• Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    Would it be okay to kidnap someone because you think they’ll come to enjoy the kidnapping later?khaled

    The analogy would have to be that they don't mind the kidnapping when it happens either (at least the vast majority of babies, toddlers aren't complaining about being born), and I'd say that yes, it's definitely okay to kidnap people if the vast majority of people neither mind being kidnapped when it happens nor mind it later--in fact, the vast majority of people enjoy it a lot, even if not 100% of the time. That there are a minority of people who have a problem with it later, so that they wish they simply weren't kidnapped at all, wouldn't suggest that no one should be kidnapped in my opinion.
  • khaled
    413
    it’s not moral to take that risk with someone else though if you don’t have to. Kidnapping even as you describe it would still be wrong because there is no benefit to the kidnapping. So it’s either

    Kidnap: high chance of pleasure(good), low chance of pain (bad)
    Don’t kidnap: no chance of pain(good), no chance of pleasure(not bad)

    So it’s clearly the case that the more moral option is not to kidnap, especially as the kid wouldn’t complain about not being kidnapped (if he knew you were coming it wouldn’t be a kidnapping). Maybe that last sentence is taking the analogy a bit too far but what I’m trying to say is that not giving birth doesn’t mean anyone loses out on anything because there is no one to lose out on something. The asymmetry above is one of the most famous arguments for antinatalism. The more moral option is clearly not to give birth and recklessly take chances with another person’s life.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    it’s not moral to take that risk with someone else though if you don’t have to.khaled

    I don't agree with that, though. And there are benefits, because under the scenario I wrote "In fact, the vast majority of people enjoy it a lot." That's a benefit.

    The scenario is this: Kidnap: high chance of pleasure(good), low chance of pain (bad)
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.7k
    It seems to me that saying "There are hypothetical abstract implications" is claiming existence of them. So either I don't understand what you mean by "there are" or I don't understand what you mean by "claim existence" or both .Terrapin Station

    Then they exist.

    But I've been emphasizing that I'm only saying they "exist" as something that can be mentioned and referred to.

    Other than that, I don't claim any existence for them.

    But the limited kind of "existence" that I say that they have is quite uncontroversial.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.7k

    1- By objectively real I mean unalterable by my thoughts about it
    2- It would mean that they are unalterable by me
    .
    A life-experience-story, as I said, has the requirement of consistency, because there are no inconsistent facts.
    .
    That doesn’t allow for your thoughts governing what happens in the physical world, which must operate by its own rules.
    .
    What you just proposed is essentially just the objective world.
    .
    Yes, I’ve proposed an explanation for the objectively-observed physical world. …but one consisting of logical relation among abstract-implications about propositions about hypothetical things.
    .
    You have a story that you can’t alter.
    .
    Well, as a physical animal, a biologically-originated purposefully-responsive-device (Your experience-story is a story about the experience of being one of those.), you can act on your surroundings, as they can act on you.
    .
    But no, you can’t just will things to be the way you’d like them to be.
    .
    That’s all I need to say something is objective. Your model runs into the massive issue of “who made this story[?]…
    .
    It timelessly is/was. Abstract logical implications—and therefore complex inter-referring systems of them--don’t need to be made.
    .
    …and what makes it consistent”
    .
    Consistency results from there not being any such thing as mutually-inconsistent facts, or true-and-false propositions.
    .
    because I’d say THATS the cause of my story not me.
    .
    Okay, but your life-experience-story is an experience-story only because it has a protagonist, an experiencer—namely you. That story is about your experience. In that sense you called the “reason” for it. But I agree that ultimately you didn’t choose to be. It was just an inevitable fact that there timelessly was/is that story about your experience—among the infinity of abstract-implications and complex systems of them.
    .
    It’s like how every hypothetical world you imagine is imagined by you (obviously) so who is imagining this world I’m living in right now
    .
    It doesn’t need anyone to imagine it. The logical relations among those inter-referring abstract implications just inevitably are. Who’s experiencing it? You, of course, as the protagonist of your life-experience-story.
    .
    How real is all that? Who says it has to be “real”, whatever that would mean? The notion of, the belief in, “real” and “exist” have caused much philosophical confusion for millennia.
    .
    and how in the heck is he so damned focused.
    .
    Sure, that’s a good objection, and I claim that it’s answerable.
    .
    It comes down to that consistency-requirement that I mentioned above. There’s no such thing as mutually-contradictory facts or true-and-false propositions. That means that your experiences will be consistent with eachother. When there’s an apparent contradiction, a consistent explanation will often be found. And when one hasn’t been found, there’s always the possibility that it might be subsequently consistently resolved.
    .
    The bottom-line is that there’s never provable inconsistency. That’s all that the consistency-requirement requires. Arguably, probably, it’s impossible to prove that a physical world is inconsistent, because there could be a consistent explanation, such as:
    .
    1. Finding out something that you didn’t know that gives a consistent explanation. That could be a commonplace sort of new observation, or it could be new physics that explains a previously inconsistent-seeming observation (something that has often happened in physics).
    .
    2. Mistaken memory.
    .
    3. Hallucination.
    .
    4. Dreaming
    .
    I don’t understand how your position is supposed to mean that I’m the cause of my own existence.
    .
    Only in the sense that you’re an integral, inextricable, part of your life-experience-story. The experience-story only “is” one only because it has a protagonist. It didn’t come into being before you did. The story was/is timelessly there, with you as part of it, as its experiencer/protagonist.
    .
    If I was I would at least remember setting the rules for this dang reality.
    .
    Your subconscious inclinations, perceived needs, inclinations, predispositions are part of your life-experience-story—at the root of it. They’re the fundamental “You”.
    .
    No doubt you’d like everything to be favorable to you, but the consistency-requirement doesn’t work that way.
    .
    Physical worlds can’t be made-to-order. They must operate by their own logical rules, rules that are part of your necessarily-logically-consistent life-experience-story.
    .
    Also if I was truly the author of this life story, let’s just say there would be a few changes.
    .
    See above.
    .
    Also why do you end all your posts with your name?
    .
    For the same reason why you signed the post that I’m replying to?
    .
    It’s customary to sign what we write.
    .
    2018-W49-1
    .
    12 Frimaire (Frost-Month) CCXXVII
    .
    Michael Ossipoff
  • khaled
    413


