After all it was Schopenhauer who said it takes time to get used to isolation and asceticism. Character can change, for the better.

    I observe in myself that at one moment I regard all mankind with heartfelt pity, at another with the greatest indifference, on occasion with hatred, nay, with a positive enjoyment of their pain. (Schopenhauer, "On Character")

    It's a shame pity and good intentions won't help anyone unless it motivates action. Simply recognizing suffering, as I've already said, is the hallmark of passive pessimism. The active pessimist goes further and fights back.
  • The Shoutbox
    Have sunglasses always been a means of attributing credibility?
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Okay? Tell me more.Heister Eggcart

    I'm saying "justice" is no longer about finding who is responsible for whatever action but rather a means of preventing this occurrence from happening again. Is it not fair to say that as the stakes become higher, the more value we place on justice?

    Most people, it seems, see justice as a way of "setting things straight", and "getting back" at whoever "intentionally" perpetrated the event. Vengeance masked by ritual.

    I come from a different perspective: justice is a means of "showing an example". Those who disobey civil order will be dealt with. Cause and effect. It is based on an element of fear and intimidation, just as practically any social relation is, or any legitimate learning process for that matter.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Schopenhauer's main ethical principles are: "Harm no one; rather, help everyone as much as you can." That's not far enough or amenable to your position?Thorongil

    That's a good representation of what I would say active pessimism is about. I just don't see how Schopenhauer embodied this principle, nor do I see this principle in effect in his writings. Why didn't you bring this up earlier?

    But those who do have access to aesthetic enjoyment, contemplation, and the gift of intelligence aren't bad for making use of these things.Thorongil

    The problem, unfortunately, is when those who have the opportunity to enjoy these things mistake their own existential luck as desert and pursue these things exclusively, or at least are focused on these things as a high priority.

    And who's to say they did not do precisely this? You? Why should we believe you? Your only argument to this effect has involved the ludicrous complaint about the quality of their pillows, something I doubt you have much expertise in. Unless you have the bank account records of these men and have deduced from them the precise amount of money they could have given to the equivalent of whatever infallible charity you give to, then you will have confirmed the feeling of hot air emanating from your posts.Thorongil

    Come now, I've offered more than just the plush pillow and poodle example. I've shown how Leopardi intentionally isolated himself and was a thorough-going egoist - "be true to oneself" was his motto; he missed an epithet, though: "by neglecting everyone else". And I've shown how Cioran was curiously drawn towards suffering and intentionally submerged himself in its depths, and analyzed suffering as an abstract notion pervading time and space. I've shown how Nietzsche's amor fati is flawed and insulting to those who are suffering. Please don't ignore these examples anymore.

    This is so vague a charge as to be meaningless. I feel that any amount of specificity would bring about its death.Thorongil

    No, I'm getting this from several sources, including a biographical account of Schopenhauer in The Philosophy of Disenchantment by Edgar Saltus, who is extraordinarily praising of Schopenhauer in general.

    I actually don't recall you saying this at all, anywhere in this thread at least.Thorongil

    Come now, open your eyes man. I've said it multiple times now, even to yourself. I prioritize non-human animals.

    You again assume he had a free choice in the matter!Thorongil

    Determinism? Is this what this is all about?

    No, it's not. There are ascetics who literally starve themselves to death, such as the Jains with their practice of sallekhana. They clearly prefer that to ennui and might even say that they suffer less thereby (since it's their ticket to leaving samsara, the world of suffering, behind).Thorongil

    Clearly if someone willingly undergoes torment and turmoil, they aren't really "suffering". They're experiencing pain and discomfort but they aren't suffering because they have freely chosen to experience these things. In short, they prefer to feel these things, they are more satisfied by doing so.

    The ascetics don't starve themselves to escape ennui, they starve themselves in pursuit of a metaphysical end-goal.

    Consider also that some philosophers, like Galen Strawson, object even to our being responsible for anything at all! Thus, your position is very far from being as obvious as you claim.Thorongil

    And once again I have to tell you that active pessimism does not require moral responsibility, but merely altruism.

    Maybe because they can't help it, owing to their characters!Thorongil

    Maybe it's just my "character" to point out hypocrisy.

    Once again, I find myself repeating the same unanswered questions and objections. This will likely be my last post to you here.Thorongil

    Same, but mostly because you seem hell-bent on misunderstanding the main thesis of the OP and instead try to bring it all back to me apparently hating on Schopenhauer or something.

