This paper argues that it is possible for suffering to occur in the absence of phenomenal consciousness – in the absence of a certain sort of experiential subjectivity, that is. (Phenomenal consciousness is the property that some mental states possess, when it is like something to undergo them, or when they have subjective feels, or possess qualia.) So even if theories of phenomenal consciousness that would withhold such consciousness from most species of non-human animal are correct, this neednt mean that (...) those animals dont suffer, and arent appropriate objects of sympathy and concern. (shrink)
David Benatar claims that everyone was seriously harmed by coming into existence. To spare future persons from this suffering, we should cease having children, Benatar argues, with the result that humanity would gradually go extinct. Benatar’s claim of universal serious harm is baseless. Each year, an estimated 94% of children born throughout the world do not have a serious birth defect. Furthermore, studies show that most people do not experience chronic pain. Although nearly everyone experiences acute pain and discomforts, such (...) as thirst, these experiences have instrumental value. For example, when a person picks up a hot object, in response to the pain, the person releases the object, thereby preventing serious harm. The standard that Benatar uses to evaluate the quality of our lives is arbitrary, as I will demonstrate. His proposal that we phase humanity out of existence by ceasing to have children is misguided and an overreaction to the problem of human suffering. The ‘threshold conception of harm’, which is a targeted approach for preventing future persons from suffering, is a more sensible approach. (shrink)
It is widely recognized that our social and moral environments influence our actions and belief formations. We are never fully immune to the effects of cultural membership. What is not clear, however, is whether these influences excuse average moral agents who fail to scrutinize conventional norms. In this paper, I argue that the lack of extensive public debate about factory farming and, its corollary, extreme animal suffering, is probably due, in part, to affected ignorance. Although a complex phenomenon because of (...) its many manifestations, affected ignorance is morally culpable because it involves a choice not to investigate whether some practice in which one participates in might be immoral. I contend further that James Montmarquet’s set of intellectual virtues can provide a positive account of what it means to act as a responsible moral agent while immersed in a meat eating culture; they also represent the moral and epistemic framework for the kind of public discourse that should be taking place. (shrink)
Compassion is often described in terms of suffering. This paper investigates the nature of this suffering. It is argued that compassion involves suffering of a particular kind. To begin with a case is made for the negative claim that compassion does not involve an ordinary, or afflictive, suffering over something. Secondly, it is argued that the suffering of compassion is a suffering for someone else’s sake: If you feel compassion for another person, P, then you suffer over P:s suffering for (...) P:s sake, and if that is all you do, then you are not affected with an afflictive suffering over something. The final section identifies and addresses a problem concerning self-pity, and a suggestion is made on how to specify the proposed account so as to cover both self-directed and other-directed compassion. (shrink)
I respond to two sets of objections to my characterization of infant suffering and the problem that it presents to traditional theism. My main theses were that infant suffering to death is not ‘horrendous’ in the technical sense defined, and that a good God need only balance off rather than ‘defeat’ such suffering. David Basinger, on the other hand, claims that some infant suffering should be considered horrendous, while Nathan Nobis suggests that such suffering must be defeated by God rather (...) than merely balanced off. -/- . (shrink)
In this work, Jamie Mayerfeld undertakes a careful inquiry into the meaning and moral significance of suffering. Understanding suffering in hedonistic terms as an affliction of feeling, he claims that it is an objective psychological condition, amenable to measurement and interpersonal comparison, although its accurate assessment is never easy. Mayerfeld goes on to examine the content of the duty to prevent suffering and the weight it has relative to other moral considerations. He argues that the prevention of suffering is morally (...) more important than the promotion of happiness, and that the duty to relieve suffering is much stronger than most of us acknowledge. (shrink)
Welfare biology is the study of living things and their environment with respect to their welfare (defined as net happiness, or enjoyment minus suffering). Despite difficulties of ascertaining and measuring welfare and relevancy to normative issues, welfare biology is a positive science. Evolutionary economics and population dynamics are used to help answer basic questions in welfare biology: Which species are affective sentients capable of welfare? Do they enjoy positive or negative welfare? Can their welfare be dramatically increased? Under plausible axioms, (...) all conscious species are plastic and all plastic species are conscious (and, with a stronger axiom, capable of welfare). More complex niches favour the evolution of more rational species. Evolutionary economics also supports the common-sense view that individual sentients failing to survive to mate suffer negative welfare. A kind of God-made (or evolution-created) fairness between species is also unexpectedly found. The contrast between growth maximization (as may be favoured by natural selection), average welfare, and total welfare maximization is discussed. It is shown that welfare could be increased without even sacrificing numbers (at equilibrium). Since the long-term reduction in animal suffering depends on scientific advances, strict restrictions on animal experimentation may be counter-productive to animal welfare. (shrink)