    Kidnap: High chance of pleasure (good), Low chance of suffering (Bad)
    Don’t kidnap: No chance of pleasure (not bad), No chance of suffering (Good)

    So which one seems like the more moral option to you? You have no moral obligation to create positive utility for others but you DO have an obligation to not cause them harm if it can be avoided and this birth doesn’t do (or kidnapping in this analogy)
  • khaled
    413

    Your metaphysical proposition just sounds like a deterministic external reality to me. It is external in the sense that my thoughts can’t change it and it is deterministic in the sense that these abstract ideas had to interact in a logical and deterministic way according to their own rules. Now then it just sounds like you’re arguing for the moral neutrality of birth by abolishing free will essentially, or at least that’s the “type” of objection you have. Your objection is an objection based on a deterministic state of the world, which is a fine objection, except it works for literally anything. I could murder someone and plead innocent because my life experience story just had to turn out that way deterministically because it’s consistent. Your critique can be generalized to all of morality. You’re giving me a hammer when I asked for a toothpick if that makes any sense

    Also I’m just kidding with you when I sign my name at the end. If you notice I only do that with you

    Khaled
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    So which one seems like the more moral option to you?khaled

    Very easily this is the more moral option in my view:

    Kidnap: High chance of pleasure (good), Low chance of suffering (Bad)

    You have no moral obligation to create positive utility for others but you DO have an obligation to not cause them harm if it can be avoided and this birth doesn’t do (or kidnapping in this analogy)khaled

    You're asking my opinion, right? I don't at all agree with the obligations as you see them.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.7k


    Your metaphysical proposition just sounds like a deterministic external reality to me. It is external in the sense that my thoughts can’t change it and it is deterministic in the sense that these abstract ideas had to interact in a logical and deterministic way according to their own rules.
    .
    Sure, that sounds right. But I emphasize that you, as the protagonist/experiencer, are one of the two complementary components of your experience-story, rather than only a passive result of it.
    .
    .
    Now then it just sounds like you’re arguing for the moral neutrality of birth by abolishing free will essentially, or at least that’s the “type” of objection you have. Your objection is an objection based on a deterministic state of the world, which is a fine objection, except it works for literally anything. I could murder someone and plead innocent because my life experience story just had to turn out that way deterministically because it’s consistent. Your critique can be generalized to all of morality. You’re giving me a hammer when I asked for a toothpick if that makes any sense.
    .
    I don’t believe in “free will”. Your choices are chosen for you by your built-in and acquired predispositions and preferences, and your surrounding circumstances. Your only role is a fairly good estimate, your best guess, of which choice best achieves your preferences and purposed, given the surrounding circumstances.
    .
    But no, that doesn’t mean that a criminal is innocent. What he did was partly because of what he is, both intrinsically and from his experiences. That was him, even though he didn’t choose to be as he is.
    .
    Also I’m just kidding with you when I sign my name at the end.
    .
    That’s nice. Do so if you like to. Forgive me if I don’t acknowledge it as important.
    .
    If you notice I only do that with you
    .
    To tell the truth, no I didn’t notice, because it isn’t something that would occur to me as relevant, something that I’d look for, or something that would get my attention. See above.
    .
    Michael Ossipoff

    2018-W49-2
  • khaled
    413
    it's good, bad vs good, neutral. Clearly the more moral option is good, neutral especially considering the fact that it's someone else you're talking about here.

    You have no right to take a course of action that has a risk to harm others if you gain nothing by it.

    Do you agree with this as a premise? (The alternative is you DO have a right to harm people unnecessarily which I highly doubt anyone would support here)

    Because if you do then antinatalism is the only remaining option
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    85
    Kidnap: high chance of pleasure(good), low chance of pain (bad)
    Don’t kidnap: no chance of pain(good), no chance of pleasure(not bad)

    So it’s clearly the case that the more moral option is not to kidnap, especially as the kid wouldn’t complain about not being kidnapped
    khaled

    You're pointing to David Benetar's axiological asymmetry argument here from his book "Better to Have Never Been". In which he states:
    1. The presence of bad things is bad
    2. The presence of good things is good
    3. The absence of bad things is good, even if there's no one to enjoy the absence
    4. The absence of good things is not bad unless there's someone whom this absence is a deprivation.

    There are a few things that need to be clarified about his argument:
    1. By "bad things" and "good things" he's referring to things that could be considered intrinsically good or bad. If you are a hedonist the good=pleasure and the bad=pain. If you prefer the preference satisfaction account(no pun intended lol) then good=satisfied preferences and bad=frustrated preferences. If you think there's something else that's good or bad intrinsically then you just add it to the list.
    2. When he says that the absence of bad things is good, he means that it is relatively good rather than intrinsically good. So basically, the absence of bad things is better than the presence of bad things even if there's no one who enjoys the absence. Similarly, when he says that the absence of good things is not bad, he means that it is "not worse" than the presence of good things if there is no one to be deprived of those good things. This is where I would disagree with Benetar.

