One might wonder why the above matters—after all, one might simply concede the argument and leave it at that. However, it does matter in a lot of discussions of value, in which happiness and suffering are of import, especially if either of these is valued as categorically “bad” or “good”. But let us examine some examples to make this more clear:
Aristotelian Eudaimonia becomes a very different sort of affair given Schopenhauer’s argument.
The search for a kind of “work” or “striving” that is in itself a fulfilment can be said to be a contradiction in terms, since the very nature of striving is one of suffering, with relief being what is actually sought. The kind of striving that is envisaged here would merely be one in which the release from itself is either quick, easy, or certain, or some combination of these.
Furthermore, the kind of Eudaimonia that Aristotle speaks of is already often a negative one, i.e. one free of hardship and similar ills. So while it might still be a valid way to confront suffering, it sees the negation of suffering as what is important, but does so with means that are only negative, i.e. suffering is only ever lessened or removed for a very short time. If happiness in these senses is what is sought and important, then what is sought is a cessation of suffering, but given that goal, Eudaimonia only employs poor and ineffective means to do so.
As for positive Hedonists, those wishing to maximize pleasure, the same sort of criticism can be brought against them: they are merely negative Hedonists of a different sort, wishing to negate suffering, but using ineffective means to do so.
Desire theorists, that is, people that find the fulfilment of desires to be what is most important are similarly mistaken, given that fulfilment is also only a form of quieting suffering for a short time.
On that note, Masochists do not escape the equation either: gaining pleasure from certain forms of suffering is still only ever used to quiet other forms of suffering, such as using pain against boredom or striving.
The problem of ineffectiveness for all of these is, then, that they seek things that would not be necessary if there were no suffering at all, i.e. if there were no pain, boredom or striving.
Given the nature of subjects/beings, it is a fundamental part of their existence that they are suffering. Of course, this would seem to suggest that positions of Antinatalism, where one does not bring any more life into existence, and perhaps even suicide become highly ethically relevant positions — if what is judged to be of the utmost important is happiness or the avoidance of suffering, i.e. if achieving happiness is “the greatest good” and avoiding suffering is “the greatest bad” — that is, if these are seen to be the ultimate goals of ethics.
This, of course, need not be the case; we might bring forward arguments against suicide and/or Antinatalism, and thus avoid having to conclude the “good” in either of these.
But even if that is the case, it would seem that other ethical guidelines than the above would appear to be more effective in dealing with the issue of suffering, i.e. those that recognize the issues of happiness and suffering presented here, as well as related issues dealing with the “nature” of nothingness (Meontology) or those which do not deem them to be of the utmost importance.
As previously stated, answering questions of value is not the aim of this essay; it should merely be pointed out that the natures of happiness and suffering, as described here, are of major importance to such questions.