• _db
    3.6k
    1. If negative utilitarianism is correct, then minimizing suffering is the only ethical end.
    2. If minimizing suffering is the only ethical end, then the most effective method of doing so is the best means to attain this end.
    3. Conceivably, the most effective method of minimizing suffering would be ending the life of every being that can suffer, immediately and simultaneously.
    4. It is morally repugnant to suggest the aforementioned possibility as a means to minimize suffering.
    5. Therefore minimizing suffering is not the only ethical end.
    6. Therefore negative utilitarianism is incorrect.
  • Albero
    169
    There was an “efilist” on here a couple weeks back, seems like they bit the bullet on premise 3 :rofl: I’ve only met one other person who was a negative utilitarian, and even they thought killing everything WASN’T morally repugnant because the goods in life weren’t instrumentally valuable. Kind of bizarre if you ask me
  • _db
    3.6k
    The more interesting issue imo is the justification for premise 4. Can it be clarified, what it is that makes premise 3 morally repugnant? Remember that clarity should be achieved with simplicity of explanation; anything more just contributes to the confusion.
  • Albero
    169
    Forgive me if you're not actually asking, but I think I can clarify what makes premise 4 repugnant. Contrary to positive utilitarian ethics, I think the reduction of suffering does trump making more people happy, but this isn't the only thing we put into the equation when we judge whether something is ok or not. I think most people value autonomy and it's clear killing others overrides that. Otherwise, if you only care about reducing suffering and autonomy isn't important, how can you say something like the Holocaust was bad?
  • _db
    3.6k
    Agreed, I think autonomy is at least one of the other major ethical concepts that may come into play in this case. Disgust with the monstrosity/banality of the personality required to do such an act would be another factor I would propose.

    Fundamentally though, I think it has something to do with a violation of the sacred. What is it that is sacred, and why is it sacred?
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    3. Conceivably, the most effective method of minimizing suffering would be ending the life of every being that can suffer, immediately and simultaneously.darthbarracuda

    You might want to take a look at mercy killing/euthanasia - done only when it's impossible to live and not suffer extremely. Premise 3 - something's wrong with it.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    1. If negative utilitarianism is correct, then minimizing suffering is the only ethical end.darthbarracuda
    This is incorrect.
    3. Conceivably, the most effective method of minimizing suffering would be ending the life of every being that can suffer, immediately and simultaneously.
    This ad absurdum makes no sense. The highest – not "only" – moral end of NU is for the living (sapient sentients "that ... suffer") to prevent and/or reduce suffering of the living while they live (i.e. flourish) as much as practically possible. "Destroying the village in order to save the village", darthb, does not "save" it.

    6. (Your conclusion) does not follow.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Destroying the village in order to save the village", darthb, does not "save" it.180 Proof

    :fire: On point O wise one!
  • T Clark
    13.3k
    There was an “efilist” on here a couple weeks back, seems like they bit the bullet on premise 3 :rofl: I’ve only met one other person who was a negative utilitarian, and even they thought killing everything WASN’T morally repugnant because the goods in life weren’t instrumentally valuable. Kind of bizarre if you ask meAlbero

    As you probably know, there is a relatively small group of people who consider themselves anti-natalists. They propose achieving the goal of negative utilitarianism not by killing everyone, but by stopping reproduction.
  • _db
    3.6k


    I will grant that the definition of negative utilitarianism in premise 1 may be imprecise. The argument can be modified so that it refers to any ethical position that holds that minimizing suffering is the only moral end.

    The chief purpose of the argument was to demonstrate, in a simple manner, that there are other ends involved in ethics aside from the minimization of suffering, in order to generate discussion over what these ends are. To this discussion you have already contributed one:

    prevent and/or reduce suffering of the living while they live (i.e. flourish)180 Proof

    What do you mean by "flourishing" exactly, and why is it better to flourish and suffer than to not flourish and not suffer?
  • Saphsin
    383
    The Wikipedia article lays out that reducing suffering is the first priority and priorities to maximize happiness (and other criterion) come after. The idea is that it's a greater immediate priority to prevent people from being tortured and slaughtered than improving someone's life that is already relatively doing well, not that the latter is never a priority/concern. This intuitively makes sense to me, and it gets around counter-arguments against utilitarianism like Nozick's Utility Monster.

    Now it's not a sharp dichotomy in my opinion, improving the general welfare of the population can reduce suffering causally. The fact that Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world is relevant to the fact that the crime rate there is also relatively low. When you're happier, you're less tempted towards certain destructive behaviors. But I think the reduce suffering first is a pretty good normative guideline for the most part.

