• Is suffering all there is ?
    What sort of goal would you say I have in mind when I say that I think that Stravinsky is a better composer than Brahms?Terrapin Station

    Well, you could affirm something like what you just said and have no goal in mind, but in that case it would simply mean nothing relevant, since there is no evidence for the existence of absolute good or bad. It would only be faith in their existence.

    Most probably, when you say that, you subconsciously or consciously have a goal in mind. First you have to understand that, since you began to exist, your brain has developed a lot of criteria concerning music that indicate what you will like or not. (If my hypothesis is true, what you like or not is probably related to what entertains you the most, and so, at the same time, what makes you forget about your needs the most. Note that some people came to have an understanding or art such that their criteria of goodness are not entirely related to what entertain them the most.) So when you say that Stravinsky is a better composer than Brahms, it probably means “Stravinsky, as a composer, is better at filling my criteria about music than Brahms is.”

    I think that's where the problem lies. Evolution is a biological theory, and insofar as we are biological subjects, then it explains much about us - respiration, metabolism, reproduction, and the like. But to say that this explains 'every characteristic' of humans is 'biological reductionism'. It is a very commonly-held attitude nowadays, but the problem with it is, it is not a philosophy of existence, or even a philosophy at all. It is simply a biological theory, which is now often believed to 'explain everything about us'. But just as you wouldn't study languages or humanities in the department of biology, then you also wouldn't explore philosophical questions there either.Wayfarer

    I don’t think there exists any subject that can escape the reach of philosophy. In fact, it is pretty common for philosophers to use, in their though process, what science proposes. And, I just put that sentence about evolution by natural selection in order to justify the presence of those complex structures we, humans, are, in a universe tending towards a state of maximum entropy. It is far from central to my hypothesis, even though I probably made it look that way.

    Your post is a very heartfelt one, as if you are acutely aware of the problem of suffering. So, what solution might there be? Traditionally that is not the province of biological or even cognitive sciences, but of philosophy proper, whether existential, religious, or some other kind. Buddhism addresses the 'problem of suffering' in terms of the cause of suffering, the possibility of the end of suffering, and the path to the end of suffering. Other religious philosophies propose other solutions, But the 'end to suffering', overall, is the meaning of the word 'salvation', which is the same root as 'salve'. So that is what I think you're looking for, and I don't think evolution has much to do with it.Wayfarer

    I don’t think you can be in a better state than the absence of consciousness. And for legal and taboo reasons, I’ll leave it at that and I won’t advise people with what I think might be the best solution to eliminate suffering all together.
    I often feel like Buddhism is the religion that is closest to the truth.
    I’m only looking for a discussion with other people about my hypothesis in order to put it to the test.
  • Is suffering all there is ?
    That wouldn't make any sense, as there is no feeling to an absence of consciousness. There are no better or worse judgements with an absence of consciousness either.Terrapin Station

    Just change “feeling” by “state of mind”. I often thought to say “state of mind” in previous answers, but that one here slipped away from me. Or if state of mind does not satisfy you, just use “state”.
    For what can be consider better or worse than what else, I just don’t think anything in this world can be considered simply better or worse without having a goal in mind. For example, you can say that a water bottle is better than a chair to hold your water in place. But you can’t say it is better and stop there. I don’t think absolute good or bad exist. Nevertheless, people have in their mind ideas of what is good and what is bad, and they use that to compare two things and say that one is better than the other. What happens with “good” and “bad” is that whatever constructs you built in your mind to justify their use, they imply there exists a neutral zone or line between the two. And, I think the absence of consciousness is that state that lies on that neutral line in that spectrum of states. On one side of that neutral line, there is what people call bad state/feeling and on the other side, what they call good.
    When I talk about better or worse feeling than other, I refer to how people wrongly perceive their reality, not what I actually think of those feelings. And by “wrongly perceive”, I mean it in the sense of “according to my hypothesis”.

