Elizabeth Harman’s failed rebuttal of the Asymmetry.

In 2009, philosopher Elizabeth Harman published a critical analysis of the Asymmetry in peer-reviewed journal Noûs (thank you to reader Brian L. for the link). This analysis can be examined here.

In this entry, I want to look at her attempt at rebutting Benatar’s Asymmetry (which I explain here). I believe her rebuttal is a failure because she has failed to fully grasp the Asymmetry, and her arguments are no more sophisticated than that of the average philosophy-inclined person grappling with it. This is too bad, because I think the Asymmetry deserves far more serious academic examination than it currently receives.

Her analysis of the Asymmetry proper begins at the end of page 3. She correctly identifies the Asymmetry:

(a) The presence of pain is bad, and the absence of pain (in the absence of anyone who would have experienced the pain) is good.
(b) The presence of pleasure is good, but the absence of pleasure (in the absence of anyone who would have experienced the pleasure) is not bad (nor, of course, is it good).

So far so good. But she also suspects that there’s something else “going on.” She deconstructs the argument some more, identifies a middle premise between the Asymmetry (the two premises above) and its conclusion (that procreation is a harm), and formulates this middle premise as such:

An action harms a person by causing some effects only if experiencing those effects is worse for her than the alternative—namely, not experiencing those effects in the scenario in which the action is not performed. An action benefits a person by causing some effects only if experiencing those effects is better for her than the alternative—namely, not experiencing those effects in the scenario in which the action is not performed.

In and of itself, the middle premise presented is perfectly fine, but unfortunately it’s also the beginning of the problems in her analysis. For it assumes the stance of looking at states of existing persons, which is not appropriate here. This leads her to adopt the following stance:

If Benatar is to rely on [the middle premise] to yield the conclusion that we harm someone by bringing her into existence, he needs it to be the case that the pain she experiences if she exists is bad for her—which is clearly true—and the absence of that pain in the alternative in which she is not brought into existence is better for her, not impersonally better.

But this cannot possibly be the case. Logically, non-existence cannot benefit any specific person, because there cannot be a thing that both does not exist and benefits from anything.

As I’ve pointed out before, Benatar is actually talking about states of affair and therefore impersonal good/bad (i.e. evaluations which do not rely on the point of view of the specific individual experiencing or not experiencing pleasure/suffering). She does address Benatar’s actual position:

Whereas, as regards pleasure, while the existence of pleasure is good, the absence of pleasure is (from the Asymmetry) neither bad nor good. But then it’s hard to see how we get the result that it’s bad to bring someone into existence (and even if we do get that result, it’s hard to see how we get the conclusion that we harm the person, as opposed to merely getting the conclusion that we do something impersonally worse). Rather, it seems we get the result that if we bring someone into existence, there are some bad things and some good things; whereas if we don’t, there are some good things (the absence of the pain). This doesn’t show what’s better without a comparison between the sum of the good things and the bad things of existence, on the one hand, and the good things of nonexistence, on the other hand.

She seems to believe that abandoning the middle premise means that there’s no more logical connection between the Asymmetry and the conclusion. But the logical connection is obvious: from Benatar’s utilitarian perspective, a state of affairs A is definitively (impersonally) better, all other things being equal, than another state of affairs B if A contains less suffering than B. I personally would not always agree with this principle, but let me narrow it down to a more specific form:

Procreation is bad because the state of affairs where any person P does not exist contains less suffering (P’s suffering) than the state of affairs where P does exist.

In that specific form, I can’t disagree: no matter what the conditions are, the existence of any specific person is always a bad thing. So this is, I think, the correct middle premise that Harman is looking for.

She argues that we must have some sort of mathematical comparison in order to determine whether procreation is good or bad, but she doesn’t explain why. She completely missed that part of the point of the Asymmetry is that such a comparison is pointless; for example, we have no reason to compare “the good things of existence” brought about by pleasure to anything because they are irrelevant (since the non-existence of the pleasure does not represent a deprivation to anyone). Harman was able to describe the Asymmetry but apparently did not grasp it very well, if she could make such a mistake.

