Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Last Mile

This morning, I piled my beloved dog, Gypsy, into the car, and took her to the park (spent most of the day there). It will be the last time. Tomorrow morning, I'll drive her over to the vet, and hold her as the doctor puts her to sleep. I should be happy for her, and part of me is (negative bliss, and all that); but I sure don't want to let her go. Anyway, I just wanted to say that this is one of those days when I truly understand the opposition to the antinatalist creed.

But please understand! If she had never been, I wouldn't be going through this (at least, with this dog). Same goes if I had never been...and one day, my children will lose their father, and feel something like I do today. All the optimistic talk in the world won't change the fact that everybody suffers, and everybody dies. Even the greatest dog in the whole world.

You know, it could just as truthfully be called the 'circle of death'...fucking Elton John (lyrics by Tim Rice).

6 comments:

Curator said...

I think this shows that you're not really a pan-thanatist. On some level, you might want to keep her around for selfish reasons - you want her company - but that doesn't seem to explain it. You seem to recognize that she values her life, and things like walkies and meatloaf. So since she can't tell you what she wants, you've been hesitant to end her suffering in case she'd want to stay alive. On the other hand, it's up to you to end her suffering if it's so bad she wouldn't want to stay alive, and you can't just ask her. A huge responsibility which you seem to take with the seriousness it deserves. You're a very sweet person.

jim said...

Curator: I'm not so sure dogs value their lives; 'value' in this case seems to be an extension of evolutionary survival characteristics into the abstract realm of us higher-congnitive types. Beyond the merely selfish stuff, I attribute my hesitance to the milieu of emotionally charged psychological factors impeding straight-line reasoning. Desire, hope, guilt, etc. Emotions are complicated, and generally conflicting. I feel the same way about pan-thanatism. It seems the most direct line to my goal, but the way is fraught with potholes which conflict with my primary desire i.e. to end all suffering. But from a purely rational POV, I would still push that button, as non-existence is no problem for me (when I'm thinking rationally)...just the stuff leading up to it.

Curator said...

I don't know where values come from - certainly they're partially determined by evolution, though you and I, at least, hold some evolutionarily questionable values - but you could talk about "preferences" of animals instead of calling them "values," and I think it amounts to the same thing. Even if evolutionarily determined, they're still genuine. I, at least, have to remind myself to be happy, and not sad, when I hear that someone (even an animal) has died.

I feel strange arguing philosophy with you when you're in this terribly sad situation, your beloved dog having just died - I barely know you, but from what little I know you seem like a sensitive, kind dude and my main feeling is wanting to comfort you. The reason I take the (perhaps inappropriate) opportunity to talk about pan-thanatism is that it's the position that accords with my intuition, and I've only recently come to suspect it. I'm not sure I'm right. Here's a condensed version of the objection that made me question it: "Why is suffering the only (negative) value? Why not, say, life, or literature, or sex? Can you say that others who value, say, life above all are simply wrong? Why? Doesn't that give them an equal claim to say that you are simply wrong in placing all (negative) value on suffering?"

Anyway, that's sort of how it goes.

Cia said...

Curator: Suffering is the only negative value because NOBODY likes suffering. People like all kinds of things, but i have never met anybody that actually enjoys suffering... even if some impose value on it after the fact ('this taught me a valuable lesson' kind of deal), they still did not enjoy or like their suffering while it was going on... nobody would voluntarily seek it out... therefore, at least to me, it's the ultimate bad thing...

Curator said...

Hi Cia. I definitely agree that harm is the only universal (negative) value, in the Benatar sense. I don't think there's value to bringing humanity into existence, for instance, but there is clearly negative universal value (it's just bad) to bringing someone into existence and making them suffer.

But once you have humanity - once it's come into existence - you have all kinds of different values. If people are willing to voluntarily undertake suffering in pursuit of other aims, how can we say that ending suffering is more important than those aims? If a cancer patient is willing to undergo suffering for a chance at more life, is he just wrong to value life above suffering? I think it's strange to value life, but I don't think it's wrong.

I can't speak for others, but I certainly enjoyed the "suffering" that went along with having my navel pierced, and I enjoy the "suffering" of extremely spicy food. Unless we're defining "suffering" as "that which someone experiences as negative" - in which case, it's a very agent-dependent value.

I'm intuitively drawn to the point of view that there can't really be harm unless someone is around to consciously suffer from it. I'm just not convinced by my own intuition. Enough people think of death as a harm (to them), or having their corpse mutilated after death as a harm (to them), or not having their "last will" fulfilled as a harm (to them), that I'm forced to question my intuition.

Rafa T.m said...

Wow... that text blow my mind. It´s an inspiration to us all, really.

Did this really happened? How does a vet does this ? He injects a drug, right?

This.,..blew my mind.