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Subject: Anti-Natalism 2 or 3: Electric Boogalee rss

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Clay
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I know we've had several, um, "conversations" about my stance on procreation before but it's been awhile and apparently Jasper has never seen one so here we go. Besides, I think the last one was during the period that David was ruining every thread I posted in by being David so hopefully this will be far more civil and interesting.

What is Anti-Natalism? Essentially it is the stance that procreation is not only undesirable but is an actively bad thing to do and that we should endeavor to reduce or eliminate acts of reproduction to the best of our ability. The reasons for this depend on the anti-natalist, obviously. In my case it is based mainly on three premises:

1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.

2) That there is no intrinsic good being advanced by reproduction or the continued existence of life in general.

3) That we are never justified in making decisions on behalf of others if those decisions have a high chance of leaving them off worse that they would have been had we not done that and they are unable to provide any form of consent.

If you accept these three premises as true then it seems that you would have to view procreation as a terrible act since it is an unnecessary risk being made on behalf of someone that doesn't exist yet and thus takes them from a "place" of no sensation to place of negative sensation.

Alright, so the actual thread: Would you like to take a moment to express your confused anger? Now that that's out of the way, would you like to attack the argument in any particular fashion or do you accept it? In an interesting variation from the previous threads, instead of attacking my argument can you think of a compelling argument of your own to not only justify procreation but to establish it as an inherently positive thing?

Previous threads have gotten bogged down on the morality question. This isn't a moral argument, I'm also an amoralist and so this is more of a "don't be a douche" argument. It's a subtle distinction. If it becomes necessary to go down that road we can but I'd prefer something different this time if possible, we already had 9 pages of Fizzmore telling me I believe in an absolute moral good.

I also want to note that this is not a blanket condemnation of any parents in the audience. I'm pretty sure you guys will do the best that can be hoped and I suffer no illusions that procreation is dying off any time soon so "Middle class board gamers in America have baby" is a better headline than "Mother of fifty in Uganda caught in baby traffic ring." Uganda is probably a lovely place, I don't know anything about it.

Now you say something.
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Damian
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My wife and I never desired kids, and my current medical situation makes it unlikely I even could if I wanted to without serious medical intervention.

It's a positive thing only in that it's a biological imperative and necessary to continue the species. If you're a Voluntary Human Extinctionist I guess there's no positive at all.
 
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Michael Carter
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The goal of every biological life form is to reproduce.
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Michael Hopcroft
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Do you believe your own parents harmed you by causing you to exist?

You are also saying that non-sensation is better than "negative sensation". Non-sensation also implies that there is no "positive" sensation either. Even if you are convinced there is no such thing as positive sensation -- that all experience is negative -- does that still make non-sensation better? How can you even imagine being in a state on non-sensation?
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The Message wrote:
.

2) That there is no intrinsic good being advanced by reproduction or the continued existence of life in general.



I am going to explain why this is either false or meaningless.
1. Suppose I believe in a God inspired morality or at least in 'good' as having a non relative, universal meaning.

If you are a believer than it's trivial. if you believe in a universal "good", then the definition of what good is will define if reproduction has an intrinsic value or not, same thing for the continuation of life.

2.suppose I am a stupid nihilistic atheist like you are and incidentally, that's also what I am. In that case, I define what is good and what is not good; if I am not, then the fact that something is good or not is not only irrelevant, it's without meaning.

Now as someone studying ecology in more and more detail, I more and more agree with Malthus so I usually grok argument that plead toward regulating our population, but philosophically your reasons are weird to me.
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This bit seems to be made up:

The Message wrote:
1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.
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spoon wrote:
This bit seems to be made up:

The Message wrote:
1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.


Especially given the average lifespan of 70+ years?
Seems to me a much higher possibility of a net positive experience.

And this is without going into the afterlife question.
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"Give a hoot, don't give a fuck."

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The Message wrote:


1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.

This premise is based on what?

My life is fantastic. The lives of any children I produce have a high probability of of being fantastic. They'll have access to plenty of money, education, and health care.
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Clay
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mlcarter815 wrote:
The goal of every biological life form is to reproduce.


Depends on what you mean by "goal." Obviously organisms tend towards that behavior and have been refined to increase the likelihood of it but that doesn't mean anything in terms of whether or not they should reproduce. "life begets life" is a far cry from "life begets life, and that's great, keep doing that."

Michael Hopcroft wrote:
Do you believe your own parents harmed you by causing you to exist?

