• TheHedoMinimalist
    47

    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
    5.2k
    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
    2.3k
    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
    2.3k
    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
    5.2k
    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
    2.3k
    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
    5.2k
    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
    2.3k
    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
    5.2k


    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
    47
    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
    2.3k

    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
    363
    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
    2.3k

    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
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    47

    I recently thought about a new objection to Benetar's conclusion that the absence of pleasure is not worse than the presence of pleasure if there is no one for whom the absence is a deprivation. It goes something like this:

    Imagine that scientists discover a new alien species on a distant planet that cannot experience nor appreciate or desire pleasure. We shall refer to these alien beings as "X Beings". X Beings cannot comprehend the concept of pleasure because they never experienced it and do not know what's so great about it. Explaining pleasure to them is like explaining the joys of music to a deaf person. Although they cannot experience pleasure, they can still experience deprivational suffering. For example, they can't derive pleasure from eating but they suffer from hunger if they don't eat. They also cannot derive pleasure from sex but being celibate will make them experience sexual frustration. They have to engage in recreational activities to avoid boredom but they derive no pleasure from them. They also can be alleviated from stress by drinking alcohol but the alcohol isn't pleasurable to them. Given the characteristics of X Beings, my argument goes as follows:

    P1: The presence of pleasure in human beings is an advantage over the absence of pleasure in X Beings.

    P2: X Beings cannot be said to be deprived of pleasure because they never had a desire or appreciation for it in the first place. In addition, experiencing pleasure provides no instrumental benefit to them by alleviating deprivational or inflictional suffering. Furthermore, the absence of pleasure is necessary for an X Being to maintain its identity as an X Being(that means if a rare mutation makes a supposed X Being experience pleasure, scientists would reclassify the being as some other species rather than an X Being with good scientific justification)

    C: Therefore, the presence of pleasure can be an advantage over the absence of pleasure even if there is no one for whom the absence is a deprivation.

    If you reject P1, you would have to accept the counterintuitive conclusion that the presence of pleasure in human beings is in no way better than the lack of pleasure and the lack of capacity to understand pleasure in X Beings.

    If you reject P2, then you would have to explain how the X Beings are being deprived of pleasure. One possible explanation is to distinguish between "feeling deprived" and "being deprived". The objection goes that although X Beings are not "feeling deprived" they are "being deprived" of pleasure nonetheless. That is because the X Beings exist and all beings that exist can be deprived of something good even if they don't appreciate it or desire it. This would demonstrate that there is a clear difference between Benetar's Scenario B and my Scenario involving X Beings; that difference being the existence of a being in my X Being Scenario but there's no being existing in Benetar's Scenario B. If this is your objection to P2, then you would have to explain why "being deprived" is bad even if there's no one "feeling deprived".
  • Noah Te Stroete
    257
    Imagine that scientists discover a new alien species on a distant planet that cannot experience nor appreciate or desire pleasure. We shall refer to these alien beings as "X Beings". X Beings cannot comprehend the concept of pleasure because they never experienced it and do not know what's so great about it. Explaining pleasure to them is like explaining the joys of music to a deaf person. Although they cannot experience pleasure, they can still experience deprivational suffering. For example, they can't derive pleasure from eating but they suffer from hunger if they don't eat. They also cannot derive pleasure from sex but being celibate will make them experience sexual frustration. They have to engage in recreational activities to avoid boredom but they derive no pleasure from them. They also can be alleviated from stress by drinking alcohol but the alcohol isn't pleasurable to them. Given the characteristics of X Beings, my argument goes as follows:

    P1: The presence of pleasure in human beings is an advantage over the absence of pleasure in X Beings.

    P2: X Beings cannot be said to be deprived of pleasure because they never had a desire or appreciation for it in the first place. In addition, experiencing pleasure provides no instrumental benefit to them by alleviating deprivational or inflictional suffering. Furthermore, the absence of pleasure is necessary for an X Being to maintain its identity as an X Being(that means if a rare mutation makes a supposed X Being experience pleasure, scientists would reclassify the being as some other species rather than an X Being with good scientific justification)

    C: Therefore, the presence of pleasure can be an advantage over the absence of pleasure even if there is no one for whom the absence is a deprivation.

    If you reject P1, you would have to accept the counterintuitive conclusion that the presence of pleasure in human beings is in no way better than the lack of pleasure and the lack of capacity to understand pleasure in X Beings.

