Author Topic: Depressive Realism  (Read 3370 times)

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Creepy Sleepy

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The quality of human life is actually quite appalling.
« Reply #30 on: December 23, 2017, 12:02:35 am »
While reading a little more from Benatar's The Human Predicament last night, I found something that I do not want to forget.  It's a sentiment I have attempted to express in the past, but I did not word it so clearly.  It's related to my theory that nobody has a life worth living, that no one, no matter what they claim, has a high quality existence.  This sentiment I have based on the nature of existence itself.

Of course, I would not come out and tell anyone personally that their life is not worth living.   I would only make the general universal claim. Of course, most people would respond with the snide remark, "Speak for yourself!  We are happy as Hell!  You just need to get laid.  You need to lighten up, put down those math books and have some fun!"

It is almost pointless to try to explain what my sentiment is regarding people's unreliability to ascertain the poor quality of their lives.  When Schopenhauer talks about getting through a life not worth living, he is not just talking about his own life with his temperament or circumstances.  He sees clearly that he was fortunate in many ways.  He is talking about life in general, that all of us face this predicament.

That's why I was glad to type up the following from Benatar's book.  He helps to clarify this sentiment.

Quote from: David Benatar
The quality of human life is, contrary to what many people think, actually quite appalling.

The quality of people’s lives obviously varies immensely.  However, thinking that some lives are worse or better than others is merely a comparative claim. It tells us nothing about whether the worse lives are bad enough to count as bad lives or whether the better lives are good enough to count as good lives. The common view, however, is that the quality of some lives qualifies as bad and the quality of others qualifies as good. In contrast to this view, I believe that while some lives are better than others, none are (noncomparatively or objectively) good.

The obvious objection to this view is that billions of people judge the quality of their own lives to be good. How can it possibly be argued that they are mistaken and that the quality of their lives is, in fact, bad?

The response to this objection consists of two main steps. The first is to demonstrate that people are very unreliable judges of the quality of their own lives. The second step is to show that when we correct for the biases that explain the unreliability of these assessments and we look at human lives more accurately, we find that the quality (of even the best lives) is actually very poor.

Why people’s judgments about the quality of their lives are unreliable

People’s self-​assessments of wellbeing are unreliable indicators of quality of life because these self-​assessments are influenced by three psychological phenomena, the existence of which has been well demonstrated.

The first of these is an optimism bias, sometimes known as Pollyannaism. For example, when asked to rate how happy they are, people’s responses are disproportionately toward the happier end of the spectrum. Only a small minority of people rate themselves as “not too happy.”  When people are asked to rate their wellbeing relative to others, the typical response is that they are doing better than the “most commonly experienced level,” suggesting, in the words of two authors, “an interesting bias in perception.”   It is unsurprising that people’s reports of their overall wellbeing is unduly optimistic, because the building blocks of that judgment are similarly prone to an optimism bias. For example, people are (excessively) optimistic in their projections of what will happen to them in the future.  The findings regarding recall of past experiences are more complicated.  However, the dominant finding, subject to some qualifications,  seems to be that there is greater recall of positive experiences than there is of negative ones. This may be because negative experiences are susceptible to cognitive processes that suppress them. Judgments about the overall quality of one’s life that are inadequately informed by the bad things that have happened and will happen are not reliable judgments.

There is ample evidence of an optimism bias among humans.

This is not to say that the extent of the bias does not vary a lot. The inhabitants of some countries report greater subjective wellbeing than those of other countries even when the objective conditions are similar.  This has been attributed, in part, to cultural variation.   


I believe that while some lives are better than others, none are good.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2017, 12:19:26 am by Non Serviam »
Things They Will Never Tell YouArthur Schopenhauer has been the most radical and defiant of all troublemakers.

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