• schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    When a new person is born, they now have to "deal" with their own maintenance. They have to navigate the social landscape for survival, maintaining comfort levels, and finding entertainment. A person has to "deal" with their own being. There is no escape- the closest thing being sleep. This dealing can be seen as a burden. A person has to struggle with the burden of maintaining their own being. Sure, they may subconsciously "want" to live based on inbuilt fears of death and pain, but the process of dealing with oneself is still a burden that cannot just be shrugged off (lest death). Often we just shut this existential view down in lieu of "getting shit done". However, when stepping back, indeed we see we are "burdened" with maintaining our own being. The burden comes with the whole animal thing of surviving/occupying time in a highly social landscape.

    Anyways, this burden can often be considered "vindicated" due to certain good experiences. These experiences can roughly be categorized into 6 different inventory of "good"- flow states, relationships, aesthetic pleasure, physical pleasure, learning, and achievement. If one experience a good that falls into these categories, one may use that experience as vindication that life is worth its burden.

    I don't know if I buy this. Experiences are fleeting. The burden is continuous and ever-present. While good experiences makes a life go better than it otherwise would have been, it does not make up for the burden of continuous survival, maintenance, and entertainment.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    I see life as a continual shifting of the weight from one "arm" to another. Positive experiences happen when this weight is temporarily lifted - for instance, when Sisyphus reaches the top of the mountain, and the boulder slips and falls back down and he is temporarily relieved of its burden. In these brief moments, we catch a glimpse of something beyond our own existence. We wonder what it's "all about". We feel sad, but also can feel a sense of companionship when we look around and see everyone else pushing their own boulders, straining under the weight. Each time up the mountain, the boulder gets a little bit bigger and a little more difficult to bear. Ethics consists in sharing the weight of someone else's boulder, shifting your own burden around to make room for theirs.

    Occasionally, someone is crushed by their boulder; they are thrown off the face of the mountain and vanish, never to be seen again. This happens to everyone, eventually. Sooner or later we slip up and the boulder comes crashing down, and that's the end of that. Recognizing the banality and absurdity of our condition makes positive experiences that much more precious. It's ironic, I think: declaring life to be good makes its pleasures that much more ordinary.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    Recognizing the banality and absurdity of our condition makes positive experiences that much more precious. It's ironic, I think: declaring life to be good makes its pleasures that much more ordinary.darthbarracuda

    I agree with this. To add, the burden is always present; as long as you are alive, it is placed on you. The goods do not negate the burden itself or is a justification for it. That was my main point.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Oh the burden of deciding what kind of fun to have today. It is truly unbearable!

    LOL. You guys.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    Oh the burden of deciding what kind of fun to have today. It is truly unbearable!

    LOL. You guys.
    apokrisis

    Not trolling at all. Entertainment here really equates to this sentiment:
    Then again, how insatiable a creature is man! Every satisfaction he attains lays the seeds of some new desire, so that there is no end to the wishes of each individual will. And why is this? The real reason is simply that, taken in itself, Will is the lord of all worlds: everything belongs to it, and therefore no one single thing can ever give it satisfaction, but only the whole, which is endless. For all that, it must rouse our sympathy to think how very little the Will, this lord of the world, really gets when it takes the form of an individual; usually only just enough to keep the body together. This is why man is so very miserable.

    Life presents itself chiefly as a task — the task, I mean, of subsisting at all, gagner sa vie. If this is accomplished, life is a burden, and then there comes the second task of doing something with that which has been won — of warding off boredom, which, like a bird of prey, hovers over us, ready to fall wherever it sees a life secure from need. The first task is to win something; the second, to banish the feeling that it has been won; otherwise it is a burden.

