• Thorongil
    3.2k
    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.apokrisis

    Reread that last sentence.

    Huh? I'm not disputing your moral right to hold absolutist antinatalist beliefs.apokrisis

    You're not following the plot here, it seems. I'm not an antinatalist. I'm just showing how your objections to antinatalism don't actually stick.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Are you an Objectivist? To say that selfishness can be morally good is the move Ayn Rand made. To me, that obliterates meaningful distinctions between different motives. If all actions are selfish then no actions are compassionate. The latter becomes a meaningless category. Or, if you admit of the category but not of the word to describe it ("compassion"), then we're missing a word to describe a certain class of motivated actions. And in that case, I would say that compassion is already a fine word for that.

    My understanding of a selfish action is that it is inherently instrumental, being performed for the benefit of oneself. Your definition of selfish action is far too literal, being "that which is performed by a self or ego." Seeing as all human actions are performed by human selves, it follows that all human actions are selfish. But again, this fails to disambiguate the real difference between actions performed for the benefit of oneself and those performed for the benefit of others.

    As I have said, procreation cannot (at least on naturalism) ever be performed for the benefit of another, since there is no child on whose behalf one is acting. The objection raised earlier that one could act for the benefit of one's wife who wants to procreate doesn't work, since her reasons cannot but be selfish.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I don't think the urge to procreate is necessarily egotistical in the least. It's often subliminal or unconsciousWayfarer

    Just because a motive is hidden to oneself doesn't mean it isn't selfish.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    Are you an Objectivist? To say that selfishness can be morally good is the move Ayn Rand made. To me, that obliterates meaningful distinctions between different motives. If all actions are selfish then no actions are compassionate. The latter becomes a meaningless category. Or, if you admit of the category but not of the word to describe it ("compassion"), then we're missing a word to describe a certain class of motivated actions. And in that case, I would say that compassion is already a fine word for that.

    My understanding of a selfish action is that it is inherently instrumental, being performed for the benefit of oneself. Your definition of selfish action is far too literal, being "that which is performed by a self or ego." Seeing as all human actions are performed by human selves, it follows that all human actions are selfish. But again, this fails to disambiguate the real difference between actions performed for the benefit of oneself and those performed for the benefit of others.
    Thorongil

    I am not an objectivist. I was more just following the line of reasoning that came from thinking about egotism in relation to my theory of compassion being a particular mental mode which results in the total negation of ego.

    So here you're saying who it is for is what differentiates selfish from selfless action -- for the self or for the other.

    Would you say there are motivations which do not fall into these two categories? Or actions which can be motivated by both selfish and selfless motives?

    I would say that if selfish actions are inherently instrumental, then there are a class of motivations which are not for others and which are not instrumental. Call them "intrinsic". Doing art, philosophy, love seem to fall into this category -- it's neither for me in some instrumental sense of promoting my self-interest, nor is it for someone else's self-interest or material benefit.

    The motive behind such actions is better described as "I do them because I like them", and there ends the chain of reasons.

    As I have said, procreation cannot (at least on naturalism) ever be performed for the benefit of another, since there is no child on whose behalf one is acting. The objection raised earlier that one could act for the benefit of one's wife who wants to procreate doesn't work, since her reasons cannot but be selfish.

    Cool. Wasn't sure how you'd parse that. So it has to be, at bottom, selfless.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    Not yet. For me it's one of those things that would be nice, but the circumstances have to be just right.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Would you say there are motivations which do not fall into these two categories?Moliere

    There is a third category of action, yes, which refers to malicious actions. Thus:

    Compassion = moral.
    Self interest = amoral.
    Malice = immoral.

    The motive behind such actions is better described as "I do them because I like them", and there ends the chain of reasons.Moliere

    But then they are by definition self-interested and so disagree with you when you say they aren't. However, the object of such pursuits may have intrinsic worth (e.g. philosophy is done for the sake of finding truth, which is intrinsically valuable), so in that sense I agree with you.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    As I have said, procreation cannot (at least on naturalism) ever be performed for the benefit of another, since there is no child on whose behalf one is acting.Thorongil

    Can I not plant a tree for future generations yet unborn?

