jbkjr

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jbkjr40

It sounds to me like a problem of not reasoning according to Occam's razor and "overfitting" a model to the available data.

Ceteris paribus, H' isn't more "fishy" than any other hypothesis, but H' is a significantly more complex hypothesis than H or ¬H: instead of asserting H or ¬H, it asserts (A=>H) & (B=>¬H), so it should have been commensurately de-weighted in the prior distribution according to its complexity. The fact that Alice's study supports H and Bob's contradicts it does, in fact, increase the weight given to H' in the posterior relative to its weight in the prior; it's just that H' is prima facie less likely, according to Occam.

Given all the evidence, the ratio of likelihoods P(H'|E)/P(H|E)=P(E|H')P(H')/(P(E|H)P(H)). We know P(E|H') > P(E|H) (and P(E|H') > P(E|¬H)), since the results of Alice's and Bob's studies together are more likely given H', but P(H') < P(H) (and P(H') < P(¬H)) according to the complexity prior. Whether H' is more likely than H (or ¬H, respectively) is ultimately up to whether P(E|H')/P(E|H) (or P(E|H')/P(E|¬H)) is larger or smaller than P(H')/P(H) (or P(H')/P(¬H)).

I think it ends up feeling fishy because the people formulating H' just used more features (the circumstances of the experiments) in a more complex model to account for the as-of-yet observed data after having observed said data, so it ends up seeming like in selecting H' as a hypothesis, they're according it more weight than it deserves according to the complexity prior.

jbkjr73

Why should I include any non-sentient systems in my moral circle? I haven't seen a case for that before.

jbkjr10

To me, "indecision results from sub-agential disagreement" seems almost tautological, at least within the context of multi-agent models of mind, since if all the sub-agents were in agreement, there wouldn't be any indecision. So, the question I have is: how often are disagreeing sub-agents "internalized authority figures"? I think I agree with you in that the general answer is "relatively often," although I expect a fair amount of variance between individuals.

jbkjr10

I'd guess it's a problem of translation; I'm pretty confident the original text in Pali would just say "dukkha" there.

The Wikipedia entry for dukkha says it's commonly translated as "pain," but I'm very sure the referent of dukkha in experience is not pain, even if it's mistranslated as such, however commonly.

jbkjr10

Say I have a strong desire to eat pizza, but only a weak craving. I have a hard time imagining what that would be like.

I think this is likely in part due to “desire” connoting both craving and preferring. In the Buddhist context, “desire” is often used more like “craving,” but on the other hand, if I have a pizza for dinner, it seems reasonable to say it was because I desired so (in the sense of having a preference for it), even if there was not any craving for it.

I think people tend to crave what they prefer until they’ve made progress on undoing the habit of craving/aversion, so it’s understandable that it can be hard for such a person to imagine having a strong preference without an associated craving. However, the difference becomes clearer if/when one experiences intentions and preferences in the absence of craving/aversion.

Perhaps it would be informative to examine your experience of preferring in instances other than e.g. eating, where I think there is more of a tendency to crave because “you need food to survive.” For example, if you’re writing and considering two ways of articulating something, you might find you have a strong preference for one way over another, but I imagine there might be less craving in the sense of “I must have it this way, not another.” Perhaps this isn’t the best example possible, but I think careful consideration will reveal the difference in experience between “desire” in the craving sense and “desire” in the preferring sense.

ETA: Another example I thought of is selecting a song to listen to if you're listening to music—you might want to listen to one song vs. others, but not necessarily have a strong craving for it.

Does then craving (rather than desire) frustration, or aversion realization, constitute suffering?

No, because craving something results in suffering, even if you get that which you crave, and being averse to something results in suffering, even if you avoid that to which you’re averse.

But still, it seems to make sense to say I have an aversion to pain because I suffer from it

I think it makes more sense to say there’s an aversion to pain because pain feels bad; since suffering is not a necessary consequence of pain, it doesn’t make sense to say that you’re averse to pain because it results in suffering. The causal chain is aversion->suffering, not the other way around.

jbkjr10

I'd be interested if you have any other ideas for underexplored / underappreciated cause areas / intervention groups that might be worth further investigation when reevaluated via this pain vs suffering distinction?

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to point you toward supporting that I’m aware of already existing in the space. I’d generally be quite interested in studies which better evaluate meditation’s effects on directly reducing suffering in terms of e.g. how difficult it is for how many people to reduce their suffering by how much, but the EA community doesn’t seem to currently be focused on this very much. I am still supportive of existing organizations with a direct focus on reducing suffering; I just wanted to make the point that such organizations would do well to recognize the distinction between suffering and pain in order to ensure their efforts are actually aimed at suffering and not merely pain on the margin.

jbkjr32

Then the question is whether the idiosyncratic words are only ever explained using other idiosyncratic words, or whether at some point it actually connects with the shared reality.

The point is that the words ground out in actual sensations and experiences, not just other words and concepts. What I’m arguing is that it’s not useful to use the English word “suffering” to refer to ordinary pain or displeasure, because there is a distinction in experience between what we refer to as “pain” or “displeasure” and what is referred to by the term “dukkha,” and that “suffering” is best understood as this dukkha. That we commonly say things like “he suffered the pain” is an indication of this distinction already existing in English, even if there is a tendency to messily equivocate between the two.

jbkjr-1-2

My point is that in English "experience such severe pain that one might prefer non-existence to continuing to endure that pain" would be considered an uncontroversial example of "suffering", not as something suffering-neutral to which suffering might or might not be added.

Sure, but I think that’s just because of the usual conflation between pain and suffering which I’m trying to address with this post. If you ask anyone with the relevant experience “does Buddhism teaching me to never suffer again mean that I’ll never experience (severe) pain again?”, they’ll just answer no. I don’t think it’s reasonable to think of this as a “bait-and-switch” because the dhamma never taught the end of pain, only the end of suffering; it’s not the dhamma’s fault if novices think the end of suffering means an end to pain.

jbkjr10

The assumption that these can be completely dropping the habit is entirely theoretical. The historical Buddha's abilities are lost to history. Modern meditators can perform immense feats of pain tolerance, but I personally haven't heard one claim to have completely eradicated the habit of suffering.

I believe Daniel Ingram makes such a claim by virtue of his claim of arhatship; if he still suffers then he cannot reasonably claim to be an arhat. He also has an anecdote of someone else he considers to be an arhat saying “This one is not suffering!” in response to a question at a retreat. I think it’s often the case that someone who has found the end of suffering doesn’t go around proclaiming it widely for various reasons.

More directly, I know a complete cessation of craving/aversion and therefore suffering is possible because I have experienced it; I do not suffer. I hesitate to make this claim publicly because I’m not interested in getting into debates about whether or not I actually do not suffer—I know so, and that’s enough for me. However, if it’s helpful to know that the complete cessation of suffering is actually attainable by a kind of existence proof, I do not mind speaking simply about what I know in my own experience(s).

jbkjr32

I think you're right about all the claims of fact. The Buddha won't suffer when he feels pain. But unenlightened beings, which is all the rest of us, particularly animals, will.

But the example of the Buddha goes to show that humans have the capacity to not suffer even in painful circumstances, even if right now they do. It’s not like “unenlightenment” is something you’re forever resigned to.

So taking pain as a proxy for suffering is pretty reasonable for thinking about how to reduce suffering

I agree that in most cases where someone suffers in the presence of extreme pain, they’re likely to suffer noticeably less if that pain is alleviated, but I don’t think this means “the best way to alleviate suffering is to reduce pain as a proxy for it,” since what’s actually causing the suffering is not the pain but the aversion to it.