    As for how that comports with positions like anti-natalism, I’m not particularly interested.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Hedonism in re suffering has two components: Life + suffering.

    While I don't think negative utilitarianism would ever recommend killing every sentient being capable of suffering, let's suppose it does. If so what we have is this: no suffering but no life either. A "solution" no doubt but ignores another possibility: Life + no suffering. That's the boo-boo unless...life + no suffering is a contradiction.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    :up:

    I will grant that the definition of negative utilitarianism in premise 1 may be imprecise.darthbarracuda
    It's "imprecise" to the point of being incorrect (i.e. useless) – not NU at all as I've pointed out.

    What do you mean by "flourishing" exactly, and why is it better to flourish and suffer than to not flourish and not suffer?
    It means 'to grow, thrive, beyond mere survival' (vide Aristotle, Epicurus, Epictetus, Spinoza, Nietzsche ... P. Foot, M. Nussbaum, etc); not just alive, but also living. Wrong question (so answering it doesn't matter). "Not flourish and not suffer" simply does not belong to the highest (or any) moral end as prescribed by NU.
  • baker
    5.6k
    3. Conceivably, the most effective method of minimizing suffering would be ending the life of every being that can suffer, immediately and simultaneously.darthbarracuda

    No, that would merely render the problem of suffering moot. It wouldn't minimize it, it wouldn't make an end to it, it would only make it not applicable.


    And as for the elephant in the room:

    Define "suffering".
  • _db
    3.6k
    A "solution" no doubt but ignores another possibility: Life + no suffering. That's the boo-boo unless...life + no suffering is a contradiction.TheMadFool

    I will grant that there is no logical necessity between having a life and suffering, however I think it can be reasonably assumed that any real life (not imaginary) will inherently involve some degree of suffering.

    "Not flourish and not suffer" simply does not belong to the highest (or any) moral end as prescribed by NU.180 Proof

    The Wikipedia article lays out that reducing suffering is the first priority and priorities to maximize happiness (and other criterion) come after.Saphsin

    I am unsure I understand what is meant by "first priority" and "come after"; I am taking it to mean, pursue this end as much as possible, before pursuing any other end. These other ends only become relevant if there is more than one course of action that reduces the same maximal amount of suffering.

    Consider two options:

    A. End all lives immediately and simultaneously, and thereby end all suffering.
    B. End all suffering after one second from the present, and promote flourishing for everyone else immediately and simultaneously after.

    An NU would be obligated to choose option A, since reducing suffering is the first priority, is this correct?

    If a third option were given:

    C. End all suffering immediately and simultaneously, and promote flourishing immediately and simultaneously.

    Then an NU would be obligated to choose this option over A, because now there is more than one option that reduces the same maximal amount of suffering, but one of them also promotes another end, that being flourishing.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    I will grant that there is no logical necessity between having a life and suffering, however I think it can be reasonably assumed that any real life (not imaginary) will inherently involve some degree of sufferingdarthbarracuda

    That is the hard truth we all (the living) have to come to grips with. The relationship between suffering and life is nuanced though - all suffer but some suffer more than others, very much like what Napoleon the head pig in George Orwell's Animal Farm delcares "all animals are equal but some are more equal than others". This then requires a more sophisticated approach, taking into account the inherent complexity, to life & suffering.
  • Saphsin
    383
    Do you not juggle different priorities in your life? Is it really so tightly formulaic where you handle everything in one category all at once before moving onto another? Can they not be synergistic, while at the same time, being within a hierarchy of priorities? I'm not sure what you don't understand by "end suffering first, other improvements in well-being second"
  • _db
    3.6k


    My intention was to formulate a simple argument that demonstrates the absurdity of believing that suffering is the only moral end, in order to stimulate discussion over what other moral ends there might be. I believe this argument also demonstrates the absurdity of believing that suffering is always the highest-prioritized ethical end.

    I am of the opinion that no real ethical theory can be as formulaic and dogmatic as this. Ethics is guided by a plurality of different, sometimes contradictory, prima facie duties, re: W. D. Ross. Reducing suffering is one of these duties, and is one of the strongest ones, but neither it nor any other duty can lay claim to having ultimate priority.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    My intention was to formulate a simple argument that demonstrates the absurdity of believing that suffering is the only moral end, in order to stimulate discussion over what other moral ends there might be. I believe this argument also demonstrates the absurdity of believing that suffering is always the highest-prioritized ethical end.