She then completely loses the plot:

An independent objection to the Asymmetry goes as follows. It seems that whatever can be said in favor of (a) can be said in favor of the denial of (b). If we are reading (a) as (a1), then it seems that what makes it impersonally good that some suffering is not occurring is that it would have been bad if that suffering had occurred. But then it seems it should be impersonally bad that something is not happening that would have been good. At least, I don’t see why that wouldn’t also be true.

This is merely independent confirmation that she hasn’t understood the Asymmetry. The whole point of the Asymmetry is that there is an asymmetry (hence the name) between pleasure and pain, and her objection is… that pleasure and pain are symmetrical in nature.

This is about as silly as a Christian theologian objecting to the Problem of Evil by simply stating that God had reasons to create evil, and ending the discussion there. That’s just nay-saying, or at worse thought-stopping, and does not engage the argument at all. The very point of the argument is to demonstrate the asymmetry between pleasure and pain. In order to argue the opposite, you need to address the argument in its entirety. This, she has failed to do.

Not only has she failed to debunk the Asymmetry, but she has also failed to address the other asymmetries presented by Benatar in his book; I note this because her analysis is supposed to cover the entire book (Better Never to Have Been), not just what we call the Asymmetry. She does briefly discuss other chapters, but she does not discuss any other arguments from the chapter where the Asymmetry is presented, including other pleasure/pain asymmetries.

One such asymmetry, which I find perhaps even more important than the Asymmetry, is the one concerning moral obligation (which he addresses on page 32, only a few pages before the Asymmetry): we have a duty to prevent inflicting suffering, but we do not have a duty to give pleasure. Or expressed more specifically in the context of this debate: we have a duty to not create new lives on the basis of the suffering they will generate (both to themselves and others), but we do not have a duty to create new lives on the basis of the pleasures they will generate (both to themselves and others).

This asymmetry is, I think, widely accepted. People just refuse to accept its consequences regarding procreation, but their hypocrisy is not our fault. And if I am wrong about this hypocrisy, then the point should be addressed: but so far I don’t believe it has been addressed, except through the Non-Identity Problem, which is a non-starter.

38 thoughts on “Elizabeth Harman’s failed rebuttal of the Asymmetry.

  1. ardegas February 17, 2015 at 14:17 Reply

    As I’ve pointed out before, Benatar is actually talking about states of affair and therefore impersonal good/bad (i.e. evaluations which do not rely on the point of view of the specific individual experiencing or not experiencing pleasure/suffering).

    You are wrong about this. Benatar do claim he is making a personal evaluation. Quote:

    “To clarify what I had hoped would already have been clear, I am not making an
    impersonal evaluation. I am concerned instead with whether coming into existence
    is in the interests of the person who comes into existence or whether it would have
    been better for that person if he had never been. I am interested in whether coming
    into existence is better or worse for that person rather than with whether, for
    example, the world would be better if he exists”.

    From: Still Better Never to Have Been: A Reply to (More of) My Critics

    Incidentally, in this publication he also addresses the critiques of Harman.

    Also, Benatar is not arguing from an utilitarian perspective, pleasure and pain can be interpreted as generic cases of benefit and harm.

    • Francois Tremblay February 17, 2015 at 19:29 Reply

      I am not “wrong.” In a previous entry I quoted Benatar saying that the Asymmetry is not a personal evaluation. If he changed his mind, then that’s something else. Of course it is bad for a person to experience suffering and one can cogently say that it would have been better for one not to be born, but that’s not the Asymmetry as such, it’s a corollary of the Asymmetry.

      Benatar does argue from a utilitarian perspective in the book, I’m not sure why you’re denying that.

      • ardegas February 20, 2015 at 20:03 Reply

        He didn’t change his mind. You misinterpreted him.

        You quoted Benatar saying: “Comparing somebody’s existence with his non-existence is not to compare two possible conditions of the person. Rather it is to compare his existence with an alternative state of affairs in which he does not exist”.

