16 votes

What are the arguments against antinatalism? What are the arguments for natalism? [Ramble warning]

Basically, I'm struggling to arrive to a conclusion on this matter on my own. And in these situations I like discussing the topic with other people so I can see other sides that I have not considered and can submit my arguments for review and see if my logic follows or is faulty.

I apologize in advance for the disorganized ramble format, it's just a very messy subject for me. I guess I could tidy it up better and present it like a mini essay, but it would be somewhat dishonest or misleading to pretend that I have a hold of this horse when I absolutely don't. So, I think the stream of consciousness is a more honest and appropriate –even if messy– approach.

With that said, here it goes:

The way I understand it, the main reason for supporting antinatalism is that there's always pain in life.

There are varying amounts of it, of course, but you have no way of knowing what kind of pain your child will be exposed to. Thus, you're sort of taking a gamble with someone's life. And that, antinatalists say, is immoral.

I used to deeply agree with that sentiment. Now I don't agree with it so much, but I still cannot debunk it. I feel emotionally and irrationally, that it isn't quite right. But, I cannot defend these feelings rationally.

I think, if you're serious about antinatalism, that you are against creating life. Since life always comes with the possibility of pain. And, you cannot just end all the life forms that can feel pain and call it a day; on the contrary: you'd also have to end all the forms of life that cannot feel pain too, since, even though they cannot feel pain, they can create other life forms that can feel pain.

I guess a point could be made to only apply the antinatalist values to humans. Since only we have concepts of morally right and wrong, and animals don't know what they're donig. But we do know what they're doing, and why would you try to prevent other humans from creating life that can suffer but leave other animals able to do it? It's all suffering for innocent creatures, is it not?

I guess we could also imagine a form of life without pain. For example, a future with very advanced technology and medicine, artificial meat, etc. But getting there would mean subjecting a lot of people to a lot of pain. And even in that future, the possibility of pain is still there, which is what makes creating life immoral. It's not just the certainty of pain, but also the possibility of it alone.

So, in the end, the way I see it, being antinatalist means being anti-life. Sure, you can just be an antinatalist to yourself and not impose your values on other people. But if you're consistent with the antinatalist argument, then if it's wrong for you to have kids because they can suffer, it's also wrong for other people and even for animals.

And this doesn't seem right to me. Because, I mean, it's life. And I think ridding the world of life woud be a very sad thing, would it not?

But, again, this is just feelings. If I think about it rationally, the world and the universe are completely indifferent to the existence of life. A world without life, what does it matter? Specially if there's no one there to see it. Nothing makes life inherently better than no life. Since ethics doesn't really exist in the physical world.

It's neither right nor wrong for life to exist. But bringing life into a world of pain does certainly feel wrong from a morality standpoint.

But why is it wrong? We didn't create life. We didn't create pain. The injustice of it all exists not because of us.

But, we do have the power to end that suffering. And if we have the power to end suffering, shouldn't we end suffering? Isn't that what the moral values taught to us say (except for religious communities, I guess)?

You could always say, “well, it's not my fault that life is unfair, and it's not my responsibility to tackle that issue” or “the joy compensates for the pain”. Which might be valid points, but they don't take away the selfishness of having kids, do they? You're just ignoring the issue.

On the other hand, however, there are a lot of people who were born (which is an unfair act), but they aren't mad about it, they don't resent their parents, and they're happy and they wouldn't choose not to have been born. But does this make it okay? I think that it makes it not so bad, but at the end of the day it's still wrong, just “forgivable wrong” if that's even a thing.

Also, isn't it going too far? Applying morality to something so primitive, so abstract, so before morality, something that isn't even human?

But we also say murder, torture and rape are wrong, yet murder, torture and rape have been happening forever since they were first possible, for far longer than we humans have existed. So, how are they any different? If they can be wrong, so can life.

Furthermore, don't we have a right to follow our primitive instincts and reproduce? Allowing someone to “bring a life into a world of pain” is wrong, but so is taking away their right to fulfill their “naturally unjust” life.

