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Abolitionist
post Nov 26, 2004, 10:13 AM
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Abolitionism is the use of biotechnology to eliminate the chemical substrates of sentient suffering. Most people are familiar with Abolitionism through the writings of David Pearce ("The Hedonistic Imperative.")

The Abolitionist Society - www.abolitionist-society.com

is looking for feedback on their site as well as thoughts about the Abolitionist project in general. Let's hear your opinions.
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 10:52 AM
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do you have any relation to David Pearce or his site?
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Abolitionist
post Nov 26, 2004, 02:35 PM
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Yes, David Pearce, Pablo Stafforini, and I founded the Society. As far as I know David was the first person to use the phrase 'abolitionism' when referring to the abolition of the chemical substrates of suffering.

Sean Henderson
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 02:41 PM
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I checked out the site. Interesting initiative; realistically and idealistically, what do you hope to accomplish? Are you collaborating with scientists or is this primarily to inform the public and influence policies?
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 02:54 PM
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I took a look at the website and found the writings of interest.

I have said here previously that permanent 'happiness' would become valueless to us because, if it were available there would be no 'unhappiness' to make the 'happiness' seem valued. I stand by this view.

This is not to say that those things which cause cause suffering which can be eliminated without causing new problems should not be attempted, though cost considerations must realistically involved.

My thoughts now drift onto the topic of why suffering occurs.

Is it faulty DNA, the base info for construction?
Is it in-built mutations seeking new opportunities?
Is it human manufacturing defects?
Is it the food chain?

Until these questions can be answered, I would have thought that the adoption of a no-suffering policy would be foolhardy, unless we want to create adherence to an equivalent of the 'British Standard Institute Human'.
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Abolitionist
post Nov 26, 2004, 03:06 PM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 02:41 PM)
I checked out the site.  Interesting initiative;  realistically and idealistically, what do you hope to accomplish?  Are you collaborating with scientists or is this primarily to inform the public and influence policies?

It sounds counterintuitive and somewhat incredible I'm sure - but to be honest we hope for nothing less than the abolition of all sentient suffering. Will the project be completed in our lifetimes? Most likely not.

The Abolitionist Society is very young and we are just beginning to form associations with scientists, currently our collaborations are relatively small.

We view the ideological barriers to successful completion of the project to be much more daunting than the technical challenges - so much of what we do will be public relations, and spreading our message. That being said, the establishment of Abolitionism as a distinct and urgent research tradition is one of our prime objectives, as is the implementation of an Abolitionist research facility - which could be expanded upon and would operate with our values in mind.

"Absurdly fanciful?" - as Dave has put it, not really. Looking back at all the things we've accomplished throughout history as well as the looming technologies - the potential is there. We just have to build acceptance and ideological support in order to get things moving.

Also, I'd like to avoid limiting our activities to any specific realm so that we are open to new ideas and possible collaborations.

Cheers,
Sean



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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 03:12 PM
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QUOTE (Abolitionist @ Nov 26, 03:06 PM)
we hope for nothing less than the abolition of all sentient suffering

'sentient suffering' is an interesting term. By 'sentient' do you mean just human suffering? What about animals and plants, and what criteria are we to use to determine what's sentient?

And what is suffering? I don't mean this as a joke. Suffering can be of many types. And also, it does not seem to me that suffering is necessarily bad; as Nietzsche said, "what does not kill me, makes me stronger". By overcoming suffering, we grow and get stronger. Suffering is like a barrier that we need to endure and get through; However, without suffering, then there is no barrier to our progress and there is no friction, and the question is whether we require this barrier in order to make progress. That is, do we require suffering in order to grow and advance? Is suffering really a bad thing that we want to abolish? If it's not a bad thing, then what should we do if we don't abolish it (perhaps seeks ways to make us stronger in order to endure and overcome greater suffering and thus experience greater growth)?

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Abolitionist
post Nov 26, 2004, 03:17 PM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 02:54 PM)
I took a look at the website and found the writings of interest.

I have said here previously that permanent 'happiness' would become valueless to us because, if it were available there would be no 'unhappiness' to make the 'happiness' seem valued. I stand by this view.

This is not to say that those things which cause cause suffering which can be eliminated without causing new problems should not be attempted, though cost considerations must realistically involved.

My thoughts now drift onto the topic of why suffering occurs.

Is it faulty DNA, the base info for construction?
Is it in-built mutations seeking new opportunities?
Is it human manufacturing defects?
Is it the food chain?