        But from this quote it does not follow an impersonal interpretation of “good”. Just before that quote he says: “Just as life can be so bad that ceasing to exist is preferable, so life can be so bad that never coming into existence is preferable”.

        But preferable for whom? For that same person!

        You may want to reread the original book to really grasp what he is saying. In essence, it’s about counterfactuals, and possible worlds.

        If even defenders of antinatalism have a hard time understanding this argument, you can imagine how those who are against it will fare.

        • Francois Tremblay February 21, 2015 at 01:21 Reply

          You are contracting yourself in the same comment. Do at least try to follow your own damn comments…

          • darthbarracuda June 22, 2016 at 08:22 Reply

            How is ardegas contradicting himself? I see nothing wrong in his evaluation.

  2. Michael February 18, 2015 at 07:48 Reply

    The article Still Better Never to Have Been:
    Impersonally Better or Better for a Person?

    Check this link:
    https://imageshack.com/i/n87v80j

    BNtHB page 30 “Consider pains and pleasures as EXEMPLARS of harms and benefits. It is uncontroversial to say that…”

    Harm is a broader category than pain. The latter is explicitly experiential.The Asymmetry Argument is (also) compatible with objective list theories specifying objective goods and bads. Benatar does not commit himself to a particular normative view (utilitarianism etc.)

    • Francois Tremblay February 18, 2015 at 16:19 Reply

      You didn’t really add anything new to what you said before, but okay.

  3. Michael February 21, 2015 at 11:32 Reply

    BNtHB page 173 that “Given that a person-affecting view is indeed able to solve the
    non-identity problem, there is no need to appeal to an impersonal view to solve it.”

    Do we agree on this?

  4. Michael March 1, 2015 at 04:42 Reply

    Okay.

    This is how I usually explain it.

    (3) As harm concerns non-existence, we can speak of the absence of this harm being axiologically good by way of non-existence through the counterfactual. (3) absence of pain is good is made with the reference to PERSONAL INTERESTS. Thus it is always a harm for PEOPLE to come into existence.

    There is a new youtube video on the Asymmetry!

  5. Brian L March 4, 2015 at 21:41 Reply

    I have a strange feeling that you either get the asymmetry, or your your mind goes apeshit, finding any way to block or disregard it. Which is most of the world. Exactly as stated by Zapffe.

    So, come on boys, I want one objective, rational, non-emotional reason for ever producing one single child. Quit beefing about an asymmetry you obviously don’t get, and give us the reasoning. And please, do try and keep it short, because wading through bullshit just adds to our suffering….

    • Francois Tremblay March 4, 2015 at 21:42 Reply

      Don’t hold your breath

      • Brian L March 4, 2015 at 22:03 Reply

        If only I could, Francois lol

        • Francois Tremblay March 4, 2015 at 22:05 Reply

          I’m sure you can hold your breath, not… forever. Because such an argument, IMO, will never happen… there’s already been plenty of time and “thinkers” (like Bryan Caplan) to give it a shot.

    • Brian L March 4, 2015 at 22:02 Reply

      PS. Answer may NOT be utility of potential human to others in ANY way. Then you’re just users.

  6. Carl April 25, 2015 at 20:11 Reply

    I reacted to Elizabeth Harman’s article similar to the way you did (esp. “For it assumes the stance of looking at existing persons. . .”). In essence, I did not think she was grappling with Benatar’s arguments as hard as she needed to to be convincing. That said, I think what you wrote was incomplete, as it did not consider her endnote #3 in which she replies to Benatar’s clarification re personal vs. impersonal evaluations. Having said that though I think her response in endnote #3 is still lacking.

    • Francois Tremblay April 26, 2015 at 00:17 Reply

      Yea, I pretty much already addressed this in my entry as well.

  7. Carl April 26, 2015 at 12:42 Reply

    I’d be most interested to hear what you think of Gerald Harrison’s antinatalist argument in “Antinatalism, asymmetry, and an ethic of prima facie duties.” The South African Journal of Philosophy. 31(1), 94-103, but I know you may not have access to this journal. I think Harrison’s argument is a bit more robust than Benatar’s.