    No we don't. You sound for all the world like an optimist here!Thorongil

    You cut yourself on a piece of wood. You don't just give up, you find a goddamn bandage to stop the bleeding. That's the point of intelligence, of rationality: problem-solving.

    Once again, it's not about fixing the metaphysical problem. It's about making hell a little less hellish.

    Hold the phone! Darth is appealing to his character to explain why he might not do something?!Thorongil

    I'm saying it's one of those things I doubt anyone could seriously condemn me or anyone else for not doing anything about. Just how you can't seriously condemn someone for not failing to kill themselves for the benefit of everyone else. It's too extreme.

    And the argument in the OP is that these sorts of things are not the things an active pessimist would be expected to accomplish. You might as well ask them to teleport or shoot lasers out of their eyes. It's not reasonable. But the things that separate an active pessimist from a passive pessimist are reasonable. The passive pessimist just doesn't see them as important enough to pursue.

    Victoire si douce!Thorongil

    Umm, okay? It's not as if you "won" anything, as I never said there was inherently something wrong with being a passive pessimist. You just played yourself...

    Again, I have presented the descriptive qualities that separate active from passive pessimism. Whether you see this as a "threat" to your way of life is a you-problem.

    But I've already told that I have no means or power to help them.Thorongil

    But, you do...

    I'm not a sociopath thank you very much.Thorongil

    Nor do I think you a sociopath...? What the hell?

    Intentions are important because my walking toward you with a knife means something completely different depending on if I intend to murder you or intend to chop up some onions for dinner.Thorongil

    Yes, as a means of predicting what you're going to do with the knife. As you said you're not a sociopath so I doubt you'd have the intention to stab or slice me.

    Most laws are based on moral principles, so this is a false distinction.Thorongil

    Most laws are based on common-sense moral principles, sure. There's a reason legal issues are tangled up with moral issues, as common-sense morality, the one that drips with ad hoc intentionality, is inadequate in many cases.

    No he didn't. In fact he objected to the term.Thorongil


    From what? It's not completely different from Schopenhauer's.Thorongil

    But there are differences.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Trying and failing, yeah.Heister Eggcart

    Okay, then...:-}

    Consider yourself falsely accused of murdering someone, when in reality you merely acted in self-defense. Regardless of this fact, however, you have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. If you wanted to contest such a verdict, how ought you go about doing so? Ah, yes, through an appeal to good intention. Otherwise, you must accept the wrong done unto you simply on the grounds of "what's left over" - i.e., you killed someone, they're dead, and because you done did it, you're guilty, whether you intended to kill the intruder in your home, say, or not.Heister Eggcart

    Right, so there's a difference between legal code and moral code - justice and values. Some might argue that justice is a value, but for a consequentialist, justice is merely an instrumental value of a rather ritualistic and vindictive nature.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Dear God in Heaven, is this a philosophy forum or a cook-book message board?Heister Eggcart

    If it wasn't apparent, I was trying to show how intentions have little importance. One can always characterize any situation to suit one's needs by invoking intentions here and there. That's the lesson of consequentialism - the only thing that matters at the end is what's left over.
  • All Talk No Action
    I don't think it's too controversial to say that most people, if not all people, live most of their lives "in the future". They contemplate what reality could be like, what their lives could consist of. This is one of the great contributions from phenomenology, it seems: possibility is always "better" than actuality - existence itself seems to be some sort of imperfection. So long as the dream is maintained, the actual world is forgotten. An escape from reality that provides a person meaning even if the dream never actually comes to be, a dream in which they imagine a perfect avatar of themselves.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    Perhaps you will say that if they had given more to charity then things would have been comparatively better still, but this assumes you have some criterion for determining the adequate amount of charitable giving a person is obligated to meet, and that one is indeed obligated to meet it, which you have not yet divulged.Thorongil

    So, yes, we of course have to take into account input as well as output. However like I said I am focused more on passive pessimism as an ideal. For Schopenhauer et al, it's about minimizing harm that you yourself experience, even if it's just small bouts of anxiety or what have you, since that's a symptom of the overarching metaphysical "problem" so to speak. It's why Schopenhauer advocated contemplating the aesthetic as a means of calming the Will, or "escaping" the Will's grasp.

