Category Archives: Antinatalism

Adam Wallace of WCR arguing against antinatalism.

WCR is an alt-right (which generally means the American equivalent of neo-nazis) blog which discusses white nationalist issues and an armchair pseudo-philosophy that promotes elitism and hierarchy. Why in the hell would I go to such a place? Because Adam Wallace, one of the writers for that blog, has decided to debunk antinatalism, or at least, what he thinks antinatalism is.

Before his actual debunking, there is a considerable slew of quotes taken from the writings of some historical reactionaries and racists. I will waste no time analyzing that nonsense, as I am only interested in what he has to say about antinatalism. The analysis starts here:

The logical process for the antinatalist is this:

1. Having children is immoral because there is suffering existent in the world.
2. Subjecting someone — or even potentially subjecting someone — to suffering is bad.
3. This is because suffering is always bad.
4. Suffering is what pain induces; the longing for comfort or happiness.
5. Pain exists at the physical, mental and spiritual level.

I shudder to think what Wallace thinks a “logical process” is, because this is not a logical progression, just a disorganized list of points. The only thing in here that looks like an argument is point 1, but alone it makes little sense. You could make some kind of argument by combining points 1, 2 and 3, but it’s not an argument I’ve ever heard from antinatalists. It looks similar to some actual arguments (like the duty argument or the Asymmetry), but in itself it doesn’t make much sense.

Of these five points, the points that would be agreed upon by antinatalists would be points 2, 4 and 5. Point 1 is not logical because the existence of suffering, in itself, does not lead to the conclusion of antinatalism. Point 3 is an arbitrary statement: antinatalists do not necessarily believe that all suffering is bad (at least, based on Wallace’s idiosyncratic definition of “suffering”), merely that suffering only exists because of the existence of human needs.

So let’s start with point 1:

One could say, regarding this claim, that the opposite is true on exactly equal logical grounds. Not having children is immoral because there is happiness in the world, and the wilful (sic), conscious decision not to introduce this scenario to someone — the experience of pleasure, happiness, knowledge, et cetera — is bad.

Despite pretenses of this argument being “logical,” it makes no sense at all. If one does not have a child, who is harmed by the absence of pleasure, happiness, knowledge that this hypothetical child would have had? And if no one is harmed, then how can it be bad? Bad for who? Bad how? This is the extent of Wallace’s “explanation,” so no answer is given.

In the case of suffering, it is very clear who is harmed: the human being who exists and is subject to suffering. We have a moral duty not to inflict suffering on others, and bringing a new human being into this world means inflicting suffering on them. But we have no moral duty to give pleasure to others, therefore the existence of pleasure does not create any moral obligation on our part.

Now to point 2:

Always? Truly? Such a claim depends entirely upon why suffering is bad, which we will address in the next point. We can right now, however, address this notion that the very subjecting of another to something — suffering or no — is not always avoidable. Life has its ways of pushing situations into our experiences whether wanted — intended — or otherwise… The moments of conversation I suffered with a couple of antinatalists are indeed the fault of them for speaking to me and me for listening; but should, by their own logic, the antinatalists not even bothered trying to speak for me for fear of inducing my annoyance or discomfort at the event?

As I already pointed out, suffering (as defined by Wallace as the desire for comfort from pain) is not necessarily bad. However, one may note some hypocrisy on his part here: if he “suffers” so much from dialoguing about antinatalism, then why write an entire (mostly irrelevant) article about it?

That being said, we definitely agree that suffering is unavoidable, but that’s an argument for our side, so I’m not sure why he even brought it up. Perhaps this was a failed attempt at invoking the “life is suffering, so live with it” argument. But antinatalists have an easy answer to such rhetoric: don’t procreate and there’s no need for the suffering to exist. Whatever propaganda line Wallace wants to push about life is irrelevant because antinatalists are against life (a fact which seems to make the neo-nazi foam at the mouth every time he writes about it).

Point 3 is, as he wrote, connected to point 2, but it’s even more easily refuted:

No it is not. Suffering can be extremely valuable.

Of course suffering can be extremely valuable. No one is denying that fact. Antinatalists do not deny that fact, either. So what? Suffering can only be valuable for people who exist. It has no bearing whatsoever on the ethical status of procreation.

Antinatalists declare that suffering is a bad thing within the context of procreation: that a world in which there is less suffering is better than a world in which there is more suffering. From the point of view of a person who already exists, suffering can be very valuable indeed, but no one who exists can face the decision of existing or not existing.

On to point 4, which is basically a word-salad. If you don’t believe me, here is his full answer:

Indeed, but for what end? The antinatalists and other assorted pussies get to this point and claim “Ha! I’ve got you now, breeder scum!” (interesting definition…) without going forth with it. Suffering is a longing for another state, the desire for something else and that something else not yet being attained. It is a doing word, a verb, much like running or speaking. It requires context; a direction. It implies motion, moving, becoming, changing, evolving, mutating, transmuting, et cetera; in short, it implies the living — something is dead, by scientific measure, when the body ceases to change; when cells cease replacing themselves, when chemical reactions in the body which contribute to life such as the process of food digestion in the stomach and gut stop, or when neurons in the brain are no longer active. The physical life is a continuous process of change and moving from one thing to another — and not just on the microcosm of the individual body, but on the macrocosm of ecosystems and foodchains (sic) all over the world, or, to go further still, the ebb and flow of civilisations (sic) and cultures which rise and fall and violently clash with one-another in stunning displays of virility and force. Suffering, change, motion; all this is a part of life.

All of this nonsense to say: living things can suffer, dead things can’t. Great, but that doesn’t prove anything even remotely related to antinatalism. I can state obvious basic biological facts all day too, but that wouldn’t be related to antinatalism either. I could paste the entire Wikipedia entry for “biology,” and that wouldn’t disprove natalism any more than this word-salad disproves antinatalism.

One notes that Wallace outright states that he agrees with the premise in the very first word of his answer, so his answer is of absolutely no use in refuting the “logical process” he lists at the beginning of his analysis.