You are also saying that non-sensation is better than "negative sensation". Non-sensation also implies that there is no "positive" sensation either. Even if you are convinced there is no such thing as positive sensation -- that all experience is negative -- does that still make non-sensation better? How can you even imagine being in a state on non-sensation?


My biological parents, yes. My adoptive parents, no.

You hit the nail on the head with the toughest part of the argument. It's definitely tricky, but I've thought about it a lot and I'm still convinced that it makes perfect sense. Nothingness is indeed nothingness, no positive or negative. Losing the positive values seems like a huge loss, but you have to consider that loss of a positive is only a negative move for an existent being. Someone that doesn't exist isn't harmed by not being able to experience ice cream. They aren't "deprived" of that sensation in the same negative context that we might say a lactose intolerant individual would be.

Now if every experience was positive would that change my conclusion? Yes, absolutely. At that point it might almost be the exact opposite argument and we might be douchebags for not bringing more people to the eternal party. However since the world is not exclusively positive in nature risk is introduced the equation, and since a non-existing person cannot be harmed by staying non-existent there's no justification for taking that gamble. You almost certainly generate more negative values than you would otherwise have generated (namely, none).


HavocIsHere wrote:
The Message wrote:
.

2) That there is no intrinsic good being advanced by reproduction or the continued existence of life in general.



I am going to explain why this is either false or meaningless.
1. Suppose I believe in a God inspired morality or at least in 'good' as having a non relative, universal meaning.

If you are a believer than it's trivial. if you believe in a universal "good", then the definition of what good is will define if reproduction has an intrinsic value or not, same thing for the continuation of life.

2.suppose I am a stupid nihilistic atheist like you are and incidentally, that's also what I am. In that case, I define what is good and what is not good; if I am not, then the fact that something is good or not is not only irrelevant, it's without meaning.

Now as someone studying ecology in more and more detail, I more and more agree with Malthus so I usually grok argument that plead toward regulating our population, but philosophically your reasons are weird to me.


I'm not following you, could you rephrase that? It sounds like you're saying that I would need to acknowledge an absolute good (or at least a subjective good) in order to say "procreation is not intrinsically good." I don't see how that follows unless you also want to say that I need to believe in a particular deity in order to say that any other particular deity doesn't exist.

It's very likely that I'm simply misreading you here, it's been a long day. If it seems like I misinterpreted something please submit corrections in a timely fashion.
 
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It is incumbent on you to make sure your life is a net positive to the world and that you train your kids to do the same. Having kids increases the possibility of making the world a better place. Anti-natalism is both selfish and cowardly. In effect, it is stupid because it is an abrogation of one's duties to one's fellow man and even to one's self.

If you dislike the world, then get off your arse and try to make it just that little bit better in your own way. Teach your kids to do the same.
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Snowball's (?) line of reasoning called to mind the difference between Lovecraft and Camus. Both lived in times where the idea of life having an intrinsic meaning and value had been largely discarded -- particularly as the human potential for pointless, stupid cruelty was forced front and center.

Lovecraft though that was terrible and horrifying. If life did not have an obvious point, then everything we suffer is for nothing. Mankind will just go on pointlessly until something happens to put and end to it, and the whole thing will not have been worth it. Lovecraft had no children.

Camus, on the other hand, found the lack of an imposed and intrinsic "meaning" liberating. Man was finally free to choose his own path. A person could build his own meaning by whatever moral and ethical compass he could make for himself. Camus did have children, and gained from his conclusions the courage to resist the Nazis and oppose totalitarianism wherever he found it.
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
Snowball's (?) line of reasoning called to mind the difference between Lovecraft and Camus. Both lived in times where the idea of life having an intrinsic meaning and value had been largely discarded -- particularly as the human potential for pointless, stupid cruelty was forced front and center.

Lovecraft though that was terrible and horrifying. If life did not have an obvious point, then everything we suffer is for nothing. Mankind will just go on pointlessly until something happens to put and end to it, and the whole thing will not have been worth it. Lovecraft had no children.

Camus, on the other hand, found the lack of an imposed and intrinsic "meaning" liberating. Man was finally free to choose his own path. A person could build his own meaning by whatever moral and ethical compass he could make for himself. Camus did have children, and gained from his conclusions the courage to resist the Nazis and oppose totalitarianism wherever he found it.

Let's just say I have a view similar to that of Camus.
 
