Human suffering is bad
Debate Rounds (4)
The resolution is as stated in the title. Pro and Con will be debating over the immorality or negative value that human suffering has.
Pro must prove that human suffering is bad. Con must only prove that pro's BOP has not been filled.
Suffering- The state or instance of feeling pain
Bad- Of low or poor quality
Debaters must accept the definitions stated above. Pro must write "No round as agreed" in the final round. Pro must start his argument in the first round. To break these rules is a forfeiture of all seven points.
"Good" and "bad" are value judgements that we make as human beings. Let's suppose that we find life on another planet. These life forms are kind of like jellyfish: they eat, produce waste, reproduce, and so on (fulfilling the requirements for life), but they cannot feel pain and have no interest in living. Let's call them species X. It would not make sense to say "Species X suffering is bad" because the concept of suffering would not be meaningful in the context of this species. It wouldn't be false, it would just be incoherent. But we can suffer, and insofar as we do suffer, we make judgements about it: there are better and worse ways to suffer (e.g. suffering a paper cut is not as bad as suffering prolonged torture); there is physical suffering and emotional suffering; and so on. And insofar as we are humans who have a capacity to suffer, we attribute a negative value judgement to suffering.
You might say: okay, insofar as we are humans suffering is bad, but why should human interests matter? Well, what else COULD matter to human beings? To say that human interests don't really matter is not a practical position to take. Of course human interests matter. If they didn't, you wouldn't eat or sleep or avoid pain or death. But you do these things, and so you cannot reasonably say that human interests don't matter.
To that response you might elaborate: "Human interests matter to us, but they don't matter objectively, or independent of us." No, but two things to say here: 1. It's incoherent to talk about things 'independent of us' that apply to us. We might be able to abstract things like numbers from us as human beings, but human suffering only applies to, well, humans - to talk about human suffering independent of humans is like talking about the subjective experiences of a bat independent of a bat - you're left with nothing.
To summarize: human suffering is obviously bad to human beings - this really doesn't need any further clarifications, and denying this would be intellectually dishonest. Human suffering is not 'bad' independent of human beings, but since it is not a coherent concept outside of the context of human existence, we cannot make judgements about it at all, which means con is not entitled to deny it, either.
I think at best, all con can do is play some sort of semantic game, but I usually don't find those very convincing. Of course I've anticipated some objections he or she may well not have raised, so all I can do is wait for the response and address it accordingly.
So as not to get caught up in semantics, as my opponent anticipated, I will try to clarify my interpretation of the definitions.
Bad means "of low or poor quality", which is to say that there is nothing intrinsic to humans in the concept of bad we will be using. Quality is commonly used as an objective idea. If we were to observe an alien species with intelligence and emotions, we would have many ideas as to the quality of their behavior. Many people also see quality as something that stems from a god. Such a morality could easily transcend humankind, and the only logical conclusion is that morality does not need to follow the framework of people's pain to be coherent.
That aside, my opponent states that the resolution rests on the basis of the concepts "human suffering" and "badness" being coherent. The term "human suffering" has a very clear and objective meaning, while my opponent has done nothing to prove the claim that "badness" has any such thing. Pro claims that we all know what is meant by the term, but I am puzzled. There are several metaethical propositions that suggest that badness doesn't have meaning, and there are certainly some who accept them. That plainly negates the claim.
The position that human interests don't matter is a much more rational one than the position that they do. My opponent suggests that if human interests were unimportant, then we would simply cease functioning. This is a baseless claim. People don't do what they do because it matters, they do what they do because they are pushed, biologically, into avoiding pain, and attaining pleasure. Going back to the alien jellyfish comparison, their reproduction isn't important simply because it manages to continue. Suffering, happiness, and whatnot are simply tools we have adopted because of evolution. We are putting in an effort to avoid suffering to live. Our will to live isn't there because living is better, but simply because the things that do live often manage to do so by willing it. The suggestion that when planets spin it matters, because otherwise they wouldn't, is laughable.
Pro makes the deductive argument that one cannot say that human suffering is unimportant, independent of humans. Frog baseball, similarly, cannot be coherently labeled as unimportant when there is no such thing. So yes, without humans (and therefore human suffering) we can simply not rationally discuss human affairs.
What we can do, however, is discuss the importance of human affairs objectively; from the perspective of truth and facts, as opposed to the emotional viewpoint of people. We can discuss the objective notion of human importance in the terms of size, volume, energy, and all kinds of things. Why can't we discuss their value? And what does it mean to be bad to human beings anyway? My opponent has done nothing to suggest that our survival strategies are a basis for value on an objective or subjective scale.