    Or save a pension for a self not yet retired?
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    There is a third category of action, yes, which refers to malicious actions. Thus:

    Compassion = moral.
    Self interest = amoral.
    Malice = immoral.

    But then they are by definition self-interested, and in that sense I disagree with you
    Thorongil

    Alright, but then you do agree with the point that the instrumentality of action is not something intrinsic to self-interested action, right?


    However, the object of such pursuits may have intrinsic worth (e.g. philosophy is done for the sake of finding truth, which is intrinsically valuable), so in that sense I agree with you.Thorongil

    So what say you about life? Intrinsic worth or naw?
  • javra
    698
    To me, that obliterates meaningful distinctions between different motives. If all actions are selfish then no actions are compassionate. The latter becomes a meaningless category.Thorongil

    Once on gets past the often materialist mindset that self, that ego, is a bag of organized flesh, it then becomes both feasible and quite obvious that selfhood can be quite expansive. The nationalist’s self is intimately entwined with the selfhood of his or her nation as the nationalist interprets it. The lover’s self is and becomes ever more intimately entwined with the self of the beloved and vice versa—if love persists. These extensions of non-flesh bound selfhood can become more abstract, such as a scientist’s concern for all scientists at large—this being the selfhood of a community into which the individual’s self inheres into—or more concrete, such as a lifelong friend’s concern for his or her lifelong friend. Needless to say, healthy relations between parents and their children will exhibit this same extension of selfhood in-between.

    As to how, I’ll stick to the workings of our mirror neurons.

    Yet in all such cases, what can otherwise be identified as the other here becomes to some meaningful extent, often enough reciprocally, an inherent aspect of one's own self. And, in so becoming, the other then becomes something of intrinsic value to oneself. This shouldn’t be odd to anyone. When a loved one—friend, romantic partner, family member, a member of one’s community one greatly esteems, etc.—dies, we sense that a part of us dies and, hence, a personal loss … this in due measure to the love held. Not due to loss of instrumental value, but due to a diminishing of what we hold intrinsic value for.

    Yet to call such empathy based relations selfless is—when philosophically addressed—a category error. They are all contingent upon the presence of selfhood and its wants, be these wants individual or communal.

    So while I concede that there cannot metaphysically be such a thing as a non-selfish motive for a selfhood to do something, the motives one has in mind are the very foundation upon which the ordinary dichotomy between “selfish” people and “selfless” people is founded. When we as selves ego-centrically pursue an expansion of intrinsic value for everyone, when this is our motive for our choices and actions, we act (more) “selflessly”. When we as selves ego-centrically act and choose with the motive of increasing all other’s instrumental value relative to ourselves, we then act (more) “selfishly”. Though not even Stalin was a perfectly selfish bastard. I’m using scare quotes because this is the same equivocation between technical reality egos interacting with themselves and of common usage you disagreed with in a previous post.

    What motive, hence reason, driven action can a self possibly hold that is in an unequivocal sense not governed by the self in question, thereby being a “non-selfish reason” for some action? Compassion is a form of empathy as far as I know, which I've already addressed in this post.

    p.s. I’m no objectivist. Rather I believe in teleological causation being real, such that the telos we egos will often enough choose to be driven by--such that our motives, in other words--will make all the ethical difference in the world.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Alright, but then you do agree with the point that the instrumentality of action is not something intrinsic to self-interested action, right?Moliere

    No? I'm not sure I'm following this.

    So what say you about life? Intrinsic worth or naw?Moliere

    I said this earlier: "my natalist interlocutor needs to establish that creating life is good, not that life is good. I could grant for the sake of argument that life is intrinsically good (or that happiness is intrinsically good), but that wouldn't in itself prove that creating it is good."
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    You can plant a tree and you can save money for yourself (since you already exist), but you cannot do anything to what which doesn't exist.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    No? I'm not sure I'm following this.Thorongil

    Instrumental action is something motivated by some end-goal. So I go to work in order that I may earn money. I exercise in order that I may feel healthy. I treat my lover well in order that I may be treated well in return. The action itself is just some means to get to an end.