    If you reject P2, then you would have to explain how the X Beings are being deprived of pleasure. One possible explanation is to distinguish between "feeling deprived" and "being deprived". The objection goes that although X Beings are not "feeling deprived" they are "being deprived" of pleasure nonetheless. That is because the X Beings exist and all beings that exist can be deprived of something good even if they don't appreciate it or desire it. This would demonstrate that there is a clear difference between Benetar's Scenario B and my Scenario involving X Beings; that difference being the existence of a being in my X Being Scenario but there's no being existing in Benetar's Scenario B. If this is your objection to P2, then you would have to explain why "being deprived" is bad even if there's no one "feeling deprived".
    TheHedoMinimalist

    The point of living shouldn't be to maximize one's own pleasure. It would be infinitely better to avoid inflicting unnecessary harm to others if maximizing their pleasure is somehow beyond one's control. One should not think that maximizing pleasure for the self is the point of life when humanity is inherently social. In no possible world could humans not be social beings without ceasing to be human. So, maximizing pleasure for the self is base and goes against humanity's need for community.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    47
    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).
    schopenhauer1

    I can offer 3 alternative explanations for that asymmetry:
    1. We have no duty to create happy people because it requires too much of a sacrifice to raise a happy child. It would not be reasonable to expect everyone to raise a happy child.
    2. Any positive duty can be easily avoided by choosing to perform a different positive duty instead, thereby justifying the violation of duty. For example, instead of creating a happy person, I could make an already existent miserable person happy. It's not clear why the duty to procreate should be privileged over the near infinite amount of other positive duties we could perform instead.
    3. Humans usually experience guilt and shame from harming people more strongly than pride for helping people. Thereby creating a bias towards wanting to avoid harming people while being relatively unmotivated to benefit them. The existence of this psychological bias does not mean that creating benefit cannot justify creating harm.

    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.
    schopenhauer1

    I can also offer 2 alternative explanations for that asymmetry:
    1. You don't have a duty to create a happy person but you do have a duty not to create an unhappy one.(Note that you don't have to accept Benetar's argument to explain this asymmetry)
    2. Humans usually experience guilt and shame from harming people more strongly than pride for helping people. Thereby creating a bias towards wanting to avoid harming people while being relatively unmotivated to benefit them. The existence of this psychological bias does not mean that creating benefit cannot justify creating harm.

    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.
    schopenhauer1

    Once again, I can offer at least 2 alternative explanation for that asymmetry:
    1. We can't regret for someone if we aren't aware of that person's existence. For example, I can't regret the suffering of a person I have never thought about because there is no conceptual manifestation of that person in my mind.
    2. There's simply no person to regret if you don't create any, but our inability to regret a potential child not being brought into existence does not imply that there's nothing to regret. Rather, our psychology is flawed to have a hard time understanding the regret.

    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.
    — Benatar p 32-35

    This asymmetry could be explained with similar explanations as the last one.

    1. We can't morn for a hypothetical alien if we aren't aware of that alien's hypothetical existence. For example, I can't morn for the suffering of a Martian I have never thought about because there is no conceptual manifestation of that Martian in my mind.
    2. There's simply no alien to morn about if there aren't any that existed, but our inability to morn for a hypothetical alien not existing does not imply that there's nothing to morn about . Rather, our psychology is flawed to have a hard time understanding why the absence of Martians is mornworthy.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    For one, there is no such thing as an "intrinsic good."

    "The capacity for quick recovery, although a good for S, is not a real advantage over H." There is no such thing as a "real advantage" in a value judgment context.

    "It is obvious that it is better to be Healthy than to be Sick." No it isn't . It's obvious that anyone who says these things--"intrinsic, " "real," etc. , when we're talking about axiology doesn't understand what value judgments are.

    "It is also good that pains are avoided through non-existence." Once again, anything is always good only to someone. So if it's good that pain is avoided by not existing, that's only good to the particular existent individuals who happen to feel that's good.

    Likewise if it's bad that pleasure isn't obtaining that could obtain if more people existed, that's only bad to particular existent individuals who happen to feel that's bad.

