G. E. M. Anscombe criticizes the following happiness principle of utility in Modern Moral Philosophy as an adequate judgement for moral behavior (midway, page 7 of the link):
"The greatest happiness principle ought to be employed in all decisions."
This made me wonder whether the happiness principle of utility really is a good thing? How would we learn without some pain? How would anything change if we were always happy with the way things were, if the greatest happiness principle were attainable?
Stephen Nathanson writes this about utilitarianism:
Utilitarians believe that the purpose of morality is to make life better by increasing the amount of good things (such as pleasure and happiness) in the world and decreasing the amount of bad things (such as pain and unhappiness).
He further explains what utilitarians believe about suffering and unhappiness:
Likewise, on the negative side, a lack of food, friends, or freedom is instrumentally bad because it produces pain, suffering, and unhappiness; but pain, suffering and unhappiness are intrinsically bad, i.e. bad in themselves and not because they produce some further bad thing.
But are suffering and unhappiness "intrinsically bad" if they motivate improvements? That is the motivation for my question. Perhaps unhappiness is also a principle of utility.
What moral philosopher explores various unhappiness principles as good? I would like to read a philosophical account of such a perspective, so a reference would be useful.
References from comments:
- Eugene Thacker, Thanks to Joseph Weissman
- ER Markson, Depression and Moral Masochism, Thanks to Conifold
- Roger Trigg, Pain and Emotion, Thanks to Conifold
- Andrew L. Hookom, But What Kind of Badness, Thanks to Conifold
Other references found indirectly from the above sources:
- Troy Jollimore, Meaningless Happiness and Meaningful Suffering