    But not all motivation is like this. Some motivation does not rely upon a goal, but is an end unto itself. So I go to work because I have a passion for justice. I exercise because I enjoy the activity of exercising, the struggle against the self. I treat my lover well because I love her.

    Most actions can be motivated in either way -- extrinsically or intrinsically. The action being performed is usually not a good indicator as to what is motivating said action, at least in only considering a single act.

    So I do philosophy because I have a passion for truth. Self-interested, in that I am not doing philosophy for you or others, nor am I maliciously doing philosophy to derive a kind of sick pleasure out of harming others (though some may wonder if that's *really* true ;) ) -- hence it would fall in the middle category of your schema.

    But it wouldn't be for some end-goal that I do philosophy. Whether I attain truth or not is irrelevant to my motivation of doing philosophy. I continue to do it all the same because I am intrinsically motivated to do it. Even if I were to fail for the entirety of my life at achieving the end of philosophy, supposing that be truth, it wouldn't budge my motivation for doing philosophy in the least.

    I said this earlier: "my natalist interlocutor needs to establish that creating life is good, not that life is good. I could grant for the sake of argument that life is intrinsically good (or that happiness is intrinsically good), but that wouldn't in itself prove that creating it is good."Thorongil

    If truth is good, does creating truth fall in-betwixt good and bad?

    Seems a weird turn of phrase, though, to say "creating truth". It seems to me that truth is not an action. So, as an intrinsic good, it would not be subject to creating.

    So, a tabulation of what I'm tracking so far:


    Actions are the bearers of the terms "good", "amoral", or "bad". What seems to be the case is that actions which fall in the good category are actions which are motivated in a particular direction: for-the-other. Categorically bad actions are against-the-other. Amoral actions are for-the-self.

    Truth and life are admitted as intrinsic goods. But neither even count as activities, much less have a self/other directionality attached to them.

    Also, the basic argument is that good actions are for-the-other, before birth there is no other, therefore the act of having children before there are children can not be good. That all follows definitionally from what I see.

    The question is, is there some kind of rejoinder to this argument? In terms of validity I'd say you're airtight -- there could not be a rejoinder. But you did note that you aren't certain, so you're open to examples to see if maybe something is amiss in the truth-value of the argument, if not in the validity.

    You agree that I'm following you, at least? Not missing something in my interpretation?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    hence it would fall in the middle category of your schema.Moliere

    Right.

    But it wouldn't be for some end-goal that I do philosophy. Whether I attain truth or not is irrelevant to my motivation of doing philosophy.Moliere

    Your second sentence above doesn't negate the first. You do have a goal in pursuing philosophy: the truth. That makes philosophy instrumental. Whether you obtain the truth as a result of doing philosophy is irrelevant as to whether philosophy is instrumental. You could fail to obtain truth and philosophy would still be instrumental, as per your own definition.

    Actions are the bearers of the terms "good", "amoral", or "bad". What seems to be the case is that actions which fall in the good category are actions which are motivated in a particular direction: for-the-other. Categorically bad actions are against-the-other. Amoral actions are for-the-self.Moliere

    Yes, great summary.

    Also, the basic argument is that good actions are for-the-other, before birth there is no other, therefore the act of having children before there are children can not be good. That all follows definitionally from what I see.Moliere

    Yes.

    The question is, is there some kind of rejoinder to this argument?Moliere

    That is effectively the question of the thread!

    One might say that, prima facie, if being is intrinsically good, then it is good to procreate. Thinking about it here, what is lurking behind my objection to this reasoning seems to be Hume's guillotine: that one cannot derive an ought from an is. So my objection is that one cannot go from the claim "being is intrinsically good" to "therefore, one ought to procreate."

