Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Pain and Suffering

Have you ever thought about the concepts of pain and suffering? Are they the same concept with different names, or two concepts—and if two concepts, how are they related? Lawyers use the expression “pain and suffering,” which implies that there are two concepts rather than one, but lawyers say lots of redundant things by way of covering their asses. This afternoon, in glorious sunshine, I read R. M. Hare‘s 1964 essay “Pain and Evil” in the meadow near my house, with Shelbie running around like a crazy dog nearby. The essay was fascinating. I honestly hadn’t given much thought to the relation between these concepts (although I had given thought to the relation between pleasure and happiness). In case you’re wondering why I was reading this essay, I’m reading my way through Hare’s literary corpus, making an annotated bibliography as I go. Here is my annotation for this essay:

“Pain and Evil.” The Aristotelian Society, supplementary volume 38 (1964): 91-106. Reprinted as chap. 6 of EMC. H admits to grinding an axe in this essay, the aim of which is to show that there is a “distinction between descriptive and evaluative judgements” (89). Some people have said that the distinction “breaks down” in the case of pain, for “I am in intense pain,” they say, is both descriptive and evaluative. H argues that it’s logically possible for someone to be in pain (in the sense of having a distinct sensation) but not to suffer (or to dislike it). That pain and suffering often or even always (in fact) coincide doesn’t prove that they must (logically) coincide. The essay is an analysis of the concept of pain.

I love reading Hare. He writes crisply and well; he’s brash; he’s interested in all philosophical aspects of morality, from metaethics to normative ethical theory to practical ethics; and, perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Many philosophers felt the sting of Hare’s prose over the years. Most of them, I dare say, deserved it.

Islamic Enlightenment

This column by psychologist Phyllis Chesler is worth a few minutes of your valuable time.

The Reptilian Mind

Here is the latest “thing” for those interested in conspicuous consumption. Just imagine how envious your friends, neighbors, and colleagues will be when they learn that you have an oven that can cook a chicken in 14 minutes. You will be the Big Dog in their eyes, at least until they, too, purchase one, which may be some time, since they don’t earn nearly as much money as you do. Query: Why would men and women have different preferences for manual controls?

R. M. Hare (1919-2002) on Moral Principles

There is a great difference between people in respect of their readiness to qualify their moral principles in new circumstances. One man may be very hidebound; he may feel that he knows what he ought to do in a certain situation as soon as he has acquainted himself with its most general features, without examining it at all closely to see whether it has any special feature which would call for a different judgement. Another man may be more cautious (some people are even pathologically cautious in this respect); he will never make up his mind what he ought to do, even in a quite familiar situation, until he has scrutinized every detail of it to make sure that he can really subsume it under the principles that seem at first sight most relevant.

(R. M. Hare, Freedom and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 41)

The Home Depot

It’s fitting that The Home Depot has “depot” in its name, because a depot is where you wait for a bus or a train. How many of you have wandered the aisles of The Home Depot searching for someone to answer a question? I have. Many times. It’s infuriating. Sometimes it’s worse than infuriating, because the few employees scattered about the store are evasive. Among other things, they avert their eyes when they see you. This gives them plausible deniability if they should be confronted. “Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t see you.” Here is a column about one man’s disenchantment with The Home Depot. I know whereof he speaks. I should probably take my business to Lowe’s, although, for all I know, things are just as bad there as at The Home Depot. Feel free to describe your experiences.

As for why The Home Depot treats its customers this way, the author of the column is exactly right. The company has made a decision to increase its profits at the expense of its customers, hoping they won’t notice or won’t care. I’ve written in this blog about the absurdly long waits I’ve experienced at my neighborhood Wal-Mart Market. I don’t wait nearly as long at Kroger or Albertson’s, so naturally I go to those stores more often. I use Wal-Mart Market only for odds and ends, such as bananas. I do my regular shopping at Kroger or Albertson’s. This is my way of punishing Wal-Mart for wasting my time. Do executives and store managers not realize how angry they’re making their customers? Do they think angry customers will keep coming back? I can’t think of anything more stupid. It’s as if they want to go out of business.

Addendum: I predict that certain bold companies will go against the trend and make a killing as a result. Here’s a perfect marketing slogan: “We cater to our customers.” Obviously, companies that cater to their customers—by not making them wait—will have to charge more for their goods or services, for employees must be paid; but don’t you think many people would be happy (or at least willing) to pay more? It’s our time that’s valuable to us. We want to get in and out, with a minimum of delay and frustration.

Best of the Web Today



Has anyone besides me noticed that young married couples look alike? Your daily newspaper should have a section in which engagements and marriages are announced. Examine the photographs over a period of several weeks. You’ll see what I mean. Sometimes the individuals look like twins. Is there any reason why couples should look alike? Yes. Each of us is in love with himself or herself (some, such as Brian Leiter, more than others). We’re attracted to those who look like us. We seek them out, fall in love with them (at first sight!), and hook up.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “A Disconnect on Hooking Up” (Thursday Styles, March 1):

Kudos to Laura Sessions Stepp, the author of “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both,” for reminding young women that “hooking up” is a dream come true for men rather than an expression of feminine power.

Young guys love that kind of “girl power”! Women, remember: just because you can do anything a man can do doesn’t mean you want to.

What ever happened to dating and relationships? Oh, I forgot, that is so last century!

Carol Derby
Washington, March 1, 2007

Note from KBJ: This letter is spot on. The main beneficiaries of abortion are men. The main beneficiaries of contraception are men. The main beneficiaries of unmarried cohabitation are men. The main beneficiaries of no-fault divorce are men. The main beneficiaries of sexual liberation are men. Feminism sold women a bill of goods. Some women realize this. More of them will, as time goes by.

Hall of Fame?

Cal Ripken Jr. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)

A Year Ago