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In my life, I follow the philosophy that if you do not own something expensive or have someone important in your life (like a romantic partner), it is impossible to lose it or them. Because losing something like this is a negative outcome, I prefer not having this something in the first place. In other words, having something of importance in your life, reaping the benefits of it, but there being a possibility of losing it, for me is worse than not having this something in the first place.

I believe I have come across a name for this philosophy and that it is not a new idea, but I may be mistaken.

Does this philosophy have a name?

The closest thing to this I am familiar with is antinatalism -- beliving that it is better never to have been born, i.e. being alive ("having life") is far worse than not existing at all.

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    It sound like a minimax strategy applied to life. Dec 4, 2020 at 21:53
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    It is not so much a philosophy as a common cognitive bias Kahneman and Tversky call "loss aversion" and Baumeister calls "negativity bias": emotionally preferring avoidance of losses to equal gains, see Zamir's book. Antinatalism is different, it is about moral appraisal rather than emotional preference.
    – Conifold
    Dec 4, 2020 at 21:53
  • @Conifold your guess on "loss aversion" is spot on, it's the exact term I remember having come across.
    – Alex
    Dec 4, 2020 at 22:29
  • Possibly this is a bit shallow to count as philosophy, and should rather be a psychological question
    – tkruse
    Dec 5, 2020 at 12:10

1 Answer 1

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Buddhism teaches that you must lose all personal attachments before you can achieve enlightenment and end your cycle of suffering. This is because all attachments pull you back to the material world and that inevitably draws you back into the cycle of suffering.

Prince Siddartha Gautama walked out on his inheritance, wife and children in order to follow the path which led to his Buddhahood, and every sage who has ever followed his "eightfold" path to enlightenment must likewise renounce all material and social attachments. The only personal belongings permitted are (or should be) the robe, sandals and begging bowl. In the last stage of the quest, even the attachment to ending suffering must, ironically, be abandoned before that goal can actually be achieved.

It is precisely for this reason, the ending of suffering, that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism presents Buddhist practice to the West as "the art of happiness."

In this respect this attitude is not so much a philosophy in its own right, as a core aspect of Buddhist philosophy, and therefore a key ingredient or goal of the eightfold path.

As noted in the comments, at least one psychological condition - loss aversion - mimics it, so one does need to understand why the subject seeks to avoid attachments. That need to understand surely applies equally to the Western-schooled psychiatrist and psychoanalyst; diagnosing the Dalai Lama as "loss-averse" would probably not be productive.

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  • This answer is so good that it got me thinking about possibly becoming a Buddhist, even though I'm an atheist.
    – Alex
    Dec 15, 2020 at 17:08
  • @Aleksandr Buddhism is that rare thing, a religion without a God. All Buddhists are in theory atheists, though there are many sects or branches and some do have a habit of treating Buddhas (those who have achieved enlightenment) as deities. Some also believe in other supernatural entities (as people reborn into different states of being). Zen is a popular way in for Westerners dubious of such things. (caveat; I also find Taoism, Christianity, Islam and various less well known faiths to be equally valuable and neither can nor wish to choose among them.) Dec 15, 2020 at 21:31

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