Feedback and notes:
"My past conversations with EA's suggest that they wouldn't think two happy children outweigh one miserable child, but a million happy children do outweigh one miserable child."
But this is just an intuition. At some point in counting from two happy children to a million happy children, they feel that the equation shifts. There is nothing objective about that feeling. That feeling really isn't any more valid than the feeling that a human life is worth more than a chicken's, or feeling that my child is more important than any number of other children in the world.
"How small does the suffering need to be before happiness outweighs it? Presumably a child with a good life is better off being born even if, for example, he had to have a limb amputated due to cancer."
This question has two parts. The first is inter-personal trade-offs. That is, would a lot of happiness in other people offset my stubbed toe?
The second is intra-personal: would my stubbed toe be offset by a wonderful day with my partner? Will the torture I've gone through this year be offset by my future pleasure?
I tend to think (feel?) that intra-personal tradeoffs are valid. I'm not sure about inter-personal trade-offs. I know many people think they are valid, but I think that might be wrong.
But intra-personal tradeoffs might also be invalid. This is the basis for the philosophy of antinatalism, which I first learned about last year on this podcast. (You can also read about it here.) I know that the first reaction of many is just "of course pleasure can offset suffering," but that is just an intuition, just a feeling. I think if you take suffering seriously, antinatalism can't be dismissed out of hand.
Given my uncertainties, I agree with most of what Alexander Berger says, except I conclude that reducing suffering is the most certain "good" there is available to us.
|OTOH, it feels a lot of suffering is offset by being married to a brilliant, brave, tough, model-foxy über-babe.|