And finally, point 5:

Again; indeed. In fact pain exists, and it cannot cease to exist. And this is where the fundamental essence of the antinatalist position falls asunder…

To conceive of a world where there is zero suffering we must conceive of a world where there is no longing for differing emotional states. As long as we can consciously distinguish one emotional state from another there could potentially emerge a longing for this state or that. This fits the definition of mental or emotional suffering. In fact, if we are to exist in a world where there is no pain we would indeed have to be unconscious as to not experience anything at all, for if we could distinguish between one emotional state or another — or, further still — one day or another, we would of course introduce the potential of suffering.

I spared you the quote from a prominent proto-nazi that goes between these two parts, but I think the point is still clear: a world without suffering is basically impossible. Again, I fail to see how this is supposed to make some kind of point against antinatalism. The “fundamental essence” of the antinatalist position is that procreation is wrong, and no part of his argument concerns procreation. Antinatalists are not concerned with having a “world with zero suffering,” since such a thing is, as he rightly points out, impossible.

But even if there somehow was zero suffering in the world, antinatalism would not thereby be refuted or fulfilled, if only because two of the four branches of antinatalism, teleological and ecological, would still be completely true (I assume that Wallace, as a reactionary, is referring only to human suffering). Fundamentally, antinatalism is concerned with procreation, not with suffering, a point which he simply does not seem to understand.

Alonzo Fyfe is misguided about population ethics…

I have previously written an entry against Alonzo Fyfe on the subject of meta-ethics, where he completely butchered the idea that evolution motivates morality and confused it with some form of adaptationism. His moral position is one he calls “desirism,” which seems to be based solely on people’s desires (hence the name), although when push comes to shove he seems to retreat towards some form of cultural relativism.

The topic of the entry I want to examine now is population ethics, that is to say, how many people there should be in the world. Obviously, antinatalism has a very particular answer to that question, that answer being “ideally, zero.” This is, obviously, not a widely accepted answer; as I’ve discussed before, insofar as population ethics go, it is considered a reductio ad absurdum.

The most famous argument in population ethics used to support the “zero” conclusion is Derek Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion (which of course he did not himself believe in, because who’d be that crazy?). In this entry, Alonzo Fyfe tries to refute this argument with his desirist ideology. It is, therefore, of some antinatalist interest to examine the objections presented, since they have a direct bearing on the truth of antinatalism. If it is morally right for humanity to perpetuate, then antinatalism must be wrong.

Insofar as antinatalist theory is concerned, there is no reason for mankind to exist. There is no justifiable reason for anyone to exist, whether it’s one person or a billion people. The only way that people can validate their existence is by mitigating the harm suffered by themselves and others, but there is no reason for that suffering to exist in the first place.

Fyfe quotes the Repugnant Conclusion:

For any possible population of at least ten billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better even though its members have lives that are barely worth living.

From the antinatalist perspective, the Repugnant Conclusion is nonsensical because it assumes that all lives are worth living. It is clearly the case that many lives are not worth living. Furthermore, antinatalists do not believe that people are accurate about the quality of their life, as well as the quality of other people’s lives. Finally, most antinatalist arguments do not rely on quality of life at all, making the issue moot.

But Fyfe is not an antinatalist, and his objection is quite different:

This argument requires the assumption that each life us assigned an intrinsic value independent of interests or desires (though the intrinsic value of a life at depend on how many of the person’s desires are fulfilled). Or job – our moral duty – is to make this number as big as possible.

Desirism rejects that model.

I would very much like to know why Fyfe rejects the model. However, he does not tell us why he rejects it, and that seems like a crucial hole in his reasoning. I think it would be interesting because the view expressed seems pretty close to the views of some antinatalists (like Gary Mosher), with the exception that this intrinsic value is independent from the number of people that exist. Our moral duty is to protect this value and alleviate suffering, not to create more suffering and endanger the lives that already exist. As such, antinatalists tend to be negative utilitarians (aiming towards the lowest amount of suffering), not positive utilitarians (aiming towards the greatest amount of happiness).

Fyfe continues:

It asks a different question. “What reasons for action do we have to bring additional people into the world?”

Where populations are small, additional people contribute to the greater fulfillment of desires. Those who exist in such a world have many and strong reasons to promote interests that increase the population.

To see this, imagine one person living utterly alone, and the benefits of adding just one more person. Where there are two, add a third. Each new person provides significant improvements to everybody’s quality of life. Yet, in all but extreme circumstances such as on a lifeboat, they place little additional strain on available resources.

However, at some point adding new people produces less of a benefit; the law of diminishing returns applies.

Again, from the antinatalist perspective, these statements are nonsensical. Every new human being, whether one or a billion already exist, adds new unnecessary suffering to the world, suffering which must now be alleviated. The main difference is this: a new person coming to existence in the scenario where only one person exists will alleviate a lot more suffering than a new person coming into existence in the scenario where a million people already exist, but that is solely because the one person was suffering a lot more!

Let me put some fictional numbers to these scenarios in order to clarify my point. Suppose we have two scenarios, one where one person exists (P1) and one where a million people exist (P2). Because of the advantages of cooperation over independence, it is possible for the million people to alleviate their suffering more efficiently than for the one person. So suppose that the levels of suffering in each case are P1: -1000 and P2: -50.

Because of the unique forms of suffering caused by being alone and having only one pair of hands to gather resources, adding one new person to P1 is extremely beneficial. So suppose that in this case we’re able to go clear from -1000 to -600. Fyfe here is basically saying, look how much benefit this new person has brought to the existing person! That’s a +400 gain! But this is hopelessly naive. In P2, on the other hand, a new person may not change the levels of suffering significantly. Suppose a new person in P2 improves the average level of suffering by +0.001. Fyfe would say that this is where the law of diminishing returns would apply.

So, using the hypothetical numbers to provide some perspective, adding a new person causes the following changes:

P1: from -1000 to -600
P2: from -50 to -49.999

The gain in P1 is so significant precisely because the first person is suffering so much that new people can provide them a lot of relief, but these new people are badly off as well. The high gain that Fyfe touts as a positive of procreation only occurs at the expense of the first person’s suffering, and there was no reason for that suffering to exist in the first place. It’s all a big shell game. and a crappy one at that.

