Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Debate with YouTube Antinatalist, Inmendham

This written response to Inmendham's (INM's) aborted response to my video "Nihilism or Transcendence?" will finish up my exchange with himfor the time being, at least. Here's his video:



And here's my point-by-point reply, written in note form (the times given from the video are approximate):

1:00 INM: Living things are merely machines competing to replicate the DNA molecule; that’s our natural function; BC: that is what animals tend to do, at some level of explanation, but there’s nothing objectively right or wrong about that function; this is why INM’s anthropomorphic game metaphor is misleading; in any case, humans are clearly unlike other animals in that we’ve gained more self-control so that we’ve partially transcended that primitive function; INM commits the genetic fallacy when he reduces all human behaviour to its evolutionary origin in some primitive function; “magic” isn’t needed for this transcendence, since natural forces and systems plainly add levels to themselves through evolution and complexification; INM fails to understand the implications of nature’s evident creativity

1:30 INM: some animals are also conscious and so they feel pleasure and pain and the ratio of those mental states is unfair; BC: here INM commits the naturalistic fallacy, since he hasn’t shown that pleasure and pain are really good or bad; his reductionistic naturalism implies only that animals subjectively care about their pleasure and pain, but that’s just another natural fact that has no normative implications; what INM needs is a normative axiom or principle that isn’t identical to any statement of mere fact, but that would be tantamount to conceding my point about how nature transcends itself—in this case by adding a normative dimension to the factual one

2:20 INM: BC says life is worth living, but he has the “right” to say that only because he’s an “arrogant optimist”; BC: INM hasn’t shown how anything in nature is right or wrong, so his talk of anyone having the right to do anything is vacuous, as far as his worldview is concerned; until he comprehends how nature transcends itself, thus falsifying his reductionism, his moralistic naturalism will be incoherent and he won’t be logically entitled to his AN (i.e. to his condemnation of procreation)

3:00 INM actually takes my advice and changes his method, by watching some of my video, taking notes and thinking, and then cutting to his response, as opposed to filming his first impressions (later on, when he loses all patience, he returns to his earlier, egregious method); but he nevertheless rejects my criticisms of that method (even though, as I just said, he temporarily adopts my recommendation); his defense of his main method mostly makes a strawman out of my argument, since he focuses on the point-by-point aspect and not on the first impression one; of course, I have nothing against fairly representing a viewpoint, by quoting the target argument; as is clear from my list of seven criticisms, the problems are with cutting back and forth so often that the quotations lose their meaning, and with giving only your first impressions, without giving yourself any time to think about the arguments and maybe engage in a more constructive dialogue

3:30, 5:30 INM says he implied that I’m a pantheist, not a theist, but that was later in his multipart reply, as I recall; earlier on, he speculated that I might be a theist and he wasted some time on that possibility; that’s only a minor example, though; a more troubling example comes up near the end of the present video, where instead of asking for me to clarify what I mean by “reductionism,” INM falls back on a strawman (see below); this is what happens when you’re in a hyper-defensive mind-frame instead of a philosophical one, when you don’t give yourself time to think much about what you’re hearing or reading before you respond; the reason I paraphrased or reconstructed INM’s argument in the first 18 minutes of my first video on INM’s radical pessimism is that I wanted to demonstrate that I understand the overall argument; also, I wasn’t aware of a video that lays out his whole world picture and I wasn’t about to delve more deeply into INM’s 2000 videos; anyway, INM agreed with most of my summary, even riffing on my formulations, so there was no red herring in that summary (as I explained in the “Nihilism or Transcendence?” video, there was arguably a red herring in my definition of “AN,” but my objections didn’t assume the slippery slope argument that informs that definition)

8:15 INM denies that he lost the forest for the trees when he filled his multipart video response with just his first impressions; I’m not saying that everything he said was irrelevant, but he did indeed miss the logic of the argument; the logic is that INM’s AN presupposes the very transcendence I talked about; INM calls that transcendence “phantasmagorical nonsense” and “leprechaun gold,” so he also fails to understand that his reductionism is opposed to the natural evidence of evolution, complexification, and emergent properties (i.e. the evidence of natural rather than magical creativity)