    Re the stuff about the diagrams, matrices, etc. I can't see any of that so it's difficult to comment on it.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    You want me to be asserting some broadly abstract principle that I'm doing ethics by, so that it would be applicable to a bunch of different scenarios. That's not how I do ethics, though. And I think it's a bad idea to do ethics that way. It's a type of theory-worship that almost always leads to things that I consider absurdities (such as antinatalism).
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    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.
    — Benatar p 32-35

    This makes sense only to the extent that it's a matter of whether we're talking about a particular person or not.

    The problem with it is that you don't have to be talking about a particular person. You can regret that indeterminate people were never made to exist so that they could enjoy particular things.

    So in both of those cases, you have regrets about others, it's just that they're indeterminate, potential others in one case, but determinate, actual others in the other case.
  • Andrew4Handel
    771
    I think you can logically challenge a person reasons for having a child or lack of reasons.

    Unless you believe no one needs to ever justify having a child and can have a child for incoherent, illogical reasons.

    Sometimes the reasons people give for having a child are very disturbing. I think most people believe that not everyone should have children such as abusive people, drug addicts, pedophiles and such.

    If you can accept that some people shouldn't procreate then it is not far to go to scrutinize everyone's parenting suitability.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I wouldn't at all want a society wherein people are required to "justify having a child," and then other people judge their reasons.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.3k
    P1: The presence of pleasure in human beings is an advantage over the absence of pleasure in X Beings.TheHedoMinimalist

    The difference being that we are not talking about X beings that already exist, but no being at all. It can be regrettable for X beings that they don't feel pleasure, because they exist and they are being deprived of something. However, even this is a moot point in your scenario as it seems like an impossibility they can derive pleasure in the first place, so it is not even regrettable, just an oddity of nature that happens.

    Rather, Benatar's scenario is simply that preventing pleasure is not bad, if no actual person is deprived of it. The potential kids you or I won't have are not suffering from prevention of pleasure. The only scenario where someone would suffer from prevention of pleasure, is one where an actual person existed who was prevented (i.e. a person-dependent scenario). That is his main idea. However, preventing harmful experiences don't need to be person-dependent. That someone could have existed that would have suffered but was prevented from doing so is good, independent of whether an actual person can be identified to have benefited from this.

    To me, the Martian argument is his most revealing of his negative utilitarianism. It seems his negative utilitarianism comes from the intuition that for a hypothetical person to not experience pleasure, is not something we really regret.. (If we do it would be more post-facto in a philosophy forum like this simply to prove others wrong..in other words it would be intellectually falsifying how we really feel to make point). However, it does seem that we intuitively are indignant at the idea that someone (who does not exist but has a potential to) can be born into great suffering.
  • Andrew4Handel
    771
    I wouldn't at all want a society wherein people are required to "justify having a child," and then other people judge their reasons.Terrapin Station

    Why not?

    Do you think pedophiles should be allowed to have children. Drug users and Alcoholics?

    I can give a common personal example here. As Christians my parents believe that all humans are corrupt through Adam and Eve and basically worthless and deserving of hell. So they had six children that the had a default low opinion and exposed them to the threat of eternal damnation.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Rather, Benatar's scenario is simply that preventing pleasure is not bad, if no actual person is deprived of it.schopenhauer1

    Suggesting that he feels that "Preventing pleasure is only bad if someone (actual) is being deprived of pleasure."

    Someone else might feel, "The more pleasure there is in the world the better. The less pleasure there is in the world the worse it is--purely based on how much pleasure there is in the world. Therefore, we should act to have as much pleasure in the world as possible."
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Why not?Andrew4Handel

    Because, for one, I don't like the idea of people judging other people in general, especially not where those judgments constrain what other people can and can't choose to do. In that regard I'm basically a minarchist libertarian (the idea of minarchism is "as close as we can get to anarchy without people taking even more control via force") (Overall, politically, I'm not longer just a libertarian, but when it comes to moral issues like this, I am.)

    I don't know if you're familiar with the term "moralizing"--it's a specific idea typically with a negative connotation, but I'm extremely anti-moralizing.

    Do you think pedophiles should be allowed to have children. Drug users and Alcoholics?Andrew4Handel

    Yes.
  • Andrew4Handel
    771
    I could probably come up with a thousand arguments against having children or reasons not to, yet I can't think of a compelling reason why someone should.

