The Value of Suffering [New York Times]

The Value of Suffering [New York Times]
michael jameson
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Posted Sep 9, 2013 - 8:00 AM:

I can't stand Pico Iyer. The classic stereotype of the self-promoting, imbecilic Laputan who should be writing for a university instead of filling the heads of newspaper readers with utter rubbish.

I suppose it would have ruined his cute little argument about suffering being really great if he cited Japan's suicide statistics. And a lot of the Japanese I know who are my age (mid-twenties) are hardly thinking about the spiritual benefits of suffering; they are freaking out because they can't find jobs (the Japanese economy has been in decline since the early 90's) and are suffering from symptoms of anomie like every dweller of every modern society.

Maybe Pico Iyer should stop burying his nose in Issa and read/watch something MODERN. Why not start with Osamu Dazai's "No Longer Human"???? A book that is a lot more popular with Japanese younger people, for a reason. Or watch dramas like Byaku-yakou (Journey under the Midnight Sun) or Tsubasa no Oreta Tenshitachi?

Thanks for posting this, Druskin. I would like to see others bring down this buffoon and this incredibly stupid article in a future post.
On Sep 9, 2013 - 8:21 AM, BitterCrank responded: I like this post.
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Posted Sep 9, 2013 - 8:15 AM:

Some time in mid-life I started being much more athletic than I had previously been. Don't know what brought it on, but during the next 30 some years I kept being athletically active (not great, just kept at it). Maybe because of a lack of instruction, certainly because of poor vision, probably because of emotional turmoil, I managed to have a lot of accidents: broken bones, big bruises, lacerations, torn muscles--all that stuff one recovers from, but less slowly as one grows older. The last accident was a week ago.

There has been a lot of pain and suffering as a result. But a week ago, even as I was gritting my teeth in response to the pain of bare skin sliding across flesh shredding concrete, I was still glad that I was more or less OK. I could stand up, the bike was intact, I could ride back home and would be able to take care of the wounds. I was glad, relieved, more or less happy that I would be able to endure this without having to seek help (god forbid that one should have to seek help from others).

Pain and suffering always has a context of some sort. It doesn't occur out of context. IF it did, THEN it would certainly be more difficult to justify on-going life. I suppose that infants suffer out-of-context. But in a little while they too are old enough to place at least some of their suffering in the context of place, event, past, and future.

ciceronianus
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Posted Sep 9, 2013 - 8:31 AM:

There seems little to choose from in this debate. One indulges in self-pity, expounding on the wretchedness of life; the other sanctimoniously expounds on the supposed benefits of being wretched.
On Sep 9, 2013 - 9:41 AM, Veritas Vincit responded: Suffering builds character, don't you know? grin
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Posted Sep 9, 2013 - 9:06 AM:

For life, I tend to give it no value, as per the first reference in the statement about whether or not life has value.

I usually see no reason for the "I am become"; Personification of a singularity.

But then, my mind really is imaginative. I look back and I would much prefer getting my bones broken then having to 'not quite' be the events that I went through in my teens. Yet, both outcomes would still be caused by the same thing. In some ways, I would rather have become "victim", then "survivor".

So much of Life's value is hind-sight, yet we insist that it is what it portends that is important.
schopenhauer1
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Posted Sep 9, 2013 - 9:17 PM:

Benkei wrote:


For better or worse, I think most people actually don't think about it too much. Seems a mostly Western pre-occupation to consider the future lives of their children.


But it doesn't make it right to not think about future lives of children. I would think this should be a more important decision than say, what car to buy; yet, people might put more thought into what car to buy than whether bringing a whole new person into the world is a good thing.



You're assuming there is a more "true" estimate of pain than the estimate we already have. It is my pain so I'm sticking to the fact that my experience of that trumps your supposed pain I actually should've felt or remembered. There is no standardisation for pain and people react differently to it. So your wish to have some sort of standard is simply not human.


Actually, I am trying to convey the idea that we might have different versions of pain. When we go through a painful experience in the actual moment, it might be very painful. Later, the painful experience is not felt in all its glory. We may even give a positive spin to it (learning experinece, character, made me stronger, etc.). This later version is the one we gravitate to when evaluating painful situations.


Why? Why focus on the shitty stuff and not the good stuff that remains? It seems to me you want to load the dice to get to the conclusion you want when you want people to be less positive than they are without any interference from outside. There is no "misestimation". The experience is what it is and it's the experience that matters. You want people to deny their experience and accept something that conflicts with their experience as real.


Not really. I want people to remember the painful experience as it was experienced in the moment and not the pollyanna story that was made up after the fact or the more weakened version of the pain. This may bring a different perspective.