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Kelsey Rinella
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Does, "One is blameless for withholding a joyful existence from a non-existent entity," entail, "It is not praiseworthy to bring an entity into joyful existence"?
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Junior McSpiffy
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The most positive experience in my life has come from my procreation. I'm listening over the baby monitor while my wife is reading stories to her and they are bonding. It's the best sound in the world. I get to care for her all day. It's the best job I could hope to have.

Without procreating, you may have been right. With procreating, my life has infinitely more value and worth. So take your self-fulfilling prophecy and tie a knot in it.
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GameCrossing wrote:
The most positive experience in my life has come from my procreation. I'm listening over the baby monitor while my wife is reading stories to her and they are bonding. It's the best sound in the world. I get to care for her all day. It's the best job I could hope to have.

Without procreating, you may have been right. With procreating, my life has infinitely more value and worth. So take your self-fulfilling prophecy and tie a knot in it.


So, life's a pyramid scheme?
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mlcarter815 wrote:
The goal of every biological life form is to reproduce.


Every life form reproduces. Not every life form produces a Mozart, a Michelangelo, or a Lennon. Not every life form could build Angkor Wat or plant an exquisite Japanese Garden. Not every life form produces individuals or groups who can create beautiful things that lost long after the creator is gone.

Does that make us special? One could dispute that. Does that make us more important than any other creature? That is questionable. Does it give us the right to dominate the environment to the extent that it makes it untenable for other life? Probably not.

But it does challenge the notion that human life is by definition so burdensome that it should never be inflicted upon anyone.
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Lovecraft is quite possibly my favorite author.

spoon wrote:
This bit seems to be made up:

The Message wrote:
1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.


Consider this a placeholder response for the three or four of you hitting on this.

This is a difficult premise to defend, but strangely I don't find it as difficult as 2 (maybe because the metaphysics are clearer?). From my own perspective this seems obvious but I'm aware that my history with depression can easily be coloring my perceptions there. Still, they are the only perceptions I have. Putting aside personal experience though I can look to the those around me.

I don't surround myself with gloomy guses (gusi?) but everyone I know either faces or has faced some serious hardships. They all toil to make it through the week, they all have their personal irrational human psychological sufferings, they all face the burden of life and the future staring them down. Everyone* will inevitably lose those they loved, wear their bodies down to the point of agony and have to face the knowledge of their impending doom before they are snuffed out meaninglessly. That is the nature of existence as a human.

What is peculiar is how many will deny having a net negative experience through these struggles. These people are all generally positive and will be quicker to recall a happy story than a sad one. I have been a direct witness to people who can go through a truly awful day obviously rife with suffering and then after one brief positive moment at the end of the night happily tell you that the day was good overall. It's almost like the negatives get blotted out in these positive instances.

Now, it could be that the single good thing that happened that day was genuinely of a greater "value" than the sum of the bad things that had happened leading up to it. I'm willing to grant that. However, I ask you to take a moment to reflect honestly on the question for yourself. Is it really more likely that a slice of cake had the force to knock away the pain of losing a friend to the extent that its value extended to cover up other sufferings and create a net positive outcome or is it more likely that the organism in question is predisposed to favor the positive recollections because that is the kind of wiring that would allow the species to survive?

So essentially I just think we have a problem being honest with ourselves. It seems likely that our minds exaggerate the good in order to keep us alive and suppress the bad for the inverse reason. Without this joyous barrier instilled by countless iterations of surviving genes we would be able to see how completely the negative events outnumber the positive, for better or worse (Spoiler: worse). Is it a hard proof? No, not at all. But I think there's a lot of compelling force to it if you stop to consider that it is exactly the kind of behavior you would expect a "highly evolved" species to exhibit.

Keep in mind as well that all of this is based on life in one of the most advantaged situations in the entire world, hardly the baseline for existence.

Quote:

[q="whac3"]It is incumbent on you to make sure your life is a net positive to the world and that you train your kids to do the same. Having kids increases the possibility of making the world a better place. Anti-natalism is both selfish and cowardly. In effect, it is stupid because it is an abrogation of one's duties to one's fellow man and even to one's self.

If you dislike the world, then get off your arse and try to make it just that little bit better in your own way. Teach your kids to do the same.


What if you're born into a situation where your ability to affect the world or yourself in a positive manner is greatly inhibited? What if your offspring are born into such a situation? Where does this duty come from?