But of course a scenario where only one human exists but can somehow procreate is nonsensical. This is not, and probably never will be, the state of the human species. Therefore we learn nothing about the desirability of procreation from such a scenario. And the law of diminishing returns, as Fyfe would say, hits way before any sort of realistic number. The population of a hundred years ago (1.5 billions) is far beyond that limit. The population of two thousand years ago (somewhere between 150 and 330 millions) is probably beyond that limit as well, or at least close to it.

I will skip his explanation of the law of diminishing returns (as I assume everyone basically understands what that means) and go into his argument based on desirism:

I would like to stress that what desirism suggests to look at is is not interests TO bring more or fewer people into the world but interests THAT bring more or fewer people into the world. What reason do we have to encourage women to become interested in science, medicine, politics, consulting, and ends that would be thwarted by having children, thus motivating them not to select that option? What reasons do we have to promote interests in non-procreative sex over procreative sex – such as is provided through the use of birth control?

What Fyfe says here is profoundly offensive. He is basically acknowledging that women’s interests must be squelched for procreative purposes, and that “we” might decide to “encourage” women to do something else than become breeding machines if “we” (presumably, the men in charge) decide that fewer people should be brought into this world.

I’ve explained in the past how natalism entails the objectification of women and a profound misogyny which simply ignores women’s needs or desires, because natalism is based on the assumption that procreation can be discussed as an abstract concept and evaluated on the basis of its impact on the economy or society, and therefore that the number of children in a society can be made higher or lower, not as a real-life phenomenon that takes a physical and psychological tool on women, which ruins many women’s livelihoods, increases their dependence on others, keeps women oppressed into systems of motherhood. Fyfe writes from this sociopathic, misogynist mindset, because he is a natalist. There’s really not much else to it.

As you can expect, his answer to these questions has nothing to do with the well-being of mothers or children at all, but a simple economic rationale:

Where bringing more people into the world thwarts more and stronger of our desires, where we have reason to avoid greater competition for scarce goods and services, we have more and stronger reason to promote alternative interests.

I’ve already expressed how profoundly wrong this is, so I won’t repeat myself. I will simply note further the selfishness in Fyfe’s reasoning: the reason why we should not have children is not for any reason connected to the children themselves, not out of any concern for anyone’s suffering, but because they’ll take away our toys.

Should we be having more people? The answer is found by looking at the reasons for action that exist for promoting interests that will increase the population over promoting interests that will maintain or reduce it.

This is a muddled conclusion, to say the least. But either way, it seems to have no relation to the question posed. “Should we be having more people” is a yes or no question, and is not answered by giving reasons. I guess he’s trying to say that we must look at whether we’re part the point of diminishing returns, and he seems to be saying that we have, although he seems uncertain about this for some reason (how anyone can be uncertain about such a clear fact, unless you’re an optimist beyond measure, is beyond me).

I suppose some might say that Fyfe is not telling us what is moral, but is telling us how procreation is evaluated in reality, but this is equally spurious. Historically, none of what Fyfe said holds true. Societies tend to expand to the limit of their energy sources. Societies that don’t have access to plentiful, portable energy will tend to stay small and be unable to expand. Societies that do have such access, tend to expand more than their neighbors. Nothing to do with “desires.”

Only one thing that Fyfe said holds true, that the central question of population ethics is: how many people should there be? He fails at debunking the Repugnant Conclusion and he fails at showing that desirism proves that there’s anything valid about natalism. All he proves is that natalism is disgusting, but I didn’t need him for that.

Antinatalism as reductio ad absurdum.

To say that antinatalism is a weird position would be an understatement for most people. Actually, to most people antinatalism is so utterly bizarre that they can’t possibly imagine themselves agreeing with it. Very few intellectual positions are so universally reviled.

This is so true that antinatalism is considered to be a reductio ad absurdum, e.g. in population ethics or in utilitarian morality. If your conclusion ends up being “no one should be born,” that means you made a mistake somewhere. One of your premises must be wrong. Your calculator says “ERR” and you have to start over. You goofed. It just can’t be right.

So why would anyone possibly believe something which is so clearly an error? Well, it would be easy to say something like “you’re just all depressed.” I’m certainly not depressed. Or something like “you clearly just all want to kill yourselves” (although it seems that this is usually meant more as a dismissive insult than an actual statement of fact). I don’t want to kill myself. And most people who are actually depressed or suicidal are not antinatalists. And I know plenty of antinatalists who are not depressed or suicidal.

It has also been suggested that antinatalist are whiners. But one can conflate any ideology which opposes anything as being a form of whining, so that doesn’t really advance the conversation. Besides, why mere whiners would bother to create an entire ideology centered around their whining is a mystery to me. At that level, I think we’re far beyond whining.

Most antinatalists I know (including myself) were convinced of the truth of antinatalism on the basis of evidence and arguments, not whining or depression, although being depressed obviously helps take down the intellectual barriers to examining the evidence and arguments. We don’t think antinatalism is an obvious error because we’ve actually examined the evidence pro and con, and have come out with the idea that there is something true there. Therefore, we disagree that antinatalism can be a reductio ad absurdum. If you arrive at the conclusion that no one should be born, then you’re actually right, as outlandish as that may sound.

To make an analogy, there are some people who think egalitarianism is an absurd position that automatically discredits any ideology that contains it. They think that saying everyone should be on an equal footing morally, politically or economically is such a silly proposition that it’s an obvious error. And yet egalitarianism seems to me to be clearly correct. Am I stupid beyond comprehension? Not really, no. While I concede that I am not particularly intelligent, I don’t think I’m extremely stupid, or even particularly stupid. Likewise, I don’t think most egalitarians are so stupid as to be unable to recognize a clear absurdity.

So antinatalism is perhaps not an exceptional case. Perhaps people who reject antinatalism immediately as absurd simply need to understand the evidence for it in order to stop saying such things, although I don’t think that would convert everyone by a long shot.

