[ExI] Circumcision

Anders anders at aleph.se
Tue Jun 14 20:25:56 UTC 2016

On 2016-06-14 15:49, Will Steinberg wrote:
> Midazolam is also a potent producer of retrograde amnesia.  You are 
> aware the entire time they massacre your mouth, but you forget.
> What are the morals of that?  It squicks me out for sure.

Pain and suffering are different things: one is a sensory stimulus, the 
other is the aversive emotional reaction (which can be triggered by 
non-pain stimuli too). Pain is not bad in itself, but one can make a 
case that suffering is something that is inherently bad.

If one argues suffering is inherently bad, then even forgotten suffering 
is a bad thing. At least it made the world worse when it was occurring.

Remembered suffering is not obviously as bad as experiencing suffering: 
at least pain cannot be remembered vividly (you don't flinch from 
remembering a bad toothache or an injury, even though it is still 
unpleasant to remember - compare that to remembering something truly 
disgusting: you feel similar disgust again). Suffering, being a strong 
inducer of neural plasticity, can of course change behavior and outlook 
in important ways. But not all such changes are bad ones.

So I would argue that instantaneous suffering matters morally. Just as 
instantaneous pleasure does. However, the time-bound forms of suffering 
or happiness have potential for *meaning*. That adds another dimension 
that can be far more important. Living a life of amnesiac bliss might 
not be as good as a long dramatic struggle to make the world better.

Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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