Some Reflections on the Value of Pain and Suffering
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Publisher:Ohio State University. Mershon Center for International Security Studies
Series/Report no.:Mershon Center for International Security Studies. Citizenship Speaker Series
When philosophers think about morality, they often take for granted that pain and suffering are intrinsically bad. That happiness and pleasure are good, that pain and suffering are bad, constitute starting points for much thinking and theorizing about morality. Immanuel Kant famously questioned the intrinsic or unconditional goodness of happiness, but the badness of pain and suffering has an even stronger claim to be an axiom of moral philosophy and ethical theories. The assumption is that unless they are necessary means to greater happiness or good, pain and suffering should be avoided and minimized. I will examine and challenge this common assumption. I will try to convince you that pain and suffering are woven into human life in ways that we cannot imagine eliminating without making our lives and much of what we value unrecognizable. If I can convince you of that, then I may also be able to convince you that thinking about morality should not begin with assumptions about what is intrinsically good or bad; rather, it should begin by exploring the ways that moral values are connected and never lose touch with our history and our practices, where both suffering and happiness have important roles to play.
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Ohio State University. Mershon Center for International Security Studies.