    • Francois Tremblay April 26, 2015 at 13:46 Reply

      From taking a look at it, it seems to be a mix of the “we have a duty not to create suffering” argument and the consent argument. There doesn’t seem to be anything really original in there. But yea, sure I agree with all that.

  8. […] I’ve discussed attempts at disproving the Asymmetry before. They suffer from a complete inability to just look at the argument and argue with it on its own terms. Instead, they have to introduce all sorts of considerations that are not relevant to the argument itself: commonly, they want to talk about some sort of balance between pleasure and suffering (as if that was even possible), such as in this attempt. […]

  9. […] know I’ve reviewed a number of “rebuttals” of the Asymmetry on this blog (see: 1, 2, 3). I’ve seen some weird arguments before. But this has to take the cake. This may be the […]

  10. darthbarracuda June 20, 2016 at 16:49 Reply

    “This is merely independent confirmation that she hasn’t understood the Asymmetry. The whole point of the Asymmetry is that there is an asymmetry (hence the name) between pleasure and pain, and her objection is… that pleasure and pain are symmetrical in nature.”

    What else is she going to do? She does not simply deny the asymmetry with a wave of her hand, she goes on to give reasons why she believes it is the case that pain and pleasure are symmetrical. With the given premises Benatar has, Harman (and Julio Cabrera) have shown it to be illogical EVEN IF it is intuitive.

    The issue stems from an abuse of counterfactuals. An empty term is used in the case of the absence of pleasure.

    However, this is not carried over to the non-existence of pain. How can the non-existence of pain be good if there is nobody there to feel relief?

    I know you think otherwise but Benatar explicitly states in his book and elsewhere that he denies that the lack of pain is good in the impersonal sense. He calls this view absurd (I’m not lying, you can read it in his book). And rightly so: it would result in the proclamation that the universe is almost entirely good, since there is almost no suffering in the global state of affairs. We don’t celebrate the lack of suffering on the planet Mars, for example. (Actually, we don’t tend to celebrate the lack of suffering of potential people either, which shows that the “good” of the lack of suffering is a lesser good or an entirely different kind of good than the good of pleasure that we tend to celebrate)

    Since Benatar apparently does not accept pleasure as being supererogatory (since he mentions the non-existence of pleasure is not-bad because “nobody is being deprived” of it), he uses an “empty” placeholder when referring to possible people in light of possible pleasure. They don’t exist, and therefore cannot experience the deprivation. But he doesn’t use this empty term in regards to the absence of pain – he uses a counterfactual “possible” person as a placeholder.

    If Benatar denies that pleasure is supererogatory, then it is logically necessary for him to state that the lack of pleasure is bad on pain of begging the question.

    Say we go the preference route: the existence of fulfilled preferences is good, while the existence of unfulfilled preferences is bad. But we can’t intuitively apply this to a non-existent, possible person. How can a non-existent possible person be harmed by not having any fulfilled preferences? There’s nobody there to experience this deprivation! And further still, how can a non-existent possible person be benefited by not having any unfulfilled preferences? There’s nobody there to experience this benefit!

    The conclusion from Harman’s paper (and Cabrera’s) is that if we believe that the lack of pleasure for an already-existing person is bad for them, then we have to believe that lack of pleasure for a possible-person is bad for them, on pain of being illogical. The asymmetry only makes sense if pleasure is stated from the start to be supererogatory.

    As it stands I personally do find pleasure to be supererogatory, and therefore the lack of pleasure regardless of there being an person does not count as a bad. The lack of pleasure is no-good (and not-bad), however the presence of pleasure is good regardless.

    • Francois Tremblay June 20, 2016 at 17:03 Reply

      You’re just repeating the stuff you said on the other thread. Address the specific arguments in the entry, or there’s no point in starting this over again.