    The reason why I disagree with his claim that the absence of good things in nonexistence is not worse than the presence of good things in existence is because it contradicts our intuition that pleasure has intrinsic value rather than just relative value. I use pleasure as an exemplar here because it is something that we have the greatest reason to think is intrinsically valuable. I'm aware that many negative utilitarians might argue that pleasure is only neutral intrinsically and it's only relatively good(compared to experiencing pain or neutral emotion). But, I would like to bring up a thought experiment I considered:

    Imagine that a mad scientist managed to create an artificial sentient being that only has the capacity to experience mild pleasure. It cannot experience pain or negative emotion of any kind. It also has no intelligence, personality, perception, or memory. It's just a brain in a vat that only experiences a constant stream of vague and meaningless pleasure which it has no capacity to desire. While Benetar thinks we should be indifferent about bringing such a being into existence, I happen to think that it would be good to bring as many of these artificial beings into existence as possible(Assuming there's no chance they could evolve into a different being that might experience pain). Having said that, I don't think the mad scientist has an obligation to create more of these beings. Which brings me to the next part of Benetar's argument.
    Benetar claims that his asymmetry argument offers the best explanation to the following additional asymmetry:
    1. You have an obligation not to create an unhappy person.
    2. You don't have an obligation to create a happy person.

    Benetar's asymmetry would supposedly explain this asymmetry because if the presence of bad is bad and the absence of good is not bad in nonexistence then creating an unhappy person would be bad and neglecting to create a happy person would be not bad. But, I think there are 2 additional explanations that could be given for this asymmetry:
    1. It's unreasonable to give people a duty to perform a specific positive obligation, in most cases. That is because there are nearly an infinite amount of benefits that a person could provide instead of reproducing a happy person. If someone refuses to reproduce, he might be called selfish unless he decides to donate his money to charity or adopt a child or help grannies cross the stress and so on. Because, the notion of duty is typically a simple rule based one(it would be too hard to add up all your good actions and subtract out all the bad actions.), it would hard to have, as a rule, an obligation to provide a specific benefit rather than some benefit in general. On the other hand, we could often easily make a moral rule that forbids a certain act.
    2. Requiring someone to reproduce would require too much of a sacrifice. While, Benetar does mention this explanation in his book. His response is that it is counterintuitive to him to imagine that we would have an obligation to create a happy person if there wasn't any sacrifice that was required for that. But, it's hard to imagine how there could be no sacrifice since simply feeling icky about reproduction could be viewed as a sacrifice.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k
    I use pleasure as an exemplar here because it is something that we have the greatest reason to think is intrinsically valuable. I'm aware that many negative utilitarians might argue that pleasure is only neutral intrinsically and it's only relatively good(compared to experiencing pain or neutral emotion).TheHedoMinimalist

    The weight is on the negative. What is good is that painful experiences did not occur for an individual. Pleasurable experiences not occurring does not hurt anyone, nor would anyone know they are missing out. There is an epistemological element to the pleasurable experiences but not for the painful ones. In other words, it is absolutely good that painful experiences were avoided. This is a strong metaphysical stance- a universe with the least pain is better off. A universe with no pleasurable experiences, is not bad, especially if the people that would have had pleasurable experiences do not know they are deprived of anything. Further, a universe with the least pain is certainly better in a universe where the people who were to experience pleasure otherwise if they were born, did not know they were deprived of any good
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    You have no right to take a course of action that has a risk to harm others if you gain nothing by it.khaled

    I don't parse any moral talk in terms of rights, but aside from that, sure if a course of action is something that no one could gain anything from (pretending there could be such a thing), and the course of action only has a risk of harm to others, then sure, I'd say that course of action isn't moral.

    But that wasn't the idea above. The one option was, "Kidnap: High chance of pleasure (good), Low chance of suffering (Bad)." Because of that "high chance of pleasure" in conjunction with "low chance of suffering," that's the option I'd go with as the moral option.

    Re this, "you DO have a right to harm people unnecessarily" What counts as necessarily/unnecessarily is an issue (that I'll refrain from sidetracking us into), but ignoring that, and given just how widely people use the term "harm," I do feel that it's moral in some cases to harm people unnecessarily.

    An example: some people are "harmed" by offensive speech. I think it's not only morally acceptable to utter offensive speech, I think there are good reasons to do so, I think that the people who are offended by it are the ones who have a problem, and re rights, I think it should be a legal right to do so--I'm a free speech absolutist (where I also don't see free speech as only a legal issue).
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    85
    he weight is on the negative. What is good is that painful experiences did not occur for an individual. Pleasurable experiences not occurring does not hurt anyone, nor would anyone know they are missing out. There is an epistemological element to the pleasurable experiences but not for the painful ones. In other words, it is absolutely good that painful experiences were avoided. This is a strong metaphysical stance- a universe with the least pain is better off. A universe with no pleasurable experiences, is not bad, especially if the people that would have had pleasurable experiences do not know they are deprived of anything. Further, a universe with the least pain is certainly better in a universe where the people who were to experience pleasure otherwise if they were born, did not know they were deprived of any goodschopenhauer1

    I want to point out first that your position seems different to that of David Benetar. Benetar has stated explicitly that his main axiological asymmetry is "axiological" rather than metaphysical(read his book or listen to his discussion with Sam Harris for more details). He also states in his book that the absence of pain is not literarily or absolutely good in his asymmetry. We are not deriving utility in our universe from all the beings that were never born, that is to say. Also, I don't understand how you stances could be a strong "metaphysical" stance since metaphysics refers to the study of what there is out there. Any metaphysical claim should begin with something like "There is".