I guess, if I was forced to give a conclusion, it would be something along the lines of: Creating life is wrong and selfish, yes. But it's okay because most people don't mind it and it's not really our fault that it exists nor our responsibility to end it. So, tough luck and YOLO?

I'm not too happy about that conclusion but it's the best I can come up with.

And as a corollary: to diminish the unfairness of birth, we should facilitate euthanasia and accept self-check-outs as a fair decision.


So, what do you think?

Is antinatalism right? Is my antinatalism right? Is it wrong? Is mine wrong? Why?

Is creating life fair? Is it not? Is it not but still okay? Why?

16 comments

  1. [2]
    tiredlemma Link
    Is it immoral to get in your car and drive to the minimart, knowing that it is possible that your tire will blow, leading to an accident that causes another person pain? I think that the...

    Is it immoral to get in your car and drive to the minimart, knowing that it is possible that your tire will blow, leading to an accident that causes another person pain? I think that the fundamental conceit of the antinatalist position is that pain is immoral. Certain classes of actions that result in pain to another party are immoral, but not necessarily or strictly because pain is caused. Let's look at this another way:

    Suppose you are considering having a child, and aren't sure due to the reasons you postulate above. Suppose further that other people already exist in the world, and are active participants in it to one degree to another. Consider that the child you are deciding to have or not will not only experience and cause pain, but experience and cause joy as well! It is overwhelmingly likely that persons who already exist will experience some degree of joy, benefit, etc. from the life and actions of the hypothetical child. Using similar reasoning to the antinatalist position--who are you to deny persons who are already in pain the joy that could be caused by your child? How are persons who exist not more important than one that doesn't? (EDIT: grammar)

    --

    All sophistry aside, I firmly believe that folks seeking lives with zero pain (not somehow balanced by joy of some kind) [Further EDIT: clarification] aren't truly living to begin with, and should go have a drink, get laid, and get over themselves before making moral claims about the fundamental human impulse.

    10 votes
    1. Pilgrim Link Parent
      I think this short clip from South Park sums up the sentiment you've expressed in a surprisingly mature and concise way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-7558NYtwY

      I think this short clip from South Park sums up the sentiment you've expressed in a surprisingly mature and concise way:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-7558NYtwY

  2. Catt Link
    I don't have a lot to add as I do believe suffering is a part of life and one that does not necessarily negate other states like joy. But I wanted to comment because the following caught my eye: I...

    I don't have a lot to add as I do believe suffering is a part of life and one that does not necessarily negate other states like joy. But I wanted to comment because the following caught my eye:

    I feel emotionally and irrationally, that it isn't quite right. But, I cannot defend these feelings rationally.

    I just wanted to say that feeling emotion can in itself be a valid "argument". And having an emotion to a "side" does not invalidate that side.

    7 votes
  3. Nitta Link
    What's wrong with a tiny amount of pain? Of course pain itself isn't good but most people just live their lives without experiencing pain of any kind much. They sleep, work, commute, create, play,...

    What's wrong with a tiny amount of pain? Of course pain itself isn't good but most people just live their lives without experiencing pain of any kind much. They sleep, work, commute, create, play, read, walk, make love - is it better not to be alive at all because someone bumps into a chair leg with their toe while cooking breakfast, or if their spouse happens to cheat on them and they have to divorce?

    Also I think the reasoning behind this idea of bad pain might come from personal negative experience. For someone who happened to be rather unlucky in life and suffer, the idea of antinatalism may be more appealing than average.

    The somewhat reasonable argument is environmental care. Growing population is a problem on the planet with limited resources and from this standpoint avoiding birth is beneficial. In a few decades the population growth can stop though, because standards of living improve and people in most parts of the world won't want or have many kids.

    3 votes
  4. [6]
    Elronnd Link
    Let us assume, for a moment, a utilitarian view (because it's easy to form arguments around). At any point in a person's life, either they feel more pain than pleasure, or they feel more pleasure...

