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Episode #094 ... A Look at Suffering

2016-11-23 | 🔗

Today we look at the concept of suffering from multiple different angles including the philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky and the movement in Transhumanism known as The Hedonistic Imperative. 

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Thank you for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday. :)

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Stephen West. This is philosophize this. Thank you so much. If you're, one of the people on Patria honour for one of the people it goes to the Amazon banner, could never do this without you. I hope he loved the show today. So so, if you listen to the show before you know that something that's a bit of a tagline for the show rightly the kind of people that like to listen to the show is the phrase thank you for wanting to know more today than they did yesterday really neat phrase tomorrow as it could, To be honest, I wish I could use a lot more partners, scared that I'm gonna become like a happy radio guy now sarcoma guys the philosophizing nation stuff. Like that point, is it's a wonderful phrase right? I certainly did come up with it. In fact, the origins of that raised for one and a more today than you'd. Yesterday I share with kneeled Grass Thyssen. Neil address Thyssen. You don't already know is
an absolutely fantastic and scientific educator. If you have Netflix again on the Cosmos series that hit me whenever he's making some sort of deep, profound pointy, just kinda gazes into your eyes, talks to you, like you, just spiked your drink or something that guy, but the original thing that he said he was responding to somebody. It was asking what advice he'd, give to somebody, that's young and ambitious and are trying to make waves in the world, and he responded, I think quite brilliantly two pieces of advice for you. No more today about the universe, and you did yesterday and limit the suffering of others. Now we ve talked quite a bit about the importance of the first part of that, but what about Second part limiting the suffering of others. Do you think that something we should be tried do on a regular basis? Should that be intrinsic good, that you assigned your life when you're young on the same level. As I know more today than you did yesterday seems tempting to say yes right now. After all, the kind of person says no to that, we have to be some kind of sadistic monster to have a choice
between suffering and no suffering and you land on suffering. Who does that really? Maybe it's helpful to start with another question: what is progress? anyway. What we mean when we talk about something being progress for humanity? Are we talking about anything that limits the suffering of others? Are we talking about maximizing human happiness to very different things, Are we talking about the propagation of the species? Are we talking about? The propagation of all life on this planet include the longevity the earth itself now, at first glance I may get it approach sound, like an eighth greater trying my hardest to ask a deep, washed and it may seem like this question- doesn't even matter and to be fair. Historically, it hasn't mattered that much you're leaving thousands of years ago and Babylon and depressed was facing humanity, as you know, what our that there's, a drought going on or some pandemic diseases ravaging people's lives or your grandma's foot, is black from free fight, whether you believe that human progress
is the happiness index or the propagation of the spy, Caesar Life or whatever you're solution to it. Problems. Dont really change that much right, I'm in your If there's a drought is still to get some water there's a disease you get rid of it. If your grandmother feeder black from frostbite, you rubbed the feet, other really fast and try to start a fire with them? The answer was clear: back then, now, on the other hand, in today's world things aren't so clear because what you in the drought or once you cure the pandemic disease, it's not like theirs no problems in the world that you can focus on anymore, the prom for focusing on just become more fragmented and need not dimension of wasn't bad enough. All the technology that we have at our disposal, despite all the seemingly good stuff it does drastically complicates things. Cost ignored, allows us to have we more options and we otherwise would have more means more difficult decision, making more difficult decision making me We need to have some sort of come to Jesus moment where we think about what exact
criteria. We're gonna used use to determine which option to pick. In other words, this question of what exactly is progress Maybe more important today than it ever has been at any point in history I mean, even if you can give a definitive answer to that question right now. Let's say progress is the maximization of human happiness. You things quick become very complicated cause. It's not like there's a consensus about what the best way is to bring that world about. For example, let's say to make people happy. Do we try to eliminate human suffering as a means of doing that, but some people would say yes, some people would say no they say that to be as happy as you can means you gotta offset than happiness with different types of suffering, so the person they say back to the camera talkin about Paul suffering it certain types of suffering involuntary suffer ok, so, let's say our goals that we want to bring the billions in poverty on this planet up to a certain standard of living, food, water, shelter, economic sustainability in that world. Just a question in that world is built