    Examples of metaphysical propositions:

    1. X is the same person as Y.

    2. "There is"(or isn't) an afterlife

    3. "There is"(or isn't) free will

    Your position is more of an axiological one since it deals with the question of what is good or bad, better or worse, valuable or disvaluable. If you believe that the absence of pain is absolutely good, then you would have to conclude that the absence of pain has intrinsic value. But, how can the absence of pain have intrinsic value if there isn't an extent to which it is valuable. In other words, in order for something to be "intrinsically"(note that the word intrinsic had root "in" as in "inside of something") valuable, it has to be valuable for someone. Since, the absence of pain is valuable for no one, in the case of nonexistence, then it cannot be "intrinsically" or "absolutely" valuable. It could only be "relatively" valuable, that is to say that the absence of pain in nonexistence is better than the presence of pain in existence. I argued that the same applies for pleasure thereby claiming that there is a symmetry rather than an asymmetry in Benetar's argument. That is because I think that a universe full of sentient beings that only experiences benefit is better than a universe without sentient beings.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k
    I want to point out first that your position seems different to that of David Benetar. Benetar has stated explicitly that his main axiological asymmetry is "axiological" rather than metaphysical(read his book or listen to his discussion with Sam Harris for more details). He also states in his book that the absence of pain is not literarily or absolutely good in his asymmetry. We are not deriving utility in our universe from all the beings that were never born, that is to say. Also, I don't understand how you stances could be a strong "metaphysical" stance since metaphysics refers to the study of what there is out there. Any metaphysical claim should begin with something like "There is".TheHedoMinimalist

    I don't have the book with me. I used to have it but no longer in my possession. If you have an online source, please let me know. From what I gather, preventing bad is intrinsically good. The reason I say this is that he says this obtains sub specie aeternitatis which is taking an objective view of preventing bad. That is why I say it is absolute- it is good no matter if there is a person there to experience the prevention of bad or not. The fact that bad was prevented is good- even if there is no one there to witness this. However, the same does not seem to obtain for preventing good. Preventing good, is only bad if there is someone who is there to experience this deprivation, or more specifically, there is someone there who may be deprived of good. If there is no specific person who knows they are deprived of good, this is not bad, but neutral. This to me means that preventing good is simply instrumentally bad (only if someone is alive to be deprived, but neutral otherwise), while preventing harm is absolutely good (whether someone exists to know or not, preventing harm is always good).
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    85

    Here's a link to the ebook:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/antinatalism/comments/5giu51/david_benatar_better_never_to_have_been_the_full/

    Chapter 2 is the one where he talks about the main asymmetry argument. I'll try to see if I can find some quotes where he states that absence of pain is relatively good rather than intrinsically good
  • khaled
    413
    "Kidnap: High chance of pleasure (good), Low chance of suffering (Bad)."Terrapin Station

    No youre not looking at the option fully. The situation above IS exactly that situation of doing something that only has a risk of harming others and does nothing else. An "unborn child" doesn't miss out on being born. It's not like there's a spirit baby sighing every time someone decides not to have kids. This is why absense of pleasure in this case is completely meaningless. It doesn't harm anyone. It's not like:

    Do X: chance of pleasure and chance of pain or

    Don't do X: miss out on pleasure (a form of pain) and no chance of pain
    (The situation you have a problem with)

    It's:
    Give birth: Chance of pleasure and chance of pain

    Don't give birth: No chance of pain and no chance of missing out on pleasure (aka no harm done but much harm prevented)

    An example: some people are "harmed" by offensive speechTerrapin Station

    Yes and it would be immoral to utter offensive speech at them when no one benefits from it. So for example it's not moral for me to walk up to random people and Target their insecurities for no reason similar to how it's immoral to hurt people if you don't get anything out out of it or you get less out of it than the other guy loses
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    85

    I found the following quote on page 41 of his book:
    There I said that the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation. The implication here is that where an absent pleasure is a deprivation it is bad. Now, obviously, when I say that it is bad, I do not mean that it is bad in the same way that the presence of pain is bad. What is meant is that the absent pleasure is relatively (rather than intrinsically) bad. In other words, it is worse than the presence of pleasure. But that is because X exists in Scenario A. It would have been better had X had the pleasure of which he is deprived. Instead of a pleasurable mental state, X has a neutral state. Absent pleasures in Scenario B, by contrast, are not neutral states of some person. They are no states of a person at all. Although the pleasures in A are better than the absent pleasures in A, the pleasures in A are not better than the absent pleasures in B.
    The point may be made another way. Just as I am not talking about intrinsic badness when I say that absent pleasures that deprive are bad, so I am not speaking about intrinsic ‘not bad- ness’—neutrality—when I speak about absent pleasures that do not deprive. Just as absent pleasures that do deprive are ‘bad’ in the sense of ‘worse’, so absent pleasures that do not deprive are ‘not bad’ in the sense of ‘not worse’. They are not worse than the presence of pleasures. It follows that the presence of pleasures is not better, and therefore that the presence of pleasures is not an advantage over absent pleasures that do not deprive.

    But, I couldn't find any textual evidence that he thinks the absence of pain is only relatively rather than intrinsically good. I assume that he judges both the absence of pain and the absence of pleasure both as only relatively good and not bad respectively. Otherwise, he would be judging this argument by 2 different standards and I don't recall him claiming that the absence of pain is intrinsically good. I honestly wish Benetar would make his arguments a little more clear thou lol.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    The situation above IS exactly that situation of doing something that only has a risk of harming others and does nothing else.khaled

    "High chance of pleasure" is something else.

    An "unborn child" doesn't miss out on being bornkhaled

    What does that have to do with kidnapping in our stipulated scenario?

    To not talk about our stipulated scenario and to instead just talk about antinatalism, as you seem to want to do here, if we were to say that there's a much greater chance of pleasure than suffering in life, and thus say that it's morally better to create life because of that, we're not positing doing anything to "someone (extant) who hasn't been conceived yet." We're talking about creating things that will then be in a situation to experience pleasure or pain (and many other things).

    miss out on pleasure (a form of pain)khaled

    Haha, I like how you slide that nonsense in.

