Re: physical pain is bad (was Re: Dynamic ethics)

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Tue Jan 24 2006 - 12:05:38 MST

I have been interested in this question of what would be done about
suffering in the rest of the Earth's ecology for a long time, and I must
admit I find it really difficult.

The working solution that I came up with in my own limited thinking was
that *if* I believed that unnecessary suffering is wrong, when it is
inflicted on a sentient being (and I do, with a nod to the fact that
"unnecessary" is not easy to define), then I might suggest taking some
action such as the following.

Insert into the brain of any higher organism (anything with sentience
above a certain level) a small device that is able to quickly send it
into unconsciousness if it was exposed to unnecessarily cruelty
inflicted on it by another animal.

If I did this, I could feel that I had done something to minimize
unnecessary suffering, whilst not tampering with the normal flow of
nature. It would not have zero impact (I can see my cats getting pissed
off that the mice stop moving very quickly after they start playing with
them ... although we could talk about fixes for even that problem), but
the impact would be very small.

The intriguing thing is that nature already probably does do something
of this sort. I suspect that in many cases the animal lapses into
unconsciousness very quickly when things go badly wrong. Clearly not
always, however.

(One complication is that fear of suffering is perhaps the greatest
actual component of suffering. What do you do about that?)

Overall, I am in favor of having a Prime Directive, but with the small
amendment described above. Does anyone think that makes sense?

I tend to agree with Phil that if we throw away the Prime Directive, we
get sucked into responsibility for all "suffering" in a way that seems
to have no limits. If you draw the line somewhere, why not very close
to where things are right now?

Richard Loosemore.

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