I’ve even seen someone argue that antinatalism is a reductio ad absurdum of atheism, although I can’t for the life of me figure out how that could possibly work. The position that procreation is wrong is not a logical extension of a lack of belief in gods. Actually, one could easily argue that the position that procreation is wrong is the logical extension of belief in Christianity, as I’ve discussed here. The fact that Christianity logically entails antinatalism may be used as further evidence that Christianity is wrong through reduction ad absurdum (Christianity entails antinatalism, antinatalism is absurd, therefore Christianity is invalid). I prefer to think that Christianity, as the profoundly pessimistic, death-worshipping cult that it is, portrays “the world” in a harsh light and therefore gives us even less motivation to reproduce (although of course its adherents don’t think about such things).

The concept of absurdity is not only used against antinatalism, but against parts of antinatalism as well. Many people argue that the concept of human extinction is a reductio ad absurdum of antinatalism, something so unthinkable that it renders antinatalism automatically invalid.

Although I think that such arguments are logically imbecilic and not worth considering, I do sympathize to a certain extent with the poor sod who trembles at the idea of human extinction. It is a daunting concept to contemplate, as daunting as the prospect of annihilation or the lack of absolute morality can be for an ex-Christian turned atheist. Both natalism and Christianity are fantasy ideologies which rely on the imagination in order to propagate. Believers imagine their lives extended into infinity through Heaven. Breeders imagine themselves being extended into infinity through their progeny. Both fantasies require quite a bit of intellectual honesty and courage in order to stop believing in them. But the rewards are great for those who are able to do so.

Human extinction goes against one of the fundamental, unspoken beliefs of natalism, that of “winning the game.” Many believers see evolution as the rules of a game which we call “nature,” and the objective is to propagate “your” (i.e. your species’) genes. But whether they believe in evolution, in creationism, or in anything else, they seem to share the belief that there is a game going on and that the objective is to survive. Species that don’t survive, lose. Species that do survive, are not losing. There does not seem to be any way to win as such, only to keep not losing. The belief in human extinction therefore represents not only a desire to lose, but treason: you are not only not cheering for your own team (your species), but you are actively wishing that your team loses. This, I think, is why human extinction is so outrageous to them. It’s basically the same as an American student cheering against their own football team (something which, I understand, would be sacrilege).

There are some obvious issues with this belief. For one thing, how can it be a game where there’s really only one participant? No other species out there is consciously trying to play this game. Most of them can’t even understand the concept of a game. So doesn’t that make this natalist concept of a survival game just basically mental masturbation? What else would you call a game where only one person is playing but they’re pretending everyone else around them is part of it too, even though none of them are even conscious there’s a game going on? I am no expert, but to me that sounds like either a person who is way, way too competitive, or a person who’s simply lost the plot and lives solely in their imagination.

Another problem is that you can’t have a competitive win-lose kind of game (a finite game) without having some way to win, since the whole point of finite games is to decide on who the winner is. Now, religious people do have a leg up on this one, since they already have something that qualifies: the end of the world, Armageddon, what have you. Anyone who survives to the end of the world wins. And if you believe in this shit, then why not? Of course, they still fail to answer the first problem (the fact that there’s only one player), but at least they can answer this one, while secular believers cannot (especially those who believe in their funhouse version of evolution, because evolution cannot have any end point anyhow, even if all life was wiped off the planet).

Either way, if the people who are not afraid of human extinction are guilty of something, it’s of not believing in the survival game, and I don’t think that’s clearly and obviously absurd.

And to flip the tables around, antinatalism also has its own reductio ad absurdum, contained in the Asymmetry. Most people reject the Asymmetry either by rejecting premises 3 or 4 (see the argument in detail here). That is to say, they wish to argue that what is non-existent can feel pain, or be deprived of pleasure. But this is profoundly silly: that which does not exist cannot feel pain or be deprived of anything. Only things that exist can feel anything. I believe that people only argue such nonsense because they don’t understand the implications of the Asymmetry. Surely no one actually believes that non-existing things can feel pain.

But if we start from the premise that non-existing things do feel pain and are deprived of pleasure, then we end up in what seems to me to be a reduction ad absurdum, because it leads us to the conclusion that the only ethical thing to do is to have as many children as physically possible, in order to prevent the suffering of non-existing future lives. Not only that, but we also should create children artificially as much as we possibly can. We must devote all the resources that are not going to making vital necessities to making more children.

The reason for this should be obvious. If we accept the premise that non-existing future lives feel pain and are deprived of pleasure, then that means that bringing them into existence is always better than not doing so, because existing lives at least experience pleasure. If non-existent lives still suffer but are also deprived of the pleasures of life, then they must be saved from their non-existence.

We can make an analogy to reflect this new (and bizarre) situation. So for instance, there are people trapped in a swamp. They can’t move and can’t, in any way, help others get them out. They experience all the pains of daily existence, but they experience no pleasure, no joy, as they are trapped in a swamp. Two people can work for months to free one of these people, and the government, although unconcerned with their plight, encourages people to free the trapped victims. What should you do? Shouldn’t you help these people to be free and live a normal life, and encourage the government to organize freeing parties, or research better technology that could free them even faster? I hope the analogy is obvious here. The swamp represents this bizarre state of non-existence where things still feel pain, the victims are future lives, and the people are, well, us.

But surely this is an absurd position. I don’t know of any group or ideology out there that holds that we should produce children by any means (including artificial means and coerced procreation) at the exclusion of pretty much anything else (not even the Quiverfull go that far). Therefore, the Asymmetry must be valid, because the alternative is to silly to contemplate.

Note that the more academic position of people like Bryan Caplan, who says that lives are worth starting because most people are happy and those who are not should just kill themselves, equally leads to this position. If every possible future life is better off if we start it, then we should make as many children as we possibly can. While they may object to that view on economic grounds, this would be spurious, as economics is wholly useless without values to orient its objectives. If we assume that starting new lives is always good, then a proper economics should seek the goal of maximizing births, not maximizing GDP, profits, or utility.

