An Antinatalist FAQ.

1. What is antinatalism?

The core of the antinatalist ideology is the ethical position that human procreation is wrong.

More broadly, antinatalism can be described as the ethical position that the procreation and continuation of sentient life (i.e. lifeforms that feel pain) is wrong, insofar as humans have a considerable impact on the procreation and continuation of sentient life on this planet.

2. What are the lines of reasoning for antinatalism?

There is no generally agreed upon classification, but on this blog I use the classification made by filrabat. I have decided to use it because it seems to fit the natural division of arguments as used by Benatar and others, which makes it very useful.

The classification divides antinatalist arguments in four general categories:

* Philanthropic antinatalism encompasses deductive arguments centered around the undesirability of exposing new lives to harm. Arguments in this line include Benatar’s Asymmetry and other harm/benefit asymmetries, the consent argument, and anti-frustrationism.

* Teleological antinatalism, as the name indicates, encompasses arguments about the lack of purpose or justification for procreation. A good example of this approach is Gary Mosher’s famous aphorism “there is no need for need to exist.”

* Ecological antinatalism encompasses arguments about the harm that humans inflict on other forms of life on this planet. VHEMT is the main proponent of this position.

* Misanthropic antinatalism encompasses arguments which aim to show that the world or human societies are not good enough to bring new lives into them. This includes the risk argument, amongst others.

3. What is the difference between antinatalism and childfreedom?

Childfreedom refers to people who have consciously decided not to have children. It is not an ethical position but a personal decision. A childfree person may or may not agree with the proposition that procreation is wrong.

Likewise, an antinatalist person may or may not be childfree. Some people have had children before realizing the dubious ethical nature of breeding.

4. What about this “efilism” I’ve heard some antinatalists talk about?

Efilism is a word used by Gary Mosher to designate his personal worldview, which he says he arrived at independently from antinatalism. He uses that word to emphasize his belief in the undesirability of all new sentient life, not just new human lives.

5. Who is Gary Mosher?

Gary Mosher is a person who maintains a number of Youtube accounts, including most notably inmendham, dedicated to antinatalist issues. He has been a tireless promoter of antinatalism for many years, especially to atheist groups. He lives in Mendham, New Jersey.

6. What is VHEMT?

VHEMT is an organization based around promoting ecological antinatalism. The URL is vhemt.org and it’s promoted by one Les U. Knight.

7. Are you all just depressed people?

No. While depressed people may be naturally attracted to antinatalism because of its realistic view of human existence, one does not have to be depressed to be an antinatalist. Many antinatalists become proponents of the position because they were convinced by the arguments (as in my case) or based on personal experiences.

8. Why don’t you kill yourself?

This is definitely a commonly asked question by opponents of antinatalism, and shows how kind they are. Wishing death on people who disagree with you is not a good sign of mental health.

But beyond that, the question reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of what antinatalism is about. Antinatalists are not against the continuation of life, they are against the creation of new life. Killing yourself ends your own suffering, but it also creates more harm to the people you leave behind.

For more, see this entry I wrote answering this question.

9. What about all the good things about life?

Antinatalists acknowledge that most human lives contains benefits as well as harms, and that both are an important part of our lives. However, we can’t simply “cancel out” benefits and harms, and the existence of benefits does not nullify the existence of the harms that antinatalist arguments are based around. While we should seek those benefits while we are alive, they do not form a justification for bringing new people into this world.

Again, I’ve written an entry related to this topic.

10. Isn’t the natural result of your ideology the extinction of the human race? That’s an insane position, you can’t honestly believe that?

First, it is not true that the “natural result” of antinatalism would be human extinction, for the simple reason that many people will not accept antinatalism no matter what. Breeder entitlement is extremely powerful.

Second, there is no justification that can be given for the continuation of humanity, showing that it is an arational position at best (see this entry for further explanation). The belief that we shouldn’t be doing things of this magnitude if we have no justification for them is not “insane,” but rather a pretty natural response.

11. I want to write about antinatalism, even though I am against it. Any recommendations?

Don’t do what everyone else does, which is to go off on what they think antinatalism is about without even bothering to read the arguments or what any antinatalist believes. At least have the confront to actually read what it’s about. Then criticize it.

If you’re willing to jump in and ask us some hard questions, then you should be willing to answer some as well. I would recommend these 12 questions as a starting point for further discussion.

12. What are the main books expounding the antinatalist ideology?

The two earliest texts discussing antinatalism as an ideology of its own are L’art de guillotiner les procreateurs : manifeste anti-nataliste (2006), by Theophile de Giraud, and Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence (2008), by David Benatar.

Other books of interest include The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (2011), by Thomas Ligotti, Confessions of an Antinatalist (2010), by Jim Crawford, and Every Cradle Is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide (2014), by Sarah Perry.

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