Thursday, 25 April 2013

Is it Moral to be Happy in a World of Suffering?


"'Making the best of it' and 'enjoying the small things' is, alas, probably the best that anyone can come up with as a solution for coping with life. In spite of all their thinking and writing, it's all that, say, Schopenhauer and Camus could ever prescribe. But to complicate matters, when we do feel content or happy it's generally unplanned and the feelings come and go of their own accord for no real reason.

A serious problem comes when we realise that in order to actively achieve any sort of equilibrium, not to mention contentment or happiness, we are obliged to put on the narrow blinkers and shut out the almost unquantifiable misery of the world. For a serious person, trying to forget that we live in a world where 25,000 people die of hunger every day, 1,000,000 people a year commit suicide, wars rage endlessly, global poverty exists etc etc in order to enjoy a good novel, piece of music or a movie can be a bit forced.

Is it moral to be happy in a world like this?"


http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=7148&page=4

46 comments:

  1. I saw that ligotti.net thread yesterday, Karl. Dimasok made some excellent posts. To get to your question, I agree with Schopenhauer that optimism (and by implication happiness)is a wicked mockery of the suffering of the world.

    As a lighter aside, I urge everyone reading this to check out "Despondex", at youtube. It's a short Onion satire video about "the first clinically approved depressant for insufferably cheery people." I know some I'd like to dose with it!

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  2. I have adopted this version of happiness.
    H. is pearls you can find anywhere. And during your life you can collect them and put them on a string. The more of them you find and smaller they are the bigger is the happiness.

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  3. Enjoying the small things is what dogs do when they're fed scraps from the masters table.Making the best of it,is pathetic gratitude that its not worst. The phrase I hate is 'It's all good'. Actually, it's not.

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  4. How are you helping anyone by being unhappy?

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  5. Human beings thrive on schadenfreude, the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

    In the abyss of the mind lies a savage and blood-thirsty hatred for both ourselves and others. Envy is the fundamental emotion we experience in our relations to others.

    If there is any happiness in this world, its source is primarily the addictive joy that comes from the misery of others.

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    1. I disagree whole heartily. Yes pleasure can be attained through the suffering of others but this doesn't apply for everyone and isn't the only or even primary source of pleasure for most people. Most people enjoy relaxing, watching movies, listening to music, having protected consensual sex and laughing. None of these things directly harm anyone else and it certainly isn't what they're deriving pleasure from if it harms someone indirectly in some strange case.

      And it is absolutely not immoral to be happy no matter how much suffering exist. In fact I would even say it is moral. You don't want others to suffer and you are an other to everyone else so wouldn't it make sense to not want yourself to suffer? And as long as what makes you happy isn't beating people or harming them in other serious ways it's not immoral to do what makes you feel good. Also, if you're happy you're more likely to be willing to help others in pain since you aren't crippled by your pain. This is common sense.

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  6. You probably never had a dog, David. "It's all good" is all over her face and it can rub on you. Anonymous is right. Sometimes just reading the comments of downers can bring some limited joy.

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  7. Actually, I've had several and I take the point,but mine was meant as an analogy and was in no way meant as derogatory to dogs.

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  8. It's not moral, but I guiltily cling to what scraps I can get. We are flawed. We don't like pain and depression. And we're selfish... and, like EVIList says, you're not helping anyone by being miserable. Just don't get so delusionally happy you start breeding... always remember that moments of lack of pain are something you artificially constructed, often with quite a good deal of effort and difficulty.

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  9. Of course what's grievously immoral (and foolish) is to gloat when you are happy, and blame others who fail to share your temporary state...

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  10. You touch upon various points Karl. I sit here pondering about happiness and its feasibility and morality. I´m going too hold myself an answer for now. But nice welcome back.

    I wonder about DerivedEnergy...

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  11. I´ve written three times and not one of the answers was here!
    Anyway, awesome post, Karl.
    One needs to question about "happiness" and its implications!
    I´ll hold my personal take for now!

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  12. I think Ann is right. There is suffering and unnecessary suffering.
    I don't understand what Ann has against the breeding.
    I don't know you much, but I think you could be a good mother.
    I do understand now, David, and my dog thanks you.

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  13. Jindrich, you are both welcome

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  14. Not only are these grapes sour, said the fox, they are actively immoral.

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  15. I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to be happy and to make the best of life, as long as we don't have children and impose life on others.