      • darthbarracuda June 20, 2016 at 17:50 Reply

        I did address several points you made in this post, starting with the quoted section and working through a defense of Harman and an affirmation of Benatar’s original position (that I believe you have misinterpreted).

        Of course I’m going to repeat myself, this is directly relevant to the discussion.

        • Francois Tremblay June 21, 2016 at 00:10 Reply

          What exactly in my entry are you responding to, apart from the one part you quoted?

          • darthbarracuda June 21, 2016 at 07:06 Reply

            You can read my OP again and you’ll see but I’ll state my issues here:

            1.) Harman is justified in denying the asymmetry and affirming a symmetry because she offers good reasons for her position. She is not denying the asymmetry without reason.

            2.) Benatar clearly states that the lack of pain is not good in itself, as opposed to your view that it is (and your insistence that this is “really” what Benatar claims when it most definitely is not).

            3.) Harman is fully justified in her critique of Benatar’s asymmetry. Your defense of Benatar’s asymmetry basically was “she doesn’t understand it” when clearly she most definitely does and is pointing out that regardless of its intuitiveness it is not logically sound, especially since Benatar does not see pleasure as supererogatory.

            4.) You misinterpret Harman’s (and Benatar’s for that matter) argument, and fail to grasp the importance of counterfactuals in both analyses. Harman (and the “follow up” paper by Cabrera) both explore how Benatar uses counterfactuals in his asymmetry and argue that he is not consistent with his use of them. Interestingly enough you don’t even mention counterfactuals in this blog post at all, and handwave-dismiss a comment that pointed out the importance of counterfactuals in the argument.

            5.) Everything else in my OP was meant to flesh out defenses against potential rebuttals.

            Cheers.

            • Francois Tremblay June 21, 2016 at 15:35 Reply

              Okay, I have read through my entry again and I see no place where I talk about whether lack of pain is good in itself. Can you quote the relevant passage?

              • darthbarracuda June 21, 2016 at 16:33 Reply

                Elsewhere on your blog you specifically have stated that you believe the state of affairs in which there is no suffering is good in itself.

                In your other blog post about the asymmetry (the clearing up confusion one), you say this:

                “But with my rephrasing, you can now see that Cabrera is wrong in his transposition. The absence of this pleasure cannot be bad, because no one is being deprived of it.”

                Which, from what I can tell, means that because there is nobody to be deprived of pleasure, the absence of pleasure is not a bad thing. Additionally, if I am understanding this correctly, the value of a state of affairs (according to your view) depends on there being entities to experience this value. A state of affairs is good if there are entities experiencing goodness.

                However, you had previously said this:

                “(3) What does not exist cannot suffer (therefore this non-existing pain is a good thing).
                (4) What does not exist cannot be deprived of any pleasure (therefore this non-existing pleasure is not a bad thing).”

                Which is contradictory. If the reason that (4) is good is because there is nobody there to experience the deprivation, then you need to apply this same reason to (3). There’s nobody there. But why is it that it’s a good thing that there’s no suffering unless there’s nobody there to experience this relief from suffering? The bottom line here is that I don’t think you’re being consistent with your application.

                In the same blog post, you said:

                “In the absolute, Cabrera is right, the absence of pleasure is worse than the presence of pleasure given a potential person’s interests. But we are comparing two states of affairs, not examining a state in the absolute: in the comparison, (4) cannot be worse than (2) because pleasure in fulfillment of a need is not any better than the absence of need in the first place.”

                But if we aren’t examining the lack of pleasure in a state of the absolute (but rather states of affairs), then we can’t examine the lack of pain in a state of the absolute. Therefore, if the lack of pleasure is not-bad, then the lack of pain is not-good.

                It also might be helpful to know that Benatar is, as far as I can tell, more or less a deprivationalist; i.e. there is no “positive” state, only neutral and negative states, with “good” experiences being inherently tied to the elimination of negative experiences.