    It's not that that they're mistaken. Rather, their feelings can change.Terrapin Station

    Well, if their perception of their reality does not fit with their actual reality, they are what we call mistaken in their perception. Being mistaken meaning being incorrect in an opinion or judgment.
    In the case of my friend, we had just been bowling the day before, he knew what it felt like, and he was thinking about tomorrow where we were going to do karting. He thought about how he would felt when doing so and so he thought it would be a better feeling than the bowling of yesterday. He went to sleep, the day after, we went karting, then he thought about what just happened and he realised he had preferred the feeling of bowling rather than the one of karting. So, we know he was wrong in his prediction he made the day before. He was mistaken in thinking his state of mind would be better when karting than when bowling.

    You can be wrong with a prediction. That's not the same thing as being wrong about something being better than something else, or being wrong about your feelings.Terrapin Station
    Like I said in my first answer, I don’t think “better” or “worse” or “bad” or “good” mean anything without a goal in mind. Some feelings are better or worse than others for surviving, but none are just better or worse than others. I don’t see how you can explain what it means for a feeling to be better than another without using arguments like “it feels better” which has the same problem of not meaning anything. Of course, if you have your own definition for “good feeling”, I will be glad to use it in order to progress in our discussion.

    I want to point out that my hypothesis does not pretend there exists only bad feelings, it just pretends that suffering is the way your consciousness is aware of your needs, and that the awareness of your needs alone can explain every feeling you experience.

    And maybe I should have asked you to define what you mean by “good feeling” before, but it is never too late to ask.
  • Is suffering all there is ?
    The problems is that the only thing that feels is you. There is no other thing feeling suffering. If you are feeling pain, but interpret it as pleasure, then you're not feeling pain. At least you're not experiencing the negativity of pain.darthbarracuda

    Well, that is a relevant point. I’m not entirely sure of how to properly address it, but what I can say is that it often happened to me. Only after high school did I realise how much I had suffered during it. During high school, I perceived my reality in such a way that I had many needs that often made me suffer just by making themselves heard, but I did not understand at this moment in time that what I was experiencing was suffering. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure I was suffering.
    I think what happens is that people experience feelings that they want to get rid of (suffering) like hunger, but they often fail to identify them as suffering. I don’t think their misinterpretation of what is happening in their mind prevents them to experience what is really happening. So I’d say you can suffer even though you think you don’t. We can also consider the fact that people can sometimes lie to themselves about what they feel.

    This is exactly what is problematic, though. You can't know what a concept it unless you experience it yourself. Where does this good concept come from?darthbarracuda

    A problem I face since the beginning of our discussion is that I have difficulty to understand what a good or a bad feeling even mean. The use of those words indicates that we have a comparison point, from where what is to one side of it is “bad” and what is on the other side is “good”. I guess that comparison point is the absence of consciousness. And so when you ask where does this good concept come from, what you are probably asking is “how do people come to consider some of their feelings as being better than the absence of consciousness?” To that, I would simply answer that they either don’t understand their feelings, or the absence of consciousness or both. Humans can come up with the concept of good feeling without it being real. I just don’t agree with your statement about having to experience a concept in order to know it. I mean, I’ve never experienced the feeling of “x” but I can wrongly attribute to it some of my feelings whenever I want.
    And it could be that I have been inaccurate about that previously, but I’d like to clarify something. I only pretend that, like with energy being the only component of temperature, the concept of suffering is the only component of our feelings, I would not pretend that our feelings are bad or good or better or worse than the absence of consciousness, because I don’t think it means anything.

    There's the "illusory" feelings of pleasure and goodness, and then there's the "actual" feelings of suffering.darthbarracuda

    Just to specify, I would not say people experience pleasure through an illusion, I would rather say they mistakenly associate goodness with some of their feelings.

    Yet your hypothesis is wrong. Completeness has nothing to do with accuracy in this case. If anything it is you who demands faith for their hypothesis, as you claim to know better than I do what I am actually feeling.darthbarracuda

    “Yet your hypothesis is wrong.”
    Oh, well that is embarrassing, I was not aware of that fact. That’s a shame, I quite liked my hypothesis.
    I did not pretend completeness had anything to do with accuracy. Though I would argue that when a hypothesis is complete, reaching accuracy does not require the addition of new concepts.
    How does pretending to know better than you do what you are feeling demand faith?
    And let’s just specify that I don’t make pretensions just like that, I make them as part of impersonating my hypothesis.

