“You want life to be perfect!”


From WrongCards

Another common accusation against antinatalists is that we’re just too damn demanding. We’re frustrated because we demand a “perfect life,” all shiny and bright, and because we can’t have it, we just want to throw a fit, take our toys, and leave this planet forever.

Well, this is a very silly argument. We are not frustrated at all, and we don’t want a “perfect life.” A “perfect life” would be pointless anyway; a life without needs or suffering is a life without pleasure, and a life without needs, suffering or pleasure is not any more different from no life at all. You might as well be a plant.

Antinatalism has nothing to do with how good life is. The pleasures of life, however good they are, cannot be an argument for creating new human lives, because potential lives cannot be deprived of any pleasure anyway.

We look at the facts of life and draw logical conclusions from them. We don’t require anything or demand anything from reality. It is the natalists, by creating human lives, who are requiring reality to conform to their desires for their children. They cry and bitch when life deals a horrid fate to their children, as if they were owned a “perfect life” for their children just because they were dumb enough to take the risk of bringing that child into the world. Instead of admitting that they took a terrible risk and met with failure, they want us to feel sorry for them; but I feel no more sorry than I would for a drunk driver who runs over three people and ends up in jail.

Same for the life-system. It’s impossible for something made by an unintelligent process to be efficient, let alone “perfect.” That much should be obvious. Demanding otherwise would be like praying for something illogical. I don’t do that sort of thing. Evolution is what it is.

Some antinatalists, including myself, may use the pinprick hypothetical. If all the harm one ever encountered in the world was the equivalent of one pinprick, then there would be no reason not to allow this game to continue. It would still be a stupid, pointless, zero-sum game, but at such a low cost it would seem silly to object.

Natalists have used this to argue that we are whining that life is too harmful and that we actually want harm to be a pinprick. But this is nonsense. We don’t demand that harm be a pinprick. Such a demand would be fantastic to the extreme, given the facts about evolution and the life-system. No, I make no such demands.

The gist of this argument, I think, is that natalists are trying to portray us as whiners whose sole aim is to whine about how much suffering there is, and how we have these incredible, unreasonable demands on what reality should be. But this is just bullshit. Our aim is not to whine about how much suffering there is, but to examine the logical consequences of the facts about suffering. We make no demands on what reality should be. The fact that we draw conclusions based on a negative aspect of reality doesn’t mean we want reality to be otherwise. The physicist who makes observations about black holes doesn’t wish for a reality where the universe has no black holes. That’s just a waste of time.

A related argument is the “but harm is a necessary part of life!” argument (by “life” here I assume they mean the life-system). This seems to suffer from what I call the fallacy of misplaced conclusion. What the natalists implicitly want you to think is “harm is a necessary part of the life-system, therefore we have to accept harm”; but the more rational conclusion would rather be “harm is a necessary part of the life-system, therefore down with the life-system.”

Anyway, acceptance of the fact that “harm is a necessary part of the life-system” entails three different attitudes:

(a) We should passively accept all harm.
(b) We should seek to reduce harm.
(c) We should stop perpetuating the life-system.

(a) is pretty much a non-starter, and few people actually take it seriously. (b) is the most popular answer. But (b) without (c) is a never-ending treadmill: if we keep reducing harm in existing human lives, but there keeps being more and more human lives started, we are helping some people at a time but ultimately never getting anywhere regarding the total of harm in the world. So (b) alone can’t be a good solution if we’re actually trying to solve the problem of harm.

It’s common for the natalists to say that we antinatalists don’t care about reducing harm, that we only care about ending the life-system. Let me state clearly that this is a lie. I do not know of any antinatalist who is not interested in reducing harm. One of the primary topics of this blog is Anarchism, which is nothing more than the attempt to reduce harm through socio-political means. It would make no sense for people who are concerned with harm to refuse to reduce harm! This is why most antinatalists preach the end of the consumption of meat, the end of some of our petty addictions, the end of the exploitation of human beings, and most importantly, the end of procreation.

Which brings me to the only really valid antinatalist solution, (b) and (c). Not only must we alleviate people’s suffering, but we must also start narrowing the margins of suffering itself. (b) is about the short term, and (c) is about the long term. To be concerned only with the short term, or only with the long term, indicates that one is not really concerned with helping to end suffering (such as any antinatalist who preaches against Anarchism, which betrays a real lack of concern for suffering in the here and now in the name of an indeterminate future).

