Suicide being a 0 utility point seems problematic to me for several reasons,
1. Many people think that death does not entail no experience, I am not suggesting that they are correct, but this may impact on peoples decisions about living and dying. For example (as far as I know) where I live there used to be a tradition among Christians that people who committed suicide were not allowed to be buried in a regular grave yard and were considered not to have gone to heaven. I can imagine that if people believed this they might be reluctant to commit suicide.
2. Understanding of suicide. Some non-human animals are sometimes compared in their understanding of certain things to human babies. It certainly doesn’t seem certain to me that human babies would understand the concepts of death or suicide or what not being alive is like and so perhaps maybe neither would some non-human animals. Also, reports of non-human animals committing suicide seem to tend to be animals that are usually considered “smart”, however maybe this is because we tend to spend more time looking at lions and dolphins and the like than other animals?
David Harmon wrote:In any case, as per a recent mailing from the Gorilla Foundation, their Koko understands the permanence (and gravity) of death perfectly well -- her first cat got into the road and was hit by a car.
Even dogs and cats can understand that death is permanent ... the key point there is they need to know that their former companion is in fact dead, not just absent!. Over on Making Light a couple of pet owners have mentioned making sure the other pets were present for a euthanization. More interesting, one commenter couldn't manage to actually bring the other pets (too many, IIRC), but she brought a towel or the like for the euthanized pet to lie on during the process. Upon smelling the blanket, the surviving pets seemed to get the news immediately, and made no attempt to look for their missing friend.
from http://scientopia.org/blogs/thisscienti ... e-someday/ - in comments (the video there is a joke btw, just in case anyone didnt watch it but thought it was true)
But thats a friends death, maybe a different understanding to your own death?
And do they really understand? Or just that the other animal cant move/exhibit behaviour anymore? What do they understand from it? Whats to say our understanding is better than theirs?
3. I think maybe people commit suicide when they do not WANT to keep living, which is different from (though probably is very often influenced by) DISLIKING living
I like chips. But I don’t always eat them because apparently they’re not very good for me.
So I like chips, but I don’t always want chips.
We can want things for all kinds of reasons, ethical reasons, etc, that have nothing to do with what we like. Someone could live a life that is below 0 utility (has more disliked experiences than liked experiences in it, weighted by intensity) but could still WANT to keep living due to not wanting to go to hell, wanting to continue to be able to do ethical work, etc
Perhaps a wild animal could live a life with much more disliked experiences than liked ones but continues living because of evolutionary motivations that make them want to keep living?
Arepo wrote:I also don’t buy the idea that not committing suicide demonstrates positive utility. (The expectation of) positive utility is just one of various tools our genes use to keep us in line, whereas if we commit suicide it means that *all* their tools have failed. In other words, we’re heavily biased against doing so for evolutionary reasons.
RyanCarey wrote:When we discuss death, the car next to us is playing noise that is very loud and that does not reinforce our signal. Evolution presents inredible biases. It tells us that we don't want to die. It tells us that we should value making new life. It tells us that we don't want our tribe to die, nor be in a society in which people die regularly. We struggle with these ulterior motives. First, we need to acknowledge that they are there. We need to acknowledge that there are forces swaying us towards this pro-life stance. Second, we need to concentrate on the signal. And I think it tells us, like it always does, that wellbeing is what has been directly observed to be a good.
We don’t know what being dead is like so how can we know if we like being alive or dead more? We can not WANT to be dead, but we cannot know that we would dislike/like it more than living.
Alan Dawrst wrote:There are lots of cases where the brain clearly doesn't maximize long-term selfish welfare (e.g., sharing a needle with the other 50 prisoners in your group, with extremely high chances of getting some disease). Certain systems just switch on at certain times and suppress other systems.
So instead of being above 0 utility if one wants to keep living maybe this would be a better way;
Jesper Östman wrote:One useful way of thinking about where to draw the line for utility 0 is Tännsjö's test. When having a total experience at a certain time, ask yourself if you'd prefer being unconscious at that time or not (everything else equal).
(could someone link me to where Tännsjö says this please?)
So anyway is all this basically the preferential utilitarian o utility point (suicide) Vs. the hedonistic one (Tännsjö's test) ?