a rocket ship, so we can fly to Mars and take a course ample. Should that be considered progress, some people might say no, no, we focus on the homefront, the other hand. How can we really know for certain that a bunch of soup geniuses sitting around building a rocket ship and going to Mars. How do we know that that might not innovate? Some technology that allows everyone on earth to have food, water and shelter. My point is: there's a lot of questions, I think the first up to solving them, or at least knowing what quest are worth asking is by trying to get to the bottom of what exactly we mean when we reference progress. Sometimes it can seem like em single person has their own individual definition of what progresses some as it can seem like if you're, even more originally politically aware. You have some hashtag subscribed to right and left is this? Seventy year neurotic dance from hashtag the hashtag trying to bring about a better world,
b, where an advocate for stem cells and nineteen nineties not moved on to being pro american Democracy post nine eleven now moved on to being and high interventionist. Once the war lost its lustre, not moved, I mean it it right. I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is What are the similarities between all these hashtags? I support throughout my life. Do these aims to limit the suffering of others Do they all aim to sustain stringent life on this planet? What world exactly are All these things aiming towards goes. Its demanded of Donald Trump came up to you and he said, look What you do anything you want with the world, any possible thing you can come up with about the world. You want change, I'm gonna make it happen, it's gotta, be tremendous, can be really really tremendous, just wincey. What would you say? What would you do you'd have to acknowledge it at some point, you request would end right at some point. They can go on forever. What would that world look like? Will we actually do that thought experiment? We quickly realized we I realize is how little I know about how to actually solve these things and how common,
the world is, when you start to consider all the unintended consequences it might happen? let us get overwhelming for me very quickly, and why should I feel bad about that really? Well I born to know everything about the earth and save the world. Irene cliff note into a microphone for living. What do you want from me? The reality is not everybody looked at themselves in this self deprecating way and with all this ambiguity about what exactly we should be doing when it comes to bring about progress? A very tempting trap that a lot of people fall into is a sort of become like, like a single issue voter for their entire life? you know can be pretty daunting to consider all the different options and all the different variables, but a lot of people will do. As I say, ok well, on a happy person I'm not walking around miserable because of the way the world is, but you know what, if only we could get this person elected, then everything's gonna be great. If only we could get this group of people,
then then, everything's, fine, someone, someone was very aware of this type of thinking- was a guy named fuel, go to Dostoevsky. He is good men strong back and upon that strong back of his he carried so pretty life. Changing ideas about what it means to be an individual recorded on ideas throughout his anthology of work. The central thesis, if I had a name one of all of his work, is an attack on this way of thinking the idea, That Paradise is just around the corner. The idea that there is some plan out there were some course of action. That is, we could get Congress to pass. This thing, then you're gonna, be satisfied with the state of the world then everyone's gonna be happy. He said people tell themselves this isn't what they're doing, but if you just look at themselves a little more honestly, this actually is what doing may say approach and comes a surprise to most of us that so many people, get social progress. This way just look at how often they use it in their personal lives like how many times we told yourself this story at some point here, like that I've done it doesnt support
Things are bad right now, but you know what once I get this promotion, then things are really can afford. Waste once you get out of this bad relationship, then I'll feel good. If only I could get that built tightened on my car, then I could finally confidently drive away from intersections without its screeching away like like the ghost of a wild boars following me around, then things would be great. My life right, but honestly, how accurate of a prescription for your life is that how often Get the promotion and everything's great and how often do get that promotion things are for a while, and then you Something else to complain about this, isn't something dusty ask is attacking people for he same. Maybe this is just a part of what it means to be a human being for some people see because at the root This way of thinking is the idea that, wherever you are right now is not good enough. Something needs to change to bring about the world that we are actually going to be satisfied with. But what often have this once you brought about this new world, it's not like here in this, the perpetual state
bliss floating around on a cloud for the rest, your life, don't you find use of living in that new, improved world you brought about, and then you find something else to ale over the point that just yes he's making we do this in our personalized and were often guilty of doing this when it comes to humanity as a whole. We tell ourselves this story that were suffering now, but if only Ex thing came about, we wouldn't have to suffer anymore, but what if suffering, is just a part of what life is what? If you had it all imagine, twenty hashtag wishes coming. True, imagine you had a Walmart parking lot full cars? Would you be good to go for the rest, your life? Would you find something else to suffer about net new world? Just yes, it would say maybe suffering is as integral a part life as Reading is no go short periods of time. A few minutes without breathing. Eventually you gotta do it again. Back it comes back personally, doesn't breathe is dead. What, if the only person that doesn't suffer is dead in the same way as pointless to try to fight
