Why no one truly deserves to suffer

Andrew, James Preston
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Suffering, as I understand it, is an intrinsically awful state in which to be. Yet, it is widely thought that suffering can be intrinsically good when experienced by someone who is guilty because the guilty deserve to suffer. In these pages, I attempt to show that commonsense morality misleads us insofar as it inclines us to think that suffering can ever be deserved independently of consequentialist considerations. I argue that the kind of responsibility required to ground one's deserving to suffer is "ultimate moral responsibility". Ultimate moral responsibility, I contend, should be understood as responsibility of such a kind that if one bears it for one's actions, then one is the ultimate cause of the way that one is mentally, at least in certain respects. Employing Galen Strawson's Basic Argument for the impossibility of ultimate moral responsibility, I defend the claim that no possible being could truly deserve to suffer. I close by defending the Basic Argument against what I take to be three of the stronger objections that have been raised against it.