• JacobPhilosophy
    77
    One's initial reaction to a hypothetical in which humans are extinct is that of unsettlement (at least in my experience). It is a concept more horrifying, even than death itself, as it contradicts evolution and leads to existential questioning. However, upon reflecting I personally have concluded that extinction (only by means of antinatalism, rather than genocide) cannot logically be considered unethical, yet we still avoid it as a species. Here are my premises:

    P1: In order for an agent to be morally considered or effected, they must be in existence.
    P2: Extinction results in a lack of existence.
    Conclusion: extinction cannot hold any moral value greater than the neutrality of death.

    Premise 1 must be true, 'else one is morally obliged to give birth.
    Premise 2 is self evident.

    Could it be argued that extinction isn't only not unethical, but the only way to guarantee the removal of unethical practices?
  • Pfhorrest
    2.9k
    Premise 1 must be true, 'else one is morally obliged to give birth.JacobPhilosophy

    There’s a difference between obligatory and supererogatory goods. It can be a good thing to bring people into existence, without it being obligatory, i.e. without it being impermissible to do otherwise.

    So while voluntary human extinction may be morally permissible, it may still on the whole be bad, and continuing sapient life still good, if only a supererogatory good.
  • zookeeper
    72
    Could it be argued that extinction isn't only not unethical, but the only way to guarantee the removal of unethical practices?JacobPhilosophy

    That's what I hold to be true, more or less. Pretty straightforward antinatalism argument.

    However, you seem to approach this from an anthropocentric angle and consider only humans and human extinction, which is quite arbitrary and something I profoundly disagree with. Ethics doesn't depend on taxonomy. Of course, if you for some reason do limit yourself to antinatalism and not genocide, then for sure, the only ones you can convince through argumentation are other humans so it makes practical sense.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    it seems indifferent to me to consider something "good" if refraining from doing so isn't bad. Also, considering the asymmetry: the absence of pain is good, but the absence of pleasure isn't bad, unless there is a being for which the absence is a deprivation.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I see it this way: if it is a guaranteed way to eliminate suffering, without consequence, why aren't we partaking in it?
  • Outlander
    475


    Obvious answer. Like a suicide pact. You never really know if it's carried out.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    True, also I think it's kind of an inevitable cycle. I value the pleasure of those that are alive, and parenthood brings pleasure to many people. This is a cycle that I can't argue with and that will continue until the death of the species.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.9k
    it seems indifferent to me to consider something "good" if refraining from doing so isn't bad.JacobPhilosophy

    The classic example of a supererogatory good is donating to charity. On most accounts, it is not morally obligatory to do so, it’s not wrong to refrain from doing so, it is permissible to refrain from doing so; but it’s still good to do so. It’s totally okay if you don’t, but it’s still better if you do.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    Ok, I can accept that supererogatory acts exist, but I don't believe that conceiving a child could be one, as it is not to anyone's benefit.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.9k
    Ok, I can accept that supererogatory acts exist, but I don't believe that conceiving a child could be one, as it is not to anyone's benefit.JacobPhilosophy

    It could be to the resultant child's benefit, if that child's life is on the whole more enjoyment than suffering, or brings about more enjoyment than suffering.

    Basically, imagine two worlds, one completely devoid of life, and one of them teeming with the most blissful amazingly enjoyable lives imaginable. Which is better? I think clearly the second. That doesn't make failure to realize the second wrong, because nobody is suffering for the absence of it, but there is more enjoyment happening in the second than in the first.

    Of course, you could also imagine two worlds, one completely devoid of life, and one of them filled with unending misery and suffering beyond compare. Which is better? I think clearly the first.

    So it's uncertain whether creating life will be on the whole better or worse, which is a large part of why it's supererogatory, not obligatory. (Even giving to charity is like that: in some circumstances it would be better overall if a particular person didn't give to charity, because the suffering they would incur would be worse than the good their donation could do). But it's conceivable (no pun intended) that it might be better. If it weren't, then it would not only be supererogatory, but impermissible; if creating life was guaranteed to make things worse, then creating life should be outright prohibited.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    But to say that it is morally virtuous to create a life of pleasure seems irrational to me. As it implies that if one is to avoid parenthood it is therefore a deprivation of pleasure for the potential lives one could create.
  • Pinprick
    340
    Could it be argued that extinction isn't only not unethical, but the only way to guarantee the removal of unethical practices?JacobPhilosophy

    You could just as easily flip this and say that procreation is ethical because it’s the only way to guarantee ethical actions.
  • Outlander
    475


    How so? You don't know you'll be around long enough to ensure any offspring is raised desirably, even if you are you don't know they'd follow along.
  • Pinprick
    340
    I guess technically that’s true, but it seems very unlikely that someone would never exhibit an ethical act. Besides, even if my offspring doesn’t turn out, someone else’s will. If we as a species continue to procreate, we will continue to have ethical (and unethical) practices.

