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
Just...no. 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, just...no. 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?