    Human life must be some kind of mistake. The truth of this will be sufficiently obvious if we only remember that man is a compound of needs and necessities hard to satisfy; and that even when they are satisfied, all he obtains is a state of painlessness, where nothing remains to him but abandonment to boredom. This is direct proof that existence has no real value in itself; for what is boredom but the feeling of the emptiness of life? If life — the craving for which is the very essence of our being — were possessed of any positive intrinsic value, there would be no such thing as boredom at all: mere existence would satisfy us in itself, and we should want for nothing. But as it is, we take no delight in existence except when we are struggling for something; and then distance and difficulties to be overcome make our goal look as though it would satisfy us — an illusion which vanishes when we reach it; or else when we are occupied with some purely intellectual interest — when in reality we have stepped forth from life to look upon it from the outside, much after the manner of spectators at a play. And even sensual pleasure itself means nothing but a struggle and aspiration, ceasing the moment its aim is attained. Whenever we are not occupied in one of these ways, but cast upon existence itself, its vain and worthless nature is brought home to us; and this is what we mean by boredom. The hankering after what is strange and uncommon — an innate and ineradicable tendency of human nature — shows how glad we are at any interruption of that natural course of affairs which is so very tedious.
    — Schopenhauer

    If you want to discuss the subtleties of will, the human restlessness at the root of things, profound boredom, absurd repetition, or any of those things, great. However, nothing you said touched on these subtleties, nor about the TOPIC AT HAND, which is to say that the goods of life do not make up for the continuous burdens of life.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    Dearly belovéd, you are a broken record. Well, not broken--you have something stuck in a groove that causes the needle to jump back in the groove it just completed.

    Still, fragment-of-macaroni-in groove or broken record, I think your plaintive posts about the burden of existence are better philosophy than "Germany receives Marx statue from China. Why?" or "Is objective morality imaginary?" and so on. Some threads generate tons of responses (like the current one on eating meat--I haven't read any of it, nothing new to say about that on either side.

    Like life itself, the burden remains, and you keep asking what the point of it all is. Though I don't think you are really 'asking'. You are more 'telling', which is fine. That's how you see the world -- tell it like it is, as they used to say.

    Whether burden or opportunity, life will go on until it doesn't. If we work just slightly harder, I think we have a good chance of eliminating ourselves from the equation maybe in the next century. The fewer people then remaining will hail your "GIVE UP" sign that flashes on off in bright neon colors in the middle of the desert that used to be Iowa as THE TRUTH, WORLD JUST ABOUT OVER, AMEN.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    180521_a21790_rd.jpg

    THEIR RUT LOOKS LIKE A LOT MORE FUN THAN OUR RUT.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    Dearly belovéd, you are a broken record. Well, not broken--you have something stuck in a groove that causes the needle to jump back in the groove it just completed.Bitter Crank

    Haha, I love the imagery :).

    Still, fragment-of-macaroni-in groove or broken record, I think your plaintive posts about the burden of existence are better philosophy than "Germany receives Marx statue from China. Why?" or "Is objective morality imaginary?" and so on. Some threads generate tons of responses (like the current one on eating meat--I haven't read any of it, nothing new to say about that on either side.Bitter Crank

    Eating meat is a perennial philosophical issue that is acceptable but questioning existence itself is off the table. It's only allowed to bloom once, but it better not happen again!

    Like life itself, the burden remains, and you keep asking what the point of it all is. Though I don't think you are really 'asking'. You are more 'telling', which is fine. That's how you see the world -- tell it like it is, as they used to say.Bitter Crank

    I do think the quantity is equal to the import of the message. It is THE central question of philosophy, and whereas other subjects are derivative, this one is the immediate ground from all other questioning.

    Whether burden or opportunity, life will go on until it doesn't. If we work just slightly harder, I think we have a good chance of eliminating ourselves from the equation maybe in the next century. The fewer people then remaining will hail your "GIVE UP" sign that flashes on off in bright neon colors in the middle of the desert that used to be Iowa as THE TRUTH, WORLD JUST ABOUT OVER, AMEN.Bitter Crank

    So life will be a mess from the climate change we wreak on the planet..That probably will be catalyst for any stoppage, not a realization of burdens, sufferings, and the like.