    To ignore the existence of pleasure is akin to ignoring the existence of suffering and claiming all pain is just less pleasure. This does the exact same work you theory does. We avoid pain not because it's actually painful but because it's less pleasurable and we want to maximize our pleasure.darthbarracuda

    Again, I can use temperature as an analogy.
    (I did not mention it previously, but I don’t really have a name for our feelings’ component, so it basically goes like this… cold=pleasure, heat=suffering, energy=suffering, It is not ideal, but it should be ok for now)
    Yes you could try to intuitively think of temperature as being coldness and absence of coldness, and you would be able to predict the same things that you can predict with our current understanding of heat and absence of heat. But in the same way we associate energy to heat, not cold, I associate my feeling’s component to suffering, not pleasure. It is not completely arbitrary, we can discuss the reasons I make that association if you feel it is not that simple.

    I read some of the following comments and I feel like most people agree to say that suffering is a strong force and that pleasure exist without suffering in rare quantity. I want to address something. Where you observe pleasure, I also observe a phenomenon, I just don’t agree to call it pleasure considering its current definition.

    I don’t think your comment will qualify in the top 5 of the most inspiring quotes of all time, but nevertheless, than you for it. Haha

    The problem with this is that all there is to anything being better or worse than anything else is how an individual feels about it. It's not something they can be mistaken about, or where they can get facts (about what's really better or worse) wrong.Terrapin Station

    Well, people are often mistaken when comparing a feeling they once have with a feeling they think they will have when experiencing something new. For example, my friend was pretty sure that he would like the experience of karting tomorrow better than that of bowling yesterday. He was wrong. And if pleasure is defined by being a better feeling than the absence of consciousness, then it is possible that people are mistaken about that because they don’t really understand the absence of consciousness. I don’t pretend they are mistaken in their feelings, it would be absurd, I pretend they are mistaken in their interpretation of those feelings.
  • Is suffering all there is ?

    I think our disagreement lies in the fact that I use a language like english to describe a hypothesis that, among other things, pretend that our human language is misleading and often does not represent accurately our reality.
    If you imagine a reality where my hypothesis is true and the absence of consciousness is the less worse state you can be in, there, humans would have evolded in such a way that they would not believe in an hypothesis like mine, since understanding that suffering is all there is leads you to seek death, which is far from evolutionary advantageous. In that reality, people would develop a perception of their reality that would help them survive. They would probably come to the same conclusions as us. Their brain would find a way to fool them and make them believe some of their feelings are better than death, better than the absence of consciousness, when in fact, they would just be feelings that makes your consciousness be less aware, less conscious for a certain period of time. They would observe that they experience time as flowing faster during those "positive" moments. They would not really understand that this altered perception of time is due to their altered level of consciousness.
  • Is suffering all there is ?
    Can someone please explain to me how to quote ?
  • Is suffering all there is ?

    As you say, it seems that I have a tall order in front of me.
    Well, at first read, it seems that some of the problems you brought up could be answered by taking into consideration that the model of reality human beings have inside their brain is imperfect. So I might make allusions to that in future arguments.

    I think every feeling is a variation of suffering, but our brain classifies them on a spectrum ranging from what it considers negative to what it considers positive. So it gives us the impression that there exists negative, neutral and positive feelings, when in fact, I pretend it is all some sort of suffering. In other words, I would refer to what I said in the previous paragraph. The way our brain misinterprets our reality leads to it stating “I feel good” when it feels less suffering.

    I just want to mention, before I continue, that I don’t pretend my affirmations are facts, I only make affirmations to illustrate my hypothesis.

    I think it can be evolutionary advantageous for our brain to regulate our feelings of need (suffering as I see it) in such a way that, sometimes, it makes us forget some needs. As an extreme and simplified example, you might be hiking somewhere when your brain suddenly makes you feel the need to eat. Twenty seconds later, you see a bear. In that case, I think it can be advantageous for your brain to completely forget about hunger in order to address the new needs emerging from the presence of a bear near you. Although being an extreme situation, it serves to demonstrate that a statement like “it wouldn't be evolutionary advantageous for chemicals to make you forget needs” might be a little bit too simple to make a point in my opinion.
    Yes, your brain, having an imperfect model of reality, perceives some feelings as rewards. That reward being a feeling in which you don’t suffer over some needs you normally suffer over.

