There are certain customs, arguments or claims which seem to make sense, but you can’t quite put your finger on why or if it is true or false. And they can fool you, like an optical illusion.
For me, the ontological argument for God (Anselm’s version) was one. Others include conversion experiences with a one-way (non-returnable) valve, Faith, God knows best, don’t test God, last one in the pool is a rotten egg, go and do X or I won’t be your friend anymore, don’t grass/tell on people (it’s just not done/an unwritten rule), countless logical fallacies, using emotion as a trump card in an argument.
There are some things which have a down side but have a balanced up side to make it worthwhile. The early bird catches the worm. Study hard and get a wider choice of job. Have kids and give up on things to see the joy it brings.
In fact there was a historical act of Suti (or Suttee), largely practised in India amongst Hindus which also presented (albeit potentially illusory) an upside to the downside, but the reward was in the life hereafter, which was not proven to exist in this life, although believed.
This is where a (female – of course!) widow would sacrifice herself on the burning funeral pyre of her deceased husband. I don’t imagine even the nastiest of husband’s would ever be poisoned at dinner by his wife and in fact, his health would seem to be a pretty important part of her life, hoping she dies first. The day your husband dies, especially if he was a good man, would be all the more painful.
The only other type of voluntary death, other than suicide, seems to also be amongst religious tradition or extremism. Beyond that, people would put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others or make a self-sacrifice for the sake of other close relatives or friends. This is altruism. But an extreme form exists within several animal species.
Matriphagy. White widow. No greater love. Theodicy.
Some animal species make the ultimate sacrifice. This includes (certain) spiders, earwigs, pseudo-scorpions and (vertebrate) caecilians.
In some spiders, females produce a liquid from their mouths from pre-digested food and/or eggs to feed their young for a few days. After gaining weight/size, a day after the spiderlings have moulted/shed their first exoskeleton, the mother instinctively goes through a process. She walks around the web, vibrating the thread and releasing new thread, which stimulates the spiderlings into coming to a prominent or central place on the web. The mother then comes and presses against the newly congregated mass of spiderlings who then make her their first victim and (by the process) they collectively and conveniently now have a clear understanding/lesson of how future victims/prey will be recognised and what they should do to entice and subdue it. They all start a frenzy and begin injecting venom into her, which she clearly finds painful and could run away from, but she doesn’t. Within minutes to a couple of hours, all her juices have been sucked out and her life empties into the stomachs of her offspring, leaving a shell.
This is not exclusive to mothers. Virgin females will also sacrifice themselves in this way. Males often die soon after mating too or become victim of the mated partner.
The spider species involved seem to have larger offspring with faster growth rates and so potentially preventing other options of offspring survival. This seems a horrible (but sadly not that rare a) branch of natural selection, resulting in such horrific (but evolutionarily logical) results and logic. Surely it would have been better for the mothers to have just said, ‘no way’ and died out as a species. I wonder if some form of, ‘coping with the suffering’ evolved too?
What an amazing example of a species who’s males and females, mothers and virgin females give their all, solely for the propagation of the species and, seemingly nothing else. Unless someone perhaps knows of a budding arachnid Bach or Renoir, leaving behind a gift for the species to enjoy.
I am reminded of other species that suffer because of things like parasites (e.g. eating into your eye and controlling your brain or eating you from the inside out).
For those of you who are theists, atheists, moral objectivists, subjectivists, nihilists, free-willers or determinists, it’s not very nice to think about and varyingly easy to explain or justify. Sometimes, the truth hurts, whether you like or accept it or not.
There is an extreme (theoretical at least) philosophical view that I have considered since long before I even knew what philosophy meant or was, although I have more recently found it to be a recognised and serious position.
If I could press a button and instantly destroy (and make) all life on earth extinct, (without any suffering), I would do it. Even in my theistic life, no-one could convince me that an eternity in heaven could be good, and the everlasting part just made it worse or made me wonder if that was just phase 2 and something else might be planned (by God) for later, still leaving some option open for me having to make a choice or be forced to do something or go somewhere I didn’t want to go. Heaven was always a place I was not convinced that was consistent, unchangingly or perfect, and hell was, whilst bad, at least consistent. I do not mean to be dismissive or speak lightly of this, but these things did plague my mind. To me, heaven was never a motive for becoming or staying a Christian, though hell was a place that put fear in me long after I defected.
The reason (for my quite extreme philosophical view) is subjective and I would be forcing my view and action on everyone in the process, therefore removing democracy and other people’s view or preferences. I basically don’t like suffering, for myself or others or anyone or any living thing that suffers or even could suffer (even potentially through evolution over billions of years), so I wanted to take control of the world in order to prevent ANYONE from ever suffering in any way, but particularly suffering heavily, which many will continue to do, even if it may not be YOU personally, but you and I represent everyone, including that person in a horrific state of suffering. To me, it is not a case of taking a chance, hoping I will be lucky. It is the experiential knowledge that many of us do suffer and some, terribly, some randomly and some predictably and no-one expects it for our child when we choose to create life.
The worst type of human suffering probably includes torture (physical and emotional) but may not be limited to this. Accident, disease or illness are others. If I consider the most extreme possible example of a child or baby being tortured, (and take an is/ought type of position) then (for me) this cannot justify or be compensated by any amount of good, so cannot justify life in the first place IF such a bad incident could occur, and I suggest it can, has, does and will continue to do so. As no life equates to no pain or suffering or knowledge or a representative that exists to experience such, then not existing is not a bad thing, it just isn’t anything, so we don’t exist to ponder goodness or badness or weigh up the options.
Put another way, if a person never existed to start with, s/he will never suffer or experience anything, good or otherwise, so will be none the wiser, can have no regrets or hopes or anything. S/he is in a neutral position. When I say s/he, s/he has never existed in the first place of course, so there is no person or mind to exist and consider or see in hindsight about the options. There are millions of potential sperm that will never see the light of day, have no regrets and (thankfully) never suffered. YOU can only experience and appreciate good things because you exist and are here. And if a 100% suffering-free life were guaranteed, I still see no benefit (perhaps other than a selfish one) to having children, given the option (non-existence).
As there is no such mechanism to destroy the earth, certainly without suffering anyway, then I have to constrain my ideology to the life that exists now. From today, anyone alive will be dead in 120 or so years (less or plus any medical advancements in restricting or developing the ageing process). So my current theory is to stop all human pregnancy and so force the extinction of humankind by about 2100-2150, when people will be too old to reproduce anymore and die off naturally. This would be problematic in the detail, e.g. providing for the latter few years with food, medicine, warmth without electricity or gas etc. unless euthanasia options were on hand, which, under the impending circumstances, might have been considered and be available.
Sadly, I need universal consensus, the law and no exceptions to implement this, which is unlikely. It also doesn’t stop the suffering and future evolution of the rest of life on earth. So, my theory seems exactly that – theoretical and not very practical. I would also add that I am very lazy and hypocritical. Whilst I have been both a vegetarian and a vegan before, I am currently largely a carnivore, but (theoretically) hold a vegan position, I’m just not committed (yet) to indulge myself. Do as I say, not as I do.