11:15 regarding my point that INM has no basis for speaking about consent, because he’s a determinist, he says there can still be intelligent or uninformed decisions in a deterministic world, as well as a “right” to exercise our intelligence; e.g. if someone sells you a car but lies about its condition, they take away your ability to make a correct, informed decision; I agree that misrepresentation and degrees of intelligence can exist in a deterministic world, but consent is the choice to permit something to happen; in other words, it’s the choice to withhold your ability to oppose something, given that you have that degree of self-control; in a deterministic world, though, everything that happens is forced to happen, so consent becomes impossible because there’s no such thing as self-control (instead, the self is controlled by external things); as I said, in such a world there’s only the simulation or superficial appearance of such a higher-level quality; for example, suppose a robot thinks about whether to allow someone to pick it up and move the robot to another location, and the robot eventually signals its “approval” by blinking a green light on its head; assuming the robot has no autonomy at all, but merely performs some calculations based on its perception of stimuli, it becomes a gratuitous anthropomorphism to speak of the robot’s thus having given its “consent”; again, INM must grant my point about nature’s self-transcendence (and thus give up his philosophical reductionism) before he’s entitled to his normative rhetoric, including his talk of consent

13:15 INM speaks of some behaviour as stupid, malicious, evil, cruddy, shitty, and so on, and he denies that determinism prevents him from positing those bad qualities; but as I said throughout the video, it’s determinism plus reductionism plus atheistic naturalism that together imply nihilism; INM still has to choose between nihilism or transcendence; if he wants to talk about right and wrong, he’s got to acknowledge that nature transcends itself, adding values and purposes to facts, and autonomous people to the herd of animals; once he acknowledges that, he must take seriously what I say about the potential to create a better world, as opposed to giving up on our species for fear that life will always be as dreadful as its most primitive manifestations

13:30 INM slides from making normative category judgments, saying that I’m an apologist for some “malicious and cruddy” behaviour, to saying that those judgments are merely “logical”; this is yet again the naturalistic fallacy; logical relations have no normative implications; therefore, just because some statements are illogical doesn’t mean they’re bad; illogic isn’t inherently bad as a matter of fact; science tells us the facts, so notice how in their capacity as scientists, scientists don’t posit values when they speak of natural forces and systems; INM pretends that value judgments spring from mere rationality, like Athena from the head of Zeus; all you’d have to do to see the naturalistic fallacy there is to watch INM state an explicit argument (with premises separated from the conclusion and specifying the rules of inference used), going from rationality to normativity; the fallacy is hidden because he speaks, rather, in anthropomorphic analogies; near the end of this video he loses his patience on this very point (see below)

14:30-15:45 INM says that even in a deterministic world there are wills that make decisions based on their experience, and that the more experience someone has the more skills and wisdom they have and thus the better their decisions; here INM is assuming the transcendence thesis, not determinism; this is because he stops short of tracking the causal relations outside of the individual, as though the complete explanation of a “decision” were just the psychological one that might as well posit our autonomy—for all INM’s talk of the mere internal causes of a decision; by contrast, the determinist thinks that the distinction between the inner and outer causes is arbitrary, which thus makes the talk of “will” or of “decisions” arbitrary and superficial as well; when INM calls us “machines,” he’s dehumanizing us in the deterministic manner, since machines are more obviously caused to act from outside their borders (unlike the human brain), but when pushed on the anti-normative implications of determinism, he retreats to the transcendence thesis without acknowledging as much

16:50 INM: saying that nature is divine is “idiotic”; BC: this demonstrates a churlish lack of self-awareness on INM’s part; he uses hundreds of colourful metaphors in each of his many videos; likewise, when I say that nature is divine, I’m using that word ironically but also in such a way as to get at a fundamental truth about nature’s creativity; the importance of this truth is apparent from what happens when we fail to understand this aspect of nature, such as when we resort to reductionism, like INM, and reduce personhood to animalism and psychological egoism, and normative values to the facts of pleasure and pain; to say that nature is divine is to say that nature creates itself from chaos, so that only a mindless monstrosity is the ultimate creative power rather than any person; using the theistic term in an ironic way to get theists to perceive the atheistic implications of naturalism is hardly idiotic