    The fact that they didn't seem to really advocate anything more is the main point here. Their actions themselves of course are also evidence but the fact that they offered no real plan of action is what separates them from active pessimists. Not everyone has access to the aesthetic. Not everyone has the opportunity to contemplate the universe as a leisure. Not everyone even has the intelligence to think about their condition (non-human animals for example).

    Their emphasis on the "big problem" is what made them overlook the smaller problems.

    The criterion imo would be to at least emphasize charitable and altruistic actions for the benefit of others, so long as you yourself don't drop below whatever you would see to be the line between "manageable" and "okay I'm suffering big time now".

    Schopenhauer got a lot of inspiration from Buddhism and other Indian religions that emphasized non-self, yet curiously seemed to be overly-concerned about his own well-being and status in mainland Germany and Europe as a whole.

    Thus, it could be that Schopenhauer et al suffer more profoundly than the Ethiopian villager, in which case your priorities ought to be reversed.Thorongil To attribute the angst and ennui Schopenhauer apparently felt as "suffering" is to bastardize suffering and insult those who actually are suffering. Like it just boggles my mind how someone can actually think this, that a first-world countryman somehow inherently suffers more than a third-world "country"man. Maybe Schopenhauer should have just left Europe and hung around the slums in Zimbabwe or something if he really thought he was suffering more than anyone else. That sounds more like a him-problem than anything else.

    Schopenhauer can say all he wants about how increasing knowledge increases suffering, yet if he actually was suffering because of it he wouldn't have pursued knowledge. Thus his decadent and indecent equivocation is apparent. And if he thought this way then he probably shouldn't have taught or done anything related to philosophy as a whole. That's just bourgeois entitlement - decadence.

    What is more, if you bring the Ethiopian out of his physical misery, then you have merely served as the enabler of his entering new forms thereof, that is, forms common to the materially satisfied and affluent, such as depression, substance abuse, risk of suicide, and other psychological disorders and conditions. In the absence of physical suffering, one creates fresh desires to strive after, whose unfulfillment causes yet more suffering. Paradoxically, then, the materially disadvantaged Ethiopian villager may actually be happier and more content than the materially prosperous American.Thorongil

    Again, I don't know how I'm supposed to argue against something like this, or how anyone for that matter can actually take this seriously. It's just obvious that extreme starvation is worse than ennui. One is manageable - you can still produce philosophical works if you experience it. The other one is cripplingly overwhelming.

    So maybe Schopenhauer was more focused on the increase of melancholy in those who are more intelligent or knowledgeable, a so-called "burden" of the academic. This might be true but I think it's blatant equivocation to see this as legitimate "suffering" and not just a general disenchantment with the world. This is exactly why someone like myself sees Schopenhauer and co. as almost solipsistic in their philosophy. They "recognize" that other people exist but don't seem to really act like it, as they seem to be caught up in their own world of metaphysical theorizing. Suffering is analyzed in an abstract manner and detached from anyone actually experiencing the condition.

    The threshold I typically like to use is the one that establishes a point in which someone can "take care of themselves". Schopenhauer obviously wasn't doing all that bad considering his biography and works, so he wouldn't be that important in the prioritarian/sufficientarian sense (consider how absurd it would be for someone like me to knock on his door and tell him I'm here to give him a massage or something because he's suffering extraordinarily). The Ethiopian obviously isn't, so they are who we would be focused on (consider how welcoming the Ethiopian would be to even the smallest of aid).

    Also, those who are extremely disadvantaged and are brought up to a higher level of living typically have a lot more appreciation for their new living conditions. They may still be in an all-things-considered "shitty" existence but they don't seem to recognize this as such.

    But again, like I said, I have very little hope for humanity as a whole. Human-oriented charities are inevitably fucked by the corrupt governments of the countries they're trying to help. This is why I said I'm focused more on non-human animals, the sentients that don't have representatives, who can't contemplate the aesthetic, and who probably actually suffer more than higher-intelligence sentients. That's one point Schopenhauer was 100% wrong about. Higher-intelligence does not necessitate higher suffering. Lesser-intelligence oftentimes constitutes a higher likelihood to suffer, as one doesn't have the capability to grasp and understand the cause of the condition but rather simply has to endure. They have two options: endure or escape. Humans have a third: fix the problem, or even a fourth: dissociation/distraction thanks to our "will" or what have you.