My last point concerns subjective badness. If my resolution had been "The moon is up", the fact that it is above an individual is irrelevant to the claim. Ultimately, given that there is no objective basis for which one can assume that anything is up, the resolution fails. Likewise, though any given point in space can subjectively be the center of the universe, the resolution "I am at the center of the universe" would be false. The resolution "Human suffering is bad" could not stand simply due to that we (hypothetically) feel so, subjectively.
"Bad means 'of low or poor quality,' which is to say that there is nothing intrinsic to humans in the concept of bad we will be using."
The word "bad" does not exist outside of the context of human language. Nor does the concept of bad exist outside of human interpretations of the world. Nor does the concept of quality, or of low, or of poor. Every concept that con wants to debate only exists as a function of human perception and language. To try to talk about something being "bad" independent of human beings is incoherent. Is it "bad" when a star supernovas? Are failed planets of poor quality because they didn't develop? What would that mean? The very concept of badness depends entirely on human concept and language.
"Such a morality could easily transcend humankind, and the only logical conclusion is that morality does not need to follow the framework of people's pain to be coherent." It could, but that wouldn't prove my position to be false. And no, it does not need to follow a framework of pain to be coherent, but I didn't say it did. What I did say was that AS human beings with conceptions of suffering, we make judgments about suffering, namely that it is bad. Such a concept would not apply outside the context of human beings, and so it's not clear what it would for human suffering not to be bad.
Con claims that "human suffering" is "very clear and objective," but "badness" is not. He provides no reason for thinking that human suffering is an objective concept. It's not. As I said, we all know what we MEAN by the term, but that doesn't make it objective. Pain is not human suffering to someone who cannot feel pain. Mental suffering is not human suffering to someone who is psychopathic. Therefore it is not 'objective,' it is just well understood. "Bad" operates in the same way, and I won't explain that again so as not to be redundant.
"There are several metaethical propositions that suggest that badness doesn't have meaning, and there are certainly some who accept them. That plainly negates the claim." That is, of course, not true. There are new-earth creationists who suggest that the world is not 4.6 billion years old. But that does not "negate" the claim that it is, it just means they disagree.
"People don't do what they do because it matters, they do what they do because they are pushed, biologically, into avoiding pain, and attaining pleasure." It does not follow in any way logically that just because something is biological it therefore does not matter. It can both be biological and matter. It is biological to avoid pain, but it also matters to us that we avoid pain. It is biological that we eat, but it also matters to us that we eat. In fact, I would argue that these things matter to us BECAUSE they are biological, and therefore the terms of obviously not mutually exclusive.
"Suffering, happiness, and whatnot are simply tools we have adopted because of evolution. We are putting in an effort to avoid suffering to live." Again, this doesn't follow. Just because something is a tool of evolution doesn't mean it doesn't matter. (Again, I don't want to repeat myself; see above.)
"The suggestion that when planets spin it matters, because otherwise they wouldn't, is laughable." Bad analogy. Planets don't have interests, of course. We do. Therefore, things matter to us. Therefore it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that avoiding human suffering matters, whereas it would not be to suggest that a planet spinning matters.
"What we can do, however, is discuss the importance of human affairs objectively; from the perspective of truth and facts, as opposed to the emotional viewpoint of people." Human suffering is neither true nor false as it is a concept. The proposition, "Humans can suffer," or "human suffering is bad" have truth-properties because they make a claim about the world. Whether human suffering is important or not is up to human beings to decide, therefore 'objective' in this sense can only refer to human interpretations.
"And what does it mean to be bad to human beings anyway?" Well, how did you know how to ask this question? Because you understand the meanings and uses of the words. Here's what it means to be bad to humans: to do something that humans view as bad to other humans. (Again, bad is a human concept. You can't abstract it from human beings or you're left with nothing.)
"Likewise, though any given point in space can subjectively be the center of the universe, the resolution "I am at the center of the universe" would be false." Why?
"The resolution "Human suffering is bad" could not stand simply due to that we (hypothetically) feel so, subjectively."
Why? Again, human suffering and badness are human concepts. If humans can't make judgments about them, who can?
The word "universe" does not exist outside the context of human language. The concept is similarly nonexistant without human beings. Almost every concept exists as nothing more than a function of consciousness. The implication of this is not that every concept is meaningless from an objective perspective. You can't justly declare that stars are an incoherent idea on an objective scale. You can't even justly say that mathematics or language don't exist objectively, as they all have objective qualities and effects. If humans think that they are underneath the stars, there is still the objective fact that they are not. I don't have to prove that bad is a coherent concept from an objective perspective, Pro does.