    But isn’t it also true that you won’t be around after extinction to know that life will not appear and evolve again, and that those life forms will not act unethically? If you’re looking for 100% guarantees, you’re not going to find any almost 100% if the time. :razz:
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    Well I'd say in regards to life evolving again, that would be beyond ones control. Also, it doesn't make sense to say that procreation is the only way to guarantee ethical action, because that is only valuable when there is a being to receive said ethical action.
  • schopenhauer1
    4.4k


    Yes, that is the correct answer to that rebuttal, JacobPhilosophy.

    Three things being born has that makes it a detriment for the person being born:
    1) The child now has to "deal with" life. Putting someone in a position to deal with survival, finding comfort (and navigating social, political, economic challenges) is not an ethical position, in my opinion. It is "throwing" someone into a game of challenges, that did not need to be played in the first place, but cannot be stopped, lest brutal harm to oneself via suicide.

    2) There is a component of necessary suffering in all life, especially human life. We are dissatisfied much of the time, as shown by our own wants and desires. They are representative of things we do not currently have now. We constantly are becoming but rarely ever being. This goes into principles similar to Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, but are certainly touched upon in ancient Greek sources, and of course Schopenhauer describes this principle (which he calls Will) at length.

    3) There is an obvious component of contingent suffering. People are born into different causal circumstances, different personality types, different brain chemistrys, different family circumstances. Someone can be a complete insomniac, have physical or mental disorder, have a shitty job, have an accident, have no job, live in a garbage heap, etc. etc. The billions of contingent negative circumstances anyone might find themselves in, in terms of their own causal life-story is endless. Positive psychology, and the hope for change to something better does not prevent contingent harm from befalling, and it often simply feeds back to point 1 ("dealing with"). So there is the initial negative circumstance, and the dealing with the challenges to get out of it, and then calling this "good" and "right" for the person to endure. I believe this to be the equivalent of philosophical gaslighting. Blame the victim for not liking life's circumstances and telling them, that this is the way things are. No they don't have to be anything. People don't have to be born in the first place. Nothing (no thing) ever suffers nor cares about not experiencing the good. That's only a worry for the already born (already too late).

    And no, the logic that there needs to be someone around for suffering to matter is false. That would be like saying that in a world with no torture, having no torture doesn't matter because no one is experiencing it. You don't bring about torture in order for it to be prevented. Rather, if there was no torture to begin with, that in itself is good and better than having to prevent torture that already exists.
  • Pinprick
    340
    Well I'd say in regards to life evolving again, that would be beyond ones control.JacobPhilosophy

    Others acting unethically is also beyond one’s control.

    Also, it doesn't make sense to say that procreation is the only way to guarantee ethical action, because that is only valuable when there is a being to receive said ethical action.JacobPhilosophy

    But the statement is still true nonetheless, right? If not, how would you answer the question of how to guarantee ethical actions?
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I think that for something to be ethical, there has to have been the potential for something unethical to happen. If this is removed, morality can't be desired.
  • Pinprick
    340
    Yeah, I think I agree, but I’m not sure what point your trying to make.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    I'm saying you cannot desire the potential for morality to be expressed. This would be the argument presented by saying giving birth (avoiding extinction) is the only way to guarantee ethical treatment. My point is it isn't innately valuable in itself so we have no reason to guarantee it. We can, however, say that eliminating potential harm is good. This is the asymmetry.
  • Pinprick
    340
    This would be the argument presented by saying giving birth (avoiding extinction) is the only way to guarantee ethical treatment.JacobPhilosophy

    I’m not really trying to present an argument. Antinatalism being good or bad seems to me to be a matter of opinion. It focuses on reducing harm, but there are other moralities that focus on increasing happiness, pleasure, etc. And as best as I can tell, the reason one chooses to emphasize one or the other is arbitrary, and depends on their own inherent biases and values. I’m just pointing out that the statement “If we continue to procreate ethical actions will also continue” is factually true, as is its inverse. Therefore, both fail to establish much persuasive ability.