Moreover, we can't recall most things that happen to us unless the memory is reinforced. If memory improves through reinforcement, then it is actually counter-intuitive to claim we have more bad experiences than good when the majority of people are positive about their lives and life's prospects.


Or there could be psychological research that we tend let a lot of painful experiences slide because it is just necessary to keep going with life. This doesn't negate pain, just makes it more bearable. The point is to determine what should be assessed, the pain as you experience it in the moment, or how you evaluate it after you experience it. People tend to evaluate it after the fact, and not recall it as it was experienced in the moment.
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Posted Sep 10, 2013 - 3:31 AM:

schopenhauer1 wrote:


But it doesn't make it right to not think about future lives of children. I would think this should be a more important decision than say, what car to buy; yet, people might put more thought into what car to buy than whether bringing a whole new person into the world is a good thing.


I didn't say it makes it right. But it suggests to me that probably the arguments for and against are pointless. wink

Actually, I am trying to convey the idea that we might have different versions of pain. When we go through a painful experience in the actual moment, it might be very painful. Later, the painful experience is not felt in all its glory. We may even give a positive spin to it (learning experinece, character, made me stronger, etc.). This later version is the one we gravitate to when evaluating painful situations.


Pain is a rather useful warning system. Whose to say the initial pain isn't an evolutionary exaggeration so we are better compelled to avoid it in the moment we experience it? The lesser pain we remember later is actually the "true" level of pain. Or maybe it's something in the middle. What makes the initial pain the only correct pain? I see no compelling reason to accept this. I will accept there's a shift in our memory of it over time as a perfect mechanism to experience life overall as totally worth living. Even if it were delusional, it's what I experience and differentiating an experience of an illusion with an experience of reality isn't meaningful in a conceivable way (pursuant the Brain in a VAT hypothesis, for instance).

Not really. I want people to remember the painful experience as it was experienced in the moment and not the pollyanna story that was made up after the fact or the more weakened version of the pain. This may bring a different perspective.


But I do remember it and it's not made up - just put in perspective.

Or there could be psychological research that we tend let a lot of painful experiences slide because it is just necessary to keep going with life. This doesn't negate pain, just makes it more bearable. The point is to determine what should be assessed, the pain as you experience it in the moment, or how you evaluate it after you experience it. People tend to evaluate it after the fact, and not recall it as it was experienced in the moment.


The pain in the moment; is just that: a moment. It's just a coincidence of nature we feel pain; and because of this coincidence life somehow isn't fair according to you. Seems to me you're blowing insignificant issues out of proportions from some possible perspectives (not from the pessimists' view of course). If you're concerned about pain and suffering, maybe free lobotomies for everybody? Or perhaps drugs? Mood enhancers when we have heart ache, morphine when in pain.

Or share my viewpoint. grin


Edited by Benkei on Sep 10, 2013 - 3:47 AM
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Posted Sep 10, 2013 - 4:33 AM:

If you count up the fucks and subtract the fuck-ups, you will always reach a negative number. this is the well known principle of Sod. Talking about the value of suffering is rather like trumpeting the low recidivism rates following capital punishment.

Nevertheless, that Sod's law holds does not require everyone to be a little sod. 'It's not worth building because everything falls down eventually', is unconvincing even though the 'value of falling down' is also unconvincing.

Suffering sucks - suck it up.
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Posted Sep 10, 2013 - 5:09 AM:

Benkei wrote:


I didn't say it makes it right. But it suggests to me that probably the arguments for and against are pointless.

But isn't this the fallacy of majority- an appeal to popularity? Isn't one large value of philosophical reflection that it allows us to question that which is seen as an apparent given and conceptually analyze and understand what is really going on at some deeper level? However, I think your point may have been to say that since a majority of people don't care about the issue, nature (or the human culture that has take the place of instinctual modules in other animals) must not intend this to be a big deal- some sort of evolutionary psychology origin. In other words, you mean to say that humanity at its core just likes life, consciously or unconsciously and that is the way it is.

However, my point is that perhaps this assumption about life is based on a distorted version of pain and thus, not truly taking life into account on the levels that should be examined most. This fuller perspective may override the initial rosy picture.

Pain is a rather useful warning system.

This depends on what kind of pain we are discussing. If we are discussing direct physical pain, then I would probably agree that it started as a warning system. This of course does not negate that it is bad in the moment to have pain. However, some pain is just mental pain or emotional anguish. In fact, some pain is there to get a job done. The whole idea that you have to break some eggs if you want to make an omelet. Some things in life take unpleasant experiences "to just get it done".

