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The best way to eliminate all suffering in the world would be to eliminate all sentient life. If there were no living things capable of feeling pain, then there would be no pain. If it were possible to do this in a painless way, perhaps by means of a huge atomic explosion, then, by the principle of negative utilitarianism, this would be the morally right action. Even if a certain amount of pain were involved in the process, the long-term benefits in pain elimination would probably outweigh it. Yet this conclusion is hardly acceptable. At the very least negative utilitarianism needs to be reformulated so as to avoid it.

Philosophy: The basics

What does the word "it" refer to? a certain amount of pain or this conclusion? Many thanks

3 Answers 3

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If asking about the penultimate "it", the reference is "this conclusion". Negative utilitarianism needs to not lead to the elimination of all life being the correct answer.

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  • Oh, I thought that the penultimate "it" refers to a certain amount of pain
    – XVI
    May 5, 2021 at 4:45
  • The last "it" refers to "this conclusion". The whole point of this essay is this: if this philosophy leads to concluding that destroying all life is the answer, we must reformulate the philosophy. May 5, 2021 at 13:03
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Even if a certain amount of pain were involved in the process, the long-term benefits in pain elimination would probably outweigh it. Yet this conclusion is hardly acceptable. At the very least negative utilitarianism needs to be reformulated so as to avoid it.

A pronoun generally refers to the noun most immediately preceding it. In this case the it refers to this conclusion.

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  • The "it" at the end of the first sentence refers to"a certain amount of pain."
    – randomhead
    May 5, 2021 at 5:26
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it refers to the state of having to choose between suffering and the unacceptable option of eliminating it with a huge atomic explosion.

Further, this conclusion refers to inflicting a certain amount of pain for the long-term benefits of pain elimination.

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