    Here is an analogy to what I am saying with burdens. It is a metaphor for systemic burden, even though I am using an instance of contingent suffering:

    In my apartment, I have a noisy upstairs neighbor. I can hear his loud footsteps (and he seems to move a lot), I can also hear his loud video game console/tv/music, I can hear his loud friends too. Now, at this point I am forced to take several actions. 1) I can just do nothing and try to cultivate some inner peace that ignores it. 2) I can complain to him or the manager that this has to stop and there needs to at least be some compromise. 3) I can try to drowned out/dampen the noise with fans/noise machines/insulation barriers. 4) Decide to move out to another dwelling. 5) Stay away from my apartment as much as possible. There are probably some other options too. However, the point is something has to occur. My hand is forced in this situation. To me that is like life. You can drop out, you can try to achieve more, you can cultivate this or that, but something has to occur. Your hand is forced. There lies the continuous burden. It is not a choice really as much as a forced hand that moves you through (mainly involving the categories of survival/maintenance/boredom-fleeing). It's a subtle point, and easily mocked (pace apokrisis), but I think it is a large and relevant point to make as it is the core of what we humans face at all moments (except perhaps sleep, though even this can be its own thing to face if its not had in the right amounts, and this is quite a burden to be forced with for anyone in any culture).
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    nor about the TOPIC AT HAND, which is to say that the goods of life do not make up for the continuous burdens of life.schopenhauer1

    So what makes that the correct framing of the situation rather than life being continuously stimulating apart from the occasional interruptions?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    In my apartment, I have a noisy upstairs neighbor.schopenhauer1

    I've had noisy neighbors upstairs and downstairs. (It doesn't matter a lot which). I, sad to say, have also been the noisy neighbor upstairs. When people complained, I quieted down.

    One would like to drill a small hole into their apartment floor and while they are in the middle of their games pipe in a nice fresh breeze of carbon monoxide. Noise stops. Remove all evidence immediately. Think about how you will get rid of it. Hint: Don't put it in nearby residential garbage. Do an extra good job fixing the hole in your ceiling. In advance, establish a good alibi that you were somewhere else that day. (Plan ahead, in other words. Think like a police detective. "How could this possibly have happened?" Like, leave an empty CO tank in their apartment, valve open. Make it look like suicide. Or extreme stupidity. Wipe your fingerprints off.

    One can put up with this sort of thing for a while (the noise, not the CO) weeks or months, but not years) but then something has to give. Moving to some other location is always a gamble because sound-insulated buildings just aren't very common, and 30% to 50% of the population are assholes, so... noise might await you.

    Some other solutions: You could buy them some cheap carpet with a very thick carpet pad; you could have your local mob boss pay them a visit; you could let yourself into their apartment and put their game device in their oven, turn it on, and leave.

    I solved the problem of noise-getting-under-my-skin on mass transit with noise-cancelling headphones. Helped tremendously. How well does the noise cancelation circuitry work? maybe 5% of steady noises are eliminated. Most of the sound "cancelation" is the result of good padding on the headphones. But it does help.

    Always live on the top floor.

    There is no escape from assholes. (It's one of the burdens of existence.) Be a greater asshole.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    So what makes that the correct framing of the situation rather than life being continuously stimulating apart from the occasional interruptions?apokrisis

    Stimulating as in we experience stimuli, that's the right frame. We are literally forced to experience stimuli to survive, maintain, restlessly move about.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    Some other solutions: You could buy them some cheap carpet with a very thick carpet pad; you could have your local mob boss pay them a visit; you could let yourself into their apartment and put their game device in their oven, turn it on, and leave.

    I solved the problem of noise-getting-under-my-skin on mass transit with noise-cancelling headphones. Helped tremendously. How well does the noise cancelation circuitry work? maybe 5% of steady noises are eliminated. Most of the sound "cancelation" is the result of good padding on the headphones. But it does help.
    Bitter Crank

    Oh how the imagination does ponder..