    I am of the opinion that no real ethical theory can be as formulaic and dogmatic as this. Ethics is guided by a plurality of different, sometimes contradictory, prima facie duties, re: W. D. Ross. Reducing suffering is one of these duties, and is one of the strongest ones, but neither it nor any other duty can lay claim to having ultimate priority
    darthbarracuda

    I'm of the view that the abolishment of suffering is/should be our primary objective, first order of business, for the simple reason that it (suffering) is, among feelings, the most potent in terms of its capacity to hinder/impede our judgment and, that would basically gum up the works, every and all plans we make would be of such poor quality that it would've been better to simply let the chips fall where they may. Suffering is, I mean to say, incapacitating - our first port of call is to reduce/eliminate it.

    That said, should we be thinking let alone planning? No, according to some. It's complicated! :confused:
  • the affirmation of strife
    46
    @TheMadFool
    Hopefully I don't derail this too much, here goes:

    I'm of the view that the abolishment of suffering is/should be our primary objective, first order of business, for the simple reason that it (suffering) is, among feelings, the most potent in terms of its capacity to hinder/impede our judgment and, that would basically gum up the works, every and all plans we make would be of such poor quality that it would've been better to simply let the chips fall where they may. Suffering is, I mean to say, incapacitating - our first port of call is to reduce/eliminate it.

    I'll bite:

    - Suffering impedes judgement.

    Does it impede or does it shape judgement though? I'm neck deep in Nietzsche at the moment, I'm sure there are better references, but:

    [A]lmost everything we call “higher culture” is based on the
    spiritualization of cruelty, on its becoming more profound [. . .].
    Consider that even the seeker after knowledge forces his spirit to
    recognize things against [its] inclination [. . .] and thus acts as an
    artist and transfigurer of cruelty [. . .]. In all desire to know there is
    a drop of cruelty. (BGE 229)

    - Our first port of call is to reduce/eliminate it.

    So we want to reduce suffering, unconditionally, in general. Is there no suffering that has value, at all? Worse: is there perhaps some pleasure that derives from suffering. How should we measure suffering in general? What if my suffering is pleasurable to others, i.e. reduces their feeling of suffering. Some recent short story about it, I forget. Point is: suffering, like beauty, could be in the eye of the beholder.

    How about "I hate myself because I am weak". To reduce suffering, I desire a feeling of strength (will to power). The most obvious (only?) expression of strength is the overcoming of resistance. How can I find reliable resistance to overcome? By causing suffering...

    More generally, "reducing suffering" is prone to turn into redistributing suffering.

    I'll leave it there. First post on here (second but who's counting) so don't hesitate to be cruel :) Just in case mercy turns out to be finite.
  • baker
    5.6k
    My intention was to formulate a simple argument that demonstrates the absurdity of believing that suffering is the only moral end, in order to stimulate discussion over what other moral ends there might be. I believe this argument also demonstrates the absurdity of believing that suffering is always the highest-prioritized ethical end.darthbarracuda

    Sure, suffering is okay -- as long as it's not you who has to suffer.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Food For Thought

    There's a way for negative utilitarians to get the best of both worlds so to speak i.e. it isn't necessary for them to end all life for net zero suffering. I think I deserve a Nobel for this insight ( :cool: ). Negative utilitarianism (seems to) imply that we should all become plants (alive but, get this, no suffering at all because plants can't feel pain).

    So who was it that said having a brain is a good thing?
  • boagie
    385


    Let's face it reality is the shits, that is why many people choose a fantasy life, read a religious life.
    Suffering is a good moral measure however if you ponder what consequences your actions might ultimately have, ask yourself, will it lessen suffering or will it contribute to an increase in suffering--a good guide line.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Sure, suffering is okay -- as long as it's not you who has to suffer.baker

    :100: Alas! Few understand this. The question is why? Innumerable works, both true & fiction, are available on the topic of pain/suffering for anyone and everyone to flip/scroll through. Wittgenstein was right I suppose. David Chalmers too.

    Buddha stands out...like a sore thumb - he was able to, I surmise, actually feel the pain of other beings, both on earth and other worlds. He once said "a good horse moves at the shadow of a whip." Too bad that's just a myth!
  • Olivier5
    6.2k
    I am of the opinion that no real ethical theory can be as formulaic and dogmatic as this. Ethics is guided by a plurality of different, sometimes contradictory, prima facie duties, re: W. D. Ross. Reducing suffering is one of these duties, and is one of the strongest ones, but neither it nor any other duty can lay claim to having ultimate priority._db

    :100:
  • Olivier5
    6.2k
    Suffering is, I mean to say, incapacitatingTheMadFool

    But surely suffering in itself is a capacity, and therefore getting rid of suffering would be incapacitating.
  • baker
    5.6k
    Sure, suffering is okay -- as long as it's not you who has to suffer.
    — baker

    Alas! Few understand this. The question is why?
    TheMadFool

    For one, there is in our culture barely any setting in which it would be appropriate to talk about suffering. One cannot talk about it at the watercooler at work, not at the family dinner, not in a cafe with friends. Not at a baseball game. Doctors generally don't have time for any actual discussions, nor do priests or monks. One must also always be alert so as to not give other people reason to doubt one's mental wellbeing. We're left with self-help groups, but there, the group discussion is guided by whoever happens to lead the group, which limits the scope.