Every premise we start from has to be about helping human lives. We cannot argue that pleasure or harm are in themselves rights and wrongs, but rather that pleasure or harm are right or wrong because they affect living human beings. The goal is not to create happy people so we can keep increasing the raw amount of happiness (but also raise the raw amount of suffering), but to make existing people happy, to palliate their negative experiences and sustain their positive experiences.

7 thoughts on ““You want life to be perfect!”

  1. Nevar December 5, 2011 at 01:18

    Greets,

    I’ve been contemplating Antinatalism quite a bit and I have a question: why does it matter if all earth’s resources get used up and life becomes extinct? Is that an irrational stance seeing as I am alive now and would like to have a nice life experience?

    Basically, what is wrong with living my life any way I want to (within reason) and screw what comes after? Eventually it (life/the universe) will all end anyway. Even though I am pro Antinatalism, is the fact that it would improve living conditions for those who are currently alive enough reason to support it? It wouldn’t make any noticeable impact in my lifetime unless millions stop giving birth today. I’m wondering what I’m missing.

    • Francois Tremblay December 5, 2011 at 01:21

      Yes, eventually all human life will go extinct. But there will be unimaginable amounts of suffering in the meantime. Why not spare the potential persons of all this suffering?

  2. Nevar December 5, 2011 at 11:13

    Agreed. I’m just wondering why I need to care about the suffering of these potential people? I support Antinatalism because I don’t want more idiots on the planet and I think suffering is unnecessary, but those are subjective opinions. I guess what I’m looking for is a more objective validation of Antinatalism.

    • Francois Tremblay December 5, 2011 at 13:56

      If you don’t care about ethics in any way, then of course there’s not going to be any reason for you to care about what happens beyond yourself. If you do, then there’s going to be reasons, whether it is the environment (ecological antinatalism), having compassion for those who suffer without their consent or are born in a corrupted world (philanthropic antinatalism and misanthropic antinatalism), or the lack of justification for one’s actions (teleological antinatalism).

  3. Jason December 7, 2011 at 07:59

    “It’s common for the natalists to say that we antinatalists don’t care about reducing harm, that we only care about ending the life-system. Let me state clearly that this is a lie.”

    By seeking to end all life, you are seeking to end the phenomenon of suffering, not the suffering of beings. By pursuing the extinction of humanity, you are helping approximately zero sentient beings; you are not ending or alleviating the suffering of anyone by pursuing antinatalism. You may be as interested in reducing suffering as the next natalist, but it is a desire completely disconnected from your antinatalism. Your enemy is suffering itself, and if the cost of eliminating it is the termination of everyone & everything they cares about – or could care about, since you seek to end the very possibility of anything ever being important or mattering in any way – you’re more than willing to pay.

    Antinatalism is the most anti-human belief imaginable; there aren’t even that many movie/comic book supervillians that seek the end of all life, and they are supposed to be characatures of the worst people our minds can imagine! The big joke is that antinatalists think they are the best friends of mankind, since they seek to end our suffering (by ending us & everything we hold dear, that is).

    Oh, and regarding an earlier comment of yours:

    “Why not spare the potential persons of all this suffering?”

    That is a very silly thing to say. By preventing a being from existing, you can’t logically say you’ve “spared” it anything. For the life of me I’ll never understand how antinatalists can so lucidly understand that a nonexistent being can’t be deprived of anything, but they are totally comfortable thinking they can do a nonexistent being a solid. Only an existing being can be spared suffering; a potential being is literally nothing; you’re talking about helping empty space avoid suffering, and most people don’t give a damn how nothingness feels. Hell, even nothingness doesn’t care whether or not it gets assembled into a being that will suffer every moment of its existence! If you don’t believe me, feel free to ask it the next time you’re doing it a favor.

    • Francois Tremblay December 7, 2011 at 14:57

      So basically, you are unable of the basic conceptual thinking necessary to contrast hypothetical situations. Okay. Why is this bizarre incapacity something you would be proud of, though?

  4. […] have to divert the issue and argue that death is just a fact of life and we should accept it, that we antinatalists are just whiners who want perfect lives. The trouble is that this is a straightforward lie: we humans are the ones producing this […]

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