    There is no escape from assholes. (It's one of the burdens of existence.) Be a greater asshole.Bitter Crank

    I am trying with apokrisis, so maybe it will work with the neighbor.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    I am just going to be refuted like the Dr. Johnson who misunderstood Berkely's claim of subjective idealism by kicking a stone and saying "I refute him thus!". That is to say, people will say, "Look, I have a good experience and I refute you thus!".
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    That's a good analogy, haha! :cool:
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k

    I think that analogy encapsulates what I'm trying to say better than anything else, ha.
  • Baden
    6.8k


    I'm sorry you are having a bad experience with life and are "forced to experience stimuli to survive, maintain, restlessly move about" and suffer the "burden of continuous survival, maintenance, and entertainment". Here's someone else who had a bad experience and suffered a burden:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/17/kill-me-now-acid-attack-led-euthanasia-mark-van-dongen

    "Mark van Dongen’s father was shown to the ward at Southmead hospital in Bristol where his son had been taken after suffering acid burns to his face, body and limbs at the hands of Berlinah Wallace, he thought there had been an error.
    ...
    A doctor arrived and told him his son was in room one. “The first room I had looked in. I failed to recognise my own son. His injuries were unbelievable.”

    Staff had never seen such injuries. Burns covered 25% of Van Dongen’s body and much of the damaged skin had to be surgically removed. His face was massively scarred. He lost the sight in his left eye and most in his right.

    When he arrived in hospital, Van Dongen, 29, could see enough of his injuries to scream and beg: “Kill me now, if my face is going to be left looking like this, I don’t want to live.”

    After the attack by Wallace, Van Dongen spent four months in a coma in intensive care, fed through a tube and only able to breathe via a ventilator. His lower left leg had to be amputated.

    When he woke he only had movement in his mouth and tongue and communicated by sticking out his tongue when his father pointed to a letter on an alphabet board.

    I drove straight to Gloucester. I arrived at five in the morning.” When he got out of the van, he heard screaming. “It was Mark. It didn’t stop. I was banging on the door. It opened. A woman came to the door. Mark was in the very first room at the entrance. What I saw there was horrific.”

    He said his son was covered in his own faeces and distraught. “I calmed him down. I said: ‘I’m here.’ I went back to the van and fetched towels and flannels and I washed Mark. He said: ‘Dad, I’m coming with you to Belgium.’ He was scared. I said we’d work it out.”
    ...
    He was constantly itching, I had to support his arm, try to relieve the nerve pain. There is membrane around the bones – it was full of holes, the sulphuric acid continued to burn. It was unbearable pain.”

    Van Dongen underwent voluntary euthansia in the end. There's a crowd-funding campaign to help his father here:

    https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bart-vandongen?utm_id=108&utm_term=pJeNNvazv
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k

    So I am guessing you are presenting this as an argument. If that's what this is, then it isn't much different than people using good experiences to justify the burden. It is just another variation. Rather, you are saying, "If you don't have torturous, brutal, unlivable contingent (circumstantial) suffering", it is not justified to find a burden in systemic suffering of the nature of having an always "forced hand". Though I disagree with Benatar on some of his reasonings, he does have a pretty good grasp of how people justify (what I call "contingent") suffering. He discusses the psychological mechanism of "comparison" and says:

    Comparison: we judge our lives by comparing them to those of others, ignoring the negatives which affect everyone to focus on specific differences. And due to our optimism bias, we mostly compare ourselves to those worse off, to overestimate the value of our own well-being. — David Benatar Wikipedia article

    Comparing to those who have it worse doesn't negate the absolute suffering that occurs. Also, he stated in an interview:
    For example, the most intense pleasures are short-lived but pain is much more enduring. The worst pains are also worse than the best pleasures are good. Injury is swift but recovery is slow. — Benatar

    This kind of focus on purely utilitarian score-keeping as to contingent pain is not my largest justification for pessimism/antinatalist stance, but it does seem to be apt regarding the horrific real-life story you presented.
  • Baden
    6.8k