Until these questions can be answered, I would have thought that the adoption of a no-suffering policy would be foolhardy, unless we want to create adherence to an equivalent of the 'British Standard Institute Human'.

That there can be no happiness without unhappiness is a concern we've heard many times and take seriously.

Does this mean that if you were completely happy, you'd want to suffer again?

It's hard for any darwinian to imagine life's values as not depending on one's position on the hedonic treadmill. Can values and direction in life be independent of a need to keep running on the treadmill? We think so.

"Is it faulty DNA, the base info for construction?
Is it in-built mutations seeking new opportunities?
Is it human manufacturing defects?
Is it the food chain?"

Our position is that natural selection has created a consciousness that suffers because it was simply beneficial for the propagation of our genes in the ancestral environment.

I'm not familiar with the term - 'British Standard Institute Human' - can you please describe this?

Thanks,
Sean
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Abolitionist
post Nov 26, 2004, 03:31 PM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 03:12 PM)
QUOTE (Abolitionist @ Nov 26, 03:06 PM)
we hope for nothing less than the abolition of all sentient suffering

'sentient suffering' is an interesting term. By 'sentient' do you mean just human suffering? What about animals and plants, and what criteria are we to use to determine what's sentient?

And what is suffering? I don't mean this as a joke. Suffering can be of many types. And also, it does not seem to me that suffering is necessarily bad; as Nietzsche said, "what does not kill me, makes me stronger". By overcoming suffering, we grow and get stronger. Suffering is like a barrier that we need to endure and get through; However, without suffering, then there is no barrier to our progress and there is no friction, and the question is whether we require this barrier in order to make progress. That is, do we require suffering in order to grow and advance? Is suffering really a bad thing that we want to abolish? If it's not a bad thing, then what should we do if we don't abolish it (perhaps seeks ways to make us stronger in order to endure and overcome greater suffering and thus experience greater growth)?

We define suffering as all aversive experience, though we don't think that the functional equivalents of aversive experience will neccessarily require abolition. Most likely human suffering will take precedence, but we wish that all sentient suffering be abolished. You are right to say that we have much to determine when it comes to sentient suffering. Some say that reptiles are not conscious - does this mean that they do not suffer? An important question.

"Man is not yet an ideal creature. At his present best many of his ways are so unpleasant that they are unmentionable in polite society, and so painful that he is compelled to pretend that pain is often a good."

George Bernard Shaw

In the big picture (we think) learning (if learning = movement towards happiness) never really occurs, in fact this is an illusion to keep us running on the treadmill and propagating our genes. Granted one can make choices that will usually make one more or less happy, but happiness never really comes - it's not something in our current design specifications. Our anhedonic homeostatic mechanisms make sure that one continues to strive as only a human being can.

This isn't to say that we think man should give up reason, education, cognitive discipline, and the like. Just that the true barrier to happiness must be eliminated at the biological level.

Thanks,
Sean
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 03:50 PM
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"We define suffering as all aversive experience"

Suffering seems an important component of learning. If you don't experience aversive reactions to living homeless in the street, then will you ever learn to get yourself out of that situation? If you don't experience aversive reactions to a dangerous drug habit, then will you ever learn or otherwise be motivated to break the drug habit?
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 03:53 PM
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thus, if suffering is an important component of learning, then by abolitioning it in humans, you reduce the learning capabilities and proficiencies of humans, with the result being a 'dumbed-down' species. Is that really what we want?
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 04:19 PM
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or as Nietzsche says in Thus Spoke Zarathusra in the chapter, The Famous Wise Men:

"Spirit is life which itself cuts into life: by its own torture does it increase its own knowledge"

Without suffering, you remove a major component of life, and you end up with less of a man.
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 04:25 PM
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it is like astronauts who experience weightlessness for extended periods and come back to earth all weak and feeble and barely able to carry their own weight. Without the resistance to earth's gravity, the astronauts grow weak and feeble. It is only by encountering resistance and through suffering that we grow strong.
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rhymer
post Nov 26, 2004, 04:31 PM
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QUOTE (Abolitionist @ Nov 26, 11:17 PM)
QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 02:54 PM)
I took a look at the website and found the writings of interest.

I have said here previously that permanent 'happiness' would become valueless to us because, if it were available there would be no 'unhappiness' to make the 'happiness' seem valued. I stand by this view.

This is not to say that those things which cause cause suffering which can be eliminated without causing new problems should not be attempted, though cost considerations must realistically involved.

