Saturday, 23 July 2011

Would you care?

Your name is Glrx. You are an inanimate block, surrounded by other inanimate blocks of varying colours and sizes - but we won't get into what that leads to. Most of your day consists of thinking of using all your power to delete yourself from existence, while other blocks simply use their power to acquire Zoks, which are dirty pieces of paper. You never really saw the point in all the dirty paper, as being inanimate, blocks really had no use for them at all - except that, dirty paper vastly increases a block's lifespan, acting as a power-store. You don't want to die slowly, though, so you get enough dirty paper just to last without suffering on a day-to-day basis. But really, you don't see any point in it all. Dirty paper can distract you - but other than distractions, what is the point of going on? Why distract yourself from something you don't even want in the first place? But you see, this would all be well and good, if not for the fact that each block has some love-blocks - blocks who created another block in order to have something to do away from dirty paper - who 'love' (whatever that means) the block they created out of selfishness. But if Glrx chooses to press delete, these love-blocks will suffer. But if Glrx doesn't, it will suffer. Now one could simply say that two sufferings outdo one suffering, so Glrx should continue on, by moral utilitarianism. Except Glrx doesn't have a conscience. Inanimate blocks, being inanimate blocks, do not possess empathy, as their main function is to take dirty paper from each other. Should Glrx care? You see you may wholeheartedly answer "Yes!" to this, but Glrx does not feel your knee-jerk reflex kicking in. All he knows is the absurdity of the situation: inanimate blocks with dirty paper? What the hell? Why should he care for just another inanimate block? Is it because he could have been born as another inanimate block? But just because he could have been doesn't mean he was - there is actually no sound basis for saying why he should care at all about the needs of others, because there is no sound basis either for saying why he should care about his own needs. But if he is about to commit an act that is based on his own needs alone, and therefore on his instinctual emotions, then if Glrx were a human, he would have to be consistent and weigh his needs and the needs of other people alongside each other, because both are equally irrational, and not based on logic alone (but on logic AND an assumption). But Glrx, as an inanimate block, not having this function, happily (for once) erased himself from Blockworld. If only I were an inanimate block, and not a sewer of atoms, and could choose as he did.

In summary: if you are looking to kill yourself, you must take into account that you are acting to satiate your own desires, and in doing so are following your gut, as it were. But since you should be consistent about things if you want to act properly in the world, you must follow your gut with regards to morality, and weigh the sufferings of others after your death with your own suffering when your death has not occurred. If you are a sociopath, congratulations, you are not acting inconsistently by choosing to die, and can therefore base your death on the assumption that you can follow your gut. If you aren't, hard luck. You and I are in the same boat, on the river Styx. (Note: There is a loophole, as described above - if your suffering is greater than the combined suffering of all the people who would miss you, it should be plausible that one could go through with the act).

UPDATE: As of this post I no longer accept that this loophole is possible, since suicide is a harm. I offer a MUCH, MUCH better alternative to this, which actually may be something more of a solution.


  1. Great post, estnihil. A wonderful fable. As for continuing to live for the sake of one's family and their possible sufferings, I was put in mind of this passage from Tolstoy's 'A Confession'. (A fantastic read, by the way, if you haven't come across it. Describes the author's slow realisation that life is a futile, meaningless nightmare.)

    "“Family”. . .said I to myself. But my family — wife and children — are also human. They are
    placed just as I am: they must either live in a lie or see the terrible truth. Why should they live?
    Why should I love them, guard them, bring them up, or watch them? That they may come to the
    despair that I feel, or else be stupid? Loving them, I cannot hide the truth from them: each step in knowledge leads them to the truth. And the truth is death."

  2. People in general don't succeed very well at being negative utilitarians (and in the category of "people" I must ashamedly include myself) but they probably do a better job of it toward their own nearest and dearest than toward humanity in general. Not inflicting suffering on those nearest and dearest is a strong reason not to commit suicide.

    Since most people do have close attachments to people they care about, this suggests less suicide than would otherwise be the case.

    And that, in turn, suggests further that an observed "low" rate of suicide is consistent with a great many miserable non-suicides.