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Home page: About Suffering in the World

 Let us Establish a Sphere of Human Activity
that Deals with Suffering in the World

A new approach to suffering is proposed.

All major spheres of human activity deal in one way or another with suffering:

politics, religion, healthcare, social affairs, economics, law, art, literature, philosophy, ethics, the news media, environmental studies, education, science, history, war, crime, work, sport, interpersonal relationships, personal life, etc.

Suffering is implicated in other, more specialized fields too, although their overt or ultimate objects of concern are something else. For instance:

medicine, social service, social security, insurance, economic development aid, human rights protection, animal welfare, judicial punishment, the practice of torture, disaster relief, Buddhism, certain parts of the biological or psychological or social sciences, etc.

No specialized area of activity, however, is primarily focused on the topic of suffering itself, as such, per se. Oddly, despite a pervasive concern over its existence across the millennia, the topic remains without a place where it can be addressed comprehensively, in its broadest scope.

An obvious idea then is to promote, alongside the other areas mentioned above, a whole new sphere of interest that includes all things related to suffering. Let us call it the "algosphere". Algos means suffering in ancient Greek.

For now, let us simply define suffering as any unpleasant feeling. It is pain in the broad sense, the opposite of pleasure.

The algosphere approach clearly distinguishes itself from any other approach to suffering because it is "first and foremost" concerned "both specifically and universally" with that topic. The algosphere approach deals with suffering first, with suffering itself, and with the whole of suffering. Thanks to these characteristics, the algosphere allows us to go beyond three kinds of shortcomings against which other approaches, for all their merits, are powerless when they deal with suffering.

1- First, other approaches are inappropriate or inadequate insofar as their specific object of concern is not suffering itself, as such, per se. Only the algosphere allows us to acknowledge the particular reality of suffering, in all its guises.

2- Next, other approaches are deficient or incomplete insofar as none of them deals in principle with everything that concerns suffering, physical or mental, human or animal. Only the algosphere includes within a common conceptual framework all forms of suffering, all causes, all remedies, all elements of the topic. If our goal is to understand and resolve the problems that the existence of suffering entails, these problems must be tackled not only one-by-one, or in narrowly defined contexts, but also in their entirety, in spite of the intimidating scale and complexity that this approach may represent.

3- Lastly, other fields of interest are misleading or inconsistent in the sense that when they deal with suffering, they always do so only in relation to their own specific topic of interest. There are countless people or groups who say that their concern is suffering, but in reality all of them are focused on concerns which are not suffering as such but rather, for instance, illness or hunger or injustice. Thus suffering has never until now been the first and only specific topic of interest for anybody and therefore, per se, it has been awfully neglected. From the perspective of the algosphere, all that is not first-and-foremost focused on knowledge and action about suffering represents a diversion, a deviation from what should be the primary and overriding interest.

To be sure, the algosphere approach has also its pitfalls which must be guarded against. For instance, it may give rise to the temptations of totalitarian benevolence or, even worse, universal malevolence. Within the approach everything is subordinated to its concern, but for those who practice it there is a responsibility to make sure that the algosphere is appropriately related to other concerns. Often times, acting on suffering may be a priority, but at other times something else may have to prevail. For dealing with the extremely complex question of the place that the algosphere should have in the scheme of things, an approach such as that put forward in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential could be useful.

To sum it up, let us establish the algosphere as an innovative conceptual framework with the following indispensable uses:

  • It is a framework for a methodical approach, useful for dealing with suffering in a general, universal, comprehensive, systematic, well-ordered, permanent manner, and for dealing with suffering as a primary object of concern, subordinate to no other.

  • It is a framework for theoretical learning, useful for studying all that pertains to suffering, as well as for developing skills that are related to this kind of knowledge.

  • It is a framework for strategic planning, useful for designing systematic action about suffering.

  • It is a framework for practical action, useful for carrying out interventions that are concerned with suffering in the world.

  • It is a framework for communication purposes, useful for sharing information in as broad a context as possible.

Last modification: 2022/01/26

Email: daoust514@gmail.com

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