Antinatalism

Antinatalism
schopenhauer1
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#21 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 25, 2012 - 9:59 AM:

BitterCrank wrote:
Could you kindly provide a brief (nutshell) history of where antinatalism came from, how it arose? Is antinatalism a reaction to ardent pronatalism, such as that pressed on its members by the Roman Catholic church?

also...

There certainly are people who are "pronatalists" who deny the obligation, "Go forth, and be fruitful, multiply..." presented in Genesis. There are certainly people who are "pronatalists" who do not feel that every child conceived must come to fruition (or more absurdly that every egg and sperm must have a chance to find each other).

How do you view what seems to be an overlap between definite antinatalists and people who just don't want to have children, or more children?

Good questions..

There have always been antinatalist tendencies and beliefs since humans realized that being born can create a lot of suffering. There are antinatalist sympathies found in almost all religions and philosophies from Eastern religions to the Ancient Greek philosophers to passages from The Bible. This is purely speculation, but being that they are just as human and have the range of emotions as those in "civilization", individuals in tribal societies with pariticularly crappy lives might have even pondered this idea at some point in their lives.

Philosophical Pessimists in the tradition of Western philosophy, those philosophers who follow Schopenhauer's main idea that life is ceaseless desire, and that suffering exists for all who are born, have existed at least since the early 19th century when Schopenhauer wrote his four volume magnum opus The World as Will and Representation. A quote from Schopenhuaer sums up his views on procreation well: "If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?". Eduard von Hartmann, a German Idealist philosopher influenced directly from Schopenhauer's (and some of Hegel's) writings believed that when humans become enlightened enough, they will collectively decide to die out. Later, pessimistic existentialists like Emil Cioran would write things like "To commit every crime except being a father."

Antinatalism (as a concrete belief that labels itself antinatalism) is not really a movement, just a position and really a position that took shape in its present form only in the last decade or so. I personally held this belief that that one should not procreate due to suffering inflicted on child before 2008, when David Benatar's book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence came out. But his book could be considered seminal in getting this label and idea more "mainstream", or at least noticed, in public and academic circles, as it was a published academic book rather than just random writers on the internet, or even just random individuals in the real world that simply held these views and advocated it. So I would point to that book as being the watershed for making this idea come to the forefront.

Antinatalism in the present form, has various manifestations, but the one that is popularized by Benatar (and the one many antinatalists agree most with) is the idea that it is wrong to create new life as you will be creating a net harm that could have been prevented. Further, antinatalists usually agree that any net benefits of being born are irrelvant in the decision to have a child as bringing net benefits into the world is not incumbent on a potential parent whereas preventing net harm into the world is.

Pronatalism may exist, though as a proper moral belief, I am not sure how well established it is. Pronatalists may be those who think that if one is able to have a child, one MUST have a child at some point in their life, as bringing a person into the world is extremely important for whatever reason. I would not really know who holds this view, as it really is not one most people would consider. Perhaps, to some extent, as you say, the Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations that put a premium on the injunction "be fruitful and multiply". Perhaps all Abrahamic religions in general have this as part of their belief system in some way (except Catharism and forms of Gnosticism, but this may be considered more Greek influenced than Abrahamic).

However, pronatalism as a direct reverse of antinatalism seems to not really exist. No one usually thinks that trillions of non-existent humans are losing out on the greatness of life because they were not procreated into existence.

Most people simply do not think about the issue of whether procreation is moral in general. It is seen as a lifestyle decision by the parent and not much more. If the parent is willing and able, most people think this is something that someone should do if that is what they want. There is no name for this position. I guess the Common View of Procreation you might say.

People who do not have children can be a multitude of things, including antinatalist. Consider this:

One may find themselves without children due to circumstance, they never thought about having children, never had a partner that wanted one, and the issue never came up. They are childless, but that is by happenstance.