17:10 Likewise, INM says it’s idiotic to play with the word “undead,” since it has “mystical” connotations; again, it’s just a striking metaphor that gets at a fundamental implication of philosophical naturalism; we can see the undeadness when we look at the gray area between life and death, such as the virus; is a virus alive or dead? A virus is so simple and mindless and yet it seems to act with purpose; likewise, we’ve been fooled by all the order in nature to think that gods are behind natural processes; instead, there are just the processes that unfold themselves, and to call them undead is to call attention to the fact that nature at the fundamental level is neither inert nor animated by mind or spirit; nature is zombielike in that respect; again, zombies are popular nowadays, so this is a useful metaphor

18:00-19:30 regarding my point that most people give implicit consent to having been born, by not killing themselves after their formative years, INM says there are other reasons why they don’t kill themselves; specifically, it takes time to figure out how bad life is, people acquire attachments to friends and family, and dying is an ordeal we want to delay as long as possible; I agree there are lots of reasons why we don’t kill ourselves, but a main reason is the one I gave: people prefer to live because they get a lot out of life; a tiny minority of people, including antinatalists, may be suicidal and they don’t give their consent, but I’m talking about those who aren’t at all suicidal; the fact is that they have the option to kill themselves and they don’t; there are relatively painless ways of doing so and any personal attachments would have to be balanced against the fundamental lack of consent which the AN posits, that is, against the radical pessimism and depression which entail that life is evil; at 19:50, INM goes off on a deranged rant about how people aren’t in favour of legalizing suicide (I’m putting this as charitably as I can); this is irrelevant, since a suicidal person wouldn’t care whether the act is legal or not; an act can be morally but not legally right, but even the question of its moral right is irrelevant to the point at issue, which is just that most people implicitly give their consent to having been born, by not being suicidal; at around 20:30, INM says that I’m hypocritical for not advocating for everyone’s right to commit suicide, and that only if I advocated for that right would I have a respectable argument here; again, this personal attack is a red herring; regardless of whether I think suicide should be legal (and INM has no knowledge whatsoever of what I think on that topic), the connection between implicit consent to having been born and the fact that most people aren’t suicidal is plausible

19:45 INM slips up when he says that the reason he personally doesn’t kill himself is that he’s “here to fight” people like me or Mengele who torture animals, etc etc; again, INM shows here that he’s committed to the transcendence thesis, that he believes we can do some good in the world, in this case by fighting evil; he’ll maintain that this fight is ultimately futile, since we’re always just cleaning up part of our mess and we can never clean it all up, as he says; but I say the same thing in my articles: I say the best we can do is be tragic heroes since primitive nature wins in the end; the question is whether a partial victory is sufficiently worthy to provide a superior alternative to the effective termination of our species through AN; by holding out the option of fighting against perceived evil, INM is implying that we can do some good in the world, but this should lead him to approve of procreation as long as we ensure that our children follow in our footsteps; of course, this is what actually happens, since most parents teach their children their values; of course, the problem is that people have different ideas of noble pursuits; but is it “magical thinking” to say that one day there will be more consensus on right and wrong? Would that require a miracle? And does logic or science alone compel us to think that such a consensus is impossible or improbable, even in the distant future? Hardly

21:00 regarding what I say about nature’s self-transcendence in the metaphysical sense, INM says I should transcend my “crappy, parasitic paradigm” and “earthling bigotry,” and agree that there’s no way out of the primitive evolutionary game; this is back to psychological egoism, but culture already demonstrates that we have the potential to transcend that kind of primitive selfishness; INM himself says he chooses to live (and make videos) to fight those he regards as evil-doers, so presumably he thinks that’s a less selfish thing to do, compared to eating meat and being deluded; my point about transcendence is a metaphysical one, which is that nature adds emergent levels to itself, so we go from biology to psychology and sociology; our cultural games aren’t entirely reducible to the biological process of natural selection; our behaviour can be modeled or explained in different ways, depending on the concepts we’re working with; INM resorts to the reductionistic ones of selfishness and replication of DNA, as though those concepts could explain the difference between a Mozart concerto and the noise made from banging your head on the piano keys; the point is that once we see that nature metaphysically transcends itself through evolution and complexification, we have reason to think the norms of evolutionary life can change too; nature’s not a static or inert place, so the antinatalist should stop with the cynical eliminations and reductions of everything to the most primitive levels; at 25:00, INM says there’s no reason to think nature is going to evolve anything other than “trilobites, sea monsters, dinosaurs,” and the like; here INM contradicts what he says about the value of his being a warrior for the AN cause; INM goes back and forth between cynically reducing everything to the most primitive level, to positing emergent, transcendent levels to make room for the superiority of his life to that of the deluded, procreating masses; moreover, we can look at how anomalous our culture and technology and autonomy are, to expand our minds regarding the possible future transformations of species