    Let us assume, for a moment, a utilitarian view (because it's easy to form arguments around). At any point in a person's life, either they feel more pain than pleasure, or they feel more pleasure than pain. If the amount of pleasure is net negative, then if they are able to turn it to positive they try to, otherwise they change it to nil through a process called 'suicide'. If, on the other hand, it is a net positive, then they are content with its positivity, and continue living. Now, this is obviously not how it works, but everyone who does (or doesn't) commit suicide undergoes a similar thought process, if unconsciously. So, people who don't commit suicide will, at the end of their life, consider it to have been a net positive. The majority of people do not commit suicide, ergo bringing life into the world is creating an experience which is perceived as net positive; QED.

    2 votes
    1. [5]
      Kielyr Link Parent
      From my browsing of depressing online communities, I'm pretty certain that there are a lot of people who want to commit suicide, but they cannot do it for many different reasons. They would have...

      From my browsing of depressing online communities, I'm pretty certain that there are a lot of people who want to commit suicide, but they cannot do it for many different reasons. They would have preferred it if they had not been born at all and not been forced to take this decision. They are forced to live (according to them) by their relatives, which would suffer greatly and blame them if they were to commit suicide, by society, and by the fear of the unknown, among other reasons.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Elronnd Link Parent
        But regardless, it seems very likely that although a lot of people do want to commit suicide, the majority do not.

        But regardless, it seems very likely that although a lot of people do want to commit suicide, the majority do not.

        2 votes
        1. Kielyr Link Parent
          Because it's difficult to do so, not because they don't want to.

          Because it's difficult to do so, not because they don't want to.

      2. [2]
        tiredlemma Link Parent
        The sample space for your anecdata suffers from selection bias. Also note that you're saying that even in this group the benefit of staying alive, preventing harm/shame to family, outweighs the...

        The sample space for your anecdata suffers from selection bias. Also note that you're saying that even in this group the benefit of staying alive, preventing harm/shame to family, outweighs the benefit of ceasing to live. Regardless of the vocabulary used in the description or the expressed volition, the calculation results in net positive for life in the situation you've described.

        1 vote
        1. Kielyr Link Parent
          I don't think it works in a mathematical and quantifiable way. Why would they want to cease to live if they didn't perceive it to be more beneficial to their well-being than continuing to live?...

          preventing harm/shame to family, outweighs the benefit of ceasing to live. the calculation results in net positive for life in the situation you've described.

          I don't think it works in a mathematical and quantifiable way.

          Why would they want to cease to live if they didn't perceive it to be more beneficial to their well-being than continuing to live? There are many people who would rather not exist than exist. But the only way for them to stop existing is a rather negative experience, on top of the negative experience that they consider living to be.

          It's like if you kidnapped someone and chained them to a tree by their ankle and gave them a saw. And then when they've been living in that situation for months you come and say: well, you obviously like being chained to the tree, otherwise you would have cut your ankle to free yourself. So, since you haven't cut your ankle, that means you don't really want to be free.

          Following your logic, staying chained to the tree is a net positive for them.

          That doesn't seem quite right to me.

  5. shedidntsayit Link
    It's the circle of life. There is no right or wrong answer to how to live. Only the constructions around reality we hyper conscious humans make. I like your conclusion and I think you should stick...

    It's the circle of life. There is no right or wrong answer to how to live. Only the constructions around reality we hyper conscious humans make. I like your conclusion and I think you should stick with it. to bring a life into this world, it makes me no never mind.

    1 vote
  6. [5]
    Arshan Link
    I am going to try and answer what I see as the crux of your "conflict" ( I know that isn't quite accurate, but I can't think of a better word. ) I might also be projecting myself into your problem...

    I am going to try and answer what I see as the crux of your "conflict" ( I know that isn't quite accurate, but I can't think of a better word. ) I might also be projecting myself into your problem and I am completely missing the point. If this is true, I am sorry for wasting your time.

    I see the crux of your "conflict" as a direct offshoot of Nihilism. Since nothing matters, why suffer? IF suffering is ineveivtable when one exists, why allow anyone to be born? I cannot authentically say that anti-natalism doesn’t resonate with me personally, but I would say that I am strongly opposed to it as a human. I believe that meaning in life can exist; not in the old way, from god or some universal force, but from a personal perspective. I know I have used the term “meaning” a lot without defining what I mean by it; that is because I don’t have a definition for it. But like porn, I know it when I observe it.

