The Suffering Matrix



The following is my proposed lens through which to view suffering. The two axes are Voluntary/Involuntary and Legitimate/Illegitimate, forming four types of suffering. I will be writing an extensive exposition of this at some point (hopefully I will get around to it somewhat soon), but I wanted to go ahead and post this to start soliciting comments and thoughts on the subject. This is a by-product of the curriculum development I am doing for Exosphere.
Suffering Matrix

  • Nikkers

    I don’t know that I agree that abuse is an illegitimate reason to suffer.

    • Skinner Layne

      The illegitimacy is derived from the causation. That is, abuse/war/violence/poverty are caused by either the active harm of somebody, or else systematic neglect. These are preventable evils that are committed by people against other people. That is why I have categorized it as illegitimate suffering.

  • Mike Haggard

    Hi Skinner,

    I just watched your interview with Jeff Berwick on Anarchast and thought I’d check out your blog. I thought this “Suffering Matrix” was a curious and interesting idea or concept, but initially, I didn’t like it’s context…the “Suffering” matrix. I thought perhaps “The Existence Matrix” might be more suitable, but then I was further mildly disturbed to notice that 3/4 of the matrix is comprised of “negatives” and only 1/4 of the matrix represented “the world I’d like to live in.” This would imply that existence is largely 3/4 suffering and that doesn’t seem like the way life should be.

    Then I began to scrutinize whether it was an actual matrix at all (not that I necessarily know what an “actual” matrix is). What I mean is, I wondered if legitimate and illegitimate might not simply be a replication of voluntary and involuntary. Certainly, I think most people (libertarians, etc.) would agree that voluntary is legitimate and involuntary is illegitimate. So is this then a matrix? It seems close, mostly because of the category of involuntary natural disasters. This made me think of “natural” as a possible third quadrant to the matrix rather than legitimate, but then what would be the fourth…unnatural? What about “artificial?” “Artificial” might not necessarily be bad as long as it’s voluntary, but may not be as likely to bring true joy or true knowledge in the way that connecting with nature or being in harmony with others would. That may however, allow a more equal division of what’s good in life verses what’s bad.

    Or perhaps, I just don’t want to face a reality where my existence has a 75 percent likelihood that I’m going to be suffering! Haha!