                A fellow antinatalist blogger AntiBullshitMan has made a good argument against deprivationalism. I suggest watching his video on it. I also would argue that even if all pleasure is inherently tied to the mitigation of desire and suffering, we can still rise above neutrality. When I want ice cream, I “suffer” because I don’t have it. As soon as I get ice cream, I don’t immediately go back into a state of neutrality – I go into a positive, pleasurable state because the ice cream tastes good, even if the acquisition of it was tied to a desire.

                Aside from all this, I’m still interested in hearing your thoughts on my own position at my blog – I just made another post today that is constructive instead of deconstructive and argues for antinatalism.

                • Francois Tremblay June 21, 2016 at 17:21

                  “Additionally, if I am understanding this correctly, the value of a state of affairs (according to your view) depends on there being entities to experience this value. A state of affairs is good if there are entities experiencing goodness.”

                  No, not at all! I never said such a thing.

                  “If the reason that (4) is good is because there is nobody there to experience the deprivation”

                  It’s not.

                  To reiterate: the absence of pleasure is not a bad thing, not because there is no one there to experience it, but because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing deprivation. It is a consequence of what non-existence means. Likewise for the absence of suffering: it is a good thing because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing suffering.

              • darthbarracuda June 21, 2016 at 18:00 Reply

                “To reiterate: the absence of pleasure is not a bad thing, not because there is no one there to experience it, but because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing deprivation. It is a consequence of what non-existence means. Likewise for the absence of suffering: it is a good thing because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing suffering.”

                Who is it good for? Non-existence entails there is no-one there to experience anything – it is impossible for a non-existent person to experience the deprivation of pleasure and the relief of pain. It’s objectively neutral.

                Values (good and bad) depend upon observers. For example, we can say that universe 1 is better than universe 2 because universe 1 has no pain while universe 2 does. But take universe 2 away, and take the observer delineating between the two away, and you have no value at all. Non-existence is only valuable in comparison to existence, even if this existence makes it the case that existence is a net bad.

                To say that non-existence is good just because there’s nobody experiencing suffering is a classic case of Kantian anthropocentrism.

                Furthermore: you said that it’s a good thing that nobody experiences suffering. But then you also say that it is not-bad if nobody experiences pleasure. Surely if the LACK of suffering entails a good, the LACK of pleasure entails a bad (objectively of course).

                You could reply by saying that a world without pleasure is objectively worse than a world overflowing with pleasure, but not bad in itself. To which I say, this is a double-standard. Why not apply this same reasoning to pain? – a world without pain is objectively better than a world overflowing with pain, but not good in itself.

                Additionally, if you honestly believe that a world without pain is good (and in fact better than a world with pleasure, which is a good), then you have to take up the position that it is immoral to continue to live. Since you’re more focused on the value of the state of affairs than you are the individual, you have to concede that if suffering individuals exist, they are bringing down the value of the state of affairs as a whole, and they should not be allowed to live in the same way that a person should not be allowed to procreate because they are bringing a suffering person into the world which brings down the value of the state of affairs.

                • Francois Tremblay June 21, 2016 at 18:14

                  “Who is it good for? Non-existence entails there is no-one there to experience anything – it is impossible for a non-existent person to experience the deprivation of pleasure and the relief of pain. It’s objectively neutral.”

                  Yes, but that’s not relevant. The point of the Asymmetry is not to ask “what is the best outcome for me.” The point is to ask “what is the best outcome.” It’s an ethical argument (about what is desirable behavior for society as a whole), not a moral argument (about my own personal values, or anyone’s personal values).

                  “Values (good and bad) depend upon observers.”

                  My evaluations, whether moral or ethical, depend upon me, of course. But that’s true of any form of knowledge. Everything we know depends on our intellectual context. So what?

                  “For example, we can say that universe 1 is better than universe 2 because universe 1 has no pain while universe 2 does. But take universe 2 away, and take the observer delineating between the two away, and you have no value at all. Non-existence is only valuable in comparison to existence, even if this existence makes it the case that existence is a net bad.”

                  So what?

                  “To say that non-existence is good just because there’s nobody experiencing suffering is a classic case of Kantian anthropocentrism.”