    If Hume's guillotine fails and it is licit to derive an ought from an is, then I will have to admit that procreation is a supererogatory good (morally good, but not required, as in a duty), assuming that being is good. I don't assume that, though.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    You were a utilitarian, though, weren't you?Thorongil

    I was a consequentialist for a while, yes. I've come to see consequentialist theories as inherently intra-worldly and incapable of acting as any fundamental ethic. This is primarily because consequentialist theories like utilitarianism are monistic, and I don't think this sort of reductionism is sufficient to cover the plurality of ethical concepts we have.

    This means I'm not a Kantian, either.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I've come to see consequentialist theories as inherently intra-worldly and incapable of acting as any fundamental ethicdarthbarracuda

    What is it about an ethic being "intra-worldly" that makes it insufficient?
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    you cannot do anything to what which doesn't exist.Thorongil

    I think I can. And the law agrees that I can make a trust fund to benefit my unborn grandchildren. And I can plant a tree whose shade I will never sit under for those unborn who will.

    Indeed there is a whole strain of intergenerational ethics that proposes that we have obligations to the future, not to fuck up the climate, for instance.

    I think you are confusing motivation, which is always future directed to that which is not yet, with the cause of action, which must be already in existence. My motive must already exist as an impulse, but its object can perfectly well not exist, indeed if it did already exist, it could not function as a motive. I feed the chickens for the sake of the eggs which they have not yet laid.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    think you are confusing motivation, which is always future directed to that which is not yet, with the cause of action, which must be already in existence.unenlightened

    Right, I get this. There is no confusion. I have spoken of procreation, the action.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    Right, I get this. There is no confusion. I have spoken of procreation, the action.Thorongil

    And the action can have the motive of creating a new person that does not yet exist, for one's own sake or for theirs. It is an imaginary person, but motives are always imaginations, whether of eggs or kids, whether selfish or unselfish.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    What is it about an ethic being "intra-worldly" that makes it insufficient?Thorongil

    The intra-worldly is morally disqualifying - most if not all of our actions have repercussions that are regrettable, even if they aren't within our control. As such we have to prioritize which morals we find to be the most important, the most appropriate given the situation. For instance, you may come to see that keeping a promise and reimbursing your friend is less important than donating to charity. Prioritizing morals is common, normal, and necessary. What I think gets passed over is how this makes morality irrevocably broken. To go off the previous example: to be a philanthropist and donate to charity requires that you be a bad friend who breaks promises.

    That is one of the crucial reasons why I believe the intra-worldly cannot be a satisfactory grounding for morality. The morality of the intra-worldly is contradictory. There are good moral reasons for doing things that cannot be completely reconciled. This is why is makes sense for us to regret breaking a promise to a friend - "in a perfect world" we'd be able to be both philanthropists and good friends.

    Having a child with the vision of using them as a means to an end of greater utility only makes sense within an intra-worldly perspective, in this case utilitarianism, where everything gets subsumed under a single banner: utility. What the affirmative utilitarian in this case fails to understand is that moral ambiguity, the tension between competing duties, is a symptom of life itself. It is part of the structure of life. The utilitarian is unable to account for the regret we would obviously feel for using a child in this way - once again, we might be philanthropists, but we'd also be horrible parents. "Being a good parent", for the utilitarian, is something that does not have value independent of the principle of utility. This is nonsense, in my opinion.

    In my view, then, there are a plurality of competing moral duties that often contradict each other. Monistic, affirmative theories of morality are an attempt to downplay these contradictions by ascribing "ultimate" value to a single source - for instance, the principle of utility, or the categorical imperative, or whatever. Monism in ethics is a theoretical attempt to simplify something that cannot be simplified. Morality just is pluralistic, and fundamentally "beyond" the world we live in, so that there is always a friction between what is and what should be. There simply is not enough space for what should be.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    And the action can have the motive of creating a new person that does not yet exist, for one's own sake or for theirs.unenlightened

    Yes, but if the action cannot be compassionate then the motive cannot be either. In the case of procreation, because the action cannot be compassionate, for the reason that the cause of the action doesn't exist, then the motive cannot be compassion, even if the procreator claims it to be.
  • javra
    698
    Thinking about it here, what is lurking behind my objection to this reasoning seems to be Hume's guillotine: that one cannot derive an ought from an is. So my objection is that one cannot go from the claim "being is intrinsically good" to "therefore, one ought to procreate."

