Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Least Suffering for the Smallest Number

Title above is taken from the home page of, a website proposing a "moderate version of negative utilitarianism", an ethical theory which certainly goes toward the best politics on suffering that can be proposed at this time.

Moderate negative utilitarianism deals cleverly with such ethical concepts as preference, consequence, satisfaction/frustration, compensated/uncompensated suffering, hedonism, justice... Side constraints such as basic rights are introduced to mitigate the 'hostility' potential of a 'negative' theory that might let think for instance that killing everybody is a solution to end suffering...

One Socrethics thesis is that "investments in the development and propagation of ethical knowledge have the highest cost-benefit ratio in the fight against suffering", and it is advocated to allocate priority resources to "systems theory of suffering". Elsewhere on the website, Algosphere is mentioned as a resource in "Systematic Study of Suffering".

Several references in Socrethics pages are worthy of a look at :

  • Parfit's mere addition paradox, also known as repugnant conclusion : how should we decide how numerous and how well we will live?
  • Ryder's painism : pain, broadly defined to cover all types of suffering, should form the basis for ethics.
  • Le Guin's Omelas : a utopian city where everything is pleasing, except for the secret of its happiness: the good fortune of Omelas requires that an unfortunate child be kept in filth, darkness and misery...

Socrethics work should be discussed as an important contribution to the politics on suffering, but where can this be done?


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