    Don't give birth: No chance of pain and no chance of missing out on pleasure (aka no harm done but much harm prevented)khaled

    There's no chance of an already extant particular person missing out on pleasure, but if we were to keep a running tally of pleasurable experiences had by extant things, not creating offspring would result in the tally being much lower. Not that I had been talking about that, by the way. I was talking about the stipulated kidnapping scenario. You brought that up for illustrative purposes, but I didn't agree with what you assumed would be everyone's take on it.

    This is no different than the antinatalist argument in this respect: antinatlists are not saying that conceiving offspring is wrong because we're doing something to "someone (extant) who hasn't been conceived yet)" are they? No. They're saying that conceiving offspring is wrong because it creates an entity that will suffer.

    By the same token, we can say that conceiving offspring is good because it creates an entity that will experience pleasure.

    It's just that supposedly antinatalists don't care about the "pleasure" side of things.

    I care about the "suffering" side of things, but I care about the "pleasure" side of things, too, and I don't agree with the notion that all suffering is something that should be avoided (and especially not that all suffering is something that we should do anything we can do to avoid), especially not without "suffering" being well-defined so that it would only refer to things that I think are significant enough to be problematic. "Suffering" as any arbitrary person being at all uncomfortable, dissatisfied, etc. in any arbitrary way isn't something that I believe should be categorically avoided.

    Yes and it would be immoral to utter offensive speech at them when no one benefits from it.khaled

    I don't at all agree with that, which is why I brought up this example The sort of "harm" that offensive speech does is something that I don't see as something that merits being avoided at all, at least not by avoiding speech. If the offendee doesn't like the speech in question that's their problem, quite literally.

    This is why I don't base any ethical stance on "harm" per se. Lots of things that people can consider "harm" are things that I don't feel merit any moral action whatsoever.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k
    This is why I don't base any ethical stance on "harm" per se. Lots of things that people can consider "harm" are things that I don't feel merit any moral action whatsoever.Terrapin Station

    But then, that's your judgement, not the person you would be creating's judgement. Even if probability was a factor (high, low, what have you), preventing pleasure ONLY matters for someone who is deprived of it (that was already in existence), not for those who don't exist. It is neutral otherwise to prevent pleasure where there could have been. It ONLY matters that pain was prevented (and this doesn't matter if there is no actual person to know this). That is the negative utilitarian stance. Disagree with it, fine, but it has its logic.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k
    But, I couldn't find any textual evidence that he thinks the absence of pain is only relatively rather than intrinsically good. I assume that he judges both the absence of pain and the absence of pleasure both as only relatively good and not bad respectively. Otherwise, he would be judging this argument by 2 different standards and I don't recall him claiming that the absence of pain is intrinsically good. I honestly wish Benetar would make his arguments a little more clear thou lol.TheHedoMinimalist

    Ok, so the contention is over the use of absolute/relative or intrinsic/relative. The point that I think we both agree he is saying is that preventing pleasure only matters for those who already exit to be deprived; it is neutral to prevent pleasure for something that cannot be deprived (yet). Conversely in his argument, preventing pain is always good, even if there was no one there to witness this. Unlike preventing pleasure which is neutral in respects to no one existing, preventing pain is good, even if there is no one existing to know pain was prevented.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    But then, that's your judgement, not the person you would be creating's judgement.schopenhauer1

    Yes, obviously.

    It ONLY matters that pain was prevented (and this doesn't matter if there is no actual person to know this)schopenhauer1

    That comment makes no sense to me. It only matters to whom that pain was prevented? Mattering can't be "to no one." Mattering is always to someone.

    So I'd agree that it can only matter to people who exist that there are people deprived of pleasure (though I'd not agree that that only matters to the people who are deprived--we can care about others' pleasure, too), but likewise, it can only matter to people who exist that pain was prevented. So in both cases, we're talking about things that matter to people who already exist. In both cases, from the perspective of the antinatalist argument, we're talking about caring about things that could happen to people who might be caused to exist but who don't exist yet. And what matters and how much it matters to people who exist varies by individual.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k
    That comment makes no sense to me. It only matters to whom that pain was prevented? Mattering can't be "to no one." Mattering is always to someone.Terrapin Station

    You have to look at the argument as a whole.

    However, this conclusion does not follow. This is because there is a
    crucial difference between harms (such as pains) and benefits (such
    as pleasures) which entails that existence has no advantage over,
    but does have disadvantages relative to, non-existence.²² Consider
    pains and pleasures as exemplars of harms and benefits. It is uncontroversial to say that
    () the presence of pain is bad,
    and that
    () the presence of pleasure is good.
    However, such a symmetrical evaluation does not seem to apply
    to the absence of pain and pleasure, for it strikes me as true that
    () the absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed
    by anyone,
    whereas
    () the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody
    for whom this absence is a deprivation.
    — The Harm of Coming into Existence p. 30
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k
    You have to look at the argument as a whole.

    However, this conclusion does not follow. This is because there is a
    crucial difference between harms (such as pains) and benefits (such
    as pleasures) which entails that existence has no advantage over,
    but does have disadvantages relative to, non-existence.²² Consider
    pains and pleasures as exemplars of harms and benefits. It is uncontroversial to say that
    () the presence of pain is bad,
    and that
    () the presence of pleasure is good.
    However, such a symmetrical evaluation does not seem to apply
    to the absence of pain and pleasure, for it strikes me as true that
    () the absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed
    by anyone,
    whereas
    () the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody
    for whom this absence is a deprivation. — The Harm of Coming into Existence p. 30
    schopenhauer1


    There are a number of problems with that. The two biggest problems are that:

    (1) "entails that existence has no advantage . . . " Advantage in a moral context isn't entailed by anything. Moral stances are not true or false. Moral stances are ways that individuals feel about interpersonal behavior (that they consider to be more significant than etiquette).