One of the requirements in the Dutch regulation for euthanasia and assisted suicide is that the doctor must be satisfied ‘that the patient's suffering is unbearable, and that there is no prospect of improvement.’ In the notorious Chabot case, a psychiatrist assisted a 50 year old woman in suicide, although she did not suffer from any somatic disease, nor strictly speaking from any psychiatric condition. In Seduced by Death, Herbert Hendin concluded that apparently the Dutch regulation now allows physicians to (...) assist anyone in suicide simply because he or she is unhappy.In this paper, I reject Hendin's conclusion and in particular his description of Mrs Boomsma as someone who was ‘simply unhappy.’ After a detailed narration of her lifestory, I turn to the American philosopher Harry Frankfurt's account of volitional incapacity and love for a more accurate characterization of her suffering. Having been through what she had, she could only go on living as another person than the one she had been when she was a happy mother. That would have violated her integrity, and that she could not bring herself to do. (shrink)
Inasmuch as unmitigated pain and suffering areoften thought to rob human beings of theirdignity, physicians and other care providersincur a special duty to relieve pain andsuffering when they encounter it. When pain andsuffering cannot be controlled it is sometimesthought that human dignity is compromised.Death, it is sometimes argued, would bepreferred to a life without dignity.Reasoning such as this trades on certainpreconceptions of the nature of pain andsuffering, and of their relationships todignity. The purpose of this paper is to laybare these (...) preconceptions. The duties torelieve pain and suffering are clearly mattersof moral obligation, as is the duty to respondappropriately to the dignity of other persons.However, it is argued that our understanding ofthe phenomena of pain and suffering and theirrelationships to human dignity will be expandedwhen we explore the aesthetic dimensions ofthese various concepts. On the view presentedhere the life worth living is both morally goodand aesthetically beautiful. Appropriate``suffering with'''' another can help to maintainand restore the dignity of the relationshipsinvolved, even as it preserves and enhances thedignity of patient and caregiver alike. (shrink)
Distant Suffering examines the moral and political implications for a spectator of the distant suffering of others as presented through the media. What are the morally acceptable responses to the sight of suffering on television, for example, when the viewer cannot act directly to affect the circumstances in which the suffering takes place? Luc Boltanski argues that spectators can actively involve themselves and others by speaking about what they have seen and how they were affected by it. Developing ideas in (...) Adam Smith's moral theory, he examines three rhetorical 'topics' available for the expression of the spectator's response to suffering: the topics of denunciation and of sentiment and the aesthetic topic. The book concludes with a discussion of a 'crisis of pity' in relation to modern forms of humanitarianism. A possible way out of this crisis is suggested which involves an emphasis and focus on present suffering. (shrink)
Animal production, especially pork production, is facing growing international criticism. The greatest concerns relate to the environment, the animals’ living conditions, and the occupational diseases. But human and animal conditions are rarely considered together. Yet the living conditions at work and the emotional bond that inevitably forms bring the farm workers and the animals to live very close, which leads to shared suffering. Suffering does spread from animals to human beings and can cause workers physical, mental, and also moral suffering, (...) which is all the more harmful due to the fact that it is concealed. The conceptual tools used to conceal suffering ( animal welfare, stress, pain) suggest that the industrial system can be improved, whereas for farmers it is by definition incompatible with animal husbandry. (shrink)
This essay explores the experience of suffering in order to see to what extent it can be understood within the context of the human condition without diverting the reality of suffering or denying the meaning of human existence and divine reality. Particular attention is given to describing and interpreting what I call the transcendent dimensions of suffering with the intent of showing that in the experience of suffereing persons come up against the limits of what can be accounted for in (...) ordinary terms and point towards transcendent reality. In religious faith the transcendent dimensions of suffering may be understood to come together with other transcendent dimensions of experience in a more distinctive or focused encounter with transcendent reality. The conception of God that is suggested by the transcendent dimensions of suffering, however, differs from the model of God in western theism as an absolutely transcendent, all powerful, immutable and impassible being. (shrink)
This paper has three main aims. The first is to provide a critical assessment of two rival concepts of suffering, that proposed by Cassell and that proposed in this journal by van Hooft. The second aim of the paper is to sketch a more plausible concept of suffering, one which derives from a Wittgensteinian view of linguistic meaning. This more plausible concept is labeled an âintuitive conceptâ. The third aim is to assess the prospects for scientific understanding of suffering.
