Three kinds of suffering and their relative moral significance

Bioethics 36 (6):621-627 (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Suffering is widely assumed to have particular moral significance, and is of special relevance in medicine. There are, however, many theories about the nature of suffering that seem mutually incompatible. I suggest that there are three overall kinds of view about what suffering is: value‐based theories, including the theory famously expounded by Eric Cassell, which as a group suggest that suffering is something like a state of distress related to threats to things that a person cares about; feeling‐based theories, which equate suffering with aversive feelings or sensations like pain; and objective theories, which suggest that suffering is the absence of objective flourishing. Rather than argue that one or another of these kinds of theory most accurately captures the nature of suffering, I allow that the term is ambiguous and thus that it may have at least three different kinds. I further argue, however, that when we think about suffering as potentially justifying end‐of‐life interventions, especially for cognitively typical adults, we are interested mainly in value‐based suffering. This is because the moral significance of value‐based suffering for persons with decision‐making capacity generally outweighs that of the other types; those other types of suffering achieve overriding moral significance only if they also constitute, or contribute to, value‐based suffering.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,386

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Suffering and moral responsibility.Jamie Mayerfeld - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Suffering, Meaning, and Bioethics.H. T. Engelhardt - 1996 - Christian Bioethics 2 (2):129-153.
God hidden from God: on theodicy, dereliction, and human suffering.William L. Bell - 2020 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 88 (1):41-55.
Why do biologists argue like they do?John Beatty - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (4):443.
Moral Reasoning: Hints and Allegations.Joseph M. Paxton & Joshua D. Greene - 2010 - Topics in Cognitive Science 2 (3):511-527.
Comparing Suffering Across Species.John Nolt - 2013 - Between the Species 16 (1):8.
Distant suffering: morality, media, and politics.Luc Boltanski - 1999 - New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Moral Relativism.Qun Gong - 2009 - Philosophy and Culture 36 (6):29-43.
The Moral Significance of Empathy.William Jefferson - 2019 - Dissertation, The University of Oxford

Analytics

Added to PP
2022-03-12

Downloads
19 (#778,470)

6 months
5 (#629,136)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Brent Kious
University of Utah

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references