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Abolitionism is a bioethical school and socio-political movement that promotes the use of biotechnology to eliminate suffering.


Historically, there have been a number of religions and religious denominations which promoted the reduction of suffering by explicitly advocating non-violent behavior. Jainism, Quakerism and The Amish are key examples. Nevertheless, direct reference to the abolition of suffering is rare. The teachings of Gautama Buddha are sometimes understood to have been motivated by the eradication of suffering.[1] Two quotations commonly ascribed to Gautama Buddha are "I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering",[2][3] and "may all that have life be delivered from suffering."


Bioethical abolitionism was primarily inspired by Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian ethic[4] and championed by philosopher and transhumanist David Pearce since 1995.[5][6][7][8][9] Pearce has written a book-length internet manifesto The Hedonistic Imperative[10] outlining how technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, pharmacology, and neurosurgery could potentially converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience among human and non-human animals, replacing suffering with gradients of well-being, a project he refers to as "paradise engineering".[11]

People have been found in studies to achieve a “baseline happiness,”[12] sometimes called the hedonic treadmill, a pre-determined happiness set point that a person will return to throughout their lives. This set point is regardless of their personal income.[13]

According to evolutionary theory, humans evolved through natural selection and follow genetic imperatives that seek to maximize reproduction, not happiness.[14]

Abolitionism in the sense of the fearless imperative is mostly based on the concept of Negative Utilitarianism and reduction of suffering and ill-being. The fearless imperative seeks to dramatically reduce fear, which would significantly reduce the negative valence of suffering. Nearly fearless humans would come up with higher order logical solutions to problems instead of acting on the primitive and irrational basis of fear.[citation needed]

Abolitionism requires as a premise that emotions have a physically manipulable, not spiritual, source, such that by altering the human brain we can fundamentally change the way that humans experience life.[15]

Advocates such as Pearce and the Foundational Research Institute[16] are strong animal rights advocates, espousing antihumanist sentiments towards human exceptionalism around the elimination of suffering.

Scientific advances

Recent laboratory breakthroughs have bolstered the idea that happiness is physically based and can be influenced through scientific methods. In 2006, Guillaume Lucas of McGill University and his colleagues published a study on the biochemistry of depression and the development of depression resistance.[17] Mice born without a gene coding for the expression of a potassium channel found in depression-related neurons have resistance to depression (as tested by standard behavioural measures in the rodent model) comparable to that of naive mice treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).[18] People who are less fearful tend to follow their goals and generally don't feel as held back as people with fear. Most fear has been accidentally removed in a 44 year old man who undergone brain surgery. [19]

See also


  1. [[{{{author-link}}}|Chung, Man Cheung]]. "{{{chapter}}}". In {{{editor1-last}}}, {{{editor1-first}}}. History and Philosophy of Psychology. {{{publisher}}}. p. 302. ISBN [[Wikipedia:Special:BookSources/{{{isbn}}}|{{{isbn}}}]]
  2. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "The First Sermon of the Buddha". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  3. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). ""I Teach Only Suffering and the End of Suffering" "Nope, I didn't (quite) say that" —The Buddha". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  4. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Interview with David Pearce". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
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  10. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "The Hedonistic Imperative". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
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  12. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Happiness Is a Stochastic Phenomenon". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  13. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Will Raising the Incomes of All Increase the Happiness of All?". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  14. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Sociobiology: Evolution, Genes and Morality". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  15. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "The Abolition of Suffering". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
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  18. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Good News About the Blues: Scientists Discover Gene Therapy for Depression". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"
  19. {{{last1}}}, {{{first1}}} ({{{date}}}). "Want to be fearless? Get rid of amygdala neurons in the brain". {{{website}}}. "{{{quote}}}"

External links