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  16. I don't- I can't- take any pleasure out of existing in this world. It's too horrible here. I've thought about what life would be like if I wasn't disfigured (I mean, if I were normal physically, would I be happy?). In my dreams I am not disfigured, and I feel really happy in my dreams. I see myself in my dreams playing on the beach and running around in the sand, things that I can never do in real life. Sometimes the happiness when I am dreaming is overwhelming...because when I'm dreaming I think that it is real. If I lived in a body like that, in a world like that where no person and no animal is suffering, I would be the happiest person ever. But to live in *this* world is the problem, because I am tortured, animals are tortured, people are tortured, it is not good. It is not happy at all.

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  17. I am reminded of the negative utilitarianism solution whereby the best way to minimise pain in the world is to blow the world up. I explained this in a recent blog post of my own:
    http://bit.ly/VTeoVC

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    1. I must say that I fully approve of this option.

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  18. Hi Jindrich,

    I'm against the breeding because I can't know what might befall my child. It could be worse than anything I'd be willing to endure, so I'm not taking that chance on another's behalf.

    --Ann

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  19. Does anyone know what happened to estnihil????

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    1. Was in touch with him a while back. He's fine.

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  20. Whether your happiness is moral or not is contingent on realising where your happiness is on the scale-where selfless gratitude is one end and schadenfreude is the other end, if they are not exact opposites I then I am happy to be corrected as truer opposites to each of them.

    Advertising, consumerism and the ability to sell people things and values to aspire to, would collapse without having schadefreude and jealousy at its core, whilst pretending to promote universal human happiness through a consumerism where money is the sole means of exchange, through which to buy perceived status. Many humans can resist schadenfreude but what do they have to show for their resistance? A relative stillness in which they seem relatively inert for not changing with the daily tides of jealousy and want? That does make the lack of reward for the lack of want of status etc practically rhetorical.....

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  21. I have to agree with EVIList, and second Ann's remarks.

    It's not immoral to be happy itself. Happiness =/= a mentality of self-indulgent self-satisfied "the world (especially human nature) is mostly all right the way it is".

    To me, true happiness is not feel-good emotionalism either. If you ask me, it's more of a steady, sober, emotionally-neutral ride - WITHOUT intense feelings of any kind (some feelings are necessary, but don't let them get out of control.

    Now the direct answer: It's not immoral to be happy to the extent that you are able to prevent or mitigate against suffering for others. You can volunteer at a food bank (as I do) or for some other community activity. You can buy stuff from "sweat free" garmet manufacturers or if you're a coffee drinker (big time addict I am), you can look for FairTrade(TM) or "Rainforest Certified", etc products.

    At least by getting out and actually helping the world, we are actually "hitting two birds with one stone" (i.e. double our suffering prevention power) - by actively supporting responsible garmet makers, coffee and banana growers AND depriving support for irresponsible producers that exploit others shamelessly (which, BTW is another argument I have against ANs committing suicide).

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  22. Happiness (depending, of course what you mean: joy ? contentment ? bliss ? orgasm ?) is random and accidental. It can be induced in others - especially Dogs - by being pleasant to them.

    I am insanely happy in a world of ever-increasing pain made by ever-increasing humans. So I am insane. But so is everything else. Life is no miracle - it is a bizarre aberration.

    Incidentally, my cavernous websites offer Happiness Tokens, made from pearls mined in Bohemia for the Winter Queen (Elizabeth Stuart). You just need to collect a few thousand, but in order to do so, you need to be able to read html (Happi-trippy Trance Music for Loafers).

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  23. NYT article on the recent rise in suicide rate among baby boomers. Several of the comments are worth reading.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-us.html?src=me&ref=general

    Eg.(actually got an "Editor's Pick", and lots of recommendations, amazingly):

    " molly
    san diego

    NYT Pick

    Why is suicide usually looked upon as a desperate and forbidden act?

    Can't we accept that in addition to poverty, loneliness, alienation, ill health life in world that is sometimes personally pointless means that death is a relief?

    I believe the right to die, in a time and place (and wishfully peacefully without violence) is a basic human right.

    We seem so terribly afraid of it.

    We look for "factors" that contribute....

    One would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to understand that in addition to money troubles or loss or grief...that there are places in people's hearts and souls that are not open to others...to analyze or tabulate or study.

    And these "places" are not subject to life coaches, or the endless American drumbeat of "tomorrow, tomorrow," or cheer-up drugs.

    Sometimes it is just time to end life.

    Sometimes the struggle to pretend that all will be well becomes absurd and burdensome.

    I think we need to do our best to love, understand and help all around us...but allow them to opt out, when they no longer feel able to endure.

    May 2, 2013 at 3:19 p.m.
    Recommended 265"

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    1. The above was posted by an Anonymous, but due to me accidentally deleting it I had to republish it under my own name. Apologies and thanks to the Anonymous!

