• schopenhauer1
    965
    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.
    darthbarracuda

    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.

    However, one might characterize Eduard von Hartmann as an "Active Pessimist" as he thought we have to hasten the time when everyone can come to the conclusion that we should not exist anymore, which I would assume would mean providing material well-being so we are all to become aware of our own pessimistic situation. Although, one can be a pessimist about his pessimism- or at least a defeatist :).

    Because of the wisdom displayed in the action of the Unconscious, this is the best possible world; only this does not prove that the world is good, or that the world would not be better, the latter of which is true. Human life labors under three illusions: (1) that happiness is possible in this life, which came to an end with the Roman Empire; (2) that life will be crowned with happiness in another world, which science is rapidly dissipating; (3) that happy social well-being, although postponed, can at last be realized on earth, a dream which will also ultimately be dissolved. Man's only hope lies in "final redemption from the misery of volition and existence into the painlessness of non-being and non-willing." No mortal may quit the task of life, but each must do his part to hasten the time when in the major portion of the human race the activity of the Unconscious shall be ruled by intelligence, and this stage reached, in the simultaneous action of many persons volition will resolve upon its own non-continuance, and thus idea and will be once more reunited in the Absolute. — From the Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann article on http://www.iep.utm.edu/hartmann/

    Also something to consider- leaving behind Pessimism and whether it should be utilitarian as you conceive it, your utilitarianism itself may be flawed. 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.

    This then brings me to another objection... You say your philosophy is not about intentions, but it clearly is now that we see that it is inefficient to not pursue one's own utility in the free-market. Thus any imbalance pursued in light of this, would be about our intention of action rather than the outcome. The outcome of direct aid unintentionally creates more inefficiencies and to continue on the path despite this, would be simply to place value on the intention of the action.

    Further, if you counter that we should do what we normally do, but on every waking free time, we should use it to "help" people, and thus provide utility ON TOP Of that which we like doing anyways, a) You would not know by any measure, whether this actually created DISUTILITY overall and b) you almost certainly would be creating a situation where life would be a tormenting robotic affair- where one does not even get to pursue the goods that are life's consolation.. 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.
  • Thorongil
    1.6k
    Is this to say that one is both angel and devil?Agustino

    Metaphorically, it would seem so.

    Is the unreality of life equivalent with the fact that life's pleasures are deceitful, and the existence of suffering?Agustino

    This essay is taken from the PP, so I don't think Schopenhauer is speaking with the precision that your reply here is couched in. That being said, I think any idealist philosophy, properly so called, would hold that life is unreal (or less real).

    Why not?Agustino

    Because virtue cannot be taught. I know you think the opposite, but I, like Schopenhauer, have never been persuaded of that.

    Does one bad action guarantee numberless others will be committed when circumstances permit?Agustino

    It depends on one's character, naturally.

    What makes the difference between the two modes of perception?Agustino

    I don't understand the question.

    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.darthbarracuda

    For what purpose do you try to distinguish them from so called "active" pessimists? I've asked you this before, and I think you will find that your answer circles back around to the fact they they don't live up to your ideals, in which case, my being "pissed off" or whatever you perceive that I am (I wouldn't use such language), is justified.

    Are you for real right now?darthbarracuda

    Yes.

    This lecture may be of some interest to the denizens of this thread.
  • Thorongil
    1.6k
    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

    Very well said. This was one of my repeated objections in this thread. The rest of your post is excellently stated as well.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.1k
    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.
  • schopenhauer1
    965
    Apologies for the lateness in reply, I have educational commitments I have to attend to.darthbarracuda

    C'mon, you should have said setting up charitable foundations.. but you can use the long-term argument of creating future utility by getting educated and making more money.. Again, whether your intention was that or not, the most utility may or may not occur as a result. There is no good way to measure. There are simply too many factors. You helping Ethiopians could have prevented you from helping create more money that could have helped 5 Africans.. Oops.