One may choose not to have children too. These people might have considered it, the chance might have even come up in their life, but they decided that they do not want to bring children into the world. These people might be considered childess by choice. They simply did not want to have the lifestyle that a parent brings. They may have done it for antinatalist reasons (they didn't want to bring more suffering), they may have done it for another external cause (overpopulation, environment, etc.), but most likely they did it simply becaues they did not want to take on that lifestyle choice. Most childfree people simply do not want to become a parent as it does not fit into their personal preference for how they want to live their life.

Consider this, one may be an antinatalist and actually HAVE a child. This actually occurs. One may have a child earlier in life and then realize later that procreation brings more suffering into the world, and though they love their children, lament that they decided to procreate. This is an interesting phenomena that may exist as well. In this case, a childfree by choice, who has the Common View of Procreation (who did not have anything against the idea of procreation in general), consequentially may have made a better decision in the antinatalist's eyes, than the antinatalist himself.



Edited by schopenhauer1 on Dec 25, 2012 - 10:05 AM
BitterCrank
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#22 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 25, 2012 - 10:44 AM:

Thanks for the explanation, Schopenhauer1.

I have known only a handful of people, going back to the late 1960s, who personally did not want to bring a child into this world as a matter of principle and, in fact, didn't. Having never heard of "antinatalism" as a philosophical position, it never occurred to me to examine their thinking as a philosophical position, and since this small group has since shufflel'd off this mortall coile I won't be examining them now, either. I took their statements as an expression of pessimism about the future -- nuclear war, in particular.

Marie, for instance, was strongly opposed to reproduction--as a rule. I can't be absolutely sure she didn't read Schopenhauer, but I would be very, very, very surprised if she had. She was a tender hearted person who was badly bruised by others' suffering, and by the time she was an adult, had grown a protective shell of sorts. While she enjoyed her own pleasures, she wasn't at all selfish. Her joie de vivre was just oddly paired with this certainty about nonreproduction.

There are people who decide to not have children because they are concerned about over population. A lot of people try not to have children at a particular time because their personal situations are a bit too precarious, but this is usually a delay rather than a rejection of reproduction. There are other reasons too -- genetic counseling dissuades most people who have serious inheritable diseases. None of these, though, are antinatalist, per se.


schopenhauer1
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#23 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 25, 2012 - 1:35 PM:

BitterCrank, I am glad I can help explain things a bit more about the development of antinatalism as an idea. I think you bring up an interesting point with your handful of pessimistic friends. Antinatalism as a self-conscious position, with a much more well-defined understanding of what it is for or against, a much more well-defined understanding of its history, etc. is really a very recent thing. As I stated earlier, there is a tradition of existential, life-denying literature that goes back to some of the earlierst civilizations, and there was a tradition of philosphical pessimism, very much based on the ideas of Schopenhauer and German Idealists in the 19th century, and nihilist existentialists of the 20th century, but most of this was not a concrete advocacy or position to not have children, just eluding to the idea as one example of other pessimistic attitudes.

This kind of logically constructed, focused argument against procreation that modern antinatalism advocates, seems to have coalesced within the last decade and certainly came to the forefront with David Benatar's BNTHB book, published by Oxford Press. This book has probably given some measure of legitimacy to the topic. It has, in fact, become part of a wider consciousness, even being discussed in the New York Times (see here: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.c...9A396A59A05954FC1AFDBE3FC9 and here: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.c...ast-generation-a-response/).

I think the various reasons you provide for why people do not have children are relevant to understand. There are a bunch of variations on why people may or may not have children that have nothing to do with antinatalism. Antinatalism as a philosophical position on procreation is very specific. This position has much more to do with the idea that one should refrain from having a child to prevent all net harm to that potential child.

I would go further and claim that antinatalism also has wider variations on this hedonistic (utilitarianesque) theme. I might be more of a Schopenhaurian Antinatalist (this is my own label), which I will not explain here as it would further confuse the situation. I would say those who do not have children due to overpopulation and environmental reasons or the future is crap, may fit under antinatalism. However this weaker version may be considered Universal context-dependent antinatalism. In other words they may say: "Our world is so bad that no one living in it should reproduce; but if things got much better, it might be okay." (http://theantinatalismmanifesto.wikispaces.com/), whereas pure antinatalism may argue "No beings should ever be brought into existence if they will suffer at all - which they will" (http://theantinatalismmanifesto.wikispaces.com/). Many of the universal context-dependt antinatalists might not even know that they are an "antinatalist". In other words, they are not self-conscious about the position, but they have the same attitudes of those who self-consciously consider themselves antinatalists nonetheless.

Edited by schopenhauer1 on Dec 25, 2012 - 1:56 PM
Akeron
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#24 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 25, 2012 - 6:11 PM:

Intelligence wrote:
1) "Judging" peoples existence? WTF? I do not judge, for judging is opinion. I argue. I Argued against antinatalist philosophy. I do not understand why you keep speaking of this "elitism." Perhaps your polarized political affiliation dictates you to do so; but I am be wrong, please correct me.


(You seemed somewhere between a rugged individualist workaholic Republican and a Stalinist, but that's beside the point.)

You're judging because you're claiming that suffering is part of life as if people have to suffer to be treated with dignity.

That's not fair. People don't consent to suffer, and the appropriate evaluation of suffering is subjective. It depends on the cost-benefit analysis that someone is internally willing to apply to one's goals. Who are you to project cost-benefit analysis into someone else's goals?

Heck, I wouldn't even really call what you described even as "cost-benefit" analysis. It seems to be just "cost" analysis because you're not explaining what suffering is exchanged for.

2) "Rather pathetic really" Wow, what an excellent counterargument! Very enlightening.

3) "Intimidate others." What? I am not intimidating anybody. It is very clear you have not even read my argument. I am arguing against the antinatalist philosophy. You know what an argument is right?


You're arguing that some people don't seem to appreciate the suffering which is intrinsic to life. That's elitist because some people experience less suffering than others from the same events.

4) They don't learn from suffering. Instead in the current world suffering can provide a source of meaning and function as stimuli to act. The antinatalist thinks that the ideal world would be absent of any suffering - and that is precisely what I am arguing against. Then again, you have shown yourself to be challenged in understanding what an argument is.


The "meaning" you're talking about is torture. When people endure suffering, they act because they're needing, not because they're willing.

It sounds like you believe in intelligent design as if meaning arrives from nature, not artifice.

As for arguing against the "ideal world", I agree. You're arguing against ideals in general because you're arguing for the supremacy of reality.

I'm not an anti-natalist because I see how coercion from birth can be corrected (and how those presently endowed with libidos aren't obligated to endure suffering either), but at least anti-natalists understand the is-ought problem. They understand that just because suffering exists doesn't mean people must put up with it.

5) "Not having the creativity required to come up with something worth living for. Instead, they simply insist on forcing others to come up with ideas for them in order to preserve power." When your "professor" at U.C Berkley speaks, it is wise to not listen. It is becoming apparent that arguing with you will lead to nowhere. Your politically under-toned polarized viewpoints come of as regurgitated opinion rather than logical argument.

6) If you re-read my argument and provide a counter argument using logic and reasoning...well, then we can have a logical discussion.


Like I said before, your position seems between a workaholic Republican and a Stalinist in expecting people to suffer just to fit in. Heck, even a libertarian-hedonist or anarchist could agree with you in terms of not having a problem with condemning the next generation to suffer from the present generation's pursuit of happiness.

I don't think this is as politically straight-forward as you think. Heck, I don't even know if you're pro-life or pro-choice. There are many possible interpretations of why you believe what you believe. Pro-life people want the right to bring more people into the world. Pro-choice people don't see a problem with ZEFs possibly enduring pain since it isn't proven that they're conscious.

7) Your Wikipedia link is humorous and provided me with much laughter.


For someone arguing against anti-natalism such that you realize people procreate, it shouldn't be. Why are you so anxious about intimacy?

Edited by Akeron on Dec 25, 2012 - 6:16 PM
Intelligence
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#25 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 26, 2012 - 8:40 PM:

Akeron wrote:


(You seemed somewhere between a rugged individualist workaholic Republican and a Stalinist, but that's beside the point.)

You're judging because you're claiming that suffering is part of life as if people have to suffer to be treated with dignity.

That's not fair. People don't consent to suffer, and the appropriate evaluation of suffering is subjective. It depends on the cost-benefit analysis that someone is internally willing to apply to one's goals. Who are you to project cost-benefit analysis into someone else's goals?

Heck, I wouldn't even really call what you described even as "cost-benefit" analysis. It seems to be just "cost" analysis because you're not explaining what suffering is exchanged for.



You're arguing that some people don't seem to appreciate the suffering which is intrinsic to life. That's elitist because some people experience less suffering than others from the same events.



The "meaning" you're talking about is torture. When people endure suffering, they act because they're needing, not because they're willing.

It sounds like you believe in intelligent design as if meaning arrives from nature, not artifice.

As for arguing against the "ideal world", I agree. You're arguing against ideals in general because you're arguing for the supremacy of reality.

I'm not an anti-natalist because I see how coercion from birth can be corrected (and how those presently endowed with libidos aren't obligated to endure suffering either), but at least anti-natalists understand the is-ought problem. They understand that just because suffering exists doesn't mean people must put up with it.



Like I said before, your position seems between a workaholic Republican and a Stalinist in expecting people to suffer just to fit in. Heck, even a libertarian-hedonist or anarchist could agree with you in terms of not having a problem with condemning the next generation to suffer from the present generation's pursuit of happiness.

I don't think this is as politically straight-forward as you think. Heck, I don't even know if you're pro-life or pro-choice. There are many possible interpretations of why you believe what you believe. Pro-life people want the right to bring more people into the world. Pro-choice people don't see a problem with ZEFs possibly enduring pain since it isn't proven that they're conscious.



For someone arguing against anti-natalism such that you realize people procreate, it shouldn't be. Why are you so anxious about intimacy?


1) What's with your "republic workaholic" and "Stalinist" thing? I am not attacking on this one, just interested. I mean, I have never seen "republican workaholic." I like to stay updated on things like that.

2) Now to address the main substance of your claim: I got a bit angry with you before because your 'argument' was not clearly articulated, but now I see what you are saying. What you must understand is that I am not glorifying torture or suffering, nor am I "judging." If I was making judgement I would say something like "Look at all these sorry fuckers, they should be happy they are experiencing suffering" - but I said no such thing. You are inferring to much.

ALL I AM SAYING - NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS Is that if the ideal antinatalist world absent of suffering is to take place, humans will lack stimuli to act. If there is nothing but total bliss (neutrality is not possible) there is no meaning to act upon things. Suffering presents a challenge, a threat and an enemy (in itself). By presenting such averse factors people can structure their life to combat suffering and to seek felicity. If someone says "I wish suffering did not exist" they are de facto saying "I wish I had no stimulated challenge and existed in a never ending drugged state of total bliss." NOW, I am not saying the latter is "wrong" or "judging" those who wish for it. I am simply revealing the consequences of such an antinatalistic idea reality.

@Shopenhauer1, I am busy as hell right now, give me some time to digest your claims and prepare a counterargument.

@Cleantes, WHERE ARE YOU MAN! This whole thread...I was subconsciously directing at yougrin
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Posted Dec 26, 2012 - 11:27 PM:

Intelligence wrote:
ALL I AM SAYING - NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS Is that if the ideal antinatalist world absent of suffering is to take place, humans will lack stimuli to act
But it is not a world dreamed up by antinatalists, it is a world that all moral people strive towards - minimising the suffering caused to others.