Regarding the "selfish and cowardly" line, that's ridiculous. The entire motivation behind the stance is a selfless one and if you think I'm a coward for holding firm in this belief even knowing that the love of my life may eventually leave me over the conflicting interests it creates I'd suggest you purchase a dictionary. Why is the "duty to my fellow man" to make babies? Why isn't it to try to reduce suffering in the world or to try to spread the word on an unpopular opinion that I believe to be for the best in order to gain any support that may be available? You haven't given a lot in the way of reasoning, just assertions that I'm wrong, you're right and the natural order of creation is on your side somehow.

Quote:

[q="rinelk"]Does, "One is blameless for withholding a joyful existence from a non-existent entity," entail, "It is not praiseworthy to bring an entity into joyful existence"?


Nope. It can however lead to "It is not praiseworthy to risk bringing an entity into an awful existence when no such risk was necessary" given the right context. Interesting approach though.


*Yeah, I know there are exceptions. If a one week old baby dies it misses most of the list, for example. This wording is just cleaner.
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The Message wrote:
Lovecraft is quite possibly my favorite author.

spoon wrote:
This bit seems to be made up:

The Message wrote:
1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.


Consider this a placeholder response for the three or four of you hitting on this.

This is a difficult premise to defend, but strangely I don't find it as difficult as 2 (maybe because the metaphysics are clearer?). From my own perspective this seems obvious but I'm aware that my history with depression can easily be coloring my perceptions there. Still, they are the only perceptions I have. Putting aside personal experience though I can look to the those around me.

I don't surround myself with gloomy guses (gusi?) but everyone I know either faces or has faced some serious hardships. They all toil to make it through the week, they all have their personal irrational human psychological sufferings, they all face the burden of life and the future staring them down. Everyone* will inevitably lose those they loved, wear their bodies down to the point of agony and have to face the knowledge of their impending doom before they are snuffed out meaninglessly. That is the nature of existence as a human.

What is peculiar is how many will deny having a net negative experience through these struggles. These people are all generally positive and will be quicker to recall a happy story than a sad one. I have been a direct witness to people who can go through a truly awful day obviously rife with suffering and then after one brief positive moment at the end of the night happily tell you that the day was good overall. It's almost like the negatives get blotted out in these positive instances.

Now, it could be that the single good thing that happened that day was genuinely of a greater "value" than the sum of the bad things that had happened leading up to it. I'm willing to grant that. However, I ask you to take a moment to reflect honestly on the question for yourself. Is it really more likely that a slice of cake had the force to knock away the pain of losing a friend to the extent that its value extended to cover up other sufferings and create a net positive outcome or is it more likely that the organism in question is predisposed to favor the positive recollections because that is the kind of wiring that would allow the species to survive?

So essentially I just think we have a problem being honest with ourselves. It seems likely that our minds exaggerate the good in order to keep us alive and suppress the bad for the inverse reason. Without this joyous barrier instilled by countless iterations of surviving genes we would be able to see how completely the negative events outnumber the positive, for better or worse (Spoiler: worse). Is it a hard proof? No, not at all. But I think there's a lot of compelling force to it if you stop to consider that it is exactly the kind of behavior you would expect a "highly evolved" species to exhibit.

Keep in mind as well that all of this is based on life in one of the most advantaged situations in the entire world, hardly the baseline for existence.

I think you're wrong about this. Some people have crappy lives and some people have great lives. Some people are in a position to likely give their children great lives and some aren't.

Do you think everyone should treat the "average" as the rule that determines whether all of us should or shouldn't procreate? That seems silly.

Why don't you advocate for the happiest most well-off people to procreate and the least happy and worst-off to avoid doing so?
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Destiny's got her hand way, way up in their puppets! It's an unpleasant tingling! The deepest of wriggles!
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I take it your parents still refuse to apologize for having you?
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Clearly, you're right about the existence of bias--there's good evidence that those who are depressed tend to be both less optimistic and more accurate than "normal" people in many of their estimates about the future. Contrariwise, relying on people's reports about how their day went introduces the opposite bias--people gripe a lot, and can more easily bond over shared suffering than potentially not shared joy.

But, either you're coming up with a non-subjective measure (which I suspect you don't want to do, similar as it is to moralizing), or you kind of have to go with people's reports. It might be the case that most of us are biased, but even knowing that I'm biased and that I will inevitably die, and probably experience all sorts of pains along the way, I'd still rather live. Even if I eventually am in so much pain that I commit suicide, I'll be quite surprised if it turns out that I ever wish I had never lived, and my guess is most people feel similarly. I'd be extremely reluctant to dismiss that, in your position.