    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.darthbarracuda

    That's just false. So we disagree right there. You are trying to change their argument so you can be seen as railing against it.

    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.darthbarracuda

    Yes he did, but this was in regards to his major premise which was the Will (the kernel) which is never satisfied. It was not meant as simply a laundry list of utilitarian woes- though it may be taken that way if you don't know his major premise. To one not familiar with Schopenhauer, this would probably seem the case.

    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.darthbarracuda

    Which many people already do. Granted, this still does not refute the claim that, people often create utility doing many things besides direct aide, and things unintentionally raises utility.

    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?darthbarracuda

    Yep, the ones that create the tax base to help others, who buy the goods that create jobs, that allow for who knows what things that they did not intentionally mean to do. Again, you can never know, and besides the point, being that you are a consequentialist, it does not even matter their intention. The person who becomes a doctor because he vaguely wants to help people, created a lot of jobs, which created a lot of other jobs, and so on. The doctor who became the doctor, let's say did this also because it paid well comparatively and he liked the prestige it gave him. He could have gave direct aid all this time learning to be a doctor.. If every doctor did this, if EVERYONE did this, we would be providing nothing for aid, because we would all be helping so much, that nothing else gets created. As Adam Smith noted, the invisible hand of capitalism creates the most utility.. It need not be an economy, but rather any action whereby one is pursuing their own interests can increase the utility of others. Where there are inefficiencies in human interests or the process as a whole, government can step in to help shape the direction of the actions. This of course, is what we already have. By pursuing his own interests (helping people, prestige, money), he created the most utility for himself and others. The couch potato, has no inclination for any of this let's say.. great, besides his own utility being met, he has contributed by his investments in his 401k, consumption of goods, donations he makes every holiday, and friendships he created. As a consequentialist, fantasies of intentional focus, seem misapplied. Intention does not necessarily create more utility. What has proven to work, is leaving people alone to the invisible hand.. Mother Tereasas would be nothing with the things that are generated from average Joe's following their own interest.

    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.darthbarracuda

    No, this is changing the meaning of what I am saying. By doing what we "know will help", it may UNINTENTIONALLY create disutility. My stance was that we do NOT in fact know what helps overall. Certainly, out of EMOTIONAL DISTRESS/COMPASSION, we help the drowning victim. But, as far as spending all our time with direct aid, because we happen to not have brilliant ideas is a monstrous existence for anyone- Ethiopians and Americans and Pygmies in Africa alike. Your toning it down a bit might help your cause, but then, that really is just stating the status quo except for advocating for a bit more charitable contributions.. which is fine but not the big wave I think you wanted to make with this.

    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.darthbarracuda

    Yes, and I explained how I think you set up a false dichotomy so that you can put yourself in a position of being "right". However, I do not even accept your dichotomy as true to begin with. You created your own categories such that your argument cannot fail. I already presented to you Pessimism is mainly about the unrest of existence. If you do not like that, then perhaps you are not a pessimist. If you want to discuss the idea of giving more to charity, great.. but it does not have to do with Pessimism, but rather your own ethical stance, which apparently, you think all people, should follow.

    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.darthbarracuda

    How is this justified?

    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.darthbarracuda

    I mean these are more your terms, and the way you are phrasing it. Rather, the pessimist sees the world as unrest beneath the surface. The human animal is at least partly able to comprehend this.

    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".darthbarracuda

    By aesthetics I mean more the structure of things- the structure of the metaphysics more than literal "beauty". It is a way of seeing the world.


    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.darthbarracuda

    I enjoy it :). I get giddy from pessimistic turn of phrases. It consoles me that others feel this way. Its cathartic..
    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.darthbarracuda

    And that's just, like, your opinion man. Your opinion by the way, seems like a monstrous drudging one. If you want to help Africans or poor villagers somewhere, go do it! That is your utility that you want to pursue. It is a tormenting vision when applied to all people at all times and that comes out as self-righteous, definitely creating disutility if you want to promote your cause.
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