22:55 INM denies that reductionism implies nihilism; actually, the point was that reductionism plus determinism plus radically pessimistic and atheistic naturalism together have that implication; but sticking just with reductionism, INM unfortunately confuses the scientific with the philosophical kind when he asks rhetorically how merely dissecting something, taking it apart to see how its parts function, implies that we can’t appreciate the whole thing’s value; that is scientific reductionism which I haven’t been taking any issue with; scientists explain things by analyzing them, reducing them to simpler mechanisms; that’s all fine, because unlike the philosophical reductionists, such as INM, scientists don’t take the extra step of eliminativism, of denying the reality of the higher-level patterns once you’ve figured out how the parts work

the problem is that INM’s reductionism amounts to eliminativism; that’s why he thinks he can get away with saying that life boils down to selfish parasitism or to the replication of DNA or, to give his most expansive account, to consumption, reproduction, cannibalism, and addiction; he thinks biology shows that that’s what’s going on at the deeper level, so therefore we can just dismiss the higher-level phenomena, such as culture, morality, autonomy, personhood, and so on; INM goes back and forth between reducing personhood to animalism and thus eliminating autonomy and personal responsibility and all other grounds for making normative distinctions, and implying nihilism, on the one hand, to committing the naturalistic fallacy and identifying the facts of sentience, pleasure, and pain as being sufficient for goodness and badness, to make room for the normative force of his AN and for his misanthropy, on the other; that is, he goes back and forth between nihilism and the transcendence thesis instead of choosing between them

25:15 just as he does at 39:25 of Part 3 of his earlier video reply, INM proves my earlier video’s point about the danger of his game metaphor; here, he says “there’s no transcending the model” and “you can’t fix the function; that’s the whole point: it’s a desire machine”; notice how obvious it is that machines are precisely those things which can be fixed—and not just fixed, but re-engineered altogether, so that the machine takes on new functions (as in our exaptations which replace our adaptations); so why would AN imply that machines must keep their old functions? I think it must be that INM is misled by his anthropomorphic interpretation of natural selection as a “game,” which leads him to think that our functions are somehow obligatory rather than just tendencies that can be physically overcome, just as a mountain can be climbed

26:15 INM speaks of AN as a failsafe, value-neutral option, since it does no harm; however, if everyone stopped having children, our species would end and that might prevent a greater good from emerging in the future; thus, there are no value-neutral options; if we kill ourselves, for example, we prevent the good we might have done from happening, and if we don’t have children, we prevent the good our children might have done from happening; I believe David Benatar tries to get around this by saying there’s an asymmetry between preventing harm and preventing good (somehow it’s fine to prevent harm, but it’s not bad to prevent the good from happening), but I hardly think his convoluted argument on that issue is transparently rational

26:45 INM rebuts my point that he commits the naturalistic fallacy when he says that pleasure and pain are good and bad, respectively, by saying that he has firsthand evidence, namely the fact that he feels the one is good and the other is bad; he says there’s nothing that can undo the “intrinsic quality” of those sensations; unfortunately for INM, scientists are the ones who tell us what’s intrinsic in our sensations, and neurologists don’t posit the rightness or the wrongness of the firing of our neurons that equals our sensations of pleasure and pain; so it looks like the normative evaluation of our factual sensations is optional; and how could it be otherwise? Just list the facts and see for yourself whether they have any normative implication

