Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 7, No 2 (2011)

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The Quest for Pleasure and the Death of Life

Joseph Morrill Kirby


In this paper, I present a parallel between Schopenhauer, who argues that a purely rational being would see life as meaningless suffering and therefore refuse to inflict existence on a new generation of humans, and economist Lester Thurow, who argues that it is irrational to care about what happens to the world after one's own death, even if this means the extinction of the human species. I show first how these attitudes stem from an orientation that judges life in terms of pleasure and pain. Then, with reference to an article by Amien Kacou, I seek to refute this orientation, showing how a conscious being that actually saw pleasure as its highest good would likely become miserable - or, conversely, that the only way for such a being to actually experience pleasure would be for it to see justice as more important than its own individual satisfaction. I conclude with some reflections on what this means in terms of Nietzsche's statement "God is dead," and what ramifications it has on the current ecological crisis.

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