Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why I'm Sold On Antinatalism: Conclusion

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Shadow said...

Hello filrabat,

Your posts keep getting better.


I think that the main problem here is that our species will end either way, we are not eternal, and so... the many progress humanity has put forth will one day be history, as the last generation will have to come sooner or later.

filrabat said...

Thanks for the kind words, Shadow. This really made my day.

That's definitely my primary rational reason for not procreating. Why invest so much of your physical, emotional, and financial energy into something/-one so intimately personal that it's destined to cease existence one day anyway?.* That includes species extinction, too.

Therefore, I think that claim falls under (b) on the pro-antinatalist list. Many, if not most, people see death as something to avoid for as long as possible. While the prospect of dying gracefully doesn't necessarily cause mental anguish on the scale usually associated with child abuse, rape, torture severe bullying, chronic unemployment, and intense chronic pain, the knowledge that one's days are finite STILL qualifies as a non-trivial form of suffering as far as I'm concerned. So does the idea of human extinction for most people. That is why I put it under (b), the suffering category.

*Barring, of course, what you, your loved ones, friends and society (via philanthropic acts) absolutely need during their living existence. But that a whole tangent of its own.

filrabat said...


Shadow, the way you framed your comment shed new light on this one for me. As such, I saw there can be a fourth class of antinatalism I haven't mentioned: teleological antinatalism...antinatalism based on human purpose (or lack thereof, in this case). I'm still editing my blog to reflect this, but just to let you know ahead of time, I think that even though teleological antinatalism is conceptually a separate category it is a reason ONLY to the extent that we humans suffer if we think we don't have a purpose outside ourselves. Even if we do find our purpose in ourselves somehow, that purpose is still self-referential (i.e. X because of X), and therefore if X didn't exist, then purpose doesn't matter.

Congrats on influencing my blog content.

Curator said...

filrabat, I am very interested in this as well (your "teleological antinatalism"). I also think that this line of thinking is related to one of the strongest objections to antinatalism - that is, that preventing suffering is not the only human value, and that for most people, the continued existence of the human race is valuable in and of itself.

I have not been able to articulate (according to my own standards of rigor) why preventing suffering is more "real" a value than promoting continued human existence. This is outlined better in my essay Is Coming Into Existence an Agent-Neutral Value?.

filrabat said...

Hi Curator,

Thanks for stopping by.

Your commentary about the strongest objection to antinatalism "the continued existence of the human race is valuable in and of itself" is certainly hard to overcome - but only on the surface. In the end, that objection is merely self-referential: the human race must continue because the human race must continue. It's merely an "article of faith" and nothing more, undoubtedly generated by our DNA/neurological/evolutionary programming.

Jonathan Rauch, in his December 1998 Economist article Sui Genocide goes further in depth. He basically says it's more dignified for humanity to end itself at a time of its own choosing rather than let the universe kill us the hard way (i.e. through the universe's degeneration itself).

Article is here:

Still, recall that I think teleological argument is IMO pretty weak, for if it didn't matter if humanity exists or not, then -- why NOT have them anyway?

CM said...

But I think for most people preventing suffering is more valuable than the continued existence of the human race. Ask anyone if they would be willing to undergo a year of the most painful torture imaginable to extend the existence of the human race for one year (and then humanity goes extinct in the same way it otherwise would have). How many people would agree? Then we could find out what kind of negative experience they would undergo, if any. If they say they would agree to a year of upper back pain, but nothing worse, then they definitely value preventing the kind of suffering that is worse than upper back pain more than they value the continued existence of humanity.

Perhaps they only value preventing their own suffering, but not that of others, but then they would have to agree that Jeffrey Dahmer or Hitler weren't doing anything immoral.

Curator said...

I love the idea of trying to quantify it.

Unfortunately, I'm betting nearly 100% of people would be willing to force OTHERS to undergo severe, prolonged suffering in order to continue the human race. Which is what reproduction is all about.