But since I’ve already debunked other reductios, might this one not be faulty as well? Are we just setting up another false dichotomy? An opponent might point out that there are many other positions between antinatalism and full speed procreation. That is true, but the question here is: are those positions logical? They are mostly based on the concept of “balance of pleasure and suffering,” but I’ve already discussed why this concept doesn’t hold water. It’s simply not possible to compare pleasure and suffering in the way that natalists would like. Given that fact, it’s easy to see what they’re really doing: adjusting their relative evaluation of pleasures and sufferings so their side comes out on top. But then it becomes a completely arbitrary standard, and why should we adopt a purely arbitrary standard?

Might the position that having children at all costs be at least not absurd? I doubt it. But I am willing to hear any arguments in favor of this view, as I think other people should be willing to hear arguments in favor of my view.

Natalism is profoundly anti-feminist…

According to The Creation of Patriarchy, by Gerda Lerner, patriarchy began with the rise of agriculture, when women’s capacity to procreate became vital to the survival and flourishing of rooted communities. In essence, women’s bodies became first property of the community, and then, with marriage, property of their husbands. While you may agree or disagree with this theory, it’s hard to deny that the oppression of women has gone hand in hand with women’s capacity to procreate.

If we pursue this point, we may also observe that natalism has been used politically to justify women’s oppression, through nationalism and the need for more workers, more soldiers and more consumers. That the more a society needs children, the more women’s role of fulfilling motherhood is emphasized and enforced. Another fact which cannot fail to attract our attention is that partner violence is linked with unwanted pregnancies:

[A] compelling argument can be made of the indirect mechanism through which the climate of fear and control surrounding abusive relationships could limit women’s ability to control their fertility. Lack of fertility control can lead to unintended pregnancies, which are also associated with adverse outcomes for women’s and infant health, especially in developing countries. The association between intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy also suggests serious social effects spawned by a cycle of unintended childbearing in abusive households.

The ownership of women’s bodies, the enforcement of motherhood, and partner violence are all fundamental feminist issues. Therefore I think we can come to the conclusion that natalism is profoundly anti-feminist.

Natalists may reply that partner violence is not the way they want women to have children. But since natalist arguments typically ignore women’s and children’s well-being, it seems to me that such a reply would miss the point. Indeed, to posit the creation of children as a moral principle by itself entails opposing the well-being of women and children: the health and well-being of women who go through pregnancy and childbirth, the psychological health and well-being of women who must care for children whether or not they have any ability or will to do so, and the health and well-being of children who are either born compromised or who are destined to experience disease, hardships or poverty.

Note that the opposite is not true: antinatalism is not inherently feminist or anti-feminist. One antinatalist can see women as the main perpetrators of procreation, and therefore as the enemy. Another antinatalist can see women as the victims of procreation, and therefore see antinatalism not only as an ethical issue but also as a gender issue. These two views don’t necessarily contradict each other: a victim can also be a perpetrator, as we see for instance in internalized misogyny or internalized racism. But either way, I see all of us as victims of procreation, men and women, although women suffer more in its name than men. Most of us do internalize natalist propaganda and evaluations, and that is unfortunate, but it doesn’t in any way change the fact that we are all fundamentally victimized.

Given all the facts, it’s not surprising that second wave feminists (who were right about most things) thought that motherhood was a raw deal, and tried to attack the undeservedly high status of motherhood. Nowadays, the pressure on women is even greater because they’re supposed to both have a career and be mothers. So it is perhaps not that surprising that it’s men who want children more nowadays, although the percentage of acceptance for both genders is still very high:

Lauren is part of a growing cohort of women: those in their late 20s and early 30s who aren’t sure about — or are decidedly against — becoming mothers. In a nationally representative survey of single, childless people in 2011, more men than women said they wanted kids. (On the other hand, more women reported seeking independence in their relationships, personal space, interests, and hobbies.) A different poll from 2013 echoed those findings, with more than 80 percent of men saying they’d always wanted to be a father or at least thought they would be someday. Just 70 percent of women felt the same.

Women in general are starting to get a grasp of the problem, although they are still psychologically pressured to pursue the natalist party line. And men, well, have no reason to feel particularly responsible about it. After all, the procreation is done mostly for their benefit, not their wives’. Not to mention that men as a class aren’t particularly known for their sense of responsibility: just look at the most masculine institutions we have, sports teams, the military, the cops, which all not only lack any sense of responsibility (except for an abstract concept of “sportsmanship,” for sports teams), but glorify that fact.

The selfishness of being against suicide.

I watched the excellent movie The Sea Inside, about the real story of a paraplegic man, Ramón Sampedro, who fought 28 years for the right to assisted suicide. There is no doubt who the director thinks is sympathetic and who is despicable, especially his brother, who is bitter at having to support him but vociferously refuses to support his suicide.

Even though it is, after all, a story and not a documentary, I think it illustrates the selfishness of the anti-suicide position. There really is no reason for anyone to not be supportive of Sampedro’s quest. Yes, obviously a lot of people feel that life is always worth living and that suicide is regrettable, and some still cling to religious dogma which prohibits suicide because suicide takes asses off the pews and into the ground, but these are, after all, only opinions. Reasonable people should be able to accommodate the existence of differing opinions.

But a more interesting question is this: why is suicide regrettable? Yes, people who kill themselves make their loved ones suffer because of it, but only because they must do it in secret. In cases of assisted suicide which were planned for such a long time, surely no one will be taken by surprise.

Now, family situations are a different matter. When children depend on the income of a person or two people, a suicide of one of them will have a profound effect on the child’s well-being. And I don’t deny that suicide, in those cases, does inflict suffering and is questionable at best. The fact that this is not even a consideration right now in the public debate about suicide and assisted suicide is a reflection of the childism in our cultures: we don’t really care what happens to the children.

In the movie, the brother seems to be suffering from some strange version of the sunk cost fallacy: because he ruined his own hopes and dreams in order to take care of Ramón, he therefore believes that it would be unfair for Ramón to kill himself and undo all this work. While the situation is deplorable, it is deplorable because of the illegality of assisted suicide, not because of the suicide itself. Obviously I am not blaming anyone who’s angry or frustrated about such a difficult situation. But we must always remember who is suffering the most: the person who wants to kill themselves but is not allowed to.

