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On What MattersVolume Two$
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Derek Parfit

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572816

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199572816.001.0001

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What Matters Most

What Matters Most

Chapter:
(p.607) 36 What Matters Most
Source:
On What Matters
Author(s):

Samuel Scheffler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199572816.003.0024

This chapter analyses whether, given the horrors of the past, human history has been worth it. The badness of suffering casts doubt on the goodness of the world. In asking whether human history has been worth it, we are asking whether the horrors and the suffering have been outweighed, so that human history has been, on the whole, good. Pessimists answer No. On their view, human existence is on the whole bad, or worse than nothing. Friedrich Nietzsche struggled to avoid this form of Pessimism. One of Nietzsche's responses was his attempt to make the world good, by saying Yes to everything. In other passages, Nietzsche claims instead that we cannot intelligibly ask whether it has all been worth it. This chapter argues that, in Utilitarian hedonistic terms, the past has been worth it, since the sum of happiness has been greater than the sum of suffering. Even if the past has been in itself bad, the future may be good, and this goodness might outweigh the badness of the past.

Keywords:   human history, suffering, goodness of the world, Friedrich Nietzsche, Pessimism, past, happiness, future

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