    So if you accept meaning can exist, then that meaning can transform suffering into the meaning. I am not arguing for any form of transcendence, merely of a change in kind. The costs of pursuing your meaning are not then pain, but an element of that pursuit.

    I hope this provides some value to you, and I hope you observe beauty today.

    1 vote
    1. [4]
      Kielyr Link Parent
      I have thought of that too in the few days that I've been thinking about it. But my problem with it is that I am not consistent on being nihilistic or non-nihilistic. But rather I mix arguments...

      I see the crux of your "conflict" as a direct offshoot of Nihilism.

      I have thought of that too in the few days that I've been thinking about it. But my problem with it is that I am not consistent on being nihilistic or non-nihilistic. But rather I mix arguments from both sides, thus I get stuck. I should pick one side and follow arguments from that side alone. But that's easier said than done.

      So if you accept meaning can exist, then that meaning can transform suffering into the meaning. I am not arguing for any form of transcendence, merely of a change in kind. The costs of pursuing your meaning are not then pain, but an element of that pursuit.

      I have tried really hard to make existentialism work for me in the past. But it didn't quite catch on. The alternative is just way easier.

      1. [3]
        Arshan Link Parent
        Okay, I can definitely connect with that. But, what is the non-nihilistic value that you are being drawn too? I would guess that it could be the key reaching the stability / coherence you are...

        But rather I mix arguments from both sides, thus I get stuck.

        Okay, I can definitely connect with that. But, what is the non-nihilistic value that you are being drawn too? I would guess that it could be the key reaching the stability / coherence you are seeking.

        But it didn't quite catch on.

        So, what do you mean by that? Was it that you didn't find personal meaning? Or was it more that you kept being attracted to "traditional" constructs of meaning, i.e. god? Also, as a more personal aside, I wouldn't say that I have created my personal meaning. But, I do firmly believe that I can, and the working towards it also provides me something close to meaning.

        I would also recommend reading Camus' "The Stranger"; it really connected with me. I think it might do the same for you.

        1. [2]
          Kielyr (edited ) Link Parent
          Defending life. No. I think the key is embracing nihilism and learning to be okay with it. I'm halfway there. Any meaning I could ascribe to my life would be superficial and artificial and thus...

          But, what is the non-nihilistic value that you are being drawn too?

          Defending life.

          it could be the key reaching the stability / coherence you are seeking.

          No. I think the key is embracing nihilism and learning to be okay with it. I'm halfway there.

          So, what do you mean by that?

          Any meaning I could ascribe to my life would be superficial and artificial and thus fake.

          I also don't want to dedicate my life to anything.

          I would also recommend reading Camus' "The Stranger"; it really connected with me. I think it might do the same for you.

          It's on my list. I just hope it's more entertaining or insightful than The Myth of Sisyphus.

          1. Arshan Link Parent
            I am just going to reply in order and not re-quote anything: I would argue that these are not mutually exclusive. From a practical perspective, not all nihilists are anti-natalist; they probably...

            I am just going to reply in order and not re-quote anything:

            1. I would argue that these are not mutually exclusive. From a practical perspective, not all nihilists are anti-natalist; they probably have some defense for this position, though I can't claim to know them.
            2. I think I was unclear. I didn't mean accepting or following the value that you were being drawn to, but that it was key to understanding the why behind your discomfort with nihilism and/or anti-natalism.
            3. I believe this is a point that we will disagree upon. However, I will make my case. I would argue that fake implies truth, and from a nihilistic perspective, truth does not exist in this manner. To be clear, I mean in the context of human existence, i.e. there is no true self to be found. If nothing is true, then meaning can only be created and is as such artificial.
            4. I enjoyed it, but I am not you. It is quite short, I think under 100 pages, so it isn't a big commitment. Also, The Myth of Sisyphus is on my list, so there's that.