    Thirdly, if you wish to end or alleviate suffering and agree that procreation is the principal cause thereof, then you ought to be focusing all of your efforts on encouraging people not to have children. By not doing this, and instead providing charitable assistance, you're acting in conflict with said goal. In other words, to use a word you accused Schopenhauer of earlier, you are in fact an accomplice to suffering by refusing to address the source. If the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by the consequences of it, and the desired consequence in this case is an end to suffering, then it is wrong to give to charity, since it frees people to have children, which is the cause of suffering.Thorongil

    Not necessarily. I mean, I could go up to my university's speaking ground everyday and advocate antinatalism. I could blow up a sperm bank or put sterilization chemicals in the water. I could.

    But this probably wouldn't be as effective as you might envision it to be. Nor do I think I have the guts to do something like this. Furthermore, this could actually be counter-productive; if everyone's sterilized, then suddenly research into test-tube babies will skyrocket exponentionally as everyone freaks out about the prospect of extinction.

    Trying to advocate AN to even my closest acquaintances is like talking to a brick wall. It just doesn't compute. Whether this means I have to resort to violence, I'm not sure. It's one of those things I'd rather not do. Thinking about this makes me feel like a supervillain. But there's always that veil of ignorance - I don't know how effective things like this will be. It might be really effective, or it might backfire. Who knows. It's easier and more effective, I think, to focus on educating the public and increasing the welfare of those already alive. I may not approve of birth but I also harbor disapproval of extinction. There's all sorts of goofy and uncomfortable clashes in intuition. I accept this.

    Simply put, I am suited to the vita contemplativa, rather than the vita activa, and civilization needs both.Thorongil

    Civilization only needs the vita contemplativa, or whatever you called it, as long as they make their ideas known and try to put them into practice. Otherwise you're just as you said: a hermit, irrelevant to the rest of the world as much as the rest of the world is irrelevant to yourself.

    If that's the case, fine. Okay. But this doesn't change the fact that you are not an active pessimist. Again, if you don't find anything wrong with this, fine. If passive pessimism suits you and fulfills whatever ethical criteria you see as important, fine.

    Burn-out is real. You can't pursue a high-paying job that you hate. I recognize this. EA is all about doing the most you can do, which is also why we typically don't like comparing how much we all do. But the focus of active pessimism is involvement in the world at large and being a productive asset to the overall increase in welfare of sentients.

    I've always loved this quote from Julio Cabrera:

    "The negative human being has a greater familiarity with the terminality of Being; he neither conceals it nor embellishes it, he thinks about it very frequently or almost always, and has full conscience about what is pre-reflexive for the majority, that is, all we do is terminal and can be destroyed at any moment.

    Negative life, in this sense, is melancholic and distanced (but never distracted or relaxed), not much worse than most lives and much better than them in many ways, a life with neither hope nor much intense feelings, neither of deception nor even enthusiasm. And, above all, without the irritating daily pretending that “everything is fine” and that “we are great”, while we sweep our miseries under the carpet. Therefore, it is usually a life without great “crisis” or great “depressions” (by the way, depression is the fatal fate of any affirmative life); negative lives are anguished lives, poetic and anxious, and almost always very active lives.

    In the Critique, I have already written that a negative life shall emerge, basically, on four ideas: (a) Full conscience about the structural disvalue of human life, assuming all the consequences of it; (b) Structural refuse to procreation (a negative philosopher with children is even more absurd than an affirmative one without them); (c) Structural refuse to heterocide (not killing anybody in spite of the frequent temptation to violence); (d) Permanent and relaxed disposition for suicide as a possibility."

    The only part I really disagree with is his views on heterocide, as I see murder as an open possibility in extreme cases.

    An ethic isn't more true to the degree that it is demanding.Thorongil

    Right, but I see these sorts of ethical limitations as ultimately baseless.

    No, if by "not my problem" you mean "not responsible," then it's simply correct. If you honestly think that I am responsible for people starving in Ethiopia, then your definition of responsibility is in error, since it would say of me that I caused or intended to cause their suffering, which I clearly did not. Nor, as I said, do I have the means or the power to end it, unlike the drowning child example.Thorongil

    You didn't intend that they starve, but you did intend to ignore their plight. There is no "no action" here. Every single thing we do is an action. Allowing something to happen is still an act. You intended to allow something to happen so long as you are knowledgeable of it and did nothing to interfere. And if you're not knowledgeable of it, you're at least knowledgeable of the general existence of things like it.