And I think that's the crux of your argument. You have some reasoning around point three which I find very puzzling, perhaps related to not being a douche being different from being as good to others as you can manage. Because, to me, forgoing giving someone a benefit of magnitude x is as bad as giving them a detriment of magnitude x. I'm quite willing to risk being a douche if the expected value is positive (indeed, I think my posting behavior demonstrates my willingness to risk being a douche well enough). I'm wondering what makes not being a douche more important than risking not being awesome. Without that, we're back to just the question of whether life is generally worth living, which is why I say that's where I think the argument will really turn. But before that, I am quite interested in your thinking about douche-avoidance.

Also, obligatory sensitive leftist acknowledgement: clean, sweet-smelling genitals seem kind of nice, so I'm thankful for actual douches.
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jarredscott78 wrote:
The Message wrote:
Lovecraft is quite possibly my favorite author.

spoon wrote:
This bit seems to be made up:

The Message wrote:
1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.


Consider this a placeholder response for the three or four of you hitting on this.

This is a difficult premise to defend, but strangely I don't find it as difficult as 2 (maybe because the metaphysics are clearer?). From my own perspective this seems obvious but I'm aware that my history with depression can easily be coloring my perceptions there. Still, they are the only perceptions I have. Putting aside personal experience though I can look to the those around me.

I don't surround myself with gloomy guses (gusi?) but everyone I know either faces or has faced some serious hardships. They all toil to make it through the week, they all have their personal irrational human psychological sufferings, they all face the burden of life and the future staring them down. Everyone* will inevitably lose those they loved, wear their bodies down to the point of agony and have to face the knowledge of their impending doom before they are snuffed out meaninglessly. That is the nature of existence as a human.

What is peculiar is how many will deny having a net negative experience through these struggles. These people are all generally positive and will be quicker to recall a happy story than a sad one. I have been a direct witness to people who can go through a truly awful day obviously rife with suffering and then after one brief positive moment at the end of the night happily tell you that the day was good overall. It's almost like the negatives get blotted out in these positive instances.

Now, it could be that the single good thing that happened that day was genuinely of a greater "value" than the sum of the bad things that had happened leading up to it. I'm willing to grant that. However, I ask you to take a moment to reflect honestly on the question for yourself. Is it really more likely that a slice of cake had the force to knock away the pain of losing a friend to the extent that its value extended to cover up other sufferings and create a net positive outcome or is it more likely that the organism in question is predisposed to favor the positive recollections because that is the kind of wiring that would allow the species to survive?

So essentially I just think we have a problem being honest with ourselves. It seems likely that our minds exaggerate the good in order to keep us alive and suppress the bad for the inverse reason. Without this joyous barrier instilled by countless iterations of surviving genes we would be able to see how completely the negative events outnumber the positive, for better or worse (Spoiler: worse). Is it a hard proof? No, not at all. But I think there's a lot of compelling force to it if you stop to consider that it is exactly the kind of behavior you would expect a "highly evolved" species to exhibit.

Keep in mind as well that all of this is based on life in one of the most advantaged situations in the entire world, hardly the baseline for existence.

I think you're wrong about this. Some people have crappy lives and some people have great lives. Some people are in a position to likely give their children great lives and some aren't.

Do you think everyone should treat the "average" as the rule that determines whether all of us should or shouldn't procreate? That seems silly.

Why don't you advocate for the happiest most well-off people to procreate and the least happy and worst-off to avoid doing so?


Because happiness isn't directly linked to your coordinates in the world, so to speak. If you are well off and have managed to dodge any serious hardships, mental or physical, that doesn't really indicate that your offspring will be as lucky. Even if you had all of the resources on the planet at your disposal you couldn't guarantee that they live a good life.
 
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Alaren wrote:
You said this was not a moral question but then you got dragged into a moral conversation. Specifically, you seem to be subscribing to a great deal of suppressed, unexamined utilitarianism.


Ouch, my pride. Do you really think I haven't examined my utilitarian leanings? If I believed in morality, that would be the model to go with. However, I don't see any evidence to support the existence of "good" or "evil" in any meaningful, non-opinion capacity so I'm forced to reject utilitarianism even if I still try to live like a utilitarian.