    Among the basic reasons against having a child famine, poverty, pollution over population, physical and mental illness, stress, work, war, the weapons industry including the nuclear threat, exploitation, death, possible pointlessness and meaninglessness, survival of the fittest, consent issues,inequality, injustice, religious doctrine (see my previous post).

    Each issue has many layers. For example exploitation might be mutually beneficial however there are very many different cases and structural issues. In order to give yourself and your child what they want it relies on other people having children and working on behalf of your goals.

    So for example if you want your child to see a Doctor and receive medicine then someone else has to have a child and that child has to train to be a doctor. It is not just a case of having a child in a bubble of independence but you implicitly have to demand other people procreate and work to create the society you want.
  • Andrew4Handel
    771


    There was a case in America where a couple had a child with the explicit intention of sexual abusing it. They received very long prisons terms and I believe the child was taken into care however what if the child had not been rescued?

    This is the most explicit case of a parent planning to torture a child and I cannot see how anyone could or should have the right to do this.

    I think having a child to mend a relationship is also irresponsible and not in the child's interest.

    I am interested in your response to my example of people who believe in the fallen nature and hell doctrines.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    There are a number of issues here. First, I'd never have planning or even conspiring or contracting or ordering someone to do something as a crime. This includes planning to commit acts of terrorism, hiring a hit man, a political leader ordering underlings to commit murder, etc.

    People can do things to other people, including children, that would be illegal if I were king--such as torturing them (which would fall under a general nonconsenual battery prohibition), but they'd have to actually be doing those things for it to be an issue.

    "What's in someone's interest" is a subjective issue. Each person ultimately decides what's in their interest for themselves. There are no facts that such and such is in someone's interest and something else is not.

    Re your personal example re "fallen nature" etc., morally I'm indifferent to that. I'm not sure what your moral view would be on it. People have all different sorts of views. They're going to believe some things that you think are false. That's the case when it comes to family members, too.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.3k

    But Benatar takes into account outcomes. What is the outcome of pleasure being prevented (and no one there to be deprived of it?). What is the outcome of preventing suffering (even if there is no one there to be deprived of it?). Moral intuition might say, the "regrettable" loss of pleasure, for something that did not even exist to know of its deprivation is trivially sad, where the prevention of suffering is non-trivially good. You should also understand that Benatar seems to split morality into two modalities- lives worth continuing and lives worth starting. Here is how he puts it:

    The expression ‘a life worth living’ is ambiguous between ‘a life
    worth continuing’—let us call this the present-life sense—and ‘a life
    worth starting’—let us call this the future-life sense.¹² ‘A life worth
    continuing’, like ‘a life not worth continuing’, are judgements
    one can make about an already existent person. ‘A life worth
    starting’, like ‘a life not worth starting’, are judgements one can
    make about a potential but non-existent being. Now the problem
    is that a number of people have employed the present-life sense
    and applied it to future-life cases,¹³ which are quite different. When
    they distinguish between impairments that make a life not worth
    living and impairments that, though severe, are not so bad as to
    make life not worth living, they are making the judgements in
    the present-life cases. Those lives not worth living are those that
    would not be worth continuing. Similarly, those lives worth living
    are those that are worth continuing. But the problem is that these
    notions are then applied to future-life cases.¹⁴ In this way, we are
    led to make judgements about future-life cases by the standards of
    present-life cases.
    However, quite different standards apply in the two kinds of
    case. The judgement that an impairment is so bad that it makes life
    not worth continuing is usually made at a much higher threshold
    than the judgement that an impairment is sufficiently bad to make
    life not worth beginning. That is to say, if a life is not worth
    continuing, a fortiori it is not worth beginning. It does not follow,
    however, that if a life is worth continuing it is worth beginning or
    that if it is not worth beginning it would not be worth continuing.
    For instance, while most people think that living life without a limb
    does not make life so bad that it is worth ending, most (of the
    same) people also think that it is better not to bring into existence
    somebody who will lack a limb. We require stronger justification
    for ending a life than for not starting one.¹⁵
    We are now in a position to understand how it might be preferable
    not to begin a life worth living.
    — Benatar p 22-24
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k


    Were you addressing this comment above:

    Someone else might feel, "The more pleasure there is in the world the better. The less pleasure there is in the world the worse it is--purely based on how much pleasure there is in the world. Therefore, we should act to have as much pleasure in the world as possible."Terrapin Station

    That has nothing to do with the idea of anyone being deprived of anything.
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