Taking as its starting point a recent statement of the Goals of Medicine published by the Hastings Centre, this paper argues against the dualistic distinction between pain and suffering. It uses an Aristotelian conception of the person to suggest that malady, pain, and disablement are objective forms of suffering not dependent upon any state of consciousness of the victim. As a result, medicine effectively relieves suffering when it cures malady and relieves pain. There is no medical mission to confront the (...) spiritual condition of the patient. (shrink)
"The work is on an important topic that has been oft debated but rarely systematically studied – the political, cultural, and moral effects of distant news coverage of suffering. [The book] is extremely well steeped in the relevant literature, including semiotics, discourse analysis, meda and social theory and makes a fresh methodological contribution by looking at the codes and formats of news about suffering. It has a fresh vision and answer to some of the stickiest moral and media problems of (...) our time … and deserves to find its place among important books about the moral aspects of media and society in our times." —John D. Peters, F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor, University of Ohio This book is about the relationship between the spectators in countries of the west, and the distant sufferer on the television screen; the sufferer in Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, but also from New York and Washington DC. How do we relate to television images of the distant sufferer? The question touches on the ethical role of the media in public life today. They address the issue of whether the media can cultivate a disposition of care for and engagement with the far away other; whether television can create a global public with a sense of social responsibility towards the distant sufferer. (shrink)
In this essay I discuss the concept of suffering, the causes of suffering, and the Christian solution to the problem of suffering. I conclude that there is no basis, within the Christian view of things, for raising the traditional problem of evil through reflection on the fact of substantial suffering in the world.
The problems of evil and suffering have been extensively discussed in Jewish philosophy, and much of the discussion has centred on the Book of Job. In this study Oliver Leaman poses two questions: how can a powerful and caring deity allow terrible things to happen to obviously innocent people, and why have the Jewish people been so harshly treated throughout history, given their status as the chosen people? He explores these issues through an analysis of the views of Philo, Saadya, (...) Maimonides, Gersonides, Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and post-Holocaust thinkers, and suggests that a discussion of evil and suffering is really a discussion about our relationship with God. (shrink)
I explore how many within modern industrial societies currently understand, manage, and respond to their emotional suffering. I argue that this understanding and management of suffering has radically altered in the last 30 years, creating a new model of suffering, “the negative model” (suffering is purposeless), which has largely replaced the “positive model” (suffering is purposeful) that prevailed in the 18th and 19th centuries. This shift has been hastened by what I call the “rationalization of suffering”—namely, the process by which (...) suffering is predominantly now understood in biological and psychiatric terms rather than in religious, philosophical, or moral. This process accompanied the great forces of secularization, medicalization unleashed at the enlightenment—forces gaining their modern expression through psychiatry, the behavioral psychotherapies, the happiness industries, as well as through aggressive market, individualistic, medical, and positivistic ideas and movements. This shift has entailed many socio/cultural implications important for anthropologists to explore further. (shrink)
"Every culture needs to appropriate the universal truth of human suffering," says Fernando Escalante, ". . . to give its own meaning to this suffering, so that human existence is bearable." Originally published in Spanish as La mirada de Dios: Estudios sobre la cultura del sufrimiento, this book is a remarkable study of the evolution of the culture of suffering and the different elements that constitute it, beginning with a reading of Rousseau and ending with the appearance of the Shoah (...) in the Western consciousness--"The memory endures, and this constitutes a fundamental transition for the Western conscience: we have witnessed." Drawing on writings from the Greeks to Cervantes, Voltaire to Nietzsche, and Freud to William James, Escalante combines his considerable knowledge of politics and political theory with a vast array of literary examples to arrive at an intellectual understanding of the history and meaning of suffering. His investigation encompasses the rise of popular politics, the role of messianism in modern nationalism, and the contemporary implications of the Shoah. This book will appeal to a wide audience: students of political theory, humanism, and philosophy, as well as the general reader interested in a glimpse into the mind of a highly original Latin American thinker. (shrink)