some recipe, some approach to life that permanently rids you of all suffering, maybe no matter how much we want there to be. Maybe there's no policy that can be written, no bill that can be passed that will ever completely rid people of another. We suffer now. Just yes he's insane. We shouldn't try to make things better he's not against all progress he's against what he saw as a very convenient but very toxic way of thinking. That makes us more miserable. Then we need to be this idea that we're just gonna keep progressing and progress, sing and hashtag into our heart's content and that one day we can expect to bring about a world- that's totally equal, fair and peaceful. He's not tried a straw man, the argument here, what I think is saying is even if you can see that this utopia can never actually exist, you're still in practice, trying to get as close to it. In right. How will we ever know when enough enough? How Good does the world have to be. I mean if the world is always gonna be flawed. To some extent it stands to reach and you're. Always gonna be able to find flaws in the world to start a new hashtag about, maybe the
same way, no matter how Good our lives are were always going to suffer, no matter how good the world gets. People are always going to be suffering and that this task we often assign ourselves to of progress is limit. The suffering of others. Maybe that cannot go on indefinitely or maybe maybe it can. Maybe it actually is possible for there to be an end to all human suffering He says it when people have one of these world views that Paradise and the Indus suffering is just around the corner, where the most common things they turn to as their Savior. That's gonna bring this world. Savior that's gonna bring this world about, for them is science and technology makes sensory, enter the movement in science and philosophy today, known as Trans Humanism,. Now, for some reason, doesn't casual conversation with people. They often conflate the idea of Trans Humanism, with the idea that we can use technology to live forever, but transmitters was actually much more exciting than
it's much bigger press humanism is a movement that tries to use technology to transcend any barrier. Human beings currently have physical or mental pride. On a big surprise, the philosophical basis for the entire field of Trans humanism is needed as Overman member. What is ape to man, man shall be that to the government What is the next stage of evolution for human beings of a bird can build a nest and that nesses at least part of what it means to be that bird, Wouldn't you say that it's at least possible for us to use technology, The argument our lives so much that we become something almost into, stinguished from what it is to be a human today. What if we could mentally alter the way our brains interact with the world to such an extent that the way you are I interact with the world too. To this new thing, this new type of person we look to it would look like a zebra or something Prince Humanism, looks to identify these barriers and then use technology to break them. Now wonder
small part of transition. Isn't this pretty relevant? What we're talking about today is a movement known as the hidden. Mr Comparative hedonistic, comparative movement would say that not only is it p, able to use various designer drugs. Nanotechnology, in genetic engineering, to create a world where nobody ever has to suffer if they don't want to, but that we have a moral obligation as human beings to bring this world. But now I want you to help myself here to maybe she just generally talk about how they look at the state of the average human being alive today, people working in this field there? see. Somebody like you were me, and they would see us as really the last of a dying breed. They think that when the history books are written for five thousand years into the future that we're gonna look back at the history of the mental are, texture of human beings and we're gonna see the people living in the year. Twenty. Sixteen at some of the last human beings to ever have to experience their existence and what they call the darwinian pathology of consciousness. Briefly, what this means
is the variants and emotions that we can experience sadness, happiness guilt, excitement jealousy all the others. All these emotions that we bundled together into a package and call our default human emotional experience of the world. These emotions he sings have been with us for millions of years. Really is one of our closest friends. This package of emotions. We got a service. Well, haven't they member that time, you're out their dying of thirst, and he went over that ravine and he saw the glimmering lake of drinkable water in your brain, saying that burst of chemicals you feel happy. I was a good time over that time. You didn't shower like three weeks and just when you thought your turn but people we're gonna. Kick you under the woods for smell and horrible that feeling of guilt row the town on horseback and me You take a shower. Neither memories point is this bridge. Court system and negative feedback system that you have set up in your brain the very important purpose, all throughout pre history. For your ancestors no question the people that are this movement today or just asking. Why?