This leads to another idea that counters many popular notions. Virtues such as responsibility and thrift can be painful to apply. Yet, virtues are the highest good in some peoples' minds. Even if it these values are just informal to a person, the person who takes great pride in their ability to be responsible and have a good work ethic has struggled to cultivate and maintain these "virtues". This goes to show that pain is not just something of a warning system but even a necessary gauntlet if one wants to cultivate virtues. Thus, if we take virtues serioiusly, the highest good entails some form of suffering.

Even if one doesn't ascribe to the idea that we must cultivate virtues there is some truth to the idea that you have to "work at things" to be better at them. It seems to me that if pain is so integral in the "good life" of living virtuously (or at least get better at something). If these virtuous "goods" of life involve suffering, perhaps it is not the lack of cultivating the virtues or the drive to get better at something that should be deemed as "not good" for the individual, but the virtue cultivating system (that entails pain in the first place) that should be deemed in a negative light.

Whose to say the initial pain isn't an evolutionary exaggeration so we are better compelled to avoid it in the moment we experience it? The lesser pain we remember later is actually the "true" level of pain. Or maybe it's something in the middle. What makes the initial pain the only correct pain? I see no compelling reason to accept this.

I am not saying
it is the only correct pain, just that if we only stick to the version of pain after the fact, instead of recalling every pain that we felt in the moment, than we have not had a full perspective, only a partial one. Why take only one bias and not look at the point of views of the full range of pains?

Of course, the point is that it is almost impossible to relive things- we would go crazy and could not function properly- as stated before, we are constantly "forgetting" our pains. In place of actually remembering the events as they occurred in the moment, perhaps we could at least acknowledge that the actual event was probably more painful as it was felt and that accumulated over time, this means a lot of very painful moments that have been weakened over time. Not only this, but there are ongoing pains that go with daily life- to not negate that every day entails a struggle of some sort. To put the struggle in perspective rather than platitudes that you tell someone after the fact. Be mindful of the very struggles as they occur.

I will accept there's a shift in our memory of it over time as a perfect mechanism to experience life overall as totally worth living.

At least we agree on something.

Even if it were delusional, it's what I experience and differentiating an experience of an illusion with an experience of reality isn't meaningful in a conceivable way (pursuant the Brain in a VAT hypothesis, for instance).

But again, see above about what I stated about at least being mindful of how much ongoing struggle there is vs. our version when we are recounting it. It is meaningful because which pain are you evaluating? If one is mindful that there are different versions, than perhaps a better estimation of what you experience can be evaluated.




The pain in the moment; is just that: a moment. It's just a coincidence of nature we feel pain; and because of this coincidence life somehow isn't fair according to you. Seems to me you're blowing insignificant issues out of proportions from some possible perspectives (not from the pessimists' view of course). If you're concerned about pain and suffering, maybe free lobotomies for everybody? Or perhaps drugs? Mood enhancers when we have heart ache, morphine when in pain.

Or share my viewpoint.

There is no perfect solution to suffering once born. Most of what you said (as you obviously know) is impractical or flies in the face of people's idea of identity (for example not wanting to be changed through lobotomy). The fact that you are throwing out solutions is telling, as why do we have to go through something that needs all these "solutions"? However, I can give you a good solution- being unborn. Since this cannot happen, at least try to prevent putting another person through it.

How is existence not a form of enslavement? Do you think there is an unstated telos to existence? We live to keep virtues going? We live to keep science going? Happiness?

Even if you were to say that there is no telos, people tend to conceive by accident or they want to have a family in some part of their life, this is even worse, because instead of an overriding purpose it is just a selfish decision to give comfort to oneself and one's already existing family.



Edited by schopenhauer1 on Sep 10, 2013 - 5:45 AM
Benkei
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Posted Sep 10, 2013 - 5:55 AM:

schopenhauer1 wrote:

There is no perfect solution to suffering once born. Most of what you said (as you obviously know) is impractical or flies in the face of people's idea of identity (for example not wanting to be changed through lobotomy). The fact that you are throwing out solutions is telling, as why do we have to go through something that needs all these "solutions"? However, I can give you a good solution- being unborn. Since this cannot happen, at least try to prevent putting another person through it.


Just a quick reaction but I'm offering solutions to a problem you see. I've never admitted to the problem.
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Posted Sep 10, 2013 - 8:43 AM:

schopenhauer1 wrote:


I want people to remember the painful experience as it was experienced in the moment and not the pollyanna story that was made up after the fact or the more weakened version of the pain. This may bring a different perspective.
.

Are you serious?

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