I do not need to prove that the resolution is false, given that the concept of bad could be incoherent, and therefore not falsifiable. In order to prove the resolution true, however, the concept would have to be coherent. Perceiving something as bad does not make it so.
Human suffering is a clear and objective concept. It is the state of pain one feels. Pain has defining qualities that make it pain. An objective view of the universe would reveal there to be physical attributes that constitute that which pain is. There is no objective word for pain, but the word "pain" is one that we use for these attributes. This debate is clearly from an objective perspective. If this debate was about whether or not I had blonde hair, it'd be ridiculous to say that we couldn't objectively talk about that. Especially on the basis of how the word "blonde" is incoherent from an inhuman perspective. "Pain is not human suffering to someone who cannot feel pain" that's like saying that blonde hair is not blonde to someone who has brown hair. Human pain is human suffering. Human suffering is always pain. Pain is a real thing, in the same way blonde hair is. Objectively, there is blonde hair. Objectively, there is pain.
It is your BOP to prove that human suffering is bad. By extension, if you cannot prove that badness is a coherent concept, you have not fulfilled your BOP. I am merely questioning your basis for thinking that badness is a coherent concept, because I simply cannot prove otherwise. I also cannot prove that "dinklops" is an incoherent process, precisely because it is incoherent. What do you mean by badness? Also, I was not negating the claim that badness was a coherent concept, I was proving that not everybody knows what badness is. I am actually of the base assumption that nobody knows what badness means, because there is no reason to suggest it means anything at all.
I did not say that something doesn't matter because there is a biological basis for it. I said that there is no reason to assume that everything that has a biological basis to occur matters. They are definitely not mutually exclusive terms. They are also not equivalent.
My analogy was well done. You suggested that we would not do what we do if it did not matter. I showed that doing things is not evidence of mastering. I have said enough to prove that.
Human suffering is an actual concept about actual physical attributes. Badness, on the other hand, has not been proved by you to be the same in this regard.
One cannot be at the center of the universe. "The center of the universe" is not a thing.
We could not take the concept of bananas (which is our concept) and say that we are them. Ideas do not work like that. If they did, then I could say that I'm right because I have the concept of rightness and me, and I could therefore equate them.
Suppose you wake up one day and all your qualitative experiences have been reversed (you see the grass as red, the sky as orange, and so on). It should be immediately obvious that something has changed. But as Dennett points out, we would have no way of knowing if it were actually our qualia that had been reversed or our MEMORIES of our qualitative experiences. For qualia to make sense as a desecrate concept, we must be able to show that:
1. it is possible to know that a change in qualia has occurred, as opposed to a change in something else; or that
2. there is a difference between having a change in qualia and not having one
Therefore we should not just accept a priori con's claim that pain is a clear, real concept.
Personally, I think pain is real, but that's only because I experience pain. It would be completely impossible for me to PROVE in any way objectively that I experience pain. If con wants to take such a strict position against the concept of badness, he must be prepared to do so in regards to pain, and then he has a lot of work ahead of him.
"The word "universe" does not exist outside the context of human language. The concept is similarly nonexistant without human beings." I agree.
"You can't even justly say that mathematics or language don't exist objectively, as they all have objective qualities and effects." Actually there's a huge debate in philosophy and mathematics as to whether or not mathematical concept exist platonically or are just tools we invent to understand the world around us. You give no reason to think mathematics exist objectively.
"In order to prove the resolution true, however, the concept would have to be coherent. Perceiving something as bad does not make it so."
Con seems to confuse 'coherent' with 'objective.' Badness is obviously a coherent concept since it is the subject of our debate. This does not make it objective, but something does not have to be objective to be coherent or to exist. After all, con himself argues that pain exists objectively even though it cannot be proven to exist as such.
"I am merely questioning your basis for thinking that badness is a coherent concept, because I simply cannot prove otherwise." I think it's self-evident that bad is a coherent concept. You seem to be assuming that just because 'badness' cannot be shown to be coherent on a cosmic scale therefore it is not coherent on a human scale. This does not follow. The stars do not know that human suffering is bad. But I do. The stars do not know that p and ~p is a logical contradiction, but I do. This does not make the notion of contradiction incoherent.