we still need most of the stuff. More specifically, why do we still need the ones that make us feel horrible? Member, as I said, you, and I exist in this darwinian pathology of consciousness and emotional spectrum, that role Lord certain behaviors and punishes others, the ultimate goal being survival. The hedonistic imperative is trying to bring us into what they call a posts. Darwinian python of consciousness were a world where we use at first specialised drugs, but eventually advanced genetic engineering, to alter the limb, big system of the brain and sort of programme out every form of suffering that exists in their vision. We are some of them. Ass human beings will ever get to experience this thing that we refer to as suffering and doesn't just humans by the way they they actually have a date and this allotted from competing theories you're, obviously, but they actually try
to predict the year that the last being on this planet will ever have to experience and unpleasant experience. The last time- and at that point is proving to be some obscure, rare fish deep down in the ocean somewhere either way pretty sure rug. The doubtful work that day and on that day off in this world without suffering life at that point would become very different. Aid, become varying degrees of constant bliss with future technology that we invent only allowing us to potential explored deeper and deeper levels of bliss. On top of that, of this all sounds impossible. You they'd say yeah. Well, it would sound impossible to you, wouldn't they said quote Two hundred years ago, powerful synthetic painkillers and surgical anesthetics were unknown. The notion that physical pain could be banished from most people's lives would have absurd today, most of us intact. We advanced nations tickets, routine absence for granted the prospect that what we describe as psychological pain to could never be banished is equally counter. Intuitive
the feasibility of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of social policy and ethical choice, and quote so what they're saying just for a second just for second think of the veritable rollercoaster of emotions that most of us exist within on a daily basis. You you go to the movies and you love the movie in your happy and you go home and I got the long and you hate moment allowance and I are upset that you take a nice warm bath and feel all clean and relaxed? Then your uncle, Salisbury stakes for dinner and now you're angry Adam. Most of us live in this constant, volatile flux between different degrees of feeling, good or Add me one of the most admirable qualities you can have in our modern world.
Ability to have mental strength. Everyone respects that right to not break down when something stressful happens, to you to be able to regroup, pull yourself together and stay relaxed its admirable, but what, if you live in a different world? What if you live in a world where all those skills of being able to pull yourself a bad feelings and focusing attention on good ones? What if those were useless? You know we have these makeshift ways that we try to regulate this darwinian model that we have in a week. We take a deep breath. We think as something positive, be right, really nice stuff about ourselves and the measures we see it all throughout the day and perks us up all these ways we're trying to desperately hold it together with these monkey brain
that have software design for completely different world we live in? What are you didn't have to be this way? What if we could programme out all of this negative feedback that really doesn't service in the world we currently living? You know reminds me: the priest cracks when faintly said something like magnets our alive or that everything in the universe is made out of water. That's just taking different forms. Nothing about that statement really informs modern science. I mean as interesting. It is to hear about the conclusions of these early thinkers as cool as it is to hear they're not really practically useful to us today. Right, in fact, the reasons are so interesting is because we can acknowledge their living in a completely different world, and we are a pre science world will just try to imagine what a human being would be like in this post darwinian world. I mean it's not crazy to think they look at something like stoicism some like in other parts of Buddhism that deal with emotional regulation, and they look at that similar to the way we see the metaphysics? Are the pre socratic wow? Look at this. Here's a bunch of people from the your twenty. Sixteen talk about all these different techniques,