    Some burdens end up becoming a form of entertainment or even work for those so burdened. The type of thing they can periodically laugh about on a philosophy forum or make money from writing books about. Some are actually serious burdens which bring into question whether a continued existence is worthwhile. Which category does your burden fall under?
  • T Clark
    3k
    I don't know if I buy this. Experiences are fleeting. The burden is continuous and ever-present. While good experiences makes a life go better than it otherwise would have been, it does not make up for the burden of continuous survival, maintenance, and entertainment.schopenhauer1

    It goes without saying that you just don't get it. Living is what people do. We are built for it. We evolved to live the way human beings live. The world is a wonderful place, including all it's inconveniences. It makes me happy to see it, know it, and feel it. I recognize I am responsible for whatever unhappiness there has been in my life.

    You, I guess, are defective in your own particular way. That's fine, I'm probably defective in mine. The fact that your way is so arrogant, self-indulgent, and annoying just makes it easier not to take your positions seriously.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    You, I guess, are defective in your own particular way. That's fine, I'm probably defective in mine. The fact that your way is so arrogant, self-indulgent, and annoying just makes it easier not to take your positions seriously.T Clark

    I just don't assume existing is "good" because I exist. That can be considered unreflective, fearful (of looking too much into the matter), and reactive.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k

    I think I already sort of answered this type of thinking (i.e. my burden is bigger than your burden, etc.) here:
    Comparison: we judge our lives by comparing them to those of others, ignoring the negatives which affect everyone to focus on specific differences. And due to our optimism bias, we mostly compare ourselves to those worse off, to overestimate the value of our own well-being.
    — David Benatar Wikipedia article

    Comparing to those who have it worse doesn't negate the absolute suffering that occurs. Also, he stated in an interview:
    For example, the most intense pleasures are short-lived but pain is much more enduring. The worst pains are also worse than the best pleasures are good. Injury is swift but recovery is slow.
    — Benatar

    This kind of focus on purely utilitarian score-keeping as to contingent pain is not my largest justification for pessimism/antinatalist stance, but it does seem to be apt regarding the horrific real-life story you presented.

    Edit: The point is, our hands are forced. Survive, maintain, restless boredom flee... hitting all the contingent speed bumps along the way.
  • Caldwell
    179
    Experiences are fleeting. The burden is continuous and ever-present. While good experiences makes a life go better than it otherwise would have been, it does not make up for the burden of continuous survival, maintenance, and entertainment.schopenhauer1

    Life sucks and then you die. Do you like this summary of one's existence?
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k

    Sure, it can be a summary, but then this has to be explained. As I've said, most people will just counter this with "I have good experiences, thus schop1 is wrong". The subtleties are what need to be conveyed. Dealing with, forced hand. Individual vs. the given, absurd circularity, etc. Most people focus on contingent pain. Metaphysical pessimists see the structural aspects.
  • Caldwell
    179
    Sure, it can be a summary, but then this has to be explained. As I've said, most people will just counter this with "I have good experiences, thus schop1 is wrong". The subtleties are what need to be conveyed.schopenhauer1
    People who use counter-examples to your description are those who believe, including me, that we don't exist in a vacuum. No man is an island, as they say. Do you honestly believe that how you feel towards life has no bearing on your observations of humans around you?
    The upstairs neighbor is loud and it forces you to make a decision on what to do. I don't understand this sentiment. In case you haven't noticed, life is a continuing process of defense mechanism. Have fun with it. Sometimes, your hunch is correct and you're able to act ahead of time. Sometimes, you're wrong, and you make adjustments to your way of thinking.
  • Caldwell
    179
    @schopenhauer1
    Of course, I don't mean to say you shouldn't complain about life.
  • T Clark
    3k
    I just don't assume existing is "good" because I exist. That can be considered unreflective, fearful (of looking too much into the matter), and reactive.schopenhauer1