                  Great, but I never said that. Did you not read MY LAST COMMENT, where I REFUTED this statement? Follow the fucking conversation, man!

                  “Additionally, if you honestly believe that a world without pain is good (and in fact better than a world with pleasure, which is a good), then you have to take up the position that it is immoral to continue to live.”

                  Great, but I’m not a negative utilitarian, I’m an intuitionist. So… what the fuck do I care about that?

              • darthbarracuda June 21, 2016 at 18:53 Reply

                “Yes, but that’s not relevant. The point of the Asymmetry is not to ask “what is the best outcome for me.” The point is to ask “what is the best outcome.” It’s an ethical argument (about what is desirable behavior for society as a whole), not a moral argument (about my own personal values, or anyone’s personal values).”

                Rubbish. The point of the asymmetry is to show that coming into existence is always a harm to the person being born. Your demarcation between morality and ethics is also rubbish: my morals are also what I consider to be ethical. My ethics focuses on personal values. Personal values make up societal values.

                “My evaluations, whether moral or ethical, depend upon me, of course. But that’s true of any form of knowledge. Everything we know depends on our intellectual context. So what?”

                Huh. So if you think that your evaluations are dependent upon yourself, how can something be your-version-of-valuable without you around?

                “So what?”

                This means that non-existence cannot be a good or a bad in itself. Do you deny this?

                “Great, but I never said that. Did you not read MY LAST COMMENT, where I REFUTED this statement? Follow the fucking conversation, man!”

                Good job at blaming the victim when it’s your own fault that you can’t explain your position coherently. So which comment was it that you’re referring to? Oh, did you mean this one?:

                “Likewise for the absence of suffering: it is a good thing because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing suffering.”

                I don’t think you refuted anything here. You just stated that non-existence is a good thing…

                “Great, but I’m not a negative utilitarian, I’m an intuitionist. So… what the fuck do I care about that?”

                Because your view requires it to be the case that suicide it mandatory in order for the state of affairs to return to the normal, to the good.

                Typically when people start yelling “fuck” it’s a sign that they are trying to compensate for a poor argument. hmm…

                • Francois Tremblay June 21, 2016 at 19:06

                  I am done with your bullshit. You are incapable of rational discussion.

              • darthbarracuda June 21, 2016 at 19:22 Reply

                “I am done with your bullshit. You are incapable of rational discussion.”

                That sucks that you feel this way, I genuinely wanted to see this through. Discussion requires a two-way mutual interaction and an adherence to the principle of charity. I’ve held up my bargain of the deal. Did you?

                Unfortunately you seem to have handwaved all of my arguments away.

                Usually the person who is incapable of rational discussion is the one who dismisses all arguments without justification and throws around big-girl words like fuck and bullshit. Don’t be surprised when nobody takes you seriously when you can’t even act like a reasonable and respectful individual or admit when you are wrong.

                I wonder if you’ll answer this one question, though: what defines the best outcome if not the collective best outcomes of the individuals of a society?

                :(

              • darthbarracuda June 21, 2016 at 21:56 Reply

                “To reiterate: the absence of pleasure is not a bad thing, not because there is no one there to experience it, but because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing deprivation. It is a consequence of what non-existence means. Likewise for the absence of suffering: it is a good thing because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing suffering.”

                To expand upon my confusion regarding this (I believe this was the statement you were referring to when you told me to “follow the fucking conversation, man!”):

                You cannot reify non-existence, for that would be self-refuting. Non-existence JUST IS no-one being there, and if you’re no-one, then you don’t exist. The impossibility of experiencing deprivation or suffering in non-existence is made true in virtue of the fact that there is nobody there to experience it. The truth-maker here is the lack of any entities. To experience something is to exist (obviously).

                Furthermore, I would assume you will agree with me that deprivation is a bad thing:

                “To reiterate: the absence of pleasure is not a bad thing, not because there is no one there to experience it, but because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing deprivation.”