In this article, I assess the position that voluntary euthanasia (VE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) ought not to be accepted in the cases of persons who suffer existentially but who have no medical condition, because existential questions do not fall within the domain of physicians’ professional expertise. I maintain that VE and PAS based on suffering arising from medical conditions involves existential issues relevantly similar to those confronted in connection with existential suffering. On that basis I conclude that if VE (...) and PAS based on suffering arising from medical conditions is taken to fall within the domain of medical expertise, it is not consistent to use the view that physicians’ professional expertise does not extend to existential questions as a reason for denying requests for VE and PAS from persons who suffer existentially but have no medical condition. (shrink)
The suffering of nonhuman animals has become a noted factor in deciding public policy and legislative change. Yet, despite this growing concern, skepticism toward such suffering is still surprisingly common. This paper analyzes the merits of the skeptical approach, both in its moderate and extreme forms. In the first part it is claimed that the type of criterion for verification concerning the mental states of other animals posed by skepticism is overly (and, in the case of extreme skepticism, illogically) demanding. (...) Resting on Wittgenstein and Husserl, it is argued that skepticism relies on a misguided epistemology and, thus, that key questions posed by it face the risk of absurdity. In the second part of the paper it is suggested that, instead of skepticism, empathy together with intersubjectivity be adopted. Edith Stein’s take on empathy, along with contemporary findings, are explored, and the claim is made that it is only via these two methods of understanding that the suffering of nonhuman animals can be perceived. (shrink)
When people suffer they always suffer as a whole human being. The emotional, cognitive and spiritual suffering of human beings cannot be completely separated from all other kinds of suffering, such as from harmful natural, ecological, political, economic and social conditions. In reality they interact with each other and influence each other. Human beings do not only suffer from somatic illnesses, physical pain, and the lack of decent opportunities to satisfy their basic vital, social and emotional needs. They also suffer (...) when they are not able to experience and grasp any meaning of life even if such suffering is not quite as obvious as most forms of physical, social and emotional suffering. Suffering from the lack for the sense of the meaning of life is a special form of emotional, cognitive, and spiritual suffering. Although all human beings share the same basic human need for some meaning of life, the fulfilment of this need is highly individual and personal. Although all forms of human suffering can be a challenge to the meaning of life, the personal conditions of suffering usually are a stronger challenge for the meaning of life. Among the personal conditions of human suffering, the Grenzsituationen cannot be cancelled or raised at all, but only accepted and coped with as existential aspects of the conditio humana. According to Karl Jaspers these are: death, suffering, struggling, guilt, and failing. The challenge for human beings to cope with these Grenzsituationen is a way to move from the mere Being-there to true human Existence. (shrink)
In his influential theory of health Nordenfelt bases the concepts of health and illness on the notions of ability and disability. A premise for this is that ability and disability provide a more promising, adequate, and useful basis than well-being and suffering. Nordenfelt uses coma and manic episodes as paradigm cases to show that this is so. Do these paradigm cases (and thus the premise) hold? What consequences does it have for the theory of health and illness if it they (...) do not? These are the key questions in this article, which first presents the relationship between pain and disability in Nordenfelt’s theory and the paradigm cases he uses to argue for the primacy of disability over pain. Then, Nordenfelt’s concepts of illness are outlined, highlighting its presumptions and arguments. The main point is that if you do not have an action-theoretical perspective, it is not obvious that disability is the core concept for illness. The compelling effect of the paradigm cases presupposes that you see ability as the primary issue. To those who do not share this presumption, people in coma may not be ill. There are alternative well founded arguments for the primacy of first person experiences for the concept of illness. Hence, we need better arguments for the primacy of disability over first person experiences in illness, or first-person experience should be more primarily included in the concept of illness. (shrink)