    (2) "The absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone" is just nonsensical. Nothing is good context-independently, and the context always has to be how an individual feels about the thing in question.

    The last two points may very well be how the author feels--that the absence of pain is good and the absence of pleasure is not bad, but that's all it is. How the author feels about each.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k
    The last two points may very well be how the author feels--that the absence of pain is good and the absence of pleasure is not bad, but that's all it is. How the author feels about each.Terrapin Station

    So this is precisely why its an asymmetry. Pleasure is only good as person-dependent, no pain is good is person independent. Benetar is pretty clever and he anticipates arguments like yours right after here:

    Now it might be asked how the absence of pain could be good if
    that good is not enjoyed by anybody. Absent pain, it might be said,
    cannot be good for anybody, if nobody exists for whom it can be
    good. This, however, is to dismiss (3) too quickly.
    The judgement made in (3) is made with reference to the (potential)
    interests of a person who either does or does not exist. To this it might be objected that because (3) is part of the scenario under
    which this person never exists, (3) cannot say anything about an
    existing person. This objection would be mistaken because (3) can
    say something about a counterfactual case in which a person who
    does actually exist never did exist. Of the pain of an existing person,
    (3) says that the absence of this pain would have been good even if
    this could only have been achieved by the absence of the person
    who now suffers it. In other words, judged in terms of the interests
    of a person who now exists, the absence of the pain would have
    been good even though this person would then not have existed.

    Consider next what (3) says of the absent pain of one who never
    exists—of pain, the absence of which is ensured by not making
    a potential person actual. Claim (3) says that this absence is good
    when judged in terms of the interests of the person who would
    otherwise have existed. We may not know who that person would
    have been, but we can still say that whoever that person would
    have been, the avoidance of his or her pains is good when judged
    in terms of his or her potential interests. If there is any (obviously
    loose) sense in which the absent pain is good for the person who
    could have existed but does not exist, this is it. Clearly (3) does not
    entail the absurd literal claim that there is some actual person for
    whom the absent pain is good.
    ²³
    — Benatarp. 40
  • Terrapin Station
    9.1k


    That doesn't work in the slightest because Benatar doesn't understand what "x is good" claims are.

    You can't say "x is good" "based on someone else's interests." Only a particular individual can report whether they feel that x is good or not. Aside from knowing someone and the usual sorts of judgments they make, there's no way to predict for any particular individual whether they'll say that any arbitrary thing is good.

    Aside from this, you can just as easily say the same thing about the absence of pleasure for potential people re counterfactuals.

    So (a), Benatar doesn't even understand what judgments a la "x is good" are, and (b) he's suggesting an argument that very obviously doesn't work because it in no way logically justifies the supposed asymmetry.

    I mean seriously, my view of the typical philosopher's intelligence decreases daily lately, and that doesn't say much for anyone who thinks that any of this garbage has any merit as examples of critical thinking, coherent writing, etc.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    85
    Ok, so the contention is over the use of absolute/relative or intrinsic/relative. The point that I think we both agree he is saying is that preventing pleasure only matters for those who already exit to be deprived; it is neutral to prevent pleasure for something that cannot be deprived (yet). Conversely in his argument, preventing pain is always good, even if there was no one there to witness this. Unlike preventing pleasure which is neutral in respects to no one existing, preventing pain is good, even if there is no one existing to know pain was prevented.schopenhauer1

    Yes, I think we were probably just bogged down on semantics. I disagreed with Benetar on this point because I don't think that the absence of pleasure without deprivation is "not worse" than the presence of pleasure is, in existence. That is because I think that it is good to create sentient life that experiences nothing bad but something good. Benetar, on the other hand, thinks it is neutral to create such lives. I find this highly counterintuitive since feeling pleasurable sensation seems to be a better state than experiencing no sensation is, even if there's no one to miss out on the pleasure. It's not clear to me why the lack of deprivation necessarily changes the outcome and it's also not clear if there isn't anyone deprived by not being born. The assumption being made is that someone has to have a physical identity in order to be deprived. But, we can think about a non-specific and hypothetical identity being deprived. Although, I'm honestly not sure if we should think about these identies or how we can think about these identities. But, I'm not willing to grant the assumption that if someone lacks a physical identity, they cannot be said to be "worse off". Having said that, I don't think we would have an obligation to create utopian beings and I think there's enough bad things in existence that it's reasonable to think that being born is undesirable and that one ought not to have children. I, myself, have no interest in having children and I think it would probably be better if I hadn't been born myself. But, Benetar's argument just doesn't sit well with my reasoning.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k

    A lot of the intuition of why preventing pain is always good, where preventing good is neutral comes from this type of thought experiment:
    To this it might be objected that ‘good’ is an advantage over ‘not
    bad’ because a pleasurable sensation is better than a neutral state.
    The mistake underlying this objection, however, is that it treats
    the absence of pleasure in Scenario B as though it were akin to the
    absence of pleasure in Scenario A—a possibility not reflected in
    my matrix, but which is implicit in () of my original description
    of asymmetry. There I said that the absence of pleasure is not bad
    unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation. The
    implication here is that where an absent pleasure is a deprivation
    it is bad. Now, obviously, when I say that it is bad, I do not mean
    that it is bad in the same way that the presence of pain is bad.³⁰
    What is meant is that the absent pleasure is relatively (rather than
    intrinsically) bad. In other words, it is worse than the presence
    of pleasure. But that is because X exists in Scenario A. It would
    have been better had X had the pleasure of which he is deprived.
    Instead of a pleasurable mental state, X has a neutral state. Absent
    pleasures in Scenario B, by contrast, are not neutral states of some
    person. They are no states of a person at all. Although the pleasures
    in A are better than the absent pleasures in A, the pleasures in A are
    not better than the absent pleasures in B.
    The point may be made another way. Just as I am not talking about intrinsic badness when I say that absent pleasures that
    deprive are bad, so I am not speaking about intrinsic ‘not badness’—neutrality—when I speak about absent pleasures that do
    not deprive. Just as absent pleasures that do deprive are ‘bad’ in the sense of ‘worse’, so absent pleasures that do not deprive are
    ‘not bad’ in the sense of ‘not worse’. They are not worse than the
    presence of pleasures. It follows that the presence of pleasures is
    not better, and therefore that the presence of pleasures is not an
    advantage over absent pleasures that do not deprive.
    Some people have difficulty understanding how () is not an
    advantage over (). They should consider an analogy which, because it involves the comparison of two existent people is unlike the
    comparison between existence and non-existence in this way, but
    which nonetheless may be instructive. S (Sick) is prone to regular
    bouts of illness. Fortunately for him, he is also so constituted that he
    recovers quickly. H (Healthy) lacks the capacity for quick recovery,
    but he never gets sick. It is bad for S that he gets sick and it is good
    for him that he recovers quickly. It is good that H never gets sick,
    but it is not bad that he lacks the capacity to heal speedily. The
    capacity for quick recovery, although a good for S, is not a real
    advantage over H. This is because the absence of that capacity is
    not bad for H. This, in turn, is because the absence of that capacity
    is not a deprivation for H. H is not worse off than he would have
    been had he had the recuperative powers of S. S is not better off
    than H in any way, even though S is better off than he himself
    would have been had he lacked the capacity for rapid recovery.
    It might be objected that the analogy is tendentious. It is obvious that it is better to be Healthy than to be Sick. The objection
    is that if I treat these as analogies for never existing and existing
    respectively, then I bias the discussion toward my favoured conclusion. But the problem with this objection, if it is taken alone, is that
    it could be levelled at all analogies. The point of an analogy is to
    find a case (such as H and S) where matters are clear and thereby
    to shed some light on a disputed case (such as Scenarios A and B in
    Fig. .). Tendentiousness, then, is not the core issue. Instead, the
    real question is whether or not the analogy is a good one.
    One reason why it might be thought not to be a good analogy is
    that whereas pleasure (in Fig. .) is an intrinsic good, the capacityfor quick recovery is but an instrumental good. It might be argued
    further that it would be impossible to provide an analogy involving
    two existing people (such as H and S) that could show one of the
    people not to be disadvantaged by lacking some intrinsic good that
    the other has. Since the only unambiguous cases of an actual person lacking a good and not thereby being disadvantaged are cases
    involving instrumental goods, the difference between intrinsic and
    instrumental goods might be thought to be relevant.
    This, however, is unconvincing, because there is a deeper
    explanation of why absent intrinsic goods could always be thought
    to be bad in analogies involving only existing people. Given that
    these people exist, the absence of any intrinsic good could always
    be thought to constitute a deprivation for them. In analogies
    that compare two existing people the only way to simulate the
    absence of deprivation is by considering instrumental goods.³¹
    Because () and () make it explicit that the presence or absence of
    deprivation is crucial, it seems entirely fair that the analogy should
    test this feature and can ignore the differences between intrinsic
    and instrumental goods.
    Notice, in any event, that the analogy need not be read as proving that quadrant () is good and that quadrant () is not bad. That
    asymmetry was established in the previous section. Instead, the
    analogy could be interpreted as showing how, given the asymmetry, () is not an advantage over (), whereas () is a disadvantage relative to (). It would thereby show that Scenario B is
    preferable to Scenario A.
    We can ascertain the relative advantages and disadvantages of
    existence and non-existence in another way, still in my original
    matrix, but by comparing () with () and () with (). There arebenefits both to existing and non-existing. It is good that existers
    enjoy their pleasures. It is also good that pains are avoided through
    non-existence. However, that is only part of the picture. Because
    there is nothing bad about never coming into existence, but there is
    something bad about coming into existence, it seems that all things
    considered non-existence is preferable.
    One of the realizations which emerges from some of the
    reflections so far is that the cost-benefit analysis of the cheerful—whereby one weighs up () the pleasures of life against () the
    evils—is unconvincing as a comparison between the desirability of
    existence and never existing. The analysis of the cheerful is mistaken for a number of reasons:
    First, it makes the wrong comparison. If we want to determine
    whether non-existence is preferable to existence, or vice versa,
    then we must compare the left- and the right-hand sides of the
    diagram, which represent the alternative scenarios in which X
    exists and in which X never exists. Comparing the upper and the
    lower quadrants on the left does not tell us whether Scenario A
    is better than Scenario B or vice versa. That is unless quadrants
    () and () are rendered irrelevant. One way in which that would
    be so is if they were both valued as ‘zero’. On this assumption A
    can be thought to be better than B if () is greater than (), or to
    put it another way, if () minus () is greater than zero. But this
    poses a second problem. To value quadrants () and () at zero is
    to attach no positive value to () and this is incompatible with the
    asymmetry for which I have argued. (It would be to adopt the
    symmetry of Fig. ..)
    Another problem with calculating whether A or B is better by
    looking only at () and (), subtracting the former from the latter, is
    that it seems to ignore the difference, mentioned earlier, between
    a ‘life worth starting’ and a ‘life worth continuing’. The cheerful
    tell us that existence is better than non-existence if () is greater
    than (). But what is meant by ‘non-existence’ here? Does it mean
    ‘never existing’ or ‘ceasing to exist’? Those who look only at () and() do not seem to be distinguishing between never existing and
    ceasing to exist. For them, a life is worth living (that is, both
    starting and continuing) if () is greater than (), otherwise it is
    not worth living (that is, neither worth starting nor continuing).
    The problem with this, I have already argued, is that there is good
    reason to distinguish between them. For a life to be not worth
    continuing, it must be worse than it need be for it not to be
    worth starting.³² Those who consider not only Scenario A but also
    Scenario B clearly are considering which lives are worth starting.
    To determine which lives are worth continuing, Scenario A would
    have to be compared with a third scenario, in which X ceases
    to exist.³³
    Finally, the quality of a life is not determined simply by subtracting the bad from the good. As I shall show in the first section of the
    next chapter, assessing the quality of a life is much more complicated than this.
    Now some people might accept the asymmetry represented in
    Figure ., agree that we need to compare Scenario A with Scenario B, but deny that this leads to the conclusion that B is always
    preferable to A—that is, deny that coming into existence is always
    a harm. The argument is that we must assign positive or negative
    (or neutral) values to each of the quadrants, and that if we assign
    them in what those advancing this view take to be the most reasonable way, we find that coming into existence is sometimes preferable (see Fig. .).³⁴
    — Benatar
  • khaled
    413
    you seem to like calling whatever you don't understand non sense so let me clarify. In the previous situation with the kidnapping would you say it's still moral to kidnap the kid even if the kid doesn't know the kidnapper is there or what kidnapping is or the pleasure he would get from it? I'd say no because in that case, the child doesn't mind not being kidnapped. So you have a neutral situation (no pain no pleasure) and you are saying it's moral to take a risk to try to turn that into a good situation (a lot of pleasure not much pain) even though you risk suffering. By that logic it would be perfectly moral for me to make gun jokes with a loaded gun that's off safety around a crowd. After all, the pleasure they'd gain from the jokes far outweighs the suffering I'd inflict if I accidentally pull the trigger (say the crowd is big enough for that to be the case). According to that logic it would also be moral to pick 10 random people from the population every day and throw them in an arena with lions for everyone to enjoy. After all, the joy of the crowd far outweighs the suffering of 10 people and it's a very small chance you get picked so it must be moral right?

    The point is that in all of these cases you're trying to create pleasure where none was asked for. You don't have to make gun jokes with a loaded gun even though that might make them funnier. You also don't have to kill people for others' pleasure. People will do just fine without those things. So unless you say those situations above are moral you can't say birth is.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.7k

    I have some better quotes to work off of here:
    First, the asymmetry between (3) and (4) is the best explanation
    for the view that while there is a duty to avoid bringing suffering
    people into existence, there is no duty to bring happy people into
    being. In other words, the reason why we think that there is a duty
    not to bring suffering people into existence is that the presence of
    this suffering would be bad (for the sufferers) and the absence of
    the suffering is good (even though there is nobody to enjoy the
    absence of suffering). In contrast to this, we think that there is no
    duty to bring happy people into existence because while their pleasure would be good for them, its absence would not be bad for them
    (given that there would be nobody who would be deprived of it).


    There is a second support for my claim about the asymmetry
    between (3) and (4). Whereas it is strange (if not incoherent) to give
    as a reason for having a child that the child one has will thereby be
    benefited,²⁷ it is not strange to cite a potential child’s interests as
    a basis for avoiding bringing a child into existence.
    If having children were done for the purpose of thereby benefiting those children, then there would be greater moral reason for at least many
    people to have more children. In contrast to this, our concern for
    the welfare of potential children who would suffer is a sound basis
    for deciding not to have the child. If absent pleasures were bad irrespective of whether they were bad for anybody, then having children for their own sakes would not be odd. And if it were not the
    case that absent pains are good even where they are not good for
    anybody, then we could not say that it would be good to avoid
    bringing suffering children into existence.

    Thirdly, support for the asymmetry between (3) and (4) can be
    drawn from a related asymmetry, this time in our retrospective
    judgements. Bringing people into existence as well as failing to
    bring people into existence can be regretted. However, only
    bringing people into existence can be regretted for the sake of
    the person whose existence was contingent on our decision. This
    is not because those who are not brought into existence are
    indeterminate. Instead it is because they never exist. We can
    regret, for the sake of an indeterminate but existent person that a
    benefit was not bestowed on him or her, but we cannot regret, for
    the sake of somebody who never exists and thus cannot thereby be
    deprived, a good that this never existent person never experiences.

    One might grieve about not having had children, but not because
    the children that one could have had have been deprived of
    existence. Remorse about not having children is remorse for
    ourselves—sorrow about having missed childbearing and childrearing experiences. However, we do regret having brought into
    existence a child with an unhappy life, and we regret it for the
    child’s sake, even if also for our own sakes. The reason why we do
    not lament our failure to bring somebody into existence is because
    absent pleasures are not bad.

    Finally, support for the asymmetry between (3) and (4) can be
    found in the asymmetrical judgements about (a) (distant) suffering
    and (b) uninhabited portions of the earth or the universe. Whereas, at least when we think of them, we rightly are sad for inhabitants of a foreign land whose lives are characterized by suffering,
    when we hear that some island is unpopulated, we are not similarly
    sad for the happy people who, had they existed, would have populated this island. Similarly, nobody really mourns for those who
    do not exist on Mars, feeling sorry for potential such beings that
    they cannot enjoy life.²⁸ Yet, if we knew that there were sentient
    life on Mars but that Martians were suffering, we would regret this
    for them.
    The claim here need not (but could) be the strong one
    that we would regret their very existence. The fact that we would
    regret the suffering within their life is sufficient to support the asymmetry I am defending. The point is that we regret suffering but not
    the absent pleasures of those who could have existed.
    — Benatar p 32-35
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