    If Hume's guillotine fails and it is licit to derive an ought from an is, then I will have to admit that procreation is a supererogatory good (morally good, but not required, as in a duty), assuming that being is good. I don't assume that, though.
    Thorongil

    Here is a metaphysical resolution to Hume’s guillotine. I emphasize it is only outlined.

    Hypothesize, first, that there is an ontically certain end-state to being, by which I mean all being everywhere, which grans being with a perfect cessation of all suffering. As laughable as this hypothetical might be to some, I deem it better than BIV hypotheses and the like. Next, hypothesize that this end-state of being can be envisioned by any self to take a number of different forms—but that out of all these alternative projections of what this end-state of being might be, only one possibility we can fathom will be ontically certain—and, hence, correct and right—whereas all others will be illusions we dream up—and, hence, incorrect and wrong.

    Using these hypotheticals as premises, it can then logically be appraised that acting in accordance to, conformity with, alliance with, etc. this metaphysical, ontically certain end-state of being in which the suffering of being is obliterated—this to the best of one’s capacity given’s one’s environment—is what is right, correct, and ethical. This conclusion, then, resolves Hume’s guillotine by deriving what what ought to be done from that which metaphysically is.

    As to what such possible end-states of being might be, examples include: that of nonbeing (what suicidal people most often seek); that which is often enough addressed by certain spiritualties as a perfectly formless/selfless awareness devoid of first personhood (e.g.s include Nirvana and “the One”); that of a perfect stability of selfhood, meaning the immorality of unchanging self/selves; and that of a perfect supremacy over all else. Each imagined end-state of being then holds its own means of best alignment with its fruition. For example, while a supremacy of self end-state will ultimately entail making everyone else an instrumental means to one’s own supremacy of being (and thereby relieve everyone's suffering), the technically perfect equality of a formless/selfless awareness end-state will entail things such as compassion toward others as though they were parts of you.

    Because none of us can unequivocally prove the ontic certainty of any end-state of being, we thereby hold a choice in choosing which end-state to pursue--and often do so in emotive ways. All the same, there will be only one possibility which is an ontic certainty and, hence, indifferent to what any of us think or believe. And, it will be this ontically certain end-state which is that then determines which oughts are right and which are wrong.

    Though only an outline of my beliefs, it, for example, here illustrates that were this end-state of being to in fact be that of nonbeing, then antinaturalism would be right and correct—this due to being a logically valid means to the end-state that is here believed to be (an ought from an is). However, were the ontically certain end-state of being to in fact be that of a selfless awareness/being wherein perfect equality of being is obtained, for example, then striving for a cessation of being/awareness would be a wrong and incorrect means of actualizing what is best (again, this ought being derived from the metaphysical is of this particular end-state’s factual being).

    In this set of hypotheticals, justifying which end-state is ontically certain, i.e. true, would be a completely different issue. Nevertheless, it does resolve Hume’s guillotine.

    The thing is, were one to believe this end-state of being to in fact be nonbeing, it would resolve nothing of ethics save, well, the striving to end all life ... if one can call this ethical.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    Yes, but if the action cannot be compassionate then the motive cannot be either. In the case of procreation, because the action cannot be compassionate, for the reason that the cause of the action doesn't exist, then the motive cannot be compassion, even if the procreator claims it to be.Thorongil

    You're floundering. Actions are actions, and are motivated by selfishness or compassion. The cause of the action is the motive, and the motive is an imagined consequence. So if I am motivated to build a house, it is a house that does not exist until I build it, and this is the case whether I build it for you or for myself. The house does not cause me to build it, on the contrary, the lack of house is the cause. I imagine a house.