My thoughts now drift onto the topic of why suffering occurs.

Is it faulty DNA, the base info for construction?
Is it in-built mutations seeking new opportunities?
Is it human manufacturing defects?
Is it the food chain?

Until these questions can be answered, I would have thought that the adoption of a no-suffering policy would be foolhardy, unless we want to create adherence to an equivalent of the 'British Standard Institute Human'.

That there can be no happiness without unhappiness is a concern we've heard many times and take seriously.

Does this mean that if you were completely happy, you'd want to suffer again?

It's hard for any darwinian to imagine life's values as not depending on one's position on the hedonic treadmill. Can values and direction in life be independent of a need to keep running on the treadmill? We think so.

"Is it faulty DNA, the base info for construction?
Is it in-built mutations seeking new opportunities?
Is it human manufacturing defects?
Is it the food chain?"

Our position is that natural selection has created a consciousness that suffers because it was simply beneficial for the propagation of our genes in the ancestral environment.

I'm not familiar with the term - 'British Standard Institute Human' - can you please describe this?

Thanks,
Sean

Sean,
Sorry I was not logged in previously.

No I don't mean that I would seek suffering.
I am merely pointing out the well known fact that a constant availability of a 'state of existence of something' almost ensures that we soon don't value it, realise it, or even seek it for others.

I would like to see an expansion on your position of 'created conciousness for gene propagation', which implies that consciousness can now be changed for better things on the assumption that gene propagation is adequately controlled by non-human factors.

The 'BSI Human is non-existent'. I merely used the idea as a concept based on the BSI which has standards for those things which do fall within its remit (non-human).
I was intending to demonstrate a worry that if abolitionism were adopted in a widespread fashion we would end up with a STANDARD HUMAN BEING (in the sense of equal happinesss for all only).

This is an interesting subject, but I suspect that there will be many views as people consider the implications!
I have anhedonia by the way, but am cheered to think it may become a thing of the past.
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Unknown
post Nov 26, 2004, 04:34 PM
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I agree, and although I like to be open minded and desire not to fall into the same narrow-minded trap as those before us, this implications must be thoroughly investigated before any such final conclusions are made.
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Abolitionist
post Nov 26, 2004, 07:41 PM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 03:50 PM)
"We define suffering as all aversive experience"

Suffering seems an important component of learning.  If you don't experience aversive reactions to living homeless in the street, then will you ever learn to get yourself out of that situation?    If you don't experience aversive reactions to a dangerous drug habit, then will you ever learn or otherwise be motivated to break the drug habit?

Valid concerns.

The key is designing the functional equivalents of aversive experience and informational sensitivity to one's environment while removing the pain and pleasure axis as a motivational factor. As an interim solution there is the possibility of encoding for gradients of bliss rather than the raw pain and suffering that we currently experience. Simply raising the hedonic setpoint would be a blessing for many, not only those with anhedonia.

Does this make any sense?

Sean
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Abolitionist
post Nov 26, 2004, 07:54 PM
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QUOTE (rhymer @ Nov 26, 04:31 PM)
QUOTE (Abolitionist @ Nov 26, 11:17 PM)
QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 02:54 PM)
I took a look at the website and found the writings of interest.

I have said here previously that permanent 'happiness' would become valueless to us because, if it were available there would be no 'unhappiness' to make the 'happiness' seem valued. I stand by this view.

This is not to say that those things which cause cause suffering which can be eliminated without causing new problems should not be attempted, though cost considerations must realistically involved.

My thoughts now drift onto the topic of why suffering occurs.

Is it faulty DNA, the base info for construction?
Is it in-built mutations seeking new opportunities?
Is it human manufacturing defects?
Is it the food chain?

Until these questions can be answered, I would have thought that the adoption of a no-suffering policy would be foolhardy, unless we want to create adherence to an equivalent of the 'British Standard Institute Human'.

That there can be no happiness without unhappiness is a concern we've heard many times and take seriously.

Does this mean that if you were completely happy, you'd want to suffer again?

It's hard for any darwinian to imagine life's values as not depending on one's position on the hedonic treadmill. Can values and direction in life be independent of a need to keep running on the treadmill? We think so.

"Is it faulty DNA, the base info for construction?
Is it in-built mutations seeking new opportunities?
Is it human manufacturing defects?
Is it the food chain?"

Our position is that natural selection has created a consciousness that suffers because it was simply beneficial for the propagation of our genes in the ancestral environment.

I'm not familiar with the term - 'British Standard Institute Human' - can you please describe this?

