On Natural Suffering.

Taylor, Richard (1996). On Natural Suffering. The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fb1b

Abstract

Part 1 surveys writing by previous philosophers on natural suffering.

Part 2 is in three sections. The first two sections investigate two fairly predictable answers to the question, "why wouldn't it be a good thing to try to relieve at least some natural suffering?" The two answers are, first, "because that would be to go against nature", and, second, "because that would be to risk harm to the ecosystem". There is a third fairly predictable answer to the question "why wouldn't it be a good thing to try to relieve at least some natural suffering?" Some people would probably say "because the time would be better spent trying to relieve suffering in the human realm". For reasons explained in the third section of Part 2, I evade this answer by positing a situation in which human realm suffering no longer exists. In this situation, where there is more scope for natural suffering relief, I put a new question: "why wouldn't it be a good thing to try to relieve as much natural suffering as possible?" The third section of Part 2 investigates several answers to this further question.

Part 3 considers various "accidental" human effects on levels of natural suffering. I investigate whether these various effects, considered separately, can be thought of as good things, leaving aside the question of whether better things might replace them. For example, what if levels of natural suffering fall by reason of a fall in the number of natural lives? In nature lion cubs, for example, die mostly from starvation (mortality is 80%). If human effect on nature endangers species in which extreme suffering is routine, mightn't such human effect on nature be a good thing?

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