INM’s thinking here is sloppy, preoccupied as he evidently is by his unremitting hostility; what INM knows for sure isn’t that pleasure is good, but that he prefers pleasure to pain; what he knows is that some mental states feel better than others; and he might even infer that all creatures feel the same way; those are the facts, that creatures feel pleasure and pain and they prefer the one to the other; that implies subjective values; to be clear, there’s no naturalistic fallacy in inferring such subjective values, since those values are nothing more than our personal preferences; no, the fallacy is when you speak of objective or absolute right and wrong, based just on those facts of how things feel to us  

INM proceeds to a strawman, saying that I don’t agree that pleasure and pain are good and bad, respectively; the issue isn’t whether we prefer pleasure to pain; obviously we do; the issue is whether INM’s radically pessimistic naturalism logically entitles him to make his normative claims; in other words, the issue is how best to explain our evident preference for pleasure over pain; can we explain the difference between right and wrong in the world, merely with INM’s type of naturalism, which includes eliminativism and determinism? Or will we need to posit nature’s ability to add levels and properties to itself?

28:40 INM quotes my video where I say, “Let’s talk a bit more about morality” and then he points out that he already said in his multipart response that he wants nothing to do with that word “morality”; and this just demonstrates my point about the poverty of the first impressions approach to YouTube videos, because by this point INM has returned to his old method; he gives here his first impression without having watched the rest of my video, and so he’s unaware of the fact that just a few minutes later I respond directly to INM’s point that he rejects the term “morality”; but this doesn’t stop INM from accusing me of putting words in his mouth and from calling me “fuckhead” for doing so, etc etc

30:10 INM says that if pleasure and pain are only subjectively valuable, that means the values are arbitrary, like the preference for one ice cream flavour rather than another; this confuses objectivity with universality; the philosopher Kant argued that all our judgments are subjective in that they project our innate cognitive forms onto the world we sense, but he maintained that because we have the same basic forms, our judgments often have universal scope, meaning that we would all make the same judgments in the same circumstances; so subjective judgments can be universal; likewise, if our brains work the same way in terms of our ability to feel pleasure and pain, we may all agree that one is preferable to the other; those judgments wouldn’t be arbitrary since they’d be based on our common brain structures

but none of this is relevant to the point I was making, which is that INM’s version of naturalism seems to entitle him to speak only of subjective values, i.e. of our preference for pleasure; that’s all normative rightness and wrongness come to in his worldview, to that biological preference; if that makes normativity too arbitrary for him, that’s his problem, assuming I’m right that his worldview has that implication

30:30 INM adds that his value judgments are rational rather than just subjective, because they apply the Golden Rule; Kant tried to make morality rational in that way and there are few Kantians around nowadays; that’s because critics pointed out that even evil people can be consistent in their behaviour as long as they’d be OK with other people abusing them in the way they abuse others, were the circumstances reversed; for example, suppose an evil person is torturing a weaker person and the evil person is asked, “Would you want to be tortured in that way?” If the evil person says, “Yes, I’d be fine with being tortured in the possible world in which I’m this weaker fellow who can’t stop the torturer,” there would be nothing illogical in the evil person’s thinking, no violation of any law of reasoning; in any case, logic is irrelevant here, since it skips over the relevant differences between us, including the circumstances that contribute to our personal development; logic treats everything the same, which is why we can use place-holder symbols in logical arguments; but right and wrong are context-sensitive; for example, one person might deserve pleasure while someone else deserves pain, and it wouldn’t even make sense to imagine a possible world in which the two people reversed positions, since then they’d have different histories and experiences, so they wouldn’t have acted in the ways they’re actually being rewarded or punished for; so if you’re looking to logic to ground your morality, you’re scrounging in a bare cupboard

31:30 INM replies to my reference to David Hume on the is-ought gap and the naturalistic fallacy; I pointed out that, contrary to what INM says, there’s no badness that’s inherent in the physical event of pain or of murder; INM replies that we can rationally figure out that murder is bad, based on our personal experience of pain; INM is moving the goalposts here, since our cognitive faculties and experience aren’t inherent in the mental state of pain or in the event of stabbing someone; of course, I’m not denying that we can come up with arguments for the badness of various events; that’s not the point at issue; the question is whether a determinist and a reductionist/eliminativist like INM can get away with speaking of right and wrong without committing the naturalistic fallacy, by reducing right and wrong to the “inherent” or “intrinsic” facts of pleasure and pain (i.e. to neural events) and then back-peddling to what we can judge based on rationality, sentience, and experience; here again, INM is implicitly agreeing with the transcendence thesis, since rationality, sentience, and experience are already higher-level phenomena than trilobites, dinosaurs, and the replication of DNA