Thanks,
Sean

Sean,
Sorry I was not logged in previously.

No I don't mean that I would seek suffering.
I am merely pointing out the well known fact that a constant availability of a 'state of existence of something' almost ensures that we soon don't value it, realise it, or even seek it for others.

I would like to see an expansion on your position of 'created conciousness for gene propagation', which implies that consciousness can now be changed for better things on the assumption that gene propagation is adequately controlled by non-human factors.

The 'BSI Human is non-existent'. I merely used the idea as a concept based on the BSI which has standards for those things which do fall within its remit (non-human).
I was intending to demonstrate a worry that if abolitionism were adopted in a widespread fashion we would end up with a STANDARD HUMAN BEING (in the sense of equal happinesss for all only).

This is an interesting subject, but I suspect that there will be many views as people consider the implications!
I have anhedonia by the way, but am cheered to think it may become a thing of the past.

Yes, I agree there are many implications that must be addressed. We could after all, end up creating more suffering - such is the human condition. Rather than attempting to form a 10-point plan without possible reproach - we would rather interject the core value of moving towards the elimination of suffering as the prime objective of human endeavors. It will take sensibility and compassion to work out the myriad of problems technical and otherwise..... but what is the alternative?

It's possible that suffering could never be completely eliminated - time will tell. However, moving in that direction while at the same time making us better humans, is this a bad thing? How do we decide what makes us better? This will be something for us to decide collectively as we do currently.

Thanks,
Sean
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Abolitionist
post Nov 27, 2004, 12:22 AM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 03:50 PM)
"We define suffering as all aversive experience"

Suffering seems an important component of learning. If you don't experience aversive reactions to living homeless in the street, then will you ever learn to get yourself out of that situation? If you don't experience aversive reactions to a dangerous drug habit, then will you ever learn or otherwise be motivated to break the drug habit?

With our present design, yes, pain has a fundamental role in determining one's behavior. People who don't feel any pain will die from neglect (lepers.)

We're talking about changing this fact.
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Abolitionist
post Nov 27, 2004, 12:27 AM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 03:53 PM)
thus, if suffering is an important component of learning, then by abolitioning it in humans, you reduce the learning capabilities and proficiencies of humans, with the result being a 'dumbed-down' species. Is that really what we want?

Certainly not 8-)

We could do that right now if we wanted to. Wireheading could potentially make one a useless quivering mass of bliss - we already have this technology;

www.wireheading.com
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Abolitionist
post Nov 27, 2004, 12:36 AM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 04:19 PM)
or as Nietzsche says in Thus Spoke Zarathusra in the chapter, The Famous Wise Men:

"Spirit is life which itself cuts into life: by its own torture does it increase its own knowledge"

Without suffering, you remove a major component of life, and you end up with less of a man.

We need to ask ourselves if suffering is really neccessary. Are you satisfied with this system of pain and reward that we have now? Is the hedonic treadmill conducive to happiness? It is really the best and only way to go?

In the old days, people used to think that surgery with anesthetics was morally wrong for the same reasons - that the suffering was a chance for "growth."
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Abolitionist
post Nov 28, 2004, 08:55 AM
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QUOTE (Unknown @ Nov 26, 03:53 PM)
thus, if suffering is an important component of learning, then by abolitioning it in humans, you reduce the learning capabilities and proficiencies of humans, with the result being a 'dumbed-down' species.

Inescapable pain results in learned helplessness;

http://www.opioids.com/enkephalinase/lhelplessness.html

Enhancing a person's ability to experience pleasure also enhances one's ability to learn from their circumstances. However, whatever is learned is still dependent on one's future hedonic state - even if a person is "a model citizen" a bout of long-term pain can reduce them to a sniveling, aggitated, helpless example of human frailty. sad.gif

This frail system of learning should be replaced by a much more robust system of informational assimilation and attribution of value.

Preserving a system where learning depends on one's hedonic state leaves us open to making all the attributional errors that humans currently make, look at how many people voted for Bush huh.gif
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Unknown
post Nov 28, 2004, 02:06 PM
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QUOTE (Abolitionist @ Nov 28, 08:55 AM)

Inescapable pain results in learned helplessness;

but we're not really talking about "inescapable" pain because the usefulness of pain in learning implies we're talking about "escapable" pain; i.e., that pain is a signal for us to change things. If we can't learn how to change things and end up stuck with "inescapable" pain, then certainly something should be done about that, but I would question the validity of the notion of "inescapable pain". All pain is escapable in theory; it's just a question of learning how to escape it in practice.