    Again, I ask why intentions have any importance here. They might be important in the legal sense, sure. But in the moral sense, what is so important about them?
  • The Shoutbox
    Recently read this essay by Sarah Perry, entitled Ritual Epistemology:

    "Objectively, our modern justice system may be no better at arriving at truth and justice than the Grand Amphibian system. But that is not its true purpose. The point is to resolve disputes in a manner that is generally recognized as final, such that its decisions have the reasonable support and respect of the community. A purely rational system that dispenses with ceremony in favor of accuracy would likely not serve this purpose at all. “Bring on the handcuffs,” perhaps – and the black robes, imposing architecture, and arcane rules.

    This is the post-rationalist critique: that irrational-seeming systems often serve the interests of people better than purely rational systems that attempt to dispense with ceremony."

    Worth reading, imo.
  • Philosophy of Drugs and Drug use
    I've never done drugs before, unless you count caffeine and the rare consumption of alcohol at get-togethers or what have you. Never really have the opportunity to, though I'm not opposed to trying some weed to see what all the fuss is about.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    In other words, they weren't what you wish them to be, and you're upset about that fact.Thorongil

    Nope, this is just you projecting. I'm disappointed that they weren't active pessimists but it's not like I expected anything more. I'm condemning passive pessimism as an ideal more than I am condemning those who practice it. You're taking this waaay too personally. Boo-hoo, so I pointed out how your idol Schopenhauer wasn't as productive as he could be. Oh well.

    You can't change the past and you can't change other people, so stop acting like a petulant child.Thorongil


    But I don't make it a habit of going out of my way to create essay length threads condemning them.Thorongil

    Nice straw man.

    Productive in what way? Tell us all how great and wonderful darthbarracuda is in comparison with those icky "decadent" pessimists like Schopenhauer and Leopardi.Thorongil

    Part of Effective Altruism is that EA-ers don't typically go around bragging how much they do. Safe to say I donate to specific organizations and contribute time and energy to local projects. I also am pursuing a degree that not only interests me but will make me a relatively large amount of money, which I plan on donating most of.

    So no, I'm not on the front lines, but as I've already said, for every soldier on the front, there's ten behind. EA may be liberally optimistic but they do more good than the alternatives.

    "In the grand scheme of things...."Thorongil

    And as I have said several times now, the grand scheme of things isn't important because it's not feasible to work with. But every life is a world-in-itself. Every instance of suffering is important, perhaps even more-so if we take the block theory of time seriously.

    The total amount of suffering is not lessened one single iota due to Schopenhauer giving to charity. Not one. Suffering and misery in fact increased exponentially after his death, as the human population exploded and we embarked on one of the most barbaric and violent centuries yet seen in the history of this sad, pathetic vale of tears.Thorongil

    So maybe let's team up and do what Schopenhauer couldn't/didn't?

    Consequently, I do no wrong in withholding charity from starving Ethiopians, for I am not the cause of, and so am not responsible for, their plight. Now, lest you misconstrue what I am saying, charitable giving is good, undoubtedly, but not giving to charity is not bad.Thorongil

    Of course you can argue that doing good is entirely supererogatory. This is a popular move. But it still misinterprets the OP, as I already have said how an active pessimist could still see this as supererogatory and yet be a part of it. For example, bodhisattvas.

    But consider a drowning child. Do you do anything wrong by not helping the child escape the water? I think you'll probably agree that it's not simply an instance of altruistic good but an instance of moral expectation. To ignore the child is to be neglectful, possibly even criminally.

    Or what if you saw a man kidnap a young child, and saw the license plate number on the vehicle? Surely you would think you have an obligation to call the police, no?

    And what about those suffering by natural disasters? Who is to blame for this? Surely not the tsunami, but perhaps those who stood idly by and watched as people died. People who didn't have to die.

    I have to ask you, what reason do we have to accept this distinction between doing and allowing? Why is it important? What motivation do we have to see morality this way? I suspect many attempts to limit morality in this way are at least partly due to a dislike of how demanding a morality without it would be - yet I've already shown how this is nothing more than an affirmation of the status quo and how the over-demandingness stems from a non-ideal and unequal distribution of responsibility. Not everyone are consequentialists, so those who are are given a taller order than they should.

