Is all suffering bad in itself? Is only involuntary suffering bad in itself? How do we tell the two apart?
I'm posting this as a question, since I'm looking for others' thoughts. I'll share my own first.
I have the intuition that voluntary suffering might not be bad. This is primarily due to personal experience: I often feel sad (sympathy) when I encounter sad stories or sad situations, but I don't have the intuition that this is bad for me, because I don't feel like I ought to look away or stop feeling sad in response to these and I often feel like thinking/learning/reading more about these situations even if I feel more sadness because of it (and I usually do). This happens to me with both real and fictional situations (I was a fan of tragedies for a while).
Furthermore, sometimes in the past, when I've been depressed about my own life, I didn't want to be happy and even preferred to be miserable. (This has not happened for several years, I think, and I rarely feel sad at all for my own life these days.)
On the other hand, I don't think my own emotions typically considered negative are completely decoupled from my motivations, since, e.g. when I exercise and it gets unpleasant enough, I will slow down or stop.
How should I think about this?
- Are these perverse preferences when I'm motivated to dwell on sad things (ignoring externalities)? Is it actually bad for me?
- Is it that sympathetic sadness is not actually an overall bad (suffering) experience, say if it's like pain asymbolia (where someone recognizes that they're in pain, but the experience isn't unpleasant) or there's some sufficient aesthetic pleasure I get from it?
- Is all suffering in some sense involuntary? Is it by definition involuntary (e.g. externalism, also my own post)?
- Something else?
Some related reading: Hedonistic vs. Preference Utilitarianism by Brian Tomasik for CLR.