Viewers of the movie seem to sympathize with Sampedro and his plight, even though he is trying to kill himself. Perhaps people sympathize because he is, after all, presented as the protagonist, and he is an extreme case. It’s easier for people to accept that someone who’s been paraplegic for 28 years should be able to kill themselves than for people to accept assisted suicide as a whole. And people do love a good story.

It seems to me that the anti-suicide attitude is very selfish. Parents don’t want to be seen as bad parents, friends and family would rather see them continue to live than bear the shame and loss of a suicide, and I think people in general oppose suicide because they have a selfish desire to make life something better than it is. We know from the way people argue against antinatalism and pessimism, and the popularity of religious and New Age beliefs, that they desperately need to see life as more than what it is.

Although the most extreme seekers are ready to lie to themselves in order to achieve this, most people are content with ignoring inconvenient facts. Such an attitude consists of looking at the positives and ignoring the negatives. One can say that, for example, Sampedro lives a life where he is free to write at his leisure (albeit with his mouth), where he is taken care of, where he may be pushed in a wheelchair whenever he needs to go somewhere. He publishes a book and clearly can do something with his life. But there are also severe negatives in his life, including, well, being paraplegic, with all the severe physical limitations that this entails, and a complete lack of independence or privacy. Optimists wants us to only look at the first list and not at the second. Obviously if you ignore all the negatives of a person’s existence, then you can easily argue against any suicide.

A lot of people pull the veil over their own eyes. This causes problems. But even bigger problems are caused by the fact that those same people try to restrict other people’s freedom based on this veiling. Ultimately, they want to turn society as a whole into a self-censoring torture cell, which is how they treat their own minds. They torture their minds to “exterminate negative thoughts” and keep optimism in the face of the negatives of life, and they want to physically torture others who refuse to align themselves with their delusion. For what can we call forbidding people, who are in psychological or physical pain, to kill themselves, but a form of torture?

It’s always easy to maintain our belief in a just world and blame the victims, call them whiners, and so on. That’s the easy way out, keeps us in our bubble, keeps us comfortable. But blaming the victim is never honest and doesn’t help anyone. Blaming people for killing themselves is selfish and dishonest, and no matter what, people just shouldn’t do that. Yes, you’re allowed to think that a person shouldn’t have killed themselves, but admit that it’s your opinion, and that others (including the suicide) are allowed to rationally disagree.

Another failed attempt at disproving the Asymmetry…

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.

Fergus Duniho, of Wisdom is Best, thinks he’s cracked the Asymmetry. His explanation of the argument is very good: he gives the graph, explains it, and even grasps the distinction between a life worth starting and life worth continuing, which is pretty unusual (most critics don’t even get that far). So I have to praise him for his excellent attempt at confronting the Asymmetry.

Unfortunately, the confronting doesn’t continue in the same vein:

So what he is really expressing by (3) is a counterfactual. When he calls the absence of pain good for the never-existent, what he really means is that pain would be bad for the never-existing person if that person existed. Well, this is what (1) already tells us. This counterfactual interpretation adds nothing to what (1) already says. It just frames it in a way that comes across as misleading. Using the same standard, I may call the absence of pleasure bad in the counterfactual sense that pleasure would be good for the never-existent person if he or she did exist. This makes (4) mean the same thing as (2), adding nothing to what (2) already tells us.

Remember what (1) to (4) means in the context of the Asymmetry (at least, in the way I clarified it):

(1) If a person exists, then eir pain is a bad thing.
(2) If a person exists, then eir pleasure is a good thing.
(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).

(1) and (3) are clearly not the same thing. Likewise, (2) and (4) are not the same thing. One set pertains to a state of the universe where a person exists, and one set pertains to a state of the universe where that person does not exist. The moral judgment that a person’s pain is a bad thing, and the moral judgment that a state of the universe where that person does not exist does not contain that pain and therefore is a good thing, are obviously two different judgments.

This may seem like a petty dispute, but it is central to the argument. Duniho is wrong in saying that (3) really means that “that pain would be bad for the never-existing person if that person existed.” For one thing, there is no such thing as a “never-existing person.” We are talking about states of the universe, not an “existing person” and a “non-existing person.” But more importantly, (3) is concerned by the fact that what does not exist cannot suffer. This fact cannot be arrived at solely from (1), and requires one to take into account the (lack of) features of non-existence.

If, as some critics bizarrely seem to believe (but not Duniho, as far as I know), there actually are non-existent persons floating around in the aether suffering from not existing (as in the top image on this entry, that I made as a parody of such beliefs), then (3) would be incorrect, and the Asymmetry would not work. But this belief, if true, would change absolutely nothing about (1). Therefore (1) is not an equivalent of (3). Of course we know that there are no non-existing persons floating in the aether, and the Asymmetry is correct, but the point, I hope, is clear.

His analysis of Benatar’s argument continues:

In arguing against a “Bad” evaluation of (4), he writes,

“if the absence of pleasure in Scenario B is bad rather than not bad then we should have to regret, for X’s sake, that X did not come into existence. But it is not regrettable.”

I would disagree. We may not be able to know who any never-existent people would have been, but there are surely some never-existent people who, had they been born, would have lived remarkably happy lives. We may regret, for their sakes, that they never knew the joy of living.

Duniho here seems to completely miss the point of (4), which is that non-existence is not deprived of pleasure (because non-existence, by definition, cannot experience anything), and that “never-existent people” (i.e. people who, if they existed, would have lived happy lives) are not deprived of anything. Or to rephrase this more strictly: in a state of the universe where a person does not exist, there is no one that is deprived of the pleasure that person would have experienced. This is true regardless of the intensity of the happiness or joys we imagine these “never-existent people” having: actually, the intensity has strictly nothing to do with it.

The last sentence is simply incoherent. Who are we regretting the non-existence of? You may imagine some random person living a great life, but that person is only in your imagination. You don’t know what kind of life any hypothetical person might have lived in an alternate universe. To argue that what you’re regretting is anything more than a figment of your imagination would be erroneous.