Doctor and patient meet in a circle of feelings determined by suffering. Sensitivity to the suffering is an axis determining the nature of the doctor and patient relationship. The patient's experience of an illness is individual, private, and very often difficult to describe. But the possibility to understand the suffering of another person comes from the fact that suffering is a universal feeling. We propose to enter the world of patient's experience by writing a letter to a doctor, which would (...) reflect their experiences and expectations towards him. This was the task required for 120 students of the second year of medicine and dentistry education. (shrink)
How can educators and their students interrogate the ethics and politics of suffering in ways that do not create fixed and totalized narratives from the past? In responding to this question, this essay draws on J. M. Coeetze’s Disgrace, and discusses how this novel constitutes a crucial site for bearing witness to the suffering engendered by apartheid through inventing new forms of mourning and community. The anti-historicist stance of the novel is grounded on the notion that bearing witness to suffering (...) without betraying it means refusing to represent it, that is, refusing to translate history and speak of it; instead, the novel’s characters remain inconsolable before history. The essay builds on these ideas and considers whether educators and their students need to (re)learn the limits of historicism in comprehending conflict, oppression, otherness and suffering; also, it examines the educational implications of such a pedagogical task. (shrink)
Relying upon real life examples of human suffering--including torture, genocide, and warfare--as opposed to thought experiments, Corbi proposes a novel approach to self-knowledge that runs counter to standard Kantian approaches to morality.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the concept of 'evil' has enjoyed renewed popularity in both international political rhetoric and scholarly writing. World leaders, politicians, and intellectuals have increasingly turned to 'evil' to describe the very worst humanitarian atrocities that continue to mark international affairs. However, precisely what 'evil' actually entails is not well understood. Little consensus exists as to what 'evil' is, how it is manifested in the international sphere, and what we ought to do about it. (...) With this in mind, this work seeks to ascertain precisely what is meant by 'evil' when it is used to describe actors and events in international politics. Focusing on the history of evil in western secular and religious thought, it reintroduces a classical understanding of evil as the means according to which we seek to understand otherwise meaningless human suffering. (shrink)
There are two “problems of evil” (actually, as we will see in chapter 2 there are three main ones, each with multiple variants, but that doesn't matter here). One, the “logical” one in Alston's terminology, is almost universally thought to be not at all ...
Here is a thoroughly updated edition of a classic in palliative medicine. Two new chapters have been added to the 1991 edition, along with a new preface summarizing where progress has been made and where it has not in the area of pain management. This book addresses the timely issue of doctor-patient relationships arguing that the patient, not the disease, should be the central focus of medicine. Included are a number of compelling patient narratives. Praise for the first edition "Well (...) written. . .should be read by everyone in medical practice or considering a career in medicine."---JAMA. "Memorable passages, important ideas, and critical analysis. This is a book that clinicians and educators should read."---New England Journal of Medicine. (shrink)
I present ideas about human suffering that are salient among the black peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, reconstruct them in order to make them relevant to an international audience with philosophical interests, and urge that audience to give them consideration as alternatives or correctives to some dominant Western approaches. I first recount views commonly held by sub-Saharans about the nature, causes and cures of suffering, and then draw on them to articulate an account of it qua enervation, which rivals a neuro-physical (...) perspective that friends of Western science would readily adopt. Then, I address the way one morally should respond to suffering, appealing to judgments about the value of community that are influential among Africans. I show that, upon theoretical refinement, an Afro-communitarianism entails an ethical analysis of suffering that seriously competes with those entailed by standard Western moral philosophies. This view instructs moral agents neither to make others suffer because they deserve it, as per Kantian retributivism, nor to do whatever will minimize suffering, à la utilitarianism. Instead, it roughly prescribes responding to suffering out of love, which can require increasing the amount of suffering in the world by taking it upon oneself, instead of leaving it to others to bear on their own. (shrink)