The Problem of the Fragility of Value.

I’ve written before about using atheological arguments for the benefit of antinatalism: in that entry, it was the Problem of Evil transposed to procreation. In this entry, I want to talk about something that Jeffery Jay Lowder calls “the fragility of value.” Lowder opines that, in general, it’s much harder to build something of value than to destroy it. This is a simple proposition, but there’s a lot to unpack here.

First of all, it implies that we want to build value. Why do we build value? Well, to a certain extent, because we have needs that must be fulfilled. All societies, from the least to most technological, rely on the building of tools and complicated social networks in order to accumulate the food, shelter, and leisure they need in order to operate efficiently and happily. As individuals, we all depend on it, because of the networked nature of the process: no matter how well we do individually, we’re all in a relatively good place if a society is flourishing, and we all fall if a society disintegrates.

This is not the whole story: if it was, then Western societies would not have expanded so much that they threaten human life on Earth. Societies do not stop growing when their people’s needs are met; if so, there would probably be no such thing as agricultural societies, because hunting-gathering societies have been shown to be more than able to fulfill the basic needs of individuals, including a surfeit of leisure time. As far as we can tell, the passage to agriculture was a severe blow to individual health, lifespan, and social well-being, and any society strictly dedicated to individual needs would have no reason to make that change.

In general, societies tend to expand to the limit of what their energy sources (e.g. food supply, animal power, fuel) allow. The creation of value is inextricably linked to technological level and availability of resources.

Second, it implies that value can, and is, destroyed. This is not necessarily an evil event, any more than the creation of value is necessary a good event. Sometimes value must be destroyed in order to bring about a better outcome. Sometimes value is destroyed out of hatred or spite. Most of the time, it’s a wasteful artefact of whatever economic system we operate under.

Third, it concludes that it’s harder to build value than destroy it. To be fair, this is a broad generalization, but it holds true in our daily lives. You need a lot of know-how and work to make a garden, or a javelin thrower, but only some strength is needed to trash them. You need a lot of time to create and maintain a relationship, but very little to destroy it.

This has obvious connections to antinatalist pessimism: we bring people into this world, and those people need to fulfill their values in order to survive and flourish, but it is so easy for the value we build to be destroyed. As far as we can tell this is part of how the universe is made. To this I would append the anti-frustrationist argument, which demonstrates that even a fulfilled desire is no better than the absence of desires. So even if we are successful in fulfilling our desires, we are really accomplishing nothing except running on a never-ending frustrationist treadmill.

The teleological conclusion, I think, would be: what’s the point of condemning anyone to such a badly designed universe?

2 thoughts on “The Problem of the Fragility of Value.

  1. The Brain in the Jar December 12, 2015 at 04:30

    I’m staying here. Antinatalism should be spread around. I don’t have much of an opinion on this specific piece but it was informative.

  2. Francois Tremblay December 12, 2015 at 05:18

    Thank you! Also check out my Antinatalism archive.

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