I also think that Duniho’s response is circular because he is not an antinatalist and therefore believes that lives are inherently worth starting. An antinatalist would point out that even what we think are “remarkably happy lives” contain more suffering than we life to imagine. Our own lives contain more suffering than we like to think about. But this is a side issue anyway.

By this same standard, we might feel relief that the never-existent are not suffering, but it makes no sense to take any serious comfort in this. Since the never-existent will never exist, they are not of much concern to us, one way or the other. The same standard works both ways, and Benatar hasn’t given a convincing reason why it shouldn’t.

Of course it doesn’t make sense to take comfort in it, but it also makes no sense to regret that “never-existent people” did not get to experience “the joy of living.” To go back to the Benatar quote that started this bizarre argument, he was talking about the hypothetical in which a “never-existent person” was deprived of some pleasure, that if this was the case then we should regret, for that “deprived, never-existent person” sake, that they did not exist. But there can be no such thing as a “deprived, never-existent person” (because there are no suffering space fetuses, or anything like that). Therefore there’s no reason to regret anything. Somehow Duniho interpreted this as some kind of “standard.”

I also don’t understand why he thinks “the standard works both ways,” since he himself thinks it doesn’t work both ways: he thinks we should regret (4) (the absence of pleasure) but not take comfort in (3) (the absence of suffering). Therefore he’s maintaining the asymmetry that he himself says doesn’t exist!

We get from bad to worse:

What he means by (4) is simply what it says, that the absence of pleasure fails to be a bad thing for those who do not exist. He says, the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation. Likewise, I may say that the absence of pain is not good unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a benefit. This is the same standard he uses to argue for (4).

Duniho again insists on a “standard” that doesn’t seem to exist. The only “standards” required to evaluate (3) and (4) are to understand what non-existence means, and to posit that pleasure (which is good) is better than suffering (which is bad). That which does not exist cannot be deprived of pleasure, and cannot suffer. By this standard, the absence of pain is good. I don’t know what other “standard” Duniho seems to be referring to, unless he’s referring to the standard of trying to evade a simple and direct point, which he’s doing here. There does not need to be a person for whom the absence of pain is a benefit because the absence of pain is the benefit.

Keep in mind my formulation of (3) and (4):

(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).

Points (3) and (4) apply equally well to a universe with no humans in it, or with a trillion humans in it. If there are no humans anywhere, then there is no human suffering or pleasure, the former fact being a good thing and the latter fact not being a bad thing. If there are a trillion humans, then the absence of the suffering of a hypothetical trillion+1 human is a good thing and the absence of the pleasure of the hypothetical trillion+1 human is not a bad thing. There is no “somebody for whom this absence is a benefit,” as we are talking about states of the universe, not about individual moral judgments within those states. A person within our world may very well be hurt by the non-existence of more people (e.g. infirm or sick people in a world where there’s not enough people to help them out), but this does not affect the Asymmetry in any way.

Duniho then commits the exact same error, but in a much more egregious form, when restating the argument in terms of pain and pleasure having no value for the “never-existent”:

The absence of pain and the absence of pleasure each have zero value for the never-existent, making them perfectly symmetrical with each other. Among the never-existent, there is no one at all who benefits from an absence of pain or who is harmed by an absence of pleasure. As I have argued in other posts, life is the source of value.

The Asymmetry is not about what the “never-existent” may or may not value. It is about evaluating two states, one where a given person exists and one where the person does not exist, and passing moral judgment on both of these states. We are the ones doing the evaluating, not some hypothetical person living in those states, and not a “never-existent person.”

I don’t know why Duniho seems to think that we should debunk moral judgments on the grounds that a person in that situation might disagree. I’m sure many people who we might call immoral would disagree with that judgment. And some people who are in what we would call a “bad situation” might disagree with that judgment. So what? Unless these people can bring us evidence that sheds new light on the problem and makes us revise our judgment, their feelings alone are not particularly relevant. Of course, “never-existent people” are not likely to do so since they, you know, don’t actually exist, so the point is made even more absurd.

As for the statement “life is the source of value,” this can be either trivial and true or substantive and false. It can be trivial and false if it means “in order to value, one must be alive.” It can be substantive and false if it makes more of a statement about life being a fundamental value or some Objectivist-like nonsense similar to this. As it turns out, he means the latter:

When I recognize that valuing my life makes it truly worthwhile, I must recognize, to be consistent, that the same conditions making my life worthwhile make the lives of others truly worthwhile. This opens us up to the possibility of genuine morality, which begins with the recognition that each of our lives is of real, intrinsic value.

I think this is relevant insofar as it shows that Duniho has a vested interest in rejecting antinatalism, beyond the truth or falsity of the arguments.

A clearer refutation of choice-talk.

I feel like I haven’t presented as clear of a refutation of choice-talk as I should have in the past (I did write this entry, but it was more specific to refuting the pro-choice position). This seems rather important to me, since choice-talk is so pervasive and widely accepted, and I spend so much time debunking its theoretical consequences. Much nonsense in politics and philosophy is derived from some form of choice-talk and its bastard grandparents, agency-talk, free will-talk and blame-talk.

What is a “choice”? The standard definition in choice-talk is that a choice happens when an individual picks one out of many options at a given time. This is usually followed with the assertion that, if the situation was repeated exactly, the individual could pick a different option.

The latter assertion is very easy to refute: if the situation was repeated exactly, then there could be no difference in the outcome, as everything moves in accordance with natural law. In short, there’s no free will, which would be a sort of other-dimensional spark (called a “soul”) or a random vibration (depending on who you ask) that makes the brain change itself. If that spark or vibration did change the brain, then we wouldn’t be in the same exact situation anyway. If the spark or vibration could change the brain in a different way, then we’re not in the same exact situation either, because the effect of the spark or vibration is different.

Anyway, the whole argument is moot, for a simple reason. If there is an other-dimensional spark or a random vibration changing the brain, it could not be said to be a result of my decision, and therefore it wouldn’t be me “choosing,” it would be the spark or the vibration. So that’s just not a “choice” in the way we routinely use the word. When people say they “choose” something, they don’t mean a spark or vibration made them pick an option, they mean they picked the option. So the whole thing about souls or randomity is just a dirty semantics trick.

