Almost all religions observed that life is a suffering and provided means to end the human suffering by doing some prayer or penance. Most philosophers also ,I guess, recognize that life is a suffering.

However from philosophical point of view , have we come up with a theory to end human suffering other than by taking drugs or medicines?

  • 1
    I assume you're ruling out suicide/death as well?
    – user935
    Oct 6, 2017 at 15:03
  • Have the world consist only of philosophers Oct 6, 2017 at 15:56
  • Could you make your question somewhat more specific? Wikipedia's article on suffering has a long list of coping devices proposed by philosophers, but since we still have suffering obviously they were not entirely successful.
    – Conifold
    Oct 6, 2017 at 19:35
  • A lot of people are capable of living very happy lives but for the fact that they are tormented by envy. Oct 6, 2017 at 20:01
  • Another subclass of humans enjoy the pleasure of inflicting pain; their happiness rests on the very suffering of someone else. Oct 6, 2017 at 20:03

2 Answers 2


As you already know, being a user on Buddhism.SE, that (i.e. ending suffering) is the central theme of the Buddhist doctrine, for example as it's described in many of the suttas of the Pali canon.

To address the comments, just while I'm here:

  • I don't know why this comment said "Have the world consist only of philosophers" ... was that serious, is it a joke, is it because philosophers are inoffensive, or immune to suffering? :-)

  • This comment said that some people "are tormented by envy" -- that (envy) is one of the many types of suffering that Buddhism has a presciption for: for example it's one of the five afflictive emotions in Mahayana; and/or the Brahmaviharas including mudita are proper social emotions.

  • This comment asked about ending "preventable" -- bullying in the workplace and so on; Buddhism has several prescriptions, e.g. a "middle way" (e.g. neither gluttony nor starvation); e.g. "virtue" which includes being harmless, inoffensive etc.; but it also identifies "suffering" as a "craving or "thirst", for things to be other than as they are -- not purposeful "desire" (which can be wholesome if it's a wholesome desire for something wholesome), but for example craving for the permanence of something that's inherently impermanent -- that too (i.e. suffering as a result of various "attachments") is seen as a "preventable" form of suffering.

I don't know much about Western philosophy (perhaps I came to this site with the same question that you did, which is how I found your unanswered question here).

I think that maybe Stoicism has some obvious paralells with Buddhism. One disadvantage, perhaps, is that there isn't much surviving literature from the early stoics (compared to e.g. the whole bookshelf, the whole library, of Buddhist literature), though there's more from some of the later stoics like Marcus Aurelius (I'm not sure whether Marcus Aurelius should be considered a good teacher though, or whether instead perhaps he was a good student).

I looked at Wikipedia's Categories in the hopes of getting an overview or introduction or index. Within those categories:

  • It seems to me that "metaphysics" is kind of abstract and useless. I guess an example of metaphysics is this question: If a tree falls in a forest. IMO Buddhism sort of avoids the problem by telling you to concentrate on what you perceive (e.g. "contact between sense-organ and sense-object and sense-consciousness gives rise to perception and feeling etc.").

    Does Buddhism's focus, on what does or doesn't cause suffering, exclude a lot of abstract metaphysics?

  • "Value theory" sounds like it ought to be interesting -- it includes ethics (virtue) and asking "what is 'good'?" But, I guess it may get side-tracked though: into economics, consumerism, and more metaphysics.

  • This says about "Ethics" (which is categorised as a sub-topic of "Value theory") that,

    A major area of debate involves consequentialism, in which actions are judged by the potential results of the act, such as to maximize happiness, called utilitarianism, and deontology, in which actions are judged by how they adhere to principles, irrespective of negative ends.

    So, according to that, something in "utilitarianism" might be interesting, relevant to "ending human suffering", if it's teaching how to maximise happiness? Or maybe it's more samsara. :-)

Writing this answer reminds me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ... in which, about two thirds of the way through the book, the protagonist becomes angry to discover that "What is good?" is not considered the central question of philosophy, but was somehow demoted by Aristotle to a sub-sub-category, of "logic" or something like that.

  • Virtue is impermanent , changeable and therefore cause of suffering. Mar 5, 2018 at 0:46

David Benatar proposes antinatalism, and the 'benevolent world-exploder' view. While Buddhism proposes an end to suffering only for those who attain enlightenment, Benatar's view could potentially end suffering for all humans in our lifetime.

Stoic philosophy aims to end avoidable suffering, by focusing on what you can change, and resigning yourself to what you cannot.

  • I would argue that Stoicism does not have a coherent philosophy but I won't in case it causes trouble. It offers no cure for suffering other than putting up with it. Buddhism proposes that suffering ends for those who have realised it is unreal, but as you say this takes some work.
    – user20253
    Mar 5, 2018 at 10:31
  • The Dhamma is also called, "good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end" -- it's not clear in the original what that means, but some people interpret it as meaning that the preliminary/elementary doctrine/training (e.g. virtue, keeping the precepts, being harmless, suitable even for laypeople) is good; that the middle, advanced practice (e.g. meditation), is good; and that the end result, e.g. the final "attainment", is good.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 5, 2018 at 14:36
  • Also I think that suffering ends frequently ... but re-occurs. What's harder to achieve is permanent cessation of suffering i.e. uprooting the cause of suffering's re-arising (and I think that different schools of Buddhism may even differ, on whether and how some attainment of nibbana is permanent).
    – ChrisW
    Mar 5, 2018 at 14:39
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    Thank you for posting 'antinatalism' and 'benevolent world-exploder'. It's interesting to see some parallels with Buddhist doctrine, e.g. Should a Buddhist have Children?; and, having to explain why suicide isn't a proper answer.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 5, 2018 at 14:50

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