    If I understand correctly, the point you make with your analogy is that pleasure is not the reduction of suffering itself. It would be a product of it. And I think I agree. I think what we call pleasure is the state of mind we are left in after that reduction of suffering. And I think that state consists in a feeling with less suffering than normal, which your brain perceive as good feeling.

    “To ignore that independent positive experiences exist is to essentially believe that people are fundamentally mistaken about what positive experience is”
    Yes that is part of my whole hypothesis. I think the human brain would have evolved in such a way that it perceives some experiences as good, whether or not those good experiences really exist.

    I think what happens is, your brain recognize that drinking coffee would be what it calls a positive event. It makes your consciousness feel the need to drink coffee and you, in order to fill that need, you drink it, and when you reflect on it, your imperfect perception of reality makes you reason that drinking coffee is something positive that did not require suffering. Me, I pretend that you experiencing a need was you suffering, and that without any suffering, you would not have decided to drink a coffee, in fact, without suffering, your consciousness would not do anything. In fact, I don’t even think you would experience consciousness without suffering. But that last statement is just a consequence of my hypothesis being true, if it is, so I don’t think we would make progress arguing on that in particular.

    “yet where did this concept of an independently good feeling come from?”
    Again, I think it is a matter of our brain having evolved in such a way that it perceives reality in a more practical way than an accurate one.

    “As soon as I start considering this I begin to feel as though an illusion might be slipping away - but surely this illusion is nevertheless something real?”
    Well, at first, when I read that, I tried to define real, but I don’t think that was the best way to address that question.
    A lot of people often feel cold; you might use the same logic to pretend that this illusion of the existence of coldness is real, and you would be right, the illusion itself is real. But the fact that your perception of reality leads you to nourish an illusion does not tell you much about what is really happening.
    I think you find it difficult to have adverse reaction to something you enjoy the same way a child find it difficult to understand that -30 degrees Celsius is not really cold, but just less warm (the first time he is told coldness is just the absence of heat).

    “Raphi, to be clear, you are saying that pleasure is not independently good because it really is only the experience of being in a comparatively lesser suffering state?”
    Basically, yes.

    “Do you think it is plausible that I can be sunbathing on a beach in the Caribbean, drinking a margarita and reading Shakespeare and believe that I am feeling independently positive pleasure, and yet be mistaken in my belief, and actually suffering in all these forms of experience?”
    Also yes.

    I think the issue you raise about belief is well addressed by my answer to your question about the “realness” of your illusion.

    About the choice of the word unpleasant, I just feel in general that our human languages have been based on our incorrect understanding of psychological phenomena. So, I would need my own language to really be accurate in what I say. But even though I think cold does not exist, I use the world cold to be understood. Also, it is way easier to follow what I say if I use the expression “unpleasant feeling” instead of “feeling that has the characteristic that its holder wants it to go away”. You could say I find it unpleasant to have to use a word like “unpleasant”.

    “And you later used the analogy to temperature, however this is also problematic, because temperature is an objective feature of reality whereas the experience of heat is subjective. Just as someone may have a million dollars and feel poor, someone else may get their first job and feel rich.”
    What “subjective” means is that your experience of heat is influenced by feelings, tastes or opinions; I don’t see how it disqualifies my analogy. I don’t claim anything about how you perceive your feelings; I claim something about what constitutes those feelings.

    “There's another issue here, a phenomenological one. Compare the experience of avoidance and pursuit. We avoid suffering and pursue pleasure. We do not simply avoid suffering. When I find something to be pleasurable, I do not tell myself "this sure is better than the alternative!" I tell myself "I sure am glad I'm able to experience this, it feels good!"”
    If my hypothesis is wrong, I don’t think it will be about something like that. I can just replace what you call “pleasure” by “less suffering” and “suffering” by “more suffering” and it makes perfect sense. Here it is just a problem of what name we give to what concept. We should not forget that we observe the same phenomena and the same interactions between them; our disagreement is about how to explain them.