                Deprivation is a kind of suffering, and suffering is bad. And you said that it is a good thing that non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing suffering (which is a bad thing):

                “Likewise for the absence of suffering: it is a good thing because non-existence entails the impossibility of experiencing suffering.”

                Therefore, according to your logic, the absence of pleasure is not only a not-bad but actually a good thing, since by its very nature non-existence precludes the possibility of suffering (and deprivation is a kind of suffering), which is a good. But this seems utterly empty and misguided, and the reason why is because you are not utilizing the lack of persons as the guiding factor here. There can only be deprivation when there is someone existing, and the lack of pleasure is not a deprivation JUST BECAUSE there is nobody there to experience this deprivation, not because non-existence makes this impossible independently of the fact that there is nobody there to experience this deprivation.

                And even further, if the absence of pleasure is a not-bad, then the absence of pain is a not-good, since good is a value that cannot be placed upon non-existence for the same reasons that bad cannot be placed upon non-existence. There isn’t anyone there to maintain this value. As I’ve said before, value is dependent upon observers. As soon as the lights go out and nobody’s home anymore, values cease to exist.

                I hope you see how none of what you stated before makes sense. Again, I’m not trying to be aggressive or annoying, I wish to have a decent discussion about this topic in a respectful manner. If you see a problem in my reasoning, I would like to know, because I do not wish to hold a problematic belief. :)

  11. laniakeaplus June 21, 2016 at 19:19 Reply

    “Furthermore: you said that it’s a good thing that nobody experiences suffering. But then you also say that it is not-bad if nobody experiences pleasure. Surely if the LACK of suffering entails a good, the LACK of pleasure entails a bad (objectively of course).”

    []Note one: Some antinatalists aren’t entirely against it, but deviate from Benatar and keep some of the asymmetry argument(Inmendham~ States pleasure is wholly apart of not suffering but a more or less subjective state of those who aren’t suffering, or something like that). He also doesn’t concede good or positive as much as Benatar.

    You’re on fire(suffering==bad), or you’re not on fire(not suffering==good).
    If you’re not suffering, you have two options, but you can’t have both:
    You can either masturbate.(+)
    Or you can watch paint dry.( )

    It’s a little confusing but not-suffering isn’t necessarily pleasure. Not suffering doesn’t mean winning the lottery, but rather it’s a state or condition that can come from the main set of not -suffering. In a way, with this you can understand Inmendham’s criticism of the use of positive and that sort.

    Certainly masturbating, winning the lotto, or being voted ruler of the world is not-suffering, but also a different state than watching paint dry(unless duct taped by ISIS by force)which is also different from being set on fire, or ate alive by zombies, or physically bullied day-in-and-out.

    Two (sub)states can be proven scientifically to be separate and justify the punnet square model that Benatar’s Asymmetry model forms.

    idk, it’s late, i’m lazy, and such…

    • darthbarracuda June 21, 2016 at 19:29 Reply

      “[]Note one: Some antinatalists aren’t entirely against it, but deviate from Benatar and keep some of the asymmetry argument(Inmendham~ States pleasure is wholly apart of not suffering but a more or less subjective state of those who aren’t suffering, or something like that). He also doesn’t concede good or positive as much as Benatar.”

      If this is indeed what Inmendham believes, then I agree with him. Unfortunately Gary can be kind of hard to deal with and understand.

      Also I’d like to point out that you don’t have to be a Benatarian to be an antinatalist.

      “You’re on fire(suffering==bad), or you’re not on fire(not suffering==good).”

      THIS is the main issue I have with the asymmetry. I’m not currently experiencing a headache. Is this a good thing? Because you said this:

      “It’s a little confusing but not-suffering isn’t necessarily pleasure.”

      And I consider the only good-ness to be pleasure. We can have an absence of pain which is better than if we had pain, but the presence of pleasure makes it that much better because the presence of pleasure is an actual good.

      To expand upon this, I don’t think we rejoice when we find out the universe is mostly empty and devoid of life and therefore devoid of suffering. It’s better than a life filled with suffering, but it’s not a good.

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