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  24. This little poem sparked my interest in antinatalism - it was a circuitous route.
    http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2008/11/20

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  25. I think it is immoral to be happy in such a world. In addition to the obvious fact of not breeding, I also don't really want to help anyone out there since its all fucked anyways and if you go to the Only One Solutions website (http://www.onlyonesolutionsite.org/homepage.html) you will see just how many trillions of animals have been tortured and how many hundreds of thousand were born into a life of suffering today only.

    With these stakes, I think it is completely fucking immoral to try to be happy in this world or even help anyone else, especially of this pathetic species. This shit has to stop NOW.

    Oblivion to the entirety of existence is the only solution and everything else is makeshift and completely irrelevant.

    Yes, I am as profoundly pessimistic like that.

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    1. I'm more or less totally with you, Dima, although if I see someone begging or homeless I would like to see their scenario improved, although with the vital caveat that they pledge never to procreate!

      But yeah, the whole thing is fucked.

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    2. At this point an antinatalist could probably post a serious plan to brutally kill and dismember his parents, and the the community would probably be 100% supportive.

      That's the level of echo chamber going on here.

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    3. Dima I agree with everything you said. The torture of animals is always on my mind, always. I can't even look at scissors, knives, tubes, or needles anymore for they all remind me of instruments being used to torture animals to death. All I can wish for is the hopeless wish that this world had never existed. I want to apologize to all the animals for being born human. I want them to know I never wanted any of this. Humanity...stop reproducing...you owe it to all the animals whose lives you have completely destroyed.

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  26. Are you single Karl? A lonely life would make anyone an antinatalist.

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    1. I remember that on shadow's blog, Karl wrote he has a girlfriend. I could be wrong, though.

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  27. That really is the kind of witless, shitless comment pessimists/antinatalists have to endure which drives me nuts. 'Oh he's a misanthropist. If only he had a girlfriend, then he'd see how wonderful life is and he'd be having kids of his own and leave all that dark stuff behind.' Jesus chist, play the argument, not the man or woman.

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    1. Totally agreed.
      I think Karl was seeing someone and so was Shadow (i think he is engaged) and Derived Energy (who is unfortunately in jail right now) was seeing someone too. Every antinatlist who is in any sort of relationship would say the exact same thing no matter how sad or happy they are at any given moment because they don't let personal circumstances affect the rational judgements and observations of the world.

      These sort of comments are fucking absurd to begin with because they dodge all of the rational argument, but they're also completely false and fail to capture the truth of the matter in addition to all that.

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  28. On Dima's blog, I read that Wilhelm Alexander aka sundog killed himself. Is that true? I hope not!

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    1. Sadly, it is. Another good man gone. At least he went out on his own terms and has the peace he deserves.

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    2. Well, he hinted at it in this post:
      http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?p=66317#post66317

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  29. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-angelina-jolie-mastectomy-first-person-20130515-dto,0,5217359.htmlstory

    Article is about a woman who rushed to have TWO children after finding out she carried the same mutation Angelina Jolie did that led her to get a double mastectomy. She did it so she could enjoy as many Mother's Days as possible with her daughters (what a thoughtful and considerate woman). She did actually think a moment about the possibility that she could pass the same deadly mutation on to the girls, but that appears not to have figured largely, if at all, into her decision whether to have them in the first place. Well, at least she gratified her selfish "needs" by breeding. Here's how she closes the article:
    "Sadie and Twyla are too young to know the full extent of our family history, or what they might face. They each have a 50% chance that they inherited the deadly mutation from me, but they won't get tested until they are at least 18. I try not to think about what those results may be."
    That's right, lady. Just bury your head in the sand. After all, they'll have to deal with the fallout... not you.

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    1. Thanks for the article! The usual parental selfishness. I see only one of the commenters pointed out this fact. Interesting that it's considered ok if the kids watch the parents die of old age, but not of cancer. The double-think parents indulge in is unbelievable. DNA strikes again!

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    2. David Rickerby16 May 2013 at 09:10

      It is cases like this,that make me think the definition of 'Child Abuse' needs to be refined. When a parent deliberately risks endangering her childrens future, for they own selfish purposes that's abuse. You cause deliberate suffering,we call that tortue and you go to jail.

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  30. I found this earlier, it makes you despair:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22526252

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  31. Sorry to comment on an old post! I've been reading your blog a lot and love it.

    Anyway, to answer the original question: I would say that it's moral in the Nietzschean, "everything is permitted" way that things in this life are moral. If life has somehow magically put you in a position where you can enjoy it, where you can escape from the suffering even briefly, then go ahead and enjoy it. You deserve it for having come out on top of the evolutionary heap.

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    1. Thanks, although there is no 'coming out on top of the evolutionary heap', It's all just chance, and that big heap is just a heap of corpses in waiting.

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