    “Are you attempting to argue that what we see as independently good experiences only look good when in comparison to our current state?”
    Basically, yes.
    Although I used the analogy with temperature a lot in my previous answers, I feel like it serves me very well in that discussion, since it is about how a brain perceive something in a practical way, what can lead someone to misinterpret somethings. If I use it again, basically, your example is about someone getting hot, then getting hotter, then getting back to hot and not considering that cold even though he was hotter previously. I think it makes sense; your brain is not in that hotter state for a long enough period in order for it to readjust its perception of cold, neutral and hot to that new standard. If your arm makes you suffer during 25 years, and your migraine never goes away during that time, and then your arm stop hurting you, your mind will probably enjoy that new feeling.
    In other words, I don’t pretend your perception of pleasure is related to your previous feelings, I pretend it is related to the imperfect model of reality your brain has created about feelings.

    You might argue that there exist independently positive experiences, which can arise when we don’t suffer, but to me it feels more like faith than anything else since my hypothesis seems complete without it.

    If our perception of reality was perfect, I think we would seek the absence of consciousness.

    “I wouldn't say that suffering can obtain if it's not a present-to-consciousness state. At least I wouldn't characterize unconscious, non-mental states as suffering. To me that misses an important aspect of the conventional sense of the term.”

    You are right. Basically, I just expressed myself in a wrong way. To accurately put my thoughts into words, I should have written something like “I don’t think people understand that what they are experiencing is always some sort of suffering, that the absence of consciousness might be the “better” state they could ever be in”.
    By “better”, I mean “less worse”.

    I’m not sure how your comment fits into our discussion here or even my hypothesis. Could you make the connection more clear to me please?

    “It's impossible to prove that all change is due to natural selection for survival. What would be the proof? The species survived? Well in this case, natural selection had worked very poorly since so many species disappear.”

    The theory of evolution by natural selection basically pretend that our designed-like appearance can be explained by the simple fact that the organism that is more fit to survive and reproduce has more chance to survive and reproduce than another organism being less fit at it. In other words, the theory makes a connection between two individually obvious facts. (1. We look just as if we had been designed. 2. The fitter organism is more likely to survive and reproduce)
    Changes are explained mostly by mutation I think.
    Evolution by natural selection can explains how organisms have developed such physical features; it can also explain how some species have survived while others have not. You can make an analogy between species and mutations if you want to make it more intuitive.

    “One can make a case that many, if not most, activities in human experiences have very little to do with survival. More broadly, I would propose that all activities are associated with learning, learning to live longer being a subset of the larger initiative. In this context, suffering is a whisper (or maybe a shout) to try something else.”
    You have an interesting point here, but I don’t think you are right. I think that since consciousness has developed as one of our features, a lot of our behavior changed in agreement with the theory. I think those who have a perception of reality that makes them more fit to survive and reproduce are those who have more chance to do so. Mentalities play a big role in that.
    So yes, if you look at a particular activity of some random human being, you might not see the connection with survival, but it is not because there is none, it is because you don’t understand well enough the relations between, human behavior, mentalities, perception of reality and survival.
  • Is suffering all there is ?

    Don't you think evolution by natural selection is better described by "change within a species leading towards better survival and reproduction mechanisms" (or something like that). That definition seem way more appropriate considering what we know about it as educated beings. In that way, the fact that the organism is suffering is not a factor forcing change. It can affect it, but it is not mandatory.

    I feel like we have a similar perception of how those concepts behave and interact with one another (suffering, happiness, etc.). I think the disagreement lies in our perception of what underlines those phenomena. I see it as being one component of suffering that presents itself in many different ways as you seem to see it as more than one components, one for suffering, one for hapiness, etc. I probably just over-simplified your perception of it, but I don't know how you explain the presence of those components.
    About an example like the one you brought with the marathon runner, I just see him as experiencing a little bit more suffering from certain needs connected to the physical achievement he just performed and a lot less suffering from other needs that his mind forget during the moment where some chemicals are released in his brain. That makes his overall feeling less suffering than normally. Therefore, he perceives this experience as positive, when in fact, it is just less negative.
    All that paragraph just to illustrate what I said about where we disagree.
    For the-half-empty-glass dictum, I think it gives you that intuitive feeling only if you subconsciously think life has a meaning, or that it is worth living.