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Well, off the top of my head, Derek Parfit has written some interesting things about duties to future and possible persons (especially with regard to the nonidentity problem), some of which may appeal to you. On the other hand, Phillippa Foot lays the groundwork for Christopher Gowans' approach to Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing. One particularly compelling passage reads:

Gowans p.131-132 wrote:
In paradigm cases, our relationships and responsibilities are established on the basis of our perception of the intrinsic and unique value of persons with whom we are connected in various ways. For a variety of reasons, responsibilities to a given person are not unlimited. Our lives are more worthwhile to the extent that they include different forms of relationship, and one of the defining features of these different forms is the diverse nature and scope of their constitutive responsibilities. In addition, the value of autonomy limits the ways in which we can be responsible to a person. Having responsibilities to someone does not mean taking over his or her life. Moreover, a life that included unlimited responsibilities to several persons would be, practically speaking, impossible. Hence, there is a reason to seek a life in which conflicts are not commonplace and constant. The value of relationships that establish our responsibilities depends on our being able to fulfill these responsibilities a good deal of the time. It would be self-defeating to enter into a set of relationships knowing that it will not be possible to fulfill most of the responsibilities.

Still, to acknowledge that we have a reason to avoid a life of unremitting conflict does not entail that we have an overriding reason to avoid conflict altogether. Our desire to avoid conflicting responsibilities is one concern among others. If it were our only or our highest concern, our best hope of fulfilling it would be to take on as few responsibilities as possible. This would also be self-defeating: It is, among other things, the relationships constituting these responsibilities that make life worthwhile in the first place. Though we have a reason to avoid a life in which responsibilities are constantly conflicting, we also have a reason to eschew a life in which by radical reduction of responsibilities conflict cannot possibly arise.


I had one colleague who held a position rather like yours until he expressed as much to a professor who simply asked him, "do you think the world would be a better place with more people like you in it?"

My colleague thought about this for a minute and answered in the affirmative, and the professor replied, "The surest way to make that happen is to raise children."

If you don't think the world would be better off with more people like you in it, you would seem to have one reason (though not necessarily a compelling one) to simply kill yourself for the good of everyone else. But if you do think the world would be better--if you do think that you are the kind of person who makes it more likely for any given organism to have a net positive experience--then your best bet is to have children.


That doesn't really follow at all. First of all, unless you're talking about indoctrination from birth there is no reason to think that reproducing would increase the amount of people in the world that share my belief systems, especially when it comes to fringe positions such as this. I can't just assume that my offspring would consider The Mars Volta to be their favorite band, even if I do my best to instill the awesome force of that music in them. So unless you're a brainwashing monster it all amounts to just spreading the argument and hoping it catches on, which can easily be done with individuals that didn't come out of you (or out of a person due to what came out of you).

Finally it totally ignores that it's a self-defeating move. If I'm trying to keep my opponent from killing my Antonidas with their Ancient of War in Hearthstone and the only way to do that is to sacrifice him to kill their minion, I've already failed in what I was trying to do in the first place. I think it would be abhorrent for me to procreate and I want to encourage others not to procreate. If one way to work towards the latter is to violate the former, that method is a non-starter.

One would have hoped a professor would have caught on to those issues quicker, but I'll just trust this wasn't his favored territory.

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To say nothing of the probability argument you level. Your child wouldn't just grow up in a random statistical environment. You have a direct impact on the likelihood of your own children having a "net positive experience." If you don't think you have what it takes to raise happy, healthy children, by all means, don't have kids! But if you think you do have what it takes, there is ample philosophical reason to believe that your premises are just a post hoc rationalization for a lifestyle you wanted to lead anyway.


It's not so much "do I think I could have a good shot at raising them well" as it is "am I so arrogant as to assume that I could possibly protect them from every little variable that would skew things in a negative direction?" I think I'd be able to make a good run of it, and it's even possible that I would be a "great parent" by the standards of the average human parent, but that isn't a compelling enough justification for accepting the risk in the first place.

You also seem to be ignoring the fact that they're always going to leave your influence at some point. Whether they move out into the world or I just die early there's going to come a time where I am totally powerless to do anything about how they make it through the world, and there are a lot of factors that "the way you raised them" doesn't impact in the slightest.

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1) That there is a moderate-to-high probability that life will result in a net negative experience for any given organism.


Show me the utilitarian calculus or admit that you're pretty much making this up out of thin air.