So what about the picking amongst options business? It may seem very clear, but it’s not clear at all. For one thing, how can we figure out what is or is not an option? Take the standard example, which is some individual who wants to eat a fruit and has to decide between an apple and an orange. Is this “choice” really between only two options, “eating an apple” and “eating an orange”? What about doing nothing? What about eating the apple in a certain way, or another way? What about standing on your head?

I am not merely suggesting that we should be careful in how we talk about options, but that the whole notion is entirely arbitrary. If our standard is that an option is a possibility of action, then there is only one option, the action that actually will be undertaken!

People have a lot of confusion over the term “possible.” They think anything they can imagine is “possible.” But I can imagine quite a lot of impossible things (for instance, I can imagine that Napoleon was a gardener or a bricklayer, but it’s not actually possible). Possibility is an indication of the limits on our knowledge, but there must be some evidence that the thing is actually possible and not impossible. If the individual ends up eating the apple, then “eating the orange” was never a possible option. The fact that the individual may have considered it, or could have considered it, does not prove that it is possible.

All human action is the result of the deterministic interaction between an individual’s mind, body and environment. This is a very general statement, but it debunks the idea that there’s any such thing as a “choice.” There are no more “human choices” than there are “tree choices” or “rock choices.”

This has profound political and philosophical implications. For instance, I have talked about how the pro-choice position is fatally flawed because of this. I have also debunked all sorts of voluntaryist and liberal feminist positions, which are heavily based on choice-talk and agency-talk.

Choice-talk adds absolutely nothing to any discussion. I want to demonstrate that with some real-life examples.

Take our previous example of “I chose to eat an apple instead of an orange.” I can remove the choice-talk and say: “I ate an apple, and there was also an orange available.” The latter is saying exactly the same thing as the former, but without the concept of “choice.” The words “chose” and “instead” add no conceptual content (at least, no conceptual content that is actually true) to the sentence.

Now take this typical liberal feminist opinion: “It is argued that most sex workers choose to work in the sex industry and the rights and ability of these individuals to exercise this agency should be supported.”

The terms “sex workers” and “sex industry” are invalid and are just loaded terms used to prop up the author’s beliefs. Apart from that, nothing in this sentence is meaningful. No one “chooses” a job (let alone in the “sex industry”); we take jobs because we must do so in order to function in a capitalist system, and the kind of job we take depends on the economic situation, our education, our talents, who we know, and our opportunities, amongst other things. It’s especially ironic to use the term “agency” in relation to any form of work because workplaces in a capitalist system (unless you’re self-employed) are hierarchical in nature and involve very little freedom.

Note that I am not talking specifically about “sex work.” My point here really has nothing to do with your position on that issue. But the choice-talk and agency-talk is used here to validate the liberal feminist position, and therefore it becomes part of the “sex work” issue. It appears to them as if they are making a powerful argument for their position, but they are really saying absolutely nothing.

We can change the previous sentence to exclude choice-talk and agency-talk while actually saying something meaningful: “The rights and ability of people who work in the ‘sex industry’ should be supported.” This is a meaningful sentence, but it leads us in a rather different direction than that desired by the liberal feminists.

Here is a question related to atheism: “On what basis do people choose to be atheists?”

Of course, that’s not how reality works. Anyone who knows what it’s like to deconvert from any religion knows that there’s very little “choice” involved, even if you believe in the concept to start with. People are generally compelled to become atheists because some doubt or research made them lose their faith.

A better way to phrase the question would be: “Why do people become atheists?”

This asks the same thing, while omitting the concept of “choice,” which is a bad way of approaching the subject.

Here is one prized by conservatives: “Poor people choose to be poor.”

Again, choice-talk is used to appear to validate a position, in this case, political conservatism and hatred of the poor. It’s much easier to hate someone if you believe that their hardships are the result of their own “choice” and not from social conditions. Same for “sex workers”: it’s easier to reject helping prostituted women if you call them “sex workers” and call their “job” a “choice” instead of a consequence.

There is no content independent of the choice-talk in this sentence (apart from the existence of poor people), so there’s no way to rephrase it. Poor people are poor for a wide variety of reasons, but fundamental to all these reasons is the capitalist system which demands that our worth (set in monetary value) be evaluated by the kind of job we have. In a society with a guaranteed minimum wage (as was tested in Canada and proposed in Switzerland), poverty can be eliminated, at least for all citizens. This is an issue of political will, not of “choice.”

I haven’t talked about blame, so here is a sentence about blame: “The president blames society and guns for crime, and I blame criminals.”

The concept of “blame” can only exist where “choice” exists: we cannot blame inanimate objects for anything. We can say “guns cause crime,” but we cannot say “guns are to blame for crime,” at least not literally. But what does it mean to blame society or criminals for crime? We have to make a clear distinction between “criminal action” and “unethical action.” Any given criminal action is only criminal because 1. it has been defined by some legal system as criminal and 2. the legal definition has been enforced.

If anything, we should say “I blame politicians and judges for crime.” But even that is not accurate; no one can be “blamed” for anything because it implies that the individual is the cause of the blameworthy action. There is no point in “blaming” someone who is only incidental to the action. But this is true of all of us.

But this idea of blaming society brings up another point: my position that there is no such thing as “choice” or “blame” because actions are by and large the result of social conditions may be confused with the position that we should “blame society.” If by “society” one means a collection of loose individuals, as right-wingers define it, then no, one cannot “blame” any number of people. If by “society” one means a complex structure made of institutions and their attendant beliefs, then it would be silly to “blame” such a thing because it is inanimate.

It seems to me that, despite the straw men coming from right-wing fanatics, no one really “blames society.” But it’s clear that, if blame is impossible, then “blaming society” must therefore also be impossible. We cannot “blame society” any more than we can blame anyone or anything else.

Justice has nothing to do with “blame.” Punishment does, but not justice. The issue is not one of blame but of cause and effect. Institutions impose incentive systems on individuals. Individuals react to those incentive systems based on their personal circumstances, education, and biases, amongst other factors. The issue of subjectivity really has nothing to do with it.

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?


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