Sunday, January 3, 2010

Remembering Why Suffering Matters

By way of my friend Roko, I came across the following video:

It's good to watch things like this from time to time so that we remember why the rest of what we do matters. This is what "Reducing Suffering" is really all about.


  1. Hi Alan...only managed 8 seconds I'm afraid.

    I am wondering if you might clarify some time your position on negative utiliarianism. You obviously ascribe the heighest value to reducing suffering but I'm guessing you wouldn't go as far as embracing NU?

  2. Hi Jay,

    You are correct -- I would not go so far as embracing NU. I do think that sufficiently large amounts of pleasure can outweigh any pain; it's just that my pain-pleasure "exchange rate" strongly emphasizes the badness of pain. In addition, it's possible that I irrationally tend to focus on relieving suffering before focusing on increasing pleasure beyond what a simple exchange rate would dictate, but I don't extend that intuition as far as, say, the pinprick argument. In other words, my intuitions on the subject are fuzzy....

  3. I don't think that these videos help me reduce suffering.

    Actually, I don't know what would be the utilitarian right thing to do in this case but I am certain that I might need a lot of willpower, money or skills for this action.
    So I need to be powerful and strong.

    But I don't use my willpower to reduce suffering. Therefore I imagine beeing tortured to get motivation. But to imagine all that suffering means to focus on your own weakness and futility.

    The most horrible sorts of suffering contain also despair and despair is the opposite of hope. Imaging torture scenarios literally, I get used to regard suffering as an unevitable fate. Not a good motive for beeing an utilitarian!