    I don't "assume" existing is good, I experience it as good. The fact that you don't says something about you, not about existence. You don't find life enjoyable or satisfying, therefore there must be something wrong with life rather than there being something wrong with you.
  • Baden
    6.8k


    It's fine as an intellectual exercise to examine the negative structural/systemic aspects of existence, but it carries no weight in practical terms for anyone who doesn't frame their lives such that those structural elements become a problematic point of focus. Then what you're left with is people who have extremely low quality lives, such as Van Dongen after he was attacked, and most of the rest of us whose quality of life is variable but not such that the question of whether we should continue our existence becomes an actual serious consideration. I was trying to identify if you saw yourself as someone whose burden was so great that your continued existence was a problem for you. And why that would be. You have a tendency to generalize outwards from your own experience using the inclusive pronoun "our" in a way that comes across as an attempt to impose your frame on others. What's your justification for that?

    So, to clarify, I don't argue that the negative structural elements are there, and that we can't escape them, but do I argue against the notion that framing them as a problem that brings the value of our existence into question regardless of our current circumstances is a valid move. On the other hand, life does sometimes present real problems that no amount of framing can rid us of. In that case, we really do find ourselves in the type of situation you describe.
  • Baden
    6.8k
    Put it another way, it's valid to generalize outwards from your own experience with regard to structural/systemic elements of life that are obviously shared, such as pain, boredom etc. But it's not valid to generalize outwards with regard to your attitude to these structural elements, and your attitude is an intrinsic part of the equation with regard to what effect these elements have on you, and therefore your overall quality of life. And that is actually what makes life worth living or not. So, there's a huge lacuna in your reasoning that presumes a frame that's actually a choice or orientation rather than anything intrinsic.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    I don't "assume" existing is good, I experience it as good. The fact that you don't says something about you, not about existence. You don't find life enjoyable or satisfying, therefore there must be something wrong with life rather than there being something wrong with you.T Clark

    This is a straw man of philosophical pessimism, I think. (Philosophical) pessimism does not claim someone cannot feel good at such-and-such time and place. Schop1, myself and others have consistently focused on the structural features of life that are negative. Nowhere have we argued that existence is bad because we don't like it at such-and-such time and place. What we have argued for is the idea that the "negative" components of existence are in some way more fundamental than the "positive" components of existence.

    To re-orient the discussion, then, in order to illuminate this nuance: how do you feel about death? A philosophical pessimistic understanding of death is that it is immanent to life. You will find this idea widespread, that death is written in the contract of life, that life just simply is death. Often people will say death is an evil, but it's not here yet so it's not worth worrying about; or they will say that death, despite being an evil, somehow gives life "meaning". Generally, death is seen as "outside" of life, a "threat" to life, something that "happens" on a particular date and a particular place. But this is superficial - life entails death, life is the process of dying, life is the perpetual decline of health.

    Nobody is going to deny that health is good. Yet life is the decline of health. Sooner or later you lose it, no matter how hard you try to hold on to it. Life kills us all, and oftentimes painfully. This is an example of the structural negativity of life. Other examples include our moral impediment, the onerous burden of need and desire, the transitory nature of pleasure, etc. The philosophical pessimistic perspective is that life, stripped of any contingencies (where and when you were born, what opportunities you have, personal traits, etc) is at-its-core negative. Positive things are wholly intra-worldly and arise as a reaction to the structural negativity of life. An analogy: life is an over-cooked piece of meat, and you only slather on so much sauce because you need to mask the poor quality of your meal. Pleasure, positive experiences, these are all additions to life that are contingent and impermanent.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k

    Excellent post. Great examples that elucidated the main point here:
    The philosophical pessimistic perspective is that life, stripped of any contingencies (where and when you were born, what opportunities you have, personal traits, etc) is at-its-core negative. Positive things are wholly intra-worldly and arise as a reaction to the structural negativity of life.darthbarracuda

    I will have to gather my thoughts, but I will try to add to this and respond to @Baden as well.
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