    We can, however, say that eliminating potential harm is good.JacobPhilosophy

    I’m not as quick to agree with this either, at least not in absolute terms. For example, is it permissible to eliminate harm for one person if doing so also reduces happiness for 10 people? Also, I typically think antinatalists exaggerate suffering/harm. I equate them with intolerable pain, either physical or mental. So I don’t consider being hungry as suffering, at least not until it reaches the person’s subjective threshold for pain.
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    The argument of the asymmetry is that any harm, no matter how miniscule, justifies the sentiment that it would be "better never to have been". This is because the absence of that pain is good, and the absence of all the pleasure you may have experienced is not bad, as it is not a deprivation to a potential being, only an existing one. To be an antinatalism you don't have to say that life is mostly suffering, you just have to accept that suffering is all that can be considered, so if ANY is experienced, it would be better never to have been.
  • Pinprick
    340
    To be an antinatalism you don't have to say that life is mostly suffering, you just have to accept that suffering is all that can be considered, so if ANY is experienced, it would be better never to have been.JacobPhilosophy

    I get it. But if that is the case, how do you explain so many people that judge life to be enjoyable or pleasant? Or, in a word, worth living? I don’t see the logic of trading a life of mostly pleasure/happiness for no life at all.

    This is because the absence of that pain is good, and the absence of all the pleasure you may have experienced is not bad, as it is not a deprivation to a potential being, only an existing one.JacobPhilosophy

    But there are existing human beings who are deprived of pleasure by not having a child. If tomorrow we woke up and everyone was sterile, happiness would decrease, and suffering would increase. I get it that the unborn cannot experience pleasure, so no suffering is experienced by them if they are not born. But why should my duty be to the unborn, rather than the living? Why should I be more concerned about the potential suffering an unborn person could experience by being born more than the potential suffering those already born could experience by not procreating? If a couple approaches me and is suffering because they are not able to have children, isn’t the ethical thing to do to try to help alleviate their suffering through some fertilization process if possible? If I am able to prevent suffering of those that are already born, shouldn’t I do so?
  • JacobPhilosophy
    77
    That final situation is that strongest against the asymmetry, as it deals with the suffering of the living. Ultimately, this is why it is inevitable for the human race to continue. It is a biological instinct to produce offspring, so much so that the deprivation of parenthood can actually cause suffering.
  • schopenhauer1
    4.4k

    You can put up a better rebuttal than this...
    Not getting to cause other people's pain because one wants children, is not a good argument to go ahead and proceed causing others pain.

    If one can prevent pain for another person when one is able to, that is the correct action.

    If i get pleasure from an action that directly causes a lifetime of known and unknown forms of suffering for another, that should be questioned at best.
  • Pinprick
    340
    If one can prevent pain for another person when one is able to, that is the correct action.schopenhauer1

    So using fertilization treatment to relieve the suffering of being unable to have children is permissible in your view?
  • schopenhauer1
    4.4k
    So using fertilization treatment to relieve the suffering of being unable to have children is permissible in your view?Pinprick

    Sorry, I should say, if one can prevent ALL pain for another person when one is able to, that is the correct action.

    Otherwise, of course not to your example. If coming into existence brings about all possibilities of future harm for someone else, and fertilization treatment brings this outcome for someone else into fruition, then no.
  • Pinprick
    340
    So possible, or potential suffering is worse than actual suffering that is occurring?

    Also, part of your critique of procreation is the expectation for the person being born to deal with whatever suffering it may occur. But, in this case at least, you’re doing the exact same thing; expecting those who suffer because they can’t have children to just deal with it.

    Anyway, I’m not convinced that preventing potential suffering should take precedence over reducing actual suffering in cases where one has to choose one or the other. One reason being that you can’t assess whether or not the amount of suffering the person being born will experience will be greater than the amount of suffering experienced by the unhappy couple. It seems logical that you should reduce/prevent the greatest amount of suffering possible, and seeing how the unborn person isn’t even experiencing suffering, why not focus on reducing actual suffering that is being experienced?

    I’m also not convinced that all suffering is bad and should be eliminated/prevented at all costs. The suffering experienced by receiving a vaccine, for example, pales in comparison to the potential reward. I don’t believe that if everyone lived in a way that they never inflicted harm on anyone else, no matter how great or small, the world would be a better place.
  • schopenhauer1
    4.4k
    So possible, or potential suffering is worse than actual suffering that is occurring?Pinprick

    All known and unknown forms of suffering will occur when born. Don't see a problem here. I don't need to actaulize torture on someone to prove that preventing possible torture is bad.

