But I'm wary of suffering-focused ethics, those in which the elimination/prevention of suffering is the only acceptable course of action and intention. According to negative utilitarians, for example, it would be better to avoid a pinprick than to allow this tragedy alongside an unfathomably large amount of pleasure.
Suffering-focused ethicists might accuse me of being empty of compassion or any number of things, but I find that suffering-focused ethics is far too narrow-minded to be even reasonable. It is clear, to me at least, that there are legitimately good things that are not simply the absence of suffering - in fact I'm rather skeptical that the absence of suffering can be a good thing simpliciter.
Eudaimonia, or flourishing, can only occur when someone is not suffering. Since, intuitively, it seems as though it would be a legitimately good thing for there to be people who experience eudaimonia (pro tanto), it follows that we should make it so that there are people who experience eudaimonia. At this particular point, I don't care about the attached strings, hence the pro tanto epithet. Therefore, in order to make people who experience eudaimonia, we would need to make sure they do not experience suffering.
In other words: the focus of our choices should be guided by an analysis of which situation is the best, and the best situation is that in which the requirements for eudaimonia are fully met.
This severely narrows the landscape of what constitutes a "good" state of affairs, however does not limit quite so much the landscape of what constitutes a "good" or "right" action. This is because pleasure by itself is not enough to call a state of affairs good, however pleasure can be a feature that makes state of affairs better than another. Again, the best choice of action need not result in a genuinely good state of affairs, only the best possible state of affairs.
For example, if you had the choice between two states of affairs (SoA for now on), SoAa and SoAb, such that SoAa has one person suffering and SoAb has one person barely above manageable levels, the best choice of action would be to choose SoAb. However, if you had a choice between SoAb and SoAc, such that SoAc has nobody existing, the best choice of action would be to choose SoAc, because SoAb is not a good state of affairs in-itself (since it has no eudaimonia), and therefore worse than the neutral state of affairs of SoAc.
This means that a good state of affairs can only be so if it is a perfect state of affairs, and a perfect state of affairs is one that has eudaimonic persons, or no persons at all.
Now, within this narrow category of perfection, eudaimonic persons hold precedence over nothing, since the existence of persons means that agential value exists. Therefore, the only good state of affairs is that in which eudaimonic persons exist and nothing else.
This reasoning can be captured by the following diagrams:
I think this captures our intuitions fairly well. If it isn't perfect, it's not worth it. Mediocrity doesn't cut it, especially not in ethics. It also explains why brute hedonism is not worthy enough for the entire picture.
Furthermore, I think it also helps explain something that I've been struggling to explain for a while now: why we place more emphasis on suffering than pleasure, or why we prioritize suffering. I think that if you are not currently in a eudaimonic state (or unconscious - a state of nothing-ness), you are suffering. You might be in the middle of an orgasm, but this orgasm will ultimately be unfulfilling. A eudaimonic person is not going to be eudaimonic because of basic sensual pleasures (like orgasms or sweets). It is a more complex psychological state.
So just giving people free chocolate on the street, or a surprise back massage, is not really a good thing unless it relieves them of a pain (which is oftentimes does) - because the only good is eudaimonia. And that's also why we prioritize suffering over pleasure: because the absence of suffering is a requirement for pleasure, and pleasure is a requirement for eudaimonia. A eudaimonic person is in no need of assistance - they are self-sufficient.
It stands, then, that the requirements for eudaimonia are the presence of certain (desired) pleasures and the absence of any and all suffering. Or, in other words, eudaimonia requires the satisfaction of basic needs in some way.
If these basic needs cannot be met, or there is reasonable doubt that they can be met, then the best possible course of action is to abstain from attempting to bestow eudaimonia.
What defines suffering? A key component of suffering would seem to be pain, of some sort. We can describe pain as a kind of intrusion - indeed all experiences seem to be intrusive in some sense. What makes pain, pain, is that it is motivating quality that results in the subject experiencing varying levels of discomfort and an inability to relax. Therefore, suffering could be described as any sort of unsolicited motivational intrusion - an enslavement.
What defines eudaimonia? Eudaimonia would be the result when the needs of an individual are met and are continuing to be met by the subject itself by its own conceived free will. Once again, the eudaimonic person is self-sufficient. The eudaimonic person is not motivated to meet these needs by anxiety or fear of pain but because they have the desire to independently of pain. The needs are present, and they are happy to oblige. The eudaimonic person is also one who derives a non-negligible amount of legitimate pleasure from the satisfaction of these needs, instead of mere relief. Therefore, the eudaimonic person must have parallel desire-orientation to their needs.
To summarize: to exist as a conscious person means to have concerns (needs and desires), and eudaimonia requires the satisfaction of these concerns. Eudaimonia is the only good, because eudaimonia is the only experience that is perfect in nature. By establishing the satisfaction of these concerns, you are removing all possibility of suffering. Therefore, establishing eudaimonia necessitates the elimination/prevention of suffering. Therefore, the priority of ethics should be the establishment of eudaimonic persons by the process of eliminating/preventing suffering (by satisfying concerns).
Note again how if eudaimonia is an unlikely or impossible state to achieve for an individual (or the costs of such a feat are too high), then alternative routes should be taken, namely: nothing-ness. Personally I do believe that eudaimonia is a highly reactive and transitory experience, one that pops up here and there within a sea of suffering. In my view, at least, the perfect good (eudaimonia) is either unattainable or highly unlikely. Please also note that this is focused primarily on the eudaimonia of an individual - the affects of this eudaimonia on other people are not addressed here.