    Now I have just imagined you in need of housing, and I do not need you to be in any condition at all to do that. That's the thing about imagination, that it is not constrained by reality. Likewise, I might imagine a gloriously happy, grateful daughter, and I simply refuse to allow you to constrain my imagination. And for her - the imaginary her - I propose to suffer the indignity of procreation and the nightmare of childrearing - ugh!
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    You're floundering.unenlightened

    Come off it.

    Actions are actions, and are motivated by selfishness or compassion. The cause of the action is the motive, and the motive is an imagined consequence.unenlightened

    Now it's my turn to accuse you of being confused. Specifically, you seem to be confusing a motive with an intention. One could intend to act for the sake of another or to build a house without that being the motive. The motive may not line up with the intention at all. Our motives are not always clear to us and we often lie to ourselves about the reasons for our actions.

    In fact, many people have children without intending to at all, but that doesn't mean there is no motive, no reason, for the action. Clearly there is. Moreover, it is in part precisely because most parents do not intend to cause harm or suffering by procreating that I don't morally condemn them. But procreation in this case not being wrong does not thereby make it right, as I said in the OP.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    Now it's my turn to accuse you of being confused. Specifically, you seem to be confusing a motive with an intention.Thorongil

    My intention is to build a house, my motive is to house someone. Or it might be just that i enjoy mixing cement, and the whole housing thing is an excuse and self-deception. So I might think I am unselfish when I am selfish.

    I might just want sex, or I might just want a child, or I might want another to enjoy this wonderful life. I might be deceiving myself or I might not.

    But you want to rule something out, and you have no argument for it.
  • Johnny Public
    13
    From an extremely arrogant stand point this question makes sense. "Most people think having kids makes you a good person, most people are stupid, so having kids must make you a bad person in tern. They think having kids is sooooo selfless. [email protected]" That's a blatant logical fallacy. Just because most people are not self aware does not mean most people don't know what they're doing. In reality you can do anything you want when you don't have children and you sacrifice freedom to make a lot more mistakes (have more fun) without hurting anyone (other than yourself) the day you become a parent. Having children is the the largest impact your average person will make on the world. It's how we live on after death regardless of whether or not heaven is a thing. The reason we are here is, irrefutably, to teach each other how to survive as a species. We both teach and teach by example whether we want to or not. Your average person teaches more to their children in this way than anyone else in their life time. True story
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    Reread that last sentenceThorongil

    You seem more interested in word games than serious arguments.

    Maybe you are making the point that all choices serve the interest of some ego - even the desire to be egoless. Ah, sweet paradox!

    But remember my ultimate position is that the self itself is a social construct. So egotism - in the true sense - would extend to include the interests of our family, our community, our tribe and humanity in general, as it is that social context which produces the personal individuated "us" in the first place.

    So now the issue is what level is egotism being served by a choice - the highly individual or the collectively general? And now a desire to become a better individual by being less egocentric can both serve an interest - as all reasoned action ought - and yet not be egotistical in the sense of having to serve the interests of "my self".

    It is not beyond individual human reasonableness to frame a decision in these prosocial terms. And my original reply was highlighting your own apparent presumptions about the ego as something personal, not social.

    Again, antinatalism requires theistic/romantic absolutism to get going. It must already believe we are born into the world as feeling souls.

    But if instead you take a physicalist/naturalist view of human being, then attention goes to the merits and defects of actual social systems. The increase of reason and civility becomes the thing. It is a paradigm shift in which antinatalism looses all its force.

    We could still decide not to have kids because social conditions are such that we are sure they would suffer too much for their existence to be worth it. But that would be a situational decision - one responding to the social context, not the kind of ontically absolute argument that antinatalists want to make about living and "being a self" just on its own.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    Your second sentence above doesn't negate the first. You do have a goal in pursuing philosophy: the truth. That makes philosophy instrumental. Whether you obtain the truth as a result of doing philosophy is irrelevant as to whether philosophy is instrumental. You could fail to obtain truth and philosophy would still be instrumental, as per your own definition.Thorongil

    Well, I guess I don't actually do philosophy for the truth. So I'm being sloppy in hopping between hypothetical set-up and my own actual motivation. Sorry :D

    I would say that this class of actions can have results, but the results are not the motive. They are deontologically motivated, in the specific sense that the goal is not what's being considered in the choice to act. The action itself is the reason for the action -- it forms a sort of logical circle, where there simply is no more reason for it other than itself.