    Well, my perception is far from over simplifying human experiences, and I don't deny that people live what they call independently-good experiences. (I just dont see them that way) In my perception, suffering manifest itself under many different forms, (all the possible feelings people would call negative), and the feelings people call positive would be explained by some periods of time where those forms of suffering would be less intense than normally. I don't understand why the presence of chemicals in the brain would refute my hypothesis. Can't these chemicals be the ones that makes you "forget" certains needs during a certain amount of time, which would fit nicely with what I say?

    Can you just give one example or two of such features please ? I don't doubt that they exist if you say so, but I am not aware of their existence. If there is indeed such features, then that premise is wrong, but I put it there just as an explanation of how the features I was talking about came to be. So I don't think it would affect the rest of my reasonning. (I don't imply that you thought so)
    About the "unpleasant" feeling, I understand very well what you say, but I feel like everyone misinterpreted my hypothesis. I don't think that people are constantly conscious of their suffering, and like I said in a previous answer, I know people experience things in many different ways, some they perceive as negative, other as positive, others as more neutral. My hypothesis is more about what is happening under the surface. And, yes I've been sloppy using the word "unpleasant" because I was not sure how to express what I had in mind. I meant a feeling that has as its first characteristic, the fact that the mind who experiences it want to get rid of it.
  • Is suffering all there is ?

    Unless I am very bad at interpreting what people think, I feel like you perceived my previous answer as being rude. That was not intended at all. In fact, I don't think it was rude, since it is a written text without facial expression and ton to it. I thought you were only answering my title, and I genuinely thought it was obvious, and so did you if, as you say, your answer was directed towards my hypothesis. It is not like if we are here to create animosity, there is no call for it imo.
    As for my new answer to your first comment:
    I don't understand what you mean by "Suffering is passive". I see suffering as a feeling that guide you into filling yours needs. I would say that the world acting on you has an effect on your suffering, but I would not say the two concepts are the same. You say that suffering cannot be all there is. Can you provide an example of human behavior that cannot be explained by my model ?
  • Is suffering all there is ?

    I feel like there is an analogy to make with temperature. When we are young or just not familiar with the concept of energy and its direct relation with heat, we have a tendency to perceive temperature as being about neutral when we are confortable, hot when it is hotter than confortable and cold when it is less hot than confortable. The same way I think we have a tendency to perceive our feeling as being about neutral when we are confortable, negative when we feel more suffering and positif when we feel less suffering. But the same way temperature is just about the presence of energy, I think our feeling is just about the presence of suffering. The way you formulate it, it almost look like your perception of pleasure rely on faith more than reasonning, but I might be wrong.
    And it is important to note that my hypothesis is not as detailed as it should be if only I was confortable enough with english. On the surface, it seems implausible that a consciousness could only experience different variation of suffering, but you have to take for account that our brain is also, according to me, really good to entertain illusions, making itself believe that life is more than just suffering.
  • Is suffering all there is ?

    Well, thank you for the fact that you adressed the question I put in the title. But that question was meant as a hint about what my hypothesis was about. I thought it would be obvious upon reading my whole post that I did not really ask myself that particular question.
    Did you read it all or did you just answer the title ?
  • What is the difference, if any, between philosophy and religion?
    The formulation of your question combined with your desire to not establish a definition right away tells me that you are probably more interested in discussing the relation between the two concepts instead of their differences.
    I see it like this.
    We live in a world where we observe many phenomena and we are trying to understand what causes them to happen like they do. Thus, human kind, knowing little about its reality, has came up with many hypotheses for what could be causing those phenomena to exist. The more elegant hypotheses came to be the main religions we know today. It is important to note that those hypotheses can only be compared to one another by what we call their elegance, since they purely are the product of our imagination. (By that, I don't imply they are wrong). Throughout history, practically everyone sought confort in showing faith for a religion or another.
    While everyone was confortably believing in certain things, some guys began to think it would be useful to add rigor to people's lines of reasonning. Thus, they began the practice of a new sport: philosophy. The goal was to reason about things while respecting some concepts such as logic and coherence. With only those simple rules, philosophy came to be what we know of it today.
    To summarize, I would state it like this:
    Philosophy is a way of reasonning about things while a religion is an hypothesis developped in order to try and explain our reality.