That still leaves us with the observation that, without pain, we have little motivation for learning how to change our circumstances for the better. Thus, the homeless drunk will have no motivation for bettering his circumstances because he's not experiencing any pain; the sick individual will not seek help because they feel no pain and thus will continue with their sickness.

It also means that other races could easily enslave this hypothetical "dumbed-down" happy race of humans because the humans wouldn't experience any pain from the enslavement and thus would not be motivated to change the situation and overthrow their enslavors.
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Dan
post Nov 28, 2004, 03:34 PM
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the question isn't only 'can I be in absence of suffering now', but is also 'how long can my absence of suffering be sustained?' If we stick wires or chemicals into our brains today to lay down as a quivering mass of bliss, we can be sure that it will end eventually and we will likely find ourselves in a more difficult position than when we started. Until such a state of abandonment to a non-suffering state is sustainable, we would be foolish to enter it.

I would further posit that the 'effort' to find such a utopia of 'no suffering' is hardly novel, but rather underlies the action of life itself. The entire universe has been on the case of 'abolitionism' since it's inception, and any person who believes they have 'discovered' such a purpose recently and, because of such a 'discovery', has the inside track to the (relatively) quick solution is simply naive.
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Unknown
post Nov 28, 2004, 03:42 PM
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I agree with Dan and would add that for me, the abolishment of aversive reactions to living is unwise, even if it were possible some day. Seriously, who wants to live their life free of all pain and suffering? Without them we lose out on life since we are losing out on experiences. Why should we seek to limit our experiences? We should rather be seeking to broaden them. Instead of seeking to do away with suffering in life while retaining some sort of "bliss", we should be seeking to enhance the contrasts in life and make our extreme experiences even more extreme; to push the limits of our experiences, as it were. This whole idea of limiting our experiences to bliss is as foolish as saying we ought to limit our vision to grayscale instead of seeing in color; or it's like saying we should eliminate our experience of the color red because we don't like red, or some similar nonsense like that. To reiterate the point, we should be seeking to broaden our range of experiences, and their intensities, and not to limit ourselves in what we experience; Such is the nature of consciousness, to broaden itself and grow, and not to limit itself. By seeking to abolish the experience of suffering, you are seeking to limit the range of what we experience, and this is not wise, nor should it be sought for.
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Dan
post Nov 28, 2004, 03:50 PM
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in a way, 'unknown', you are describing a sort of suffering in that you feel you would be suffering by not experiencing. According to my ideal definition of the dissolution of suffering, even this 'need' must be solved or we have not truly 'abolished' suffering.
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Unknown
post Nov 28, 2004, 04:07 PM
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QUOTE (Dan @ Nov 28, 03:50 PM)
in a way, 'unknown', you are describing a sort of suffering in that you feel you would be suffering by not experiencing. According to my ideal definition of the dissolution of suffering, even this 'need' must be solved or we have not truly 'abolished' suffering.

insofar as suffering is an experience, the absence of that experience should not be construed as suffering or else that is equivalent to saying that both having and not having an experience of suffering is suffering. In other words, suffering implies having the experience of suffering. The absence of the experience of suffering implies a limitation in ones range of consciousness, but this is not experienced as suffering since we're assuming the absence of the experience of suffering in this case.
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Dan
post Nov 28, 2004, 04:15 PM
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in my view, need is motivated by the presence of suffering. If the absence of experience implies the absence of suffering, then there should be no need for the presence of 'experiences'
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rhymer
post Nov 28, 2004, 04:17 PM
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I think there is a need to differentiate between short and long-term suffering.

I've had tinnitus for 30 odd years and would give an arm and a leg to be able to get rid of it!
I know many members also have long term health problems they would presumably love to get rid of.
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Unknown
post Nov 28, 2004, 05:05 PM
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QUOTE (Dan @ Nov 28, 04:15 PM)
If the absence of experience implies the absence of suffering, then there should be no need for the presence of 'experiences'

No, I meant the absence of the experience of suffering implies the absence of suffering. The need for the presence of experiences is derived in part from the meaning we acquire from having them.
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Unknown
post Nov 28, 2004, 05:10 PM
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the need for meaning, and hence of experiences, is acquired from a desire for understanding. The desire for understanding, which is reflected both in the expressions and developments of religion and science, seems a fundamental drive to those species (i.e., human) who have sufficiently developed cognitive capabilities and consciousness.
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