See two posts ago. I am pretty much "making it up out of thin air," but only to the extent that I am "making this computer I'm typing on up out of thin air." It's inextricably linked with my perceptions of the world and the people I've met in it. I wish I could provide a stronger proof, but those are exceedingly rare outside of formal logic problems.

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Additionally, this doesn't square with existentialists like Nietzsche or Kierkegaard, or deontologists like Kant, who are going to reject the idea that suffering equates with evil or bad.


Ok, so they're wrong about some stuff in spite of being hugely influential. Don't just drop names, give specific reasons and then cite as necessary.

I should note that I'm using the "suffering is undesirable" approach and not something like "suffering is evil," for obvious reasons.

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2) That there is no intrinsic good being advanced by reproduction or the continued existence of life in general.


This premise seems unnecessary to your position. Your initial premise makes a utilitarian assumption regarding what is good and what is not. If you stick with utilitarianism, you can follow Parfit to the conclusion that good is advanced by reproduction in fairly predictable cases (of which your personal case may or may not be one, depending). If you don't stick to utilitarianism, you need to explain why it matters in your first premise but not your second.

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3) That we are never justified in making decisions on behalf of others if those decisions have a high chance of leaving them off worse that they would have been had we not done that and they are unable to provide any form of consent.


Is consent an intrinsic good? Why or why not? Is nonexistence inherently better or worse than existence? On what grounds? Utilitarian? Some other grounds?


My intuition this late at night is that consent is important because a lack of autonomy will tend to amplify suffering, which our central premise takes as unwanted. Non-existence is not "better" but is "safer." Non-existence cannot possibly be negative and so nothing is lost from leaving something non-existent but much can be lost by bringing something into existence. There's that same utilitarian undertone but it isn't technically an argument of calculus since the actual values are less important than the potential values.

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Look, if you don't want to have kids, please don't have kids. But your whole post just screams "post hoc rationalization" to me. At best, it's a servicable explanation for why people who don't want kids shouldn't have kids, but it doesn't really say anything even a little bit interesting about those who want children and are equipped to raise them to meaningful lives.

Follow-up: will you adopt? Seems like adopting kids does not violate any of your arguments (as the kid is already in existence and will likely have a worse existence if you don't adopt them, assuming you do like kids and would have them were you not morally opposed to doing so).


Ah, but the big plot twist is that I did want kids. What I want is just less important than doing what I think is right. There's a high possibility of adoption, assuming we build into the means to do so effectively. If it would be a strained financial situation I could manage without ever raising a child but if we can provide a comfortable life to someone that is already here and already in worse condition then it would be very difficult to justify not trying to take that opportunity.
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mistermarino wrote:
I take it your parents still refuse to apologize for having you?


I've never met them. It's hard to blame them though since they were probably just doing what they thought would be the best, given our culture's absurd disdain for abortion. It's kind of like when someone is trying to help you set up a game but they end up dropping some cards in a cup of nacho cheese. You really, really hate that they were foolish enough to do that but you also understand that they just didn't know any better and where ultimately trying to do the right thing.

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[q="rinelk"]Clearly, you're right about the existence of bias--there's good evidence that those who are depressed tend to be both less optimistic and more accurate than "normal" people in many of their estimates about the future. Contrariwise, relying on people's reports about how their day went introduces the opposite bias--people gripe a lot, and can more easily bond over shared suffering than potentially not shared joy.

But, either you're coming up with a non-subjective measure (which I suspect you don't want to do, similar as it is to moralizing), or you kind of have to go with people's reports. It might be the case that most of us are biased, but even knowing that I'm biased and that I will inevitably die, and probably experience all sorts of pains along the way, I'd still rather live. Even if I eventually am in so much pain that I commit suicide, I'll be quite surprised if it turns out that I ever wish I had never lived, and my guess is most people feel similarly. I'd be extremely reluctant to dismiss that, in your position.


Do you at least acknowledge the extreme likelihood that you feel that way because that's how your biology has adapted to help ensure survival and breeding opportunities? Wouldn't you find it very peculiar if organisms this far along the evolutionary chain tended to hate existence and want to leave it as quickly as possible?

Quote:

And I think that's the crux of your argument. You have some reasoning around point three which I find very puzzling, perhaps related to not being a douche being different from being as good to others as you can manage. Because, to me, forgoing giving someone a benefit of magnitude x is as bad as giving them a detriment of magnitude x. I'm quite willing to risk being a douche if the expected value is positive (indeed, I think my posting behavior demonstrates my willingness to risk being a douche well enough). I'm wondering what makes not being a douche more important than risking not being awesome. Without that, we're back to just the question of whether life is generally worth living, which is why I say that's where I think the argument will really turn. But before that, I am quite interested in your thinking about douche-avoidance.