    So it's easy to just say "not my problem" when the issue is thousands of miles away and whose causes are difficult to attribute. In a world as complex as ours, there hardly ever is one single determinate cause for a problem, and no amount of pointing fingers is going to sort things out. That's why the active pessimist is going to say "to hell with it" and start fixing things themselves, even if they don't have to. Such a move could thus be seen as that of virtue. Or altruism, as I had already said in the OP and several times already in this thread.

    Schopenhauer, being a pessimist, should of all people been the one to realize that the world is non-ideal and unfair - yet for some reason found room to push in these idealistic, absolutist moral codes that drip with appeals to intention. Once again we have an example of a security-bubble; the world is crazy and malignant, but there's a special code that recognizes intentions when the rest of the world quite obviously does not. A world that harms indiscriminately is not a world which has this sort of morality. To the consequentialist, there is no difference between doing and allowing. To the non-consequentialist, there also shouldn't be a difference between doing and allowing in extreme and non-ideal circumstances. To deny this screams, to me, the just world fallacy.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    You must like being coy, because you have continually refused to give me concrete examples of what they did wrong, what they ought to have done, and why.Thorongil

    On the contrary, you seem to just enjoy being an argumentative ass. I've given you plenty of examples already. And I've already conceded that Schopenhauer donated to charity.

    And once again, I'm not arguing that they did anything wrong, per se, I'm explaining how they certainly were not what I would call active pessimists. So stop taking this so personally and stop being so belligerent. Whether there is something wrong with being a passive pessimist is not really the point of the OP, although I hope you and others will consider what it actually means to be a passive pessimist in the long run.

    2) These figures, or at least Schopenhauer, would say that the problem CANNOT be solved, outside of abstaining from procreation. This is part of what makes them pessimists.Thorongil

    And I have already stated multiple times that it's not about solving the entire problem but of making things comparatively better than they otherwise would.

    Yes, you're a hypocrite. Think of all the drowning children you could have saved if you slept on a rock and used the money for that Target pillow on them.Thorongil

    I never said I wasn't a hypocrite, just that I'm a more productive hypocrite. :-}

    A good deed, but in the grand scheme of things it did absolutely nothing, as is the case of all forms of charity.Thorongil

    I'm sure it did a lot to help those who were on the receiving end. It didn't do "absolutely nothing" as you so boldly claim, otherwise it wouldn't actually be a good deed.

    Throwing money at the problem will not fix it, for the condition is terminal and permanent. It will merely act as a fleeting and minutely effective band-aid. I am not saying not to give to charity or that I wouldn't if I had the means, I am only pointing out the sheer idiocy and folly in suggesting that it will make any substantial difference.Thorongil

    And once again I have to tell you that it's not about fixing all the problems but making things comparatively better. But I guess there's no aesthetic to this, it's more aesthetically pleasing to just give up on everything. Everything sucks and there's nothing we can do about it...except there actually is.

    That you're not grateful to be so informed by such a man doesn't negate his value.Thorongil

    I'm grateful for his observations because I now am able to do something. It probably would be harmful just to talk about how much life sucks without doing anything about it, because now you've just made everyone's sufferings that much more obvious.

    And I believe this too. What's wrong with seeking the truth? Presumably the harshness and violence of the world is true and requires pointing out and defending as such.Thorongil

    There's nothing wrong with seeking the truth, per se, so long as you recognize that some truths are sought because you want to know, not because of some "higher purpose" that truth-seeking embodies.

    And in the end, truth won't get food on the table. It will leave you on the side of the road wondering why you even bothered with it in the first place.

    I shall seek the truth above all else.Thorongil

    Meanwhile in Ethiopia, over 14 million people don't really care about metaphysics. Because they haven't eaten in ten days. If you don't find anything wrong with this, fine. Just don't pretend Schopenhauer and co. did anything substantial over their lifetimes to help people like this. They were passive, focused more on abstract metaphysics than the suffering they were famous for characterizing. And they were profoundly lucky that they had the opportunity and resources to pursue these sorts of dainty hobbies.
  • "Comfortable Pessimism"
    So pessimism fails because it expects reality to be unnatural. Or supernatural. Perfections and utopias are defined in ways that are brittle and mechanical, not fluid and organic.apokrisis

    On the contrary, pessimism succeeds as it recognizes sentience to be "unnatural" and ill-equipped to deal with the oppressive forces of nature. Instead, sentients have to pretend reality is different than it actually is. To be sentient, then, requires one to live in a fantasy. Everyone has their crutch.