The Suffering Blog is a place where those who research suffering and those who suffer can interact, share resources, and talk about suffering. We believe that each person’s suffering is important and that sharing with each other produces wisdom and, sometimes, even healing.
We’ll share our thoughts about suffering with you and we would be honoured if you share your stories, thoughts, and questions with us.
- June 2, 2016
Dr. Robert Cowan
It is common to hear that “everyone wants to be happy”. Maybe they do. At the very least, people who don’t want happiness strike us as strange or in need of help.
Whenever someone wants something, it is plausible that it seems good to them. For example, if I want the UK to remain in the EU then that prospect must, in some way, seem good to me. Indeed, it’s difficult to think of a case of someone wanting something where they don’t regard the thing wanted as in some way good (can you think of a case?).
So: if everyone wants to be happy, then being happy must seem good to everyone.
However, even if my happiness seems good to me, it is a further question whether yours seems good to me (and vice versa). My happiness isn’t yours, and yours ... Read the rest of this post
- May 18, 2016
Some philosophers have argued that unpleasantness is intrinsic to pain. But what does it mean for something to be intrinsic to something else? How should we understand the idea that unpleasantness is intrinsic to pain?
There are several ways of understanding the notions intrinsic and extrinsic. For this entry, I will focus on two common ways of understanding them. First, we distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic to differentiate non-relational as against relational features. Roughly, this means that if an object has an intrinsic feature, the object’s feature does not depend on its relation with some other object or feature; in opposition, if an object has an extrinsic feature, this means that object’s feature does depend on its relation with some other object or feature.
Let’s use a standard example to understand this: if we consider height, the property that I have of ... Read the rest of this post
- April 18, 2016
It is not easy to characterize trauma or its consequences.
Traumatic experiences obviously involve something bad happening. So, we might try to say more about what trauma is by asking what kind of bad things are traumatic.
As a first step, we might think about damage. On the physical side of things: if we allow any damage to count as trauma, then any injuries to our bodies will be physical traumas. Some traumatic experiences will be minor (like a papercut) and some will be major (like a gunshot wound). We could try doing the same sort of thing on the psychological side. So, we could try thinking about psychological trauma as the bad things involving damage not (only) to your physical body, but to the many important features of you that constitute your psychology. Damage to your psychology, or psyche, ... Read the rest of this post
- April 1, 2016
Many theories try to account for the nature of pleasant and unpleasant experiences with a phenomenological approach. That is, they argue that there is certain feeling, a certain conscious quality that these experiences have that accounts for their being pleasant or unpleasant. A particular version of this account is the distinctive feeling theory. This account posits a distinctive quality that is shared among all pleasant experiences and one that is shared among all unpleasant ones. Many philosophers think this is an intuitive explanation of how our pleasant and unpleasant experiences seem to us when we reflect on them.
However, this approach faces an important difficulty: the heterogeneity problem. According to this problem, there is no single feeling that is present in all pleasant experiences and no single feeling in all unpleasant ones either. If we introspect various pleasant experiences, for instance, ... Read the rest of this post
- March 8, 2016
There’s a somewhat famous, or rather infamous, passage from Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher from the mid 20th century, where he talks about a beetle in a box. Let’s now read his infamous thought experiment and try to make sense of it.
Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a ‘beetle’. No one can look into anyone else’s box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle.—Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing.—But suppose the word ‘beetle’ had a use in these people’s language?—If so it would not be used as the name of a thing. The thing in the box has no place in the language game at all; not even ... Read the rest of this post