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Does morality create more suffering than it relieves? Show more Show less
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Morality can cause suffering, and can also relieve suffering. But where exactly is the balance? Does morality create more suffering than it relieves, or relieve more suffering than it creates?

No, morality relieves more suffering than it creates. Show more Show less

Morality relieves more suffering because morality allows others to depend on you and vice versa, it makes everyone feel needed in some way, as well as the fact that for religious people, having strong morals can lead to a pleasant experience after they pass away. Strong morality can also lead to altruism, which can physiologically cause happiness.
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No, proper morality prioritizes the reduction of suffering.

The Argument

A common form of morality, utilitarianism, insists there be symmetry. Increases in happiness and reductions in suffering of equal weight are of equal importance. Negative utilitarianism advocates for the reduction of suffering to be prioritized, as the consequences of moral symmetry pose danger to society. Moral symmetry makes no sense when the two values are compared. The greatest happiness principle does not have the moral urgency that avoidable suffering has. Karl Popper stated that "human suffering makes a direct moral appeal for help", while the same can’t be said for increasing "the happiness of a man who is doing well anyway"<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-1">[1]</a></sup>. Although utilitarianism can help reduce suffering, weighing happiness the same “can be an excuse for a benevolent dictatorship”. Preventing suffering should be of the greatest moral importance. This approach echoes Buddhism’s Noble Truths; (universal) suffering cannot be compensated by happiness. Furthermore, Buddhism shares the same asymmetry as negative utilitarianism.<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-2">[2]</a></sup> Simply put, those who promised paradise on Earth through moral symmetry “never produced anything but a hell”.<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-1">[1]</a></sup> Proper morality is universal compassion, the prioritization of reducing suffering over what should be considered a private matter.

Counter arguments

Negative utilitarianism faces two problems in application. First, removing the greatest happiness principle from moral thought would inevitably negatively affect one’s well being, therefore creating more suffering. Furthermore, the most efficient way to prevent suffering is to stop human life from existing. “If a ruler controls a weapon that is capable of instantly and painlessly destroying the human race...consequently the use of the weapon is bound to diminish suffering, and would be the ruler’s duty on Negative Utilitarian grounds”. [3]This cannot be considered practical or beneficial to morality, let alone the diminishment of suffering.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 28 Sep 2020 at 07:05 UTC

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