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.