come up with for trying to regulate negative emotions. Thank you in doing that they must live in such acts, range world back, then, let me think about it think about just how much this darwinian survival oriented conquer other things Linz you everything through think about how much it affects every decision you make think about how much AIDS, the way that you view people or the universe, or even idea of what progress is the following is a cool from one of the leading websites dedicated to the humanist imperative at a talking about what it would be like if we can pick behind the curtains and see just how different the lines are, gonna be for these posts are winning in human beings quote indeed the entire life. Of post Armenians may be opaque to our hunter gatherer minds. The first person texture of modes of experience may be nothing. Like our own in anything but name even if we could glimpse the future, perhaps we'd be like cats watching tv We just wouldn't understand the significance of what was going on, in quote, think of sounds a little extreme. Do you just think about
How fundamental of a change we're talking about here? Think of how different life would be we never had to worry about negative emotional states. When we were talking at the beginning, the episode about progress or what criteria should be used to choose exactly what we should be doing or what is good. So many. Based those value judgments that we're making about human behaviour on public suffering ourselves or other people are gonna have to endure. As a result of it we base it on in this new world. What metric to use any post suffering world and in that world do? Socrates, Aristotle, can't Hume, Ben Does all this work in the field of morality, just get thrown out? The window does become obsolete because it was done with this darwinian mental architecture that we have to think about how different the world would be. If this happens, there will, a certain point where there's a last time. Somebody ever ask somebody else, the question: what are you so happy about right now, because it'll just be the default? They won't even think to ask that question: sluts, regroup haversack.
No doubt at this point, some people are probably San, ok, great great, maybe someday in the distant future. People in lab coats are gonna figure out how to do all this. But what does it really matter to me? This technology there talking about is the so far off. Why do I care about any of this? Will the interesting thing is? This is already happening to a certain extent, I'll, be it in a lab setting and yes with methods that no doubt in the future gonna make us look like a butter. Chimpanzees using sticks at the zoo, but at least in our time is up it they call this method, wire heading. Why are heading at least ass? The words used in a lab setting scientists will take a rat and hook little things up to the reward centre of the rats, brain and the fire electrical signals down into it, constantly stimulating the reward centre. Now I'm not a scientist personally, I've I've, never wire headed a rat before, but other
salt from one understand seem prompting the rat seems pretty happy. It seems to the scientists that the rat is so happy. It forgets to eat. Seems it than the rat is so happy it. It doesn't even proud of the cage. Looking for a rat domestic life partner to spend the rest would stays in the cage with, like, I said, we're just in the initial stages of this technology, but people a lot smarter than me that have dedicated their life to it, seem optimistic now onto the objections of some of the stuff one almost common problems. People have with this movement is the idea that Now there were always going to be feeling good twenty four hours a day. I was even possible- you, let's say you're one of these lucky people that have been genetically engineered to never experience suffering, ok, but you never experienced suffering? How do you have a frame of reference? to even know what good feelings are at all at once: everything's good, all the time, the nothing's good.
Things gain their value in relation to their opposites? If you never experience suffering, wouldn't life just become this numbness. This dull, flat line of emotions were yeah. You never experience allows, but you can have experienced the highs either, for the proponents of this movement would say that no, they don't think that's gonna be the case, and they certainly don't think that if somebody only experienced bliss in their life that doesn't altogether removed the value of experiencing bliss for its application. Rebuttal from the side is that there are currently people out there right now that, because of some horrible unfortunate genetic condition they are rendered in cars, in pain and mental anguish. There are people out there that have never and will never experience happiness as you currently experiencing suffering is visited in their lives on a level that seems almost unbelievable to tolerate for the average person. But would you say that just because they hadn't experienced happiness before that, their somehow not suffering?