"My analogy was well done. You suggested that we would not do what we do if it did not matter. I showed that doing things is not evidence of mastering. I have said enough to prove that." Here I pointed out that since a planet is not aware of its rotation, it cannot matter to the planet. But since suffering matters to us, it is not like the planet rotating at all.
So anyway, here is my point: we cannot prove that human suffering or badness are real concepts on a cosmic scale. They do not matter or even exist coherently outside the context of human beings. That humans suffer is of no concern to the cosmos, nor can we 'prove' that pain is a bad thing or a well-defined concept. But it is prima facie obvious to everyone that human suffering is bad. Why? Because these concepts are real and meaningful to us. I know what it means for me to suffer. I know that I don't want to suffer. Therefore, insofar as the word 'bad' is used in our language, it is bad.
Con attempts to show that 'badness' is not coherent on a cosmic scale. I agree. Neither is pain or suffering. Both are functions of being human. (Where would human pain exist if humans did not exist? Nowhere.) Therefore I have only attempted to show that, prima facie, human suffering is bad to us. All I have to do to show this is show that we understand what it means to suffer (we do) and we understand what we mean by 'bad' (we do). If we understand these words, then it is obvious that human suffering is bad. Thank you.
Badness is what people consider to be bad.
People consider human suffering to be bad.
Therefore, human suffering is bad.
Now, I have raised many concerns about this, and I will go over them soon. For now though, I will simplify the biggest problems with such an argument.
1. Badness should be used here as I defined it. The rules state as much.
2. Many people (including myself) do not consider human suffering to be bad. By extension, we can see that human suffering does not even fit Pro's description of a bad thing.
3. Pro has not successfully proved badness to be a coherent concept.
Besides this flawed and basic argument he makes several points that I think do not support his case, and in one instance actually brings question to it.
1. My opponent needs to remember that he agreed to my definitions. Human suffering is the state of being in pain, for the purposes of this debate. The a priori conclusion is that all endurance of pain is human suffering. All pain is pain. If there is pain, there is human suffering. Whether or not an instance of pain results in more or less pain, is completely irrelevant. Pain is also empirically existent. Since it is a physical thing, using deductive reasoning to prove it's existence or non-existence simply ends up being an irrelevant epistemological process. Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that warns us of various types of dangers . If my opponent is not satisfied that pain is real, then he has not fulfilled his BOP, which is that he must prove that human pain is bad.
The universe exists, objectively. The concept, that arose from human beings, is one that describes reality. The description of reality applies, even when humans are not around. There would not be a description, but the description of the place without humans is coherent. For example, let's suppose there is an alternate universe, without people. Would my opponent suggest that none of our descriptions could possibly apply to such a universe? Even if otherwise, it perfectly resembled our own?
What I meant by mathematics and languages existing, is that the social constructs exist. No more than that. Whether or not numbers themselves exist is for a separate debate.
I did not confuse "coherent" with "objective". I would suggest that my opponent respond to my arguments, and not some strange perversion of it. An integral part of this debate has been whether or not badness is a coherent concept. I am using the word to represent the word and concept itself. We can debate square circles, but that does not make square circles a coherent concept. Things also always need to exist objectively in order to exist at all. We can have different interpretations of objective things, but those interpretations exist objectively as well. Pain can be proven to exist objectively, empirical evidence has shown that much.
My opponent talks about various scales, and the existence of things on them. Things that exist on one scale exist on another. On a cosmic scale, subatomic particles exist. Coherency is coherency no matter from what perspective it is viewed from. On a cosmic scale, alol bachelors are unmarried. On a cosmic scale, the Earth's sky is blue in some areas. The stars do not know anything. They are stars, and they do not have the cognitive ability to understand. Badness has not been proven coherent by my opponent.
My apology was regarding Pro's suggestion that human action is proof that human affairs matter. No, planets are not like humans in every regard. Pro is correct about that. We obviously are affected greatly by suffering. A planet is likewise greatly affected by rotation. Neither suffering, nor the spinning of planets, has been proven to have any effect on the suppoverly coherent concept of "badness".
Human pain does exist objectively. From an objective perspective, humans have been in pain.
In conclusion, my opponent has done nothing to prove that human suffering is bad. Pro's best argument is that the resolution is intuitively true, but not only is that not true, it is not enough to fulfill his BOP. Pro has not even successfully proved that anything is bad, and he has brought into question whether or not pain is coherent. In order to win, he would have had to prove that things were bad, and that human pain was one of them. I urge the floor to acknowledge that his attempts to prove the resolution were unsuccessful.