    Philosophy is like this for me. So is art. (EDIT: So is gardening, reading, talking with friends, biking, walking -- just to give a few other examples) There is no more why at that point, and even if one were to come up with a factual theory of motivation to account for the why (say, evolution predisposes persons to procreate for survival, or human nature predisposes us to seek pleasure and minimize pain to give two very common theories) it would completely miss the point.


    That is effectively the question of the thread!Thorongil

    Cool. Glad I'm tracking. :D

    One might say that, prima facie, if being is intrinsically good, then it is good to procreate. Thinking about it here, what is lurking behind my objection to this reasoning seems to be Hume's guillotine: that one cannot derive an ought from an is. So my objection is that one cannot go from the claim "being is intrinsically good" to "therefore, one ought to procreate."

    If Hume's guillotine fails and it is licit to derive an ought from an is, then I will have to admit that procreation is a supererogatory good (morally good, but not required, as in a duty), assuming that being is good. I don't assume that, though.

    This part of my post is a bit rambly. Sorry for that.

    I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say being is good -- it's just too general. Human life, though, I think I'd take as a good (though not an exclusive good -- i.e. the life of animals can also be good, I'm just focusing on human life cuz procreation). So perhaps that's just a hard point of difference that informs our thinking -- perhaps because of how we think of the word "good", too, I'd wager since I think of the terms as highly embedded in human practice with a sort of irrelevant/apathetic attitude towards meta-ethical commitments or implications in their usage; i.e. whether we choose naturalism or theology as a frame for understanding the world, it seems to me that the debate on goods is always-already relative to the world we co-create with others and the world and so the grand frame has little bearing on the choices we make and whether or not they are good. The ethics come before the metaphysics.

    Also, I don't think I'd defend the notion that procreation is a kind of universal good that anyone ought to do, like the sentence "one ought to procreate" seems to imply. It is contingently good, depending upon the circumstances -- and I don't know if I could even say that the circumstances are fixed, either (is it only good to procreate in 20th century liberal capitalism? That seems way off)

    Something more in line with a supererogatory good, but one which has complex circumstantial conditions.

    If we're thinking of Hume's Guillotine, then we could make an appeal to the passions. No ought can be derived from an is without some kind of value statement of the form "if x is then a ought y" where x is a true statement about some agent's passion, a is the name of an agent, and y is some action. We would just need the connector between is/ought which, as far as I understand Hume at least, is just a passion.


    But, then, I don't think I'm committing the fallacy at all -- it seems to me that giving the gift of life does presuppose that life is worth living. I can grant that. But it's not like I'm starting from a fact and moving to a value. It seems to me that this is values, all the way down. The point of contention between ourselves, I think, is more or less how we parse goodness vs what is amoral.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    The ethics come before the metaphysics.Moliere

    This is indeed a disagreement. I would reverse this order.

    The point of contention between ourselves, I think, is more or less how we parse goodness vs what is amoral.Moliere

    Yes, probably.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Maybe you are making the point that all choices serve the interest of some ego - even the desire to be egoless. Ah, sweet paradox!apokrisis

    In a way, yes. You're using another person for your own benefit. Why have children? "Because I want to be a more selfless person." That is inherently selfish. Now, it may not be strictly wrong to use another person for one's own benefit, but that only makes it amoral, not positively morally justified, which is how I have characterized selfish actions.

    But remember my ultimate position is that the self itself is a social construct.apokrisis

    Well, I disagree, so I don't see this conversation going any further.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    "Being a good parent", for the utilitarian, is something that does not have value independent of the principle of utility. This is nonsense, in my opinion.darthbarracuda

    Yes, good point.
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