Also, obligatory sensitive leftist acknowledgement: clean, sweet-smelling genitals seem kind of nice, so I'm thankful for actual douches.


Who am I being a douche towards when I risk not being awesome in this context? The non-existent person? Do you see how it doesn't really work in that direction? If we're only dealing with people that already exist I can see how it cuts both ways but that isn't the situation regarding this action and thus the symmetry is broken.
 
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The Message wrote:
mistermarino wrote:
I take it your parents still refuse to apologize for having you?


I've never met them. It's hard to blame them though since they were probably just doing what they thought would be the best, given our culture's absurd disdain for abortion. It's kind of like when someone is trying to help you set up a game but they end up dropping some cards in a cup of nacho cheese. You really, really hate that they were foolish enough to do that but you also understand that they just didn't know any better and where ultimately trying to do the right thing.

Quote:

rinelk wrote:
Clearly, you're right about the existence of bias--there's good evidence that those who are depressed tend to be both less optimistic and more accurate than "normal" people in many of their estimates about the future. Contrariwise, relying on people's reports about how their day went introduces the opposite bias--people gripe a lot, and can more easily bond over shared suffering than potentially not shared joy.

But, either you're coming up with a non-subjective measure (which I suspect you don't want to do, similar as it is to moralizing), or you kind of have to go with people's reports. It might be the case that most of us are biased, but even knowing that I'm biased and that I will inevitably die, and probably experience all sorts of pains along the way, I'd still rather live. Even if I eventually am in so much pain that I commit suicide, I'll be quite surprised if it turns out that I ever wish I had never lived, and my guess is most people feel similarly. I'd be extremely reluctant to dismiss that, in your position.


Do you at least acknowledge the extreme likelihood that you feel that way because that's how your biology has adapted to help ensure survival and breeding opportunities? Wouldn't you find it very peculiar if organisms this far along the evolutionary chain tended to hate existence and want to leave it as quickly as possible?


I don't. Prior to being informed of it, yes, but once I'm familiar with the bias and can correct for it, if I still wish to live, now I don't know. It's definitely not the case that it seems extremely likely to me that I'm under-correcting. Moreover, the argument from biology can actually work against you, as well. Evolution has had an awfully long time to work on incentivizing us through pleasure. Incentivizing us through beliefs about the overall desirability of life, not so much. It's unlikely there have been any thoughts about the issue at all for more than two or three million years. That suggests that, if we've evolved a reason to think life is more fun than suffering, it's probably down to actual pleasure and pain rather than direct work on beliefs.

The Message wrote:
Quote:

And I think that's the crux of your argument. You have some reasoning around point three which I find very puzzling, perhaps related to not being a douche being different from being as good to others as you can manage. Because, to me, forgoing giving someone a benefit of magnitude x is as bad as giving them a detriment of magnitude x. I'm quite willing to risk being a douche if the expected value is positive (indeed, I think my posting behavior demonstrates my willingness to risk being a douche well enough). I'm wondering what makes not being a douche more important than risking not being awesome. Without that, we're back to just the question of whether life is generally worth living, which is why I say that's where I think the argument will really turn. But before that, I am quite interested in your thinking about douche-avoidance.

Also, obligatory sensitive leftist acknowledgement: clean, sweet-smelling genitals seem kind of nice, so I'm thankful for actual douches.


Who am I being a douche towards when I risk not being awesome in this context? The non-existent person? Do you see how it doesn't really work in that direction? If we're only dealing with people that already exist I can see how it cuts both ways but that isn't the situation regarding this action and thus the symmetry is broken.


You aren't being a douche to anyone when you forgo an opportunity to be awesome to a nonexistent entity. I just don't see why douchiness-to-a-person is the only thing that matters. You could have created a person and done them a solid, but you didn't. I don't understand why the merely prospective nature of that person somehow insulates you against the missed opportunity. Put another way, I have (for example) the opportunity to send a bouquet of flowers to my aunt, but in forgoing that opportunity, I don't think I'm even a little douchy to her. That lost opportunity matters to me independent of a person thereby unkindly treated. You seem to have a douche metaphysics which requires a two-place relation, whereas I (perhaps overly influenced by virtue ethics) am cool with one-place douche relations.

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