    Also, part of your critique of procreation is the expectation for the person being born to deal with whatever suffering it may occur. But, in this case at least, you’re doing the exact same thing; expecting those who suffer because they can’t have children to just deal with it.Pinprick

    If someone got pleasure from something that caused someone else known collateral damage (i.e. not intended but known to cause damage), that ain't good. It doesn't matter if they are heartbroken for not getting the pleasure, that action would still cause the collateral damage to someone else. Forcing collateral harm on others, to alleviate one's own desires is not moral. It is an action that is a consequence to another person, not oneself and this needs to be the consideration. If someone likes blowing up stuff in residential areas, but is known to cause people to get maimed by doing so... should we let the person doing this continue because he's heartbroken? He doesn't intend to hurt people, but he really likes the feeling of blowing stuff up in residential areas.

    One reason being that you can’t assess whether or not the amount of suffering the person being born will experience will be greater than the amount of suffering experienced by the unhappy couple. It seems logical that you should reduce/prevent the greatest amount of suffering possible, and seeing how the unborn person isn’t even experiencing suffering, why not focus on reducing actual suffering that is being experienced?Pinprick

    This is ridiculous reasoning. Forcing suffering on others to alleviate one's own is not justified because you don't know the quantity of suffering that will take place. Again, it involves another person, not oneself. People are not means to your ends. Antinatalism, (perhaps counter-intuitively) honors the dignity of the possible person who will inevitably suffer in known and unknown ways instead of using them as a means to ones own agenda. The reasons prior to birth, can never be for the sake of the child. This is all selfish fulfillment with collateral damage as consequence.

    I’m also not convinced that all suffering is bad and should be eliminated/prevented at all costs. The suffering experienced by receiving a vaccine, for example, pales in comparison to the potential reward.Pinprick

    I said unnecessary suffering. Don't straw man. One can argue, since already born, taking the vaccine is preventing oneself from harming others, besides preventing future harm for oneself. But certainly, preventing birth, prevents all unnecessary harm from occurring for a future person with no negative consequence to that future person.
  • darthbarracuda
    3k
    It is a concept more horrifying, even than death itself, as it contradicts evolution and leads to existential questioning.JacobPhilosophy

    On this point, extinction does not contradict evolution, as evolution has no direction or purpose. If a species goes extinct, its members were no longer fit for their environment. They are unable - or unwilling - to continue the game.

    Could it be argued that extinction isn't only not unethical, but the only way to guarantee the removal of unethical practices?JacobPhilosophy

    Yes, it can, and it has been.

    I see it this way: if it is a guaranteed way to eliminate suffering, without consequence, why aren't we partaking in it?JacobPhilosophy

    Anti-natalism will likely always be a fringe belief. It contradicts the natural instinct to replicate.

    I’m just pointing out that the statement “If we continue to procreate ethical actions will also continue” is factually true, as is its inverse. Therefore, both fail to establish much persuasive ability.Pinprick

    If we continue to procreate, unethical behavior will continue. The inverse is not true and establishes its persuasive ability.

    Why should I be more concerned about the potential suffering an unborn person could experience by being born more than the potential suffering those already born could experience by not procreating?Pinprick

    Presumably because the potential sufferings of an unborn person can and often do exceed (in great proportion) the potential sufferings of those who do not procreate (because they do not procreate).
  • Pinprick
    340
    If someone got pleasure from something that caused someone else known collateral damage (i.e. not intended but known to cause damage), that ain't good.schopenhauer1

    Always? If a nurse takes pleasure in vaccinating people it’s bad?

    Forcing collateral harm on others, to alleviate one's own desires is not moral.schopenhauer1

    Forcing my daughter to not jump out the window because I desire her safety is immoral?

    This is ridiculous reasoning.schopenhauer1

    Maybe...

    Forcing suffering on others to alleviate one's own is not justified, because you don't know the quantity of suffering that will take place.schopenhauer1

    Neither is allowing the continued suffering of two people to spare the suffering of one. It’s just a different version of the trolley problem.

    People are not means to your ends.schopenhauer1

    Nor are they means to your end. You desire extinction and are willing to persuade others to alter their behavior to bring about that end at the potential expense of their happiness.

    I said unnecessary suffering. Don't straw man.schopenhauer1

    Wasn’t meaning too, but I don’t see the difference. In your view, what types of suffering are necessary?

    One can argue, since already born, taking the vaccine is preventing oneself from harming others, besides preventing future harm for oneself.schopenhauer1

    Well then consider foul tasting medicine, or something else that illustrates the point that in certain cases harm/suffering is good, even if it only benefits the person involved.

    But certainly, preventing birth, prevents all unnecessary harm from occurring for a future person with no negative consequence to that future person.schopenhauer1

    Right, but there are actual negative consequences for those already born.
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