You'll remember in my opening statements I said that my goal was to show that 'human suffering' and 'badness' were coherent, well-understood concepts. If they are, then we can know prima facie simply by the meaning of the words that human suffering is bad. It seems to me that con has dug himself into a hole by trying to claim outright that human suffering is a clear, distinct, objective thing, but badness is not.
What I have tried to show (perhaps less explicitly than I should have) is that human suffering is intrinsically bad. That is, pain, and the capacity to suffer, are not bad because they lead to bad outcomes, or because they are bad for character, or because they are logically inconsistent. They are bad just because they are. It seems here that pro wants to say it's true that human being suffer, but it is not true that that suffering is bad. His reasons for this seem to me that 'bad' is not something that can be measured objectively, i.e. on some sort of cosmic scale. In other words, that the stars or planets cannot experience badness, and since pain is a physical thing, our experience of badness as a reaction to pain is like a planet spinning: meaningless. But this is confused on a number of grounds.
First, pain is not a physical thing in the way con describes. Pain has physical CAUSES, namely the firing of certain C-fibers in response to nerve stimulation. But our EXPERIENCE of pain is not physical in any way. Neuroscience can show us what parts of the brain are active when we undergo pain, but there is absolutely no scientific process whatever that can show us where the PAINFULNESS of pain is located, what is like, et cetera. The painfulness of pain, like the taste of wine and the sight of a sunset, are what is known as qualia. They are first-person, qualitative experiences that are unique to the experiencer . These things may one day be reduced to physical processes, but as of now they do not have physical basis themselves. Con therefore gives us no reason to think that pain is an objective quality.
I am not making a case against qualia. I am of the opinion that qualia are real, but this is a controversial topic in philosophy of mind and one simply has to choice which option is more appealing to him. The point of my last argument about qualia, namely, that they may not be real, was simply to bring into question con's assumption that pain is a real, objective thing. Notice that I am not denying the definitions con presented. I accept them wholly. But con did not mention in the resolution that we were to assume pain as an objective fact. I accept the burden of proof in terms of the holistic argument, but this does not obligate me to accept whatever assumptions con makes. I do not think con has showed in any way that pain is an objective thing. Therefore we have no reason to accept his argument that pain is objective but badness is not.
I have argued that neither pain nor badness are 'objective' in terms of being human-independent. Pain only exists as a function of sentient creatures. Pain means nothing on a universal scale. But it does not follow from that that therefore pain does not matter to us. Con tries to make the case that since planets have no notion of badness (e.g. it is not 'bad' or 'good' when they spin on their axis, it just is') therefore pain is not bad when it happens to us - it just is. But of course this does not follow in any way logically. Again, insofar as we understand what pain is, that is, insofar as we experience pain, we know that it is bad. That is the nature of pain. It is intrinsically bad, that is, it is bad in and of itself. Therefore if the word 'bad' has any meaning to us, which it obviously does (after all, it must be meaningful if we are to debate about it), then we can include human suffering in the category of 'bad.'
Now let me address a few of con's points.
"The universe exists, objectively. The concept, that arose from human beings, is one that describes reality. The description of reality applies, even when humans are not around."
This is a controversial metaphysical claim. There are actually a number of philosophers who maintain precisely the opposite - namely that the material world does NOT exist independent of us. If con wants to take this position, he must provide some justification for it, which he has not. Therefore we are not obligated to accept this point.
"Coherency is coherency no matter from what perspective it is viewed from. On a cosmic scale, all bachelors are unmarried. On a cosmic scale, the Earth's sky is blue in some areas. "
Again, con makes assertions with no support. "All bachelors are unmarried" is an analytic truth. It is a function of logic. Logic MAY exist independent of human beings, or it may be a tool we have invented. Con provides no evidence for these claims whatever, therefore they are easily dismissed.
"Human pain does exist objectively. From an objective perspective, humans have been in pain."
Again, pure conjecture. If you want to make the claim that human pain exists objectively, you have to provide at least some evidence. I have provided evidence to think that it does not exist objectively, but only as a function of qualitative human experiences (like the concept of badness). This point is easily dismissed.
In conclusion, we have no reason to accept virtually any of con's responses or positive assertions. We have good reason to think that pain and badness both exist as functions of human experience, and thus human suffering is intrinsically bad. That is, by its very nature, if we can suffer (we can) and if we know what the word 'bad' means, then we know prima facie that human suffering is bad.
Thank you to con for an interesting debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Varrack 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro broke the basic rule: no arguments in the last round.
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