Suffering  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from Distress)
Jump to: navigation, search

"Right is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." -- Thucydides

Illustration: Laocoön and His Sons ("Clamores horrendos" detail), photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen.
Enlarge
Illustration: Laocoön and His Sons ("Clamores horrendos" detail), photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen.

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikiquote
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Suffering is usually described as a negative basic feeling or emotion that involves a subjective character of unpleasantness, aversion, harm or threat of harm.

  • Suffering may be said physical or mental, depending whether it refers to a feeling or emotion that is linked primarily to the body or to the mind. Examples of physical suffering are pain, nausea, breathlessness, and itching. Examples of mental suffering are anxiety, grief, hatred, and boredom.
  • There is much ambiguity in the use of the words pain and suffering. Sometimes they are synonyms and interchangeable. Sometimes they mean different things, or they may even be used in contradistinction to one another: e.g. "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional", "pain is physical, suffering is mental". Sometimes yet, like in the previous paragraph, they are defined in another way.
  • The intensity of suffering comes in all degrees, from the triflingly mild to the unspeakably insufferable. Other factors often considered along with intensity are duration and frequency of occurrence.
  • People's attitudes toward a suffering may vary hugely according to how much they deem it is light or severe, avoidable or unavoidable, useful or useless, of little or of great consequence, deserved or undeserved, chosen or unwanted, acceptable or unacceptable.

All sentient beings admittedly suffer during their lives, in various manners, and much often dramatically. Therefore, suffering is an important topic in many fields of human activity. Those fields are concerned with, for instance, the personal or social or cultural behaviors related to suffering, the nature or causes of suffering, its meaning or significance, its remedies or management or uses.

Philosophy

Hedonism, as an ethical theory, claims that good and bad consist ultimately in pleasure and pain. Many hedonists, in accordance with Epicurus and contrarily to popular perception of his doctrine, advocate that we should first seek to avoid suffering and that the greatest pleasure lies in a robust state of profound tranquility (ataraxia) that is free from the worrisome pursuit or the unwelcome consequences of ephemeral pleasures.

For Stoicism, the greatest good lies in reason and virtue, but the soul best reaches it through a kind of indifference (apatheia) to pleasure and pain: as a consequence, this doctrine has become identified with stern self-control in regard to suffering.

Jeremy Bentham developed hedonistic utilitarianism, a popular doctrine in ethics, politics, and economics. Bentham argued that the right act or policy was that which would cause "the greatest happiness of the greatest number". He suggested a procedure called hedonic or felicific calculus, for determining how much pleasure and pain would result from any action. John Stuart Mill improved and promoted the doctrine of hedonistic utilitarianism. Karl Popper, in The Open Society and Its Enemies, proposed a negative utilitarianism, which prioritizes the reduction of suffering over the enhancement of happiness when speaking of utility: "I believe that there is, from the ethical point of view, no symmetry between suffering and happiness, or between pain and pleasure. (...) human suffering makes a direct moral appeal for help, while there is no similar call to increase the happiness of a man who is doing well anyway." David Pearce, for his part, advocates a utilitarianism that aims straightforwardly at the abolition of suffering through the use of biotechnology (see more details below in section Biology, neurology, psychology). Another aspect worthy of mention here is that many utilitarians since Bentham hold that the moral status of a being comes from its ability to feel pleasure and pain: therefore, moral agents should consider not only the interests of human beings but also those of (other) animals. Richard Ryder came to the same conclusion in his concepts of 'speciesism' and 'painism'. Peter Singer's writings, especially the book Animal Liberation, represent the leading edge of this kind of utilitarianism for animals as well as for people.

Another doctrine related to the relief of suffering is humanitarianism (see also humanitarian principles, humanitarian aid, and humane society). "Where humanitarian efforts seek a positive addition to the happiness of sentient beings, it is to make the unhappy happy rather than the happy happier. (...) [Humanitarianism] is an ingredient in many social attitudes; in the modern world it has so penetrated into diverse movements (...) that it can hardly be said to exist in itself."

Pessimists hold this world to be mainly bad, or even the worst possible, plagued with, among other things, unbearable and unstoppable suffering. Some identify suffering as the nature of the world, and conclude that it would be better if life did not exist at all. Arthur Schopenhauer recommends us to take refuge in things like art, philosophy, loss of the will to live, and tolerance toward 'fellow-sufferers'.

Friedrich Nietzsche, first influenced by Schopenhauer, developed afterward quite another attitude, arguing that the suffering of life is productive, exalting the will to power, despising weak compassion or pity, and recommending us to embrace willfully the 'eternal return' of the greatest sufferings.

Philosophy of pain is a philosophical specialty that focuses on physical pain and is, through that, relevant to suffering in general.

Examples of mental suffering

More examples of mental suffering: grief, depression or sadness, disgust, irritation, anger, rage, hate, contempt, jealousy, envy, craving or yearning, frustration, heartbreak, anguish, anxiety, angst, fear, panic, horror, sense of injustice or righteous indignation, shame, guilt, remorse, regret, resentment, repentance, embarrassment, humiliation, boredom, apathy, confusion, disappointment, despair or hopelessness, doubt, emptiness, homesickness, loneliness, rejection, pity, and self-pity...

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suffering" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools