• Thorongil
    3.2k
    thus proving that the reproductive drive is very persistent, resilient, and insistentBitter Crank

    It's still a voluntary choice, though.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    How old are you? How old is your leg, your eye, your liver? Now, how old are legs, eyes, spinal chords? One answer for the first set, very different answers for the second. Legs for example are at least 250 million years old. What then are the oldest parts of life, the sine qua non, that without which there is no life?

    (Pause to think about it?)

    Two things characterize life, without which life arguably isn't. First is converting fuel to energy, crudely, eating. The second is reproducing. The wiring of all living things includes reproduction, having children. Individuals can and have chosen not to reproduce. But the point here is that there is no ought to having children - beyond unique situational conditions. It cannot be selfish to want to have children, any more than it is selfish to want to breathe - it's who and what we are, and something we share with every other living thing. It can only be selfish if being, and being alive, are selfish.

    This doesn't rule out the possibility of there being selfish reasons for having children, but those reasons as well are situational.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If I remember correctly, some Buddhists (?) see procreation as a necessary evil that prevents souls from regressing into "lesser" states of being. Paradoxically, if humans do not procreate, they doom everyone to an endless cycle of rebirth in lesser forms of life (which do procreate).

    Any reason to have children, in my opinion, must either be religious or intra-wordly, the latter being things like economic stability (such as government incentives to procreate). Intra-wordly reasons seem to me to almost always be selfish and immoral, since they necessarily use a person as a means and not as an end. The only non-selfish, non-religious reason for having children might be from the expectation that your children will be great altruists - unfortunately it's impossible to tell if one's children will have the proper character, let alone survive long enough to provide a positive utility. Yuck, utilitarianism :vomit: In that case, it may not be selfish, but it certainly isn't wise or prudent. And it certainly contradicts everything that goes into being a good parent - try explaining to your child that you had them with the sole intention of grooming them to be providers of utility. That's a shit parent.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    I once heard a story of a young woman that was visited by an angel that told her she would bear a child that would save humanity from its suffering. I don't know if the story is true - it was based a long time ago in a land far away - but if the womit were true that sounds like a pretty good reason not to terminate the pregnancy.
  • javra
    609
    It's still a voluntary choice, though.Thorongil

    Especially when it comes to humans, there’s more procreated than just flesh. Humans being a sexually reproducing species, we amalgamate two separate bodies of flesh to create a new one that is a hybrid of both parents. As a generality, the child also inherits an amalgamation of the two parent’s worldviews, including heuristics for the living of life and a prioritization of goals to be pursued. It’s a lot more complex, I know, but this can be stated to be the general norm worldwide.

    Then there’s base and elevated selfishness. Base selfishness has children to do all the hard work around the farm/abode and to ensure the parents are well off in their old age—possibly with more territory. Elevated selfishness, in one of its many abstract forms, has children to propagate virtue and wisdom—hey, it’s very elevated here—thereby propagating a hybrid of the parent’s identity. Were only base selfishness to reproduce itself, humanity and the planet would go down the drain quicker than otherwise. Conversely, were only elevated selfishness to propagate itself such that no base selfishness remained, well, that blasphemous dream of utopia by comparison to where we are now would become objectified/manifest.

    Again generally, base selfishness is not the kind to give a hoot about the wellbeing of the offspring, never mind of the community … ultimately, the global community as an influence upon what occurs locally. Hence, it’s generally those who are not of a base selfishness that contemplate whether or not there’s any virtue to bringing new life into the world. But if all these non-basely selfish people were to stop reproducing, human life would then become a hell on earth wherein some degree of elevated selfishness yet occasionally rears its ugly head into the world—random things sometimes occur—only to be humiliated, tortured in one way or another, etc., etc., etc.

    Arguable, I’m aware, yet the conclusion of all this is as follows: it is only ethical for elevated selfishness to reproduce itself in the world—given that the conditions for raising children of like elevated selfishness can be safely enough established by the parents.

    Because some would rather term elevated selfishness “non-selfish”, this then presents one non-selfish reason/motive to have children: yes, laughable as it may seem, for the benefit of mankind (a category which does not exclude the very parents of elevated selfishness/selflessness which given birth … nor the very offspring themselves).

    There are also the unexpected conceptions of a future human life. The same overall argument should still apply.

    Hey, it’s a feasible reason, I’m thinking, one that most would acknowledge to be close enough to non-selfish to fit the bill. Also, I don’t have children as of yet, so I can feely allow myself to indulge in this idealistic, theoretical mindset. Who knows, there might even be some truth to it.
  • Andrew4Handel
    715
    The only reason I can think of to explain people having children is a fear of death.

    It may seem like a form of immortality to people having children.

    A desire to have sex is no reason to produce a child.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    Because some would rather term elevated selfishness “non-selfish”, this then presents one non-selfish reason/motive to have children: yes, laughable as it may seem, for the benefit of mankind (a category which does not exclude the very parents of elevated selfishness/selflessness which given birth … nor the very offspring themselves).javra

    This presents its own contradiction. Why do more people have to be born to benefit mankind? What does that end goal really mean? If it is something like providing technology or other means to live "better off", then the best off would not needing to have to need technology in the first place, or to be better off in the first place- aka not being born in the first place. Thus, the best choice of all is never having been. By having more people you are creating a state of affairs whereby more people will need to be helped, when they didn't need to be helped in the first place.
  • javra
    609
    Thus, the best choice of all is never having been.schopenhauer1

    I’ll be forthright. My mindset is that we’re all selfish, we all want something; and we all get irritated or worse when we clash with those whose wants are mutually exclusive with our own.

    As to it being better to never have been, this too is a self’s want. We can first address an individual’s want to have never been (it happens), then the generalized want that humanity would have never have been. But there is no valid reason to stop there if this is our resolution to suffering. Hence, we progress to it would have been better if life in general would have never been anywhere. And lastly, we concluded with it would have been better if being itself would have never been. For either via materialism of other ontologies, turns out that when being is there is either a good likelihood for life to eventually develop and hold presence or, otherwise, its just accepted that life is a brute fact.

    Since no one has figured out any sufficient reason for being’s presence irrespective of ontology, though, the wish that being would have never been is as nonsensical and impractical as presuming oneself to have the capacity to turn all of being everywhere into nonbeing.

    Being is; life is; humanity is. The only proper question to be asked is “what now?” Encouraging a global suicide of all life, or worse, doesn’t sit well with many, including me as concerns, at least, my own transient being and that of my loved ones. I haven’t yet heard you advocate for this aim, so let’s agree to put this hypothetical out of existence.

    I’ve never claimed or meant to insinuate that if someone doesn't want to have children they should have children nevertheless. This scenario generally doesn’t make for the best of childhoods--sometimes far worse. So this only tends to increase suffering. But if you want all people to stop reproducing, my guess is that those who unthinkingly reproduce with the least amount of concern or compassion for new lives will continue to do so via unprotected sex in bathroom stalls and the like without paying attention to your arguments or anybody else’s. Thereby again increasing total suffering in the world.

    Again, humanity is, just as we all are. So, if there is agreement on the aforementioned, which way forward to best resolve this problem of global suffering?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    If I remember correctly, some Buddhists (?) see procreation as a necessary evil that prevents souls from regressing into "lesser" states of being. Paradoxically, if humans do not procreate, they doom everyone to an endless cycle of rebirth in lesser forms of life (which do procreate).darthbarracuda

    Yeah, this is what I had in mind when I mentioned Indian religious traditions in my other post. That said, though they appear to be in the minority, there are some bhikkhus who advocate something very near to antinatalism. See here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/fuang/single.html

    It also seems to me that Buddhism has as a global goal the elimination of all procreation, even though locally and proximately, it advocates procreation for the reason you gave. Once all sentient beings are enlightened, birth ends. This is the bodhisattva's goal. In fact, the same holds true of Christianity, with the world having a definite end and Jesus saying that there is no marriage in heaven (and therefore no procreation) in Matthew 22:30.

    Any reason to have children, in my opinion, must either be religious or intra-wordly, the latter being things like economic stability (such as government incentives to procreate). Intra-wordly reasons seem to me to almost always be selfish and immoral, since they necessarily use a person as a means and not as an end.darthbarracuda

    Yes, this is exactly how it seems to me.

    Yuck, utilitarianismdarthbarracuda

    This isn't facetious? I thought you were a utilitarian of some kind.

    In that case, it may not be selfish, but it certainly isn't wise or prudent. And it certainly contradicts everything that goes into being a good parent - try explaining to your child that you had them with the sole intention of grooming them to be providers of utility. That's a shit parent.darthbarracuda

    Agreed.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    the child also inherits an amalgamation of the two parent’s worldviewsjavra

    This brings to mind a cheeky objection to antinatalism, which is that antinatalists should have as many children as possible to spread the message and accelerate the goal of humanity's extinction. A paradox, but it fits the sort of utilitarian calculi that antinatalists tend to employ.

    ethical for elevated selfishnessjavra

    Selfishness isn't ethical, though. This is a category mistake.

    Because some would rather term elevated selfishness “non-selfish”,javra

    That would be equivocation.

    for the benefit of mankind (a category which does not exclude the very parents of elevated selfishness/selflessness which given birth … nor the very offspring themselves).javra

    Now here's the makings of a nonselfish reason. What do you mean by mankind? It sounds Platonic. What is it about mankind that it needs maintaining?
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Consequently, I want to understand what positive reasons there are to have children, specifically those that are not based in egotism.Thorongil

    Don't kids give you a reason not to be selfish? Aren't they an antidote to egotism?

    So I don't think there needs to be moral grounds for procreation as such, any more than that it could be objectively or absolutely judged as immoral. If it works, it works. So really we are talking about the practicalities or optimalities, the degree of free choice involve.

    But if your concern is primarily the "sin" of egotism, then having kids must be a major way of ensuring your life must be less self-centred.

    Of course, the routine rejoinder is that kids are an expression of egotism in being an unwarranted extension of yourself.

    But then I would counter-argue that selfhood is essentially social anyway. Humans evolved to be social creatures. It is always going to be the case that we find ourselves in others.

    Or at least, it is a business of co-construction. And antinatalism's flaw is this mistaken understanding about the socially-constructed nature of selfhood.

    But is civilization an end in itself? I think not.Thorongil

    Why not? If you are making moral arguments here, why isn't a civilised self a better self?

    Now we can certainly say the current state of modern society has a bunch of problems. However that in turn means it is not yet properly civilised and so not at any kind of end.

    So antinatalism would depend on being able to show that things can only get worse as the human story continues to evolve. But is that judgement factual?

    Secular natalists and parents are therefore on the thinnest ice of all when it comes to reasons to procreate.Thorongil

    But then secular thinkers would have the least need of reasons here. They would just do what comes naturally - which includes making fairly rational choices about the situational pros and cons of having kids.

    So to the degree that things like contraception, economics and social tolerance of diversity make procreation now an individual choice, people would exercise that choice.

    Are there arguments - from a secular viewpoint - that would say the development of such a choice is wrong? It may indeed be a very difficult choice, given the uncertainties of modern life. But then that just emphasises the need for the kind of civilised rationality that would underpin such a choice.

    So I would reply that a secular thinker - someone relying on rationality and evidence to make decisions about what is natural, even if just for themselves in some social context - is best placed to actually reason for or against having kids.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    By having more people you are creating a state of affairs whereby more people will need to be helped, when they didn't need to be helped in the first place.schopenhauer1

    Well said. I agree.

    Thus, the best choice of all is never having been.schopenhauer1

    Here, though, is where I might offer some disagreement. There is a sense in which this choice can be made, namely, by committing suicide. If, as tends to be the case, the antinatalist regards the state of being before birth as equivalent to the state of being after death, then one can choose never to have been born by ending one's life.

    This is a criticism I now level against Schopenhauer, who asserts the same equivalency. For Schopenhauer, consciousness and thereby one's personal, empirical identity ends with the death of the brain, so there can be no afterlife or reincarnation. The will's manifestations after one's birth will not carry on that identity. Nor is there any transcendent mind that might retain knowledge of the life one had, so all the suffering and tribulation one experienced in life is, in death, as though it never existed at all.
  • javra
    609
    Selfishness isn't ethical, though. This is a category mistake.

    [...]

    Now here's the makings of a nonselfish reason. What do you mean by mankind? It sounds Platonic.
    Thorongil

    Call me cynical, or worse, but I don’t comprehend how mankind could have any value to anyone outside of self-interests in the wellbeing of others. Self-interests are about the either sustained or increased wellbeing of the self and, because of this, are all self-centered when philosophically addressed: i.e., centered around the wants of the particular self or, else, a cohort of individual selves that share a common want and, hence, a common intention.

    With that understanding in mind, anyone who would even remotely care for their community—mankind being about as relatively unselfish a compassion for a community as anyone can feasibly hold; (e.g. empathy for someone on the other side of the world which one learns of via news but is otherwise unaffected by, etc.)—would be solely motivated by their own ego’s self-interests. Empathy in general works this way: when it does happen, another’s welfare becomes converged with one’s own; mirror-neurons within one’s self that in turn affects one’s own being via the events that unfold for some other, if one would like to address this physiologically. Those who hold such a concern for the wellbeing of mankind are often termed humanitarians—concern for the general being of the species of which one is a member of (I didn't want to imply just males by the term). Global issues such as a reduction in global warming, increased global justice, having fewer kids in the world starve to death, this sort of thing. The future generations which would be impacted by global warming, global injustice that doesn’t immediately affect one’s own life where one lives, and the starvation of particular children one only knows about in abstract ways have nothing to do with the wellbeing of one’s immediate self—save for this empathy based self-interest in the wellbeing of humanity at large. I’ve heard of plenty of humanitarians who are atheistic and, due to this, non-Platonic. So I don’t find any connection to the ontologies maintained.

    What is it about mankind that it needs maintaining?Thorongil

    Who or what might be “maintaining” mankind if not mankind itself, which is itself an aggregate of all individual humans? Societies historically tend to turn tyrannical when the individuals within it don’t communally do anything to maintain the society they partake of. Yes, first me and my own, then I help if I can those others that surround—this just as they tell you on airplanes of how to best proceed in case of an emergency, and this for very good reason. Nevertheless, society is now global—more applicable to the species at large than ever before.

    Am I missing something here?
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.8k
    It seems to me that having and raising children is a kind of gift, if done in the right way. What you are doing is providing a whole new life the means to live happily.Moliere

    And it seems to me that you (or the hypothetical you) is wearing rose-tinted glasses here. One ought to remember that for every pleasant picnic at the park, there's such a degree of suffering that exists in the world that one's best and only choice is to ignore the vast majority of it. No one with a well-cultivated conscience could go on living if the weight of the world's suffering was in their mind as much as it probably should be. This angling toward life rather than suffering, I'd argue, means that people are naturally disposed to procreation as being instep with their own will to live.

    Also, love is not certain in life. A couple may intend well in having a child or children, but in my opinion the only way that you'd be able to get away with mere good intentions is to equate existence with love. As I believe @Thorongil mentioned before, you're kind of forced to preach a Thomistic approach, where existence (being) and essence (love) aren't disparate - meaning that the essence of procreation is love, thus procreation is morally permissible! I do not, however, equate being with love, which explains why I'm not a Christian and why I don't find it justifiable to procreate.

    Additionally, and going back to the bit I quoted of you, I would agree that raising a child/children is a gift, a good gift, but the having of them I don't find on the same moral footing. To say that having a child is a gift means that the child must agree with your judgement of them, otherwise you've failed in giving your sense of life and goodness to your child. However, were I and my spouse to not have a child, but only raise one, our judgement of our child as being a gift is not dependent upon the child's acceptance of our view because we were not ingredient in their willed creation. In other words, if you have a child and label them a gift, and that child completely disagrees and decides later to kill themselves, would you still say with an earnest heart that their life, which ended in misery and suicide, was a gift? If after such a tragedy no sorrow finds you and you proclaim to the heavens what a great gift your child's life was to have ended that way, I would struggle to find a more selfish and twisted perspective.

    Lastly, the picture that comes to mind for me when thinking about procreation is children falling into an ocean. Some will learn to swim, some will drown. Some will swim and find dry land, some will swim a ways but give up. You can give the child a rope, a life vest, a granola bar - things that can represent good parenting - but none of it, in my opinion, is enough to justify the throwing of children into an ocean in the first place. Suffering will find you whether you learned how to swim, found land, founded an empire. I think it is Schopenhauer who argued rather peculiarly that suffering, not happiness, is what marks the world for compassion. In this way, or at least how I view it, one rather paradoxically lives for suffering in order to love, as opposed to loving so as not to suffer. To me, that puts everyone in the same "boat" or ocean. The fact that some find love and compassion doesn't actually matter if suffering is the mean.

    Anyway, I'll stop here as I think I've rambled enough :eyes:
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Don't kids give you a reason not to be selfish? Aren't they an antidote to egotism?apokrisis

    This is a post-natal contingency. I'm talking about the selfishness of procreation itself, not the possible lack thereof as a result of having children. Besides, if this is true, then one can simply adopt, so you still haven't said anything about procreation proper.

    Why not?apokrisis

    Because civilization merely puts a vice on vice, so to speak, and so exists instrumentally.

    why isn't a civilised self a better self?apokrisis

    It is better. But to paraphrase @schopenhauer1, by having children you are creating a state of affairs whereby more people will need to be civilized, when they didn't need to be civilized in the first place by never having been born. The project of civilization is wonderful, but its value comes ex post facto, the aftermath being the rapaciousness and violence of human beings. It is a small band-aid on a large wound that need not ever be opened again. To procreate for the sake of the band-aid is therefore irrational, as the band-aid only exists to heal the wound, which it can't ever completely do.

    But then secular thinkers would have the least need of reasons here. They would just do what comes naturally - which includes making fairly rational choices about the situational pros and cons of having kids.apokrisis

    If they are moral nihilists, this may follow, but antinatalism tacitly assumes moral realism, for it regards procreation as immoral in principle, not merely according to the individual's subjective inclinations.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    but I don’t comprehend how mankind could have any value to anyone outside of self-interests in the wellbeing of othersjavra

    Well, there goes that reason, then.

    Am I missing something here?javra

    I don't know. I don't feel your response addressed my concerns, but we could be talking past each other.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    And it seems to me that you (or the hypothetical you) is wearing rose-tinted glasses here. One ought to remember that for every pleasant picnic at the park.Buxtebuddha

    Hey, buxte baby, get your genuine rose colored glasses right here, on sale now! for the next 15 minutes only! And if you buy three pair, you will get 5 Viagra pills, free! But hurry. This offer is good for only 15 minutes!

    Frankly, I don't see the point in ruining the occasional picnic by self-flagellation for pausing the contemplation of the world's suffering. One picnic is not 10 more dying children being killed off by impatient vultures. If you take upon your self the sufferings of the world, you likely will kill yourself, to no ones benefit.

    there's such a degree of suffering that exists in the world that one's best and only choice is to ignore the vast majority of it. No one with a well-cultivated conscience could go on living if the weight of the world's suffering was in their mind as much as it probably should be — Buxtebuddha

    That is true. The suffering of the world is beyond the scope of our imaginations. There is too much, it is too varied, it is too refractory, it is too bound together. Dwelling on suffering does not reduce it. Rather fixating on the unquenchable suffering of the world disables those who might at least salve a few wounds.

    Besides, the picnic attendees are subject to the possibility of refractory suffering along with the rest of the world. Refractory suffering has no meaning until it begins up close and personal. Even we fine few philosophers here may become intimately acquainted with suffering--so don't cancel any picnics.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    This is a post-natal contingency. I'm talking about the selfishness of procreation itself, not the possible lack thereof as a result of having children. Besides, if this is true, then one can simply adopt, so you still haven't said anything about procreation proper.Thorongil

    Not a good argument. To procreate is to have kids. But perhaps you are not seeing it from a mother's point of view. The male can pretend it is all rather more abstract.

    And adoption might be even more selfless than procreation. But my argument did target procreation - actual "proper" procreation. So you are simply trying to divert.

    But to paraphrase schopenhauer1, by having children you are creating a state of affairs whereby more people will need to be civilized, when they didn't need to be civilized in the first place by never having been born.Thorongil

    Is it quality or quantity that is the issue here? How many is too many? How few is enough?

    Antinatalism has to be an argument about quality - absolute generality. Either there should be life (because it is in some sense generally good, or at least neutral), of there should not.

    But if antinatalism is simply a wrangle about the pragmatics of how many lives can exist in a tolerable fashion, then it has completely lost any real force it thought it had. Once you say some number is acceptable, then we can all agree - nothing to see here.

    To procreate for the sake of the band-aid is therefore irrational, as the band-aid only exists to heal the wound, which it can't ever completely do.Thorongil

    Now we are into the last resort - philosophical battle by dramatic rhetoric. Existence is the wound that can't be healed.

    I dunno. Maybe I spend too much time on actual biology. In nature, wounds heal. And they are the exception rather than the rule. The functional autonomy of a working body comes first. You can't have a wound without there being the alternative of the healthy organism.

    antinatalism tacitly assumes moral realism, for it regards procreation as immoral in principleThorongil

    Well exactly. It requires the absolutism of moral realism, as I said.

    And some folk believe that. Which makes antinatalism another religion. In the face of all the evidence to the contrary about nature, it requires an act of faith to sustain antinatalism as a system of belief.

    Some religions like to be life-affirming. Others might not.

    To the degree that any religion shapes a society, those beliefs get a good evolutionary work-out. Nature still gets the last say on human death cults.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    the only way that you'd be able to get away with mere good intentions is to equate existence with love.Buxtebuddha

    Yes, in a godless, materialistic universe, there is no nonselfish reason to procreate. This thread has solidified that opinion.

    I do not, however, equate being with love, which explains why I'm not a Christian and why I don't find it justifiable to procreate.Buxtebuddha

    I am not a Christian either, but neither do I rule out Christianity. Following where the truth might lead can sometimes lead to conclusions one finds unpalatable. Christians are often castigated for believing in Christianity merely because they want it to be true. Wish fulfillment is certainly a danger for the believer, but no less a danger is its obverse, what one might call dislike fulfillment, whereby one lacks belief in something merely on account of not wanting it to be true. As a nonbeliever, I must keep this in mind when pursuing the possibility of truth in religion.

    Lastly, the picture that comes to mind for me when thinking about procreation is children falling into an ocean. Some will learn to swim, some will drown. Some will swim and find dry land, some will swim a ways but give up. You can give the child a rope, a life vest, a granola bar - things that can represent good parenting - but none of it, in my opinion, is enough to justify the throwing of children into an ocean in the first place. Suffering will find you whether you learned how to swim, found land, founded an empire. I think it is Schopenhauer who argued rather peculiarly that suffering, not happiness, is what marks the world for compassion. In this way, or at least how I view it, one rather paradoxically lives for suffering in order to love, as opposed to loving so as not to suffer. To me, that puts everyone in the same "boat" or ocean. The fact that some find love and compassion doesn't actually matter if suffering is the mean.Buxtebuddha

    A most vivid analogy. :up:
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Not a good argument. To procreate is to have kids. But perhaps you are not seeing it from a mother's point of view. The male can pretend it is all rather more abstract.apokrisis

    This doesn't address what I said, and I suspect you don't understand what I said. I didn't give an argument, I made a distinction, one that refutes the alleged nonselfish reason for procreation you tried to give.

    You and others may be interested in the following responses to the same question of this thread from a pregnancy forum:

    I'm due in 3 weeks with our first and before we decided to breed, I went through a period of trying to find a 'pre-conception' reason to have kids. Everything I could think of were 'post-conception' reasons (these are my made up terms), like to love them unconditionally, raise them to be independent, etc. And reasons like adding to our own loving family, having a legacy, etc seemed to be 'selfish' reasons - selfish in the very literalist sense. 'Self-focused' might be better.

    Anyhow, I don't think I ever came up with a 'selfless', 'pre-conception' reason. I was 95% sure I wanted to do it (my husband was cool with it, too) but I just couldn't make that last part of me certain.

    If you intentionally get pregnant, then no, I don't think there is a reason that isn't selfish. I think that's OK though - I think it's OK to be a little selfish occasionally.

    I asked my mother this question and she said no! There is no selfless reason for making babies because the act of making them is selfish in the first place i.e sex..someone always gets pleasure out of it so there for is done for selfish reasons...

    I love my mother always straight to the point!
    My self I think no we have babies to because we want them in our bellies we want to be pregnant we want to love them and care for them..we make them smile for our own selfish reasons(who doesn't love to see a happy smiling baby)!

    I have never found a selfless reason.

    These responses are so interesting! Yes, striving to be a great parent is selfless and I know so many of us who are even just expecting are already doing that to an extent ... but I'm talking pre-conception. I still can't think of anything! I think the closest thing I've seen is adding productive members to society - but even then, that's selfless for society to an extent (because you just never know how your kid will turn out - nature vs. nurture) but that's not selfless for the life you're creating, right?

    So in light of you asking your mom, I asked my dad ... he said "because God commands us to." It sounds so simple, and of course religious (he's a pastor), but I think that's a pretty compelling selfless reason. God tells us to be fruitful and multiply, so I guess if you take it literally then parents who procreate aren't being selfish.

    Well after I thought about it God Commands Us would be my answer also...

    - https://www.whattoexpect.com/forums/hot-topics-1/topic/selfless-reason-for-having-children.html

    This tracks what I've been saying throughout this thread.

    Is it quality or quantity that is the issue here? How many is too many? How few is enough?apokrisis

    Quality. And one is too many. It's an argument from principle, as I said.

    Existence is the wound that can't be healed.apokrisis

    In a certain sense, yes, this is a presupposition of mine, I admit. But I also admit the possibility of redemption, though it isn't achieved by means of having children.

    In nature, wounds heal.apokrisis

    Yes, but not metaphysical wounds!


    And some folk believe that. Which makes antinatalism another religion. In the face of all the evidence to the contrary about nature, it requires an act of faith to sustain antinatalism as a system of belief.apokrisis

    Poppycock, I say. But if you really believe this, then you implicitly allow antinatalism in through the backdoor, for if morality is inherently subjective, you have no means of disputing the antinatalist on moral grounds.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    And it seems to me that you (or the hypothetical you) is wearing rose-tinted glasses here. One ought to remember that for every pleasant picnic at the park, there's such a degree of suffering that exists in the world that one's best and only choice is to ignore the vast majority of it. No one with a well-cultivated conscience could go on living if the weight of the world's suffering was in their mind as much as it probably should be. This angling toward life rather than suffering, I'd argue, means that people are naturally disposed to procreation as being instep with their own will to live.Buxtebuddha

    Life is full of suffering.

    I don't think suffering is enough of a reason to say life is not worth living, though. It is a fact of life. Learning to deal with suffering is part of a journey to a worthwhile life. I don't think being weighed down by the weight of the world is what a well-cultivated conscience does.

    Also, love is not certain in life. A couple may intend well in having a child or children, but in my opinion the only way that you'd be able to get away with mere good intentions is to equate existence with love. As I believe Thorongil mentioned before, you're kind of forced to preach a Thomistic approach, where existence (being) and essence (love) aren't disparate - meaning that the essence of procreation is love, thus procreation is morally permissible! I do not, however, equate being with love, which explains why I'm not a Christian and why I don't find it justifiable to procreate.

    Nothing is certain in life.

    Why must something be certain in order for it to be good?

    Intent isn't everything, I agree. One must make prudent plans, too. But just the fact that these plans may falter isn't enough to say that having children is not-good (trying to stay away from saying it's morally bad, either -- merely the negation of its positivity, not the affirmation of its negativity)

    Additionally, and going back to the bit I quoted of you, I would agree that raising a child/children is a gift, a good gift, but the having of them I don't find on the same moral footing. To say that having a child is a gift means that the child must agree with your judgement of them, otherwise you've failed in giving your sense of life and goodness to your child. However, were I and my spouse to not have a child, but only raise one, our judgement of our child as being a gift is not dependent upon the child's acceptance of our view because we were not ingredient in their willed creation. In other words, if you have a child and label them a gift, and that child completely disagrees and decides later to kill themselves, would you still say with an earnest heart that their life, which ended in misery and suicide, was a gift? If after such a tragedy no sorrow finds you and you proclaim to the heavens what a great gift your child's life was to have ended that way, I would struggle to find a more selfish and twisted perspective.

    I don't see a difference between biological children and non-biological children. Having them is raising them in what I was trying to get at -- I'm not focusing on the biological facts of the origins of children and the event of birth.

    Also, even supposing tragic end to life, I don't see how that possibility makes having children somehow not-good. The intent was to give a gift. Intent is not enough, I grant, hence why you'd have to be prudent and plan. It may not end as you hope, but so what?

    The possibility of tragedy and failure isn't enough to make something not-good.

    Lastly, the picture that comes to mind for me when thinking about procreation is children falling into an ocean. Some will learn to swim, some will drown. Some will swim and find dry land, some will swim a ways but give up. You can give the child a rope, a life vest, a granola bar - things that can represent good parenting - but none of it, in my opinion, is enough to justify the throwing of children into an ocean in the first place. Suffering will find you whether you learned how to swim, found land, founded an empire. I think it is Schopenhauer who argued rather peculiarly that suffering, not happiness, is what marks the world for compassion. In this way, or at least how I view it, one rather paradoxically lives for suffering in order to love, as opposed to loving so as not to suffer. To me, that puts everyone in the same "boat" or ocean. The fact that some find love and compassion doesn't actually matter if suffering is the mean.

    I don't see suffering as this total negation of life's value. Teaching a child how to suffer -- as there are better and worse ways -- is a part of helping someone learn how to swim in your analogy.

    A bit of a disconnect here, though, in your analogy -- there are no children before the swim. They simply do not exist. They are either born into the water or not. You can prepare a cove for the born, but it won't guarantee undertow won't take them away at some point. Tragedy may strike.

    But, then, it also may not. This is just what it is to live a human life.

    I think your evaluation of the gift would depend on whether or not you view human life, as it is, as worth living. Suffering does not persuade me that life is not worth living. At least, the mere presence of the possibility of suffering being greater than not-suffering.

    I think it would depend on the quality of the gift. Do you prepare to give a good life or do you not do so? That would be a good way of differentiating between more egotistical and less egotistical motivations (I say more or less because I already said I don't think it's humanly possible to be purely non-egotistical, in the sense that a frame between compassion/ego would dictate)
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    This isn't facetious? I thought you were a utilitarian of some kind.Thorongil

    NO-no-no-no-no. No.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    I think that I'm committed to the notion that selfish acts, as defined by the frame of compassion/ego, can be good.

    But I suspect that in the process of going through examples I'd probably want to say that the division doesn't always hold in particular cases.

    In the frame I think of compassion as a sort of dissolution of the self with the specific orientation towards a particular kind of global mind. But that global mind, or any sort of global mind (mindframe?), will always be playing in the background of any actual act -- acts are always done by actors, which needs some self which is choosing. A rock doesn't choose to fall, after all, and a compassionate God doesn't choose to bestow blessings upon the sick.

    Humans are somewhere in-between those two extremes, and the very conditions of choice requires a self -- which, as I understand compassion at least, necessitates an ego.

    Now our egos can have a sort of global frame to them more in tune with a compassionate mind. But there would be no act which is motivated out of compassion alone.

    That being said I wouldn't say that all acts, because they are partially selfish by the very conditions which allow them to be act (on a gradient, lets say), are neither good nor bad.

    Hence, when selfishness is defined in this way, I'd have to say that selfishness is not a defeater to goodness.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    I didn't give an argument, I made a distinction, one that refutes the alleged nonselfish reason for procreation you tried to give.Thorongil

    I don't understand how that is a refutation. Adoption might be less egotistical. But that doesn't mean procreation is consequently egotistical.

    So you really didn't deal with my argument - that even pre-conception, a reason for having kids is that you could expect it would make you less egotistical as a result. The desire to be less selfish could be a valid reason.

    Quality. And one is too many. It's an argument from principle, as I said.Thorongil

    Right. So antinatalism relies on moral absolutism as I said. It doesn't even leave room to value the possibility of a growth in civilised selfhood. It is monotonic and obsessive in its complaints.

    It does follow its own particular logic to its end, but that remains - in my view, based on larger naturalistic arguments - a caricature of the rich world it pretends to represent.

    Yes, but not metaphysical wounds!Thorongil

    Ah yes. The completely imaginary kind!

    So again, if naturalism is true, antinatalism fails. Nothing has really changed. We just have to decide whose metaphysics we believe.

    Poppycock, I say. But if you really believe this, then you implicitly allow antinatalism in through the backdoor, for if morality is inherently subjective, you have no means of disputing the antinatalist on moral grounds.Thorongil

    Huh? I'm not disputing your moral right to hold absolutist antinatalist beliefs. I'm saying such beliefs would be no better than faith based. They would be utterly subjective.

    My view of morality is instead based on the objectivity of pragmatic naturalism. So sure, that is a metaphysical stance. But it is the product of theory and evidence, not faith. It is the objective view in exactly the way pragmatism defines that.

    Remember what I said about necessity vs contingency. There is room in my naturalism for actions that make no essential difference. Objectively the world is divided in that fashion. And so yes, there is a cultural relativism that makes many things - like choice of sock colour - a "subjective" matter.

    But pre-conception choices about whether or not to have kids is a bit more important than sock colours. There will always be pros and cons. And so the hope is that a civilised world will make civilised decisions.

    Faith-based approaches can indeed enshrine social habits that represent good choices. Religions exist in human society for a reason. Their absolutism is useful - if the habits they dictate continue to be functional.

    But strong conviction of itself is not a reliable guide to metaphysical-strength issues. We invented the rational collective method of philosophy and science for precisely that reason.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    procreation might be good from an Indian religious perspective in that it extricates someone from being in a hell realm or some other deleterious samsaric plane of existence.Thorongil

    In Buddhist cultures, there is the belief that being born in the human realm is advantageous because it's the only opportunity to hear and follow the Buddhist teachings and achieve Nirvāṇa. That is not available to animals because of their stupidity, and also not from the other realms of existence - hell beings are too tormented to be interested, and heaven beings too contented (although all beings will eventually be reborn in the human realm albeit after enormous periods of time.)

    Anyway - that was not the point I started out to make, which is the factor of pure momentum, the biological urge to procreate. It has incredible power. I was watching a documentary some time ago about rag-pickers in an enormous tip on the edge of a city somewhere in Africa - the most miserable and degraded possible means of livelihood. The story focussed on a family - with two small children! The incredible poverty and deprivation hadn't prevented them pro-creating.

    Counter-intuitively, when living standards rise and there's access to electric power, the birth-rate actually falls. I don't know what the scientific rationale is for that, but it must have something to do with the instinct to preserve the germ-line, I would have thought.

    My dear departed father was a gynaecologist. He treated numerous women who were aged in their early 20's, and who already had numerous children by different men. He never passed any kind of moral judgement on that - he was wholly and solely concerned with their medical well-being. But he would sometimes remark on the 'momentum' - by which I think he meant the social conditioning - which gave rise to those behaviours, often in very disadvantaged sectors of society.

    So in answer to your question - I don't think the urge to procreate is necessarily egotistical in the least. It's often subliminal or unconscious - it's the drive of life itself to keep going. That is rationale, I think, for religious celibacy - which signifies the freedom from that very drive, the instinct or ID which must always result in further birth and death. I think any born being feels how powerful that is.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.2k
    It doesn't even leave room to value the possibility of a growth in civilised selfhood. It is monotonic and obsessive in its complaints.

    It does follow its own particular logic to its end, but that remains - in my view, based on larger naturalistic arguments - a caricature of the rich world it pretends to represent.
    apokrisis

    By what faulty logic would you presume people need the "possibility of growth in civilized selfhood" (whatever reification that means).

    So again, if naturalism is true, antinatalism fails. Nothing has really changed. We just have to decide whose metaphysics we believe.apokrisis

    You put the cart before the horse. Just because things can be constructed socially, does not mean that we should therefore keep the social construction going by having more individuals to contribute to it. This is simply making an ought from an is. I have always proposed there is structural suffering of being born and a contingent component of suffering. Both are good reasons not to procreate a future child. To use the child as a vessel to "realize" or "actualize" their "cvilized selfhood" (WTF?) seems quite unnecessary in the light of the two kind of sufferings that I have outlined (in many posts besides this in much further detail). Besides the fact that, why should "civilized selfhood" be realized by any individual in the first place? It seems you have a particular preference that is as arbitrary as anything. You don't see the blind spot in your argument which is that what you take as "natural" is just the result of individual choices of individual humans. By romanticizing "civilized selfhood" you are simply giving a personal post-hoc reason (and arbitrary) for birth.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    NO-no-no-no-no. No.darthbarracuda

    You were a utilitarian, though, weren't you?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    when selfishness is defined in this way, I'd have to say that selfishness is not a defeater to goodness.Moliere

    Sure, but I don't accept that definition. Our basic axioms disagree, so I don't think we're going to get anywhere.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    We could, though. I'm open to changing concepts. It'll just take some time to hammer it all down.

    How do you understand compassion/ego ?
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.