George Orwell, in his essay “Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool” tosses in almost casually and as if it needs further elaboration or defense, the following remark.
Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.
Call this the Life is Suffering principle. Intuitively, I find it very appealing.
But how would we know if on balance life is suffering? Life has good things and bad things in it, so how would we balance them? Allow me to advance a conjecture: if your life is characterized by a deprivation, such that if you had the opportunity to accept a wager on a fair coin, such that if the coin comes up heads that deprivation would be removed, and if tails then immediate annihilation, then on balance your life is suffering, fellow sufferer.
This heuristic for figuring out whether one’s life is on balance, suffering, we might call the Break-even Heuristic.