    There is something perverse in talking about suffering -- regardless of the setting -- and then going back to one's life (even more so if it's a relatively comfortable life) as if nothing happened.
    So it's no surprise people don't talk much about suffering, or mostly only in very superficial, sketchy ways.


    Buddha stands out...like a sore thumb - he was able to, I surmise, actually feel the pain of other beings, both on earth and other worlds.

    He once said "a good horse moves at the shadow of a whip." Too bad that's just a myth!

    Well-trained animals understand hints.

    "There is the case where a certain excellent thoroughbred person hears, 'In that town or village over there a man or woman is in pain or has died.' He is stirred & agitated by that. Stirred, he becomes appropriately resolute. Resolute, he both realizes with his body the highest truth and, having penetrated it with discernment, sees. This type of excellent thoroughbred person, I tell you, is like the excellent thoroughbred horse who, on seeing the shadow of the goad-stick, is stirred & agitated. Some excellent thoroughbred people are like this. And this is the first type of excellent thoroughbred person to be found existing in the world.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.113.than.html
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    Negative utilitarianism (seems to) imply that we should all become plants (alive but, get this, no suffering at all because plants can't feel pain).TheMadFool
    No, don't confuse Negative Utilitarianism (i.e. Epicureanisn) with Transhumanism (i.e. Abolitionism).
    So who was it that said having a brain is a good thing
    Mr. Scarecrow, Fool! :smirk:

    What you say about "abolishing all pain" does not also abolish dissatisfaction or self-immiserating behavior?180 Proof
    :chin:
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Negative utilitarianism (seems to) imply that we should all become plants (alive but, get this, no suffering at all because plants can't feel pain).
    — TheMadFool
    No, don't confuse Negative Utilitarianism (i.e. Epicureanisn) with Transhumanism (i.e. Abolitionism).
    So who was it that said having a brain is a good thing
    Mr. Scarecrow, Fool! :smirk:

    What you say about "abolishing all pain" does not also abolish dissatisfaction or self-immiserating behavior?
    — 180 Proof
    180 Proof

    Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. — J. S. Mill

    but then...

    (I know that) I know nothing. — Socrates

    The game is not worth the candle, is it? :grin:
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    For one, there is in our culture barely any setting in which it would be appropriate to talk about suffering. One cannot talk about it at the watercooler at work, not at the family dinner, not in a cafe with friends. Not at a baseball game. Doctors generally don't have time for any actual discussions, nor do priests or monks. One must also always be alert so as to not give other people reason to doubt one's mental wellbeing. We're left with self-help groups, but there, the group discussion is guided by whoever happens to lead the group, which limits the scope.

    There is something perverse in talking about suffering -- regardless of the setting -- and then going back to one's life (even more so if it's a relatively comfortable life) as if nothing happened.
    So it's no surprise people don't talk much about suffering, or mostly only in very superficial, sketchy ways.
    baker

    Reminds me of a phrase my brother-in-law, P, likes to use: "the elephant in the room!" It's a rather sad tale, life - we forget life's misery and suffering by getting ourselves drunk on the spurious liquor of illusory happiness.

    I guess it's (too) painful to talk about suffering - why add to our woes by talking about it?

    Well-trained animals understand hints.

    "There is the case where a certain excellent thoroughbred person hears, 'In that town or village over there a man or woman is in pain or has died.' He is stirred & agitated by that. Stirred, he becomes appropriately resolute. Resolute, he both realizes with his body the highest truth and, having penetrated it with discernment, sees. This type of excellent thoroughbred person, I tell you, is like the excellent thoroughbred horse who, on seeing the shadow of the goad-stick, is stirred & agitated. Some excellent thoroughbred people are like this. And this is the first type of excellent thoroughbred person to be found existing in the world.
    baker

    :up: I wish I'd taken a hint or two when it could've made a huge difference to my life. Oh well, why cry over spilt milk?
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    The game is not worth the candle, is it?TheMadFool
    When "the game" is all there is ... the question is moot. :fire:
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