or that they are incapable of understanding that the feelings they're going through our unpleasant, no, the Bristol suffering. They just have no Hope of a better destination think they can't imagine life is anything but constant suffering now in the context of somebody only experiencing bliss similar situation, they'd probably find it equally hard to. Imagine an alternative warrior in agony all the time, so another common objection people bring up is what about human progress. If everybody in the entire world is just happy as a claim, all the time in a world without suffering but he's ever gonna have the motivation to make things better. No new iphones who musical artists no more rocket ships. Is that really world, we want to live it. Will the good people of the hedonistic comparative respond that, as far as science goes as far as the science that we currently have access to those people with high levels of doping,
tend to get lazy, they tend to feel more enthusiastic about going out and doing more, they say quote: Hyper Doha. Majestic states tend also to increase the range of activities an organism finds worth pursuing and the quote instead, an extraordinarily fertile range of purposeful and productive activities will most likely be pursued. Better still, our descendants and in principle, perhaps even our elderly cells will have the chance to enjoy modes of experience. We primitive cruelly lack for on offer our sights more majestically, beautiful, music, more deeply souls during sex, more exquisitely, erotic, mystical, Epiphanes, more inspiring and love more profoundly intense than anything. We can now properly comprehend and quote what the basically saying is when you're in this post darwinian state. This is kind of like in anti depression, anabolic steroids, all the negative thoughts. You have all the fear of failure that typically stops.
From chasing the dreams and taking risks. Not only is that not gonna be there anymore, but it's not crazy to think that this limited survival oriented Linz that we currently look at everything through. It prevents us from seeing all the possibilities around us all the beauty that were so hell bent on focusing on our insecurities that we're missing out on all kinds of stuff. That's around us right now. We often talk about how how art in this new posts are age. Yet when we can experience, deeper and more complex emotional states? That's gonna make things like like like Beethoven. Sound like a raccoon scratch on a trash can crazy to imagine just how different this new type of human being is gonna. Look if this ever comes to fruition in attempting to think that people like Dostoevsky and the people, this trans, humanist movement are completely at odds, are opposites and in a certain way they are, but in other ways I think they're actually talking about to comply.
We different things right to different creatures. What I'm saying is maybe they're both right, maybe a day, will come in the future, where there's this next level of human being, that will ever have to experience suffering and maybe simultaneously for us people living in twenty sixteen may be suffering is an intrinsic part of life comparable to breathing. You know whenever I think about this idea that suffering is a guaranteed part of your life, there's no escaping it. For some reason, it always brings me back to the stocks from I heard, when I was thirteen years old. They blew my mind at the time that I heard it. It was delivered by a guy named Alan Watts. On this obscure late night, radio station has listened to. Now, since a time I heard the internet's become what it's become, and this particular thought experiments actually become pretty popular and just the philosophy, video circle in today's world exciting
but it's actually very helpful paraphrase. It goes like this imagine. If, when you went to sleep at night, you could condense an entire human life down into eight hours of sleep, seventy five years, basically you go to sleep dream starts he'd, be borne experience, an entire life of seventy five years, and when you die you wake back up into the real world only to go about your business for a day than to go back to sleep, the next night to live another human life. Now imagine if, within the stream that you had, you have the power to completely dictate the terms your life, you can do whatever you want in the stream. You choose everything that happens in your life? What would you do in that dream, while most people, if they're, given total control over their lies, what are they going to do with it they're going to give themselves anything? They could ever possibly want their they're going to have a yacht they're going to be friends with p diddy they're, never going to lose, it mini golf. They just be the absolute king or queen of the world right we can imagine
after a while that get kind of boring. Wouldn't it I mean how many times you really gonna lay your head down on the pillow, knowing full well you're about to spend the next seventy five years, having nothing but unbridled, success and pleasure. How are you gonna do that before that hold seventy five year? Trust fund life gets a little boring to you. We'd eventually do Alan Watts says. Is he working some kind of variance to the equation? You eventually wouldn't want the dream to be totally in your control. Can you control certain aspects of the dream, but you want things to happen to you that you idea no idea we're gonna happen. You just make things interesting again, but then eventually, this would get boring indeed continue down the path of adding more and more variants into the dream. Bad things. What happened to you contrasted by good things? You'd continue this momentum of having less and less control over the terms. Your dream, it eventually the final thing you'd want to ensure about the dream. You wouldn't want to know that The dream at all, in other words, this perfect life that we ve engineered in this dream world becomes exactly what life is to us right now.
And yes, along with all of its uncertain happiness and suffering. Thank you for this.
Transcript generated on 2020-03-23.