If your argument is that suffering is good/necessary/not to be avoided, then you are arguing against morality, not against antinatalism.

Why won't you address this challenge?
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Posted Dec 26, 2012 - 11:46 PM:

I don't really see how this is a 'crippling blow' to antinatalism. If nothing else, it just further strengthens the argument. For if suffering is indeed an intrinsic, necessary part of life, in the end, what does that say about life?

The antinatalist is not trying to envision a life without suffering. They are simply trying not to live in the first place.

"Not to be born is, past all prizing, best; but, when a man has seen the light, this is next best by far, that with all speed he should go thither, whence he hath come." - Sophocles

On Dec 27, 2012 - 5:17 AM, Hurlock responded: Yes, it seems the OP is completely misunderstanding what Schopenhauer, Cioran, and etc. are saying.
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Posted Dec 26, 2012 - 11:53 PM:

So, OP wants to argue semantics on the meaning of "suffering" when "suffering" by definition is negative, meanwhile committing the same fallacy Benatar committed? I'm calling this one early in favour of Schopenhauer1. Not that I agree with him in the end but at least he had a coherent argument at one point.

The fallacy, by the way, is making statements about the qualities or states of nothing, which are pseudostatements. See Carnap's Elimination of Metaphysics, paragraph 5.

Edited by Benkei on Dec 27, 2012 - 12:06 AM
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#29 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Dec 27, 2012 - 5:31 AM:

Intelligence wrote:
2) Now to address the main substance of your claim: I got a bit angry with you before because your 'argument' was not clearly articulated, but now I see what you are saying. What you must understand is that I am not glorifying torture or suffering, nor am I "judging." If I was making judgement I would say something like "Look at all these sorry fuckers, they should be happy they are experiencing suffering" - but I said no such thing. You are inferring to much.

ALL I AM SAYING - NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS Is that if the ideal antinatalist world absent of suffering is to take place, humans will lack stimuli to act. If there is nothing but total bliss (neutrality is not possible) there is no meaning to act upon things. Suffering presents a challenge, a threat and an enemy (in itself). By presenting such averse factors people can structure their life to combat suffering and to seek felicity. If someone says "I wish suffering did not exist" they are de facto saying "I wish I had no stimulated challenge and existed in a never ending drugged state of total bliss." NOW, I am not saying the latter is "wrong" or "judging" those who wish for it. I am simply revealing the consequences of such an antinatalistic idea reality.


OK.

I don't buy your stimulus claim here because you seem to believe that life is all about problem solving.

That's just not true. The pursuit of happiness entails creative thinking as well. Like I said before, focusing on suffering suggests a lack of imagination. For example, people draw, paint, play music, cook, dance, act, and play sports not to solve problems, but to expressly celebrate who they are on the inside. We also participate in the arts with others to communicate relationships...

...and even at that, you're presuming that action is good. What about people who identify with relaxation? Just because you believe people ought to act doesn't mean everyone believes that. You're projecting your subjective expectations upon others who didn't consent to assemble with your judgment. In other words, you're objectifying them.

I mean you might argue that children are unappreciative and need to learn work ethic in order to establish a sustainable lifestyle, but that would ignore how children are hostages, so they're entitled to having hunger, housing, clothing, and company satisfied since they didn't ask for those demands.

If society wants people to be productive, then it has to inspire them with culture. We aren't animals that live in a state of nature. We're civilized people who recognize the necessity of style to celebrate who we are.
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#30 - Quote - Permalink
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Posted Dec 27, 2012 - 5:42 AM:

...don't really see how this is a 'crippling blow' to antinatalism. If nothing else, it just further strengthens the argument. For if suffering is indeed an intrinsic, necessary part of life, in the end, what does that say about life?


Fair point. The only blow to antinatalism I know that will cripple it beyond all hope of rehabilitation is the phrase - 'Darling, I'm pregnant.'
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