40 comments:

  1. I know this is a very old post but I feel the need to comment anyway. I'm really glad someone with a background in philosophy took the time to deconstruct Inmendham and his arguments. He is a deeply unhinged man who makes the Antinatalist community look like a bunch of whack jobs (which they are not).

    I used to describe myself as an Antinatalist and an Efilist, but have since grown out of that movement. For the longest time, I believed their arguments to be irrefutable-so it makes me glad someone out there has the balls to provide onjections.

    I realize now that Inmendham's Efilism has a lot of issues, and while I disagree on some of your rebuttals you did a great job pointing out its most glaring holes. What's problematic in these negative utilitarian/consequentialist lines of thinking is that they never seem to derive an is from an ought.

    They can't seem to describe why pleasure and pain are objectively bad and always say "well, we know they just are by definition." These kinds of answers I think are very poor and I'm glad you pointed that out by the end.

    I have no idea if Inmendham is all that active anymore but if he is I have zero desire to listen to him. Thank you for the great post

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    1. I'm glad you got something out of that discussion. I haven't looked into Inmendham or antinatalism in some years, but my understanding is that I'm far from the only one to have leveled criticisms of his views. It was always the same: Inmendham would get furious and spew venom on anyone who threatened his precious worldview, clearly indicating that it's more emotional than philosophical for Inmendham. He's appalled at all the stupidity and suffering in the world, which is fine, but he takes out his frustrations on scapegoats such as meat-eaters or sexual reproducers or anyone who disagrees with him or looks at him the wrong way.

      There's no question Inmendham makes antinatalists look unhinged. But who's watching him who isn't already an antinatalist? He's published thousands upon thousands of videos over a period of many years, and he still has just a little over ten thousand subscribers. That indicates he's more of a repellent than an attractor.

      Anyway, I think you meant the problem is deriving an ought from an is, not the other way around. That's the problem of the naturalistic fallacy. Yeah, my main problem with his view is that it strikes me as incoherent.

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    2. Different Anon, but I find Eflism hard to ignore. I don't know if you know this, but there's an Eflism wiki(https://efilism.fandom.com/wiki/Efilism_Wiki). That states that "Efilism forms an objective framework for reality, to account for anything relevant that could arise and challenge it."

      Q: What does that do for Antinatalism?
      A: It grants Antinatalism immunity to all deontic counter-arguments. Which includes the entire domain of subjectivist and armchair philosophy.
      Consider even the vogue sophisticated counter-arguments raised against Antinatalism, like the precious is/ought gap or the naturalistic fallacy. Efilism correctly flips that fallacy onto natalism and closes the case. IE: "Can breed doesn't equal ought to breed, goodbye." There will be no citing of "is/oughts" that allow natalism to squirm free here: https://efilism.fandom.com/wiki/Objective_Truth

      Also I wonder what you think of this comment on that video: The naturalistic fallacy is when you refer to something being natural and therefore an obligation or an ethical imperative. Saying that suffering is something all sentient beings try to avoid is an observation, there is nothing in that descriptive observation that jumps from an is to an ought. The part when antinatalists say that we should not create suffering is contrary to what we observed and its derived from considerations of the nature of sentience not directly from that observation. In this case a naturalistic fallacy would be to say: suffering is natural, whats natural is good and thus nature should inform us (be normative over) about what we ought to do, therefore it is morally permissible to cause suffering. Which is the exact opposite of what AN says.

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    3. Indeed, all the confusion and incoherence I recognized in Efilism from my 2014 encounter with Inmendham's worldview is packed into that handy introduction to his rants on that fanclub page.

      We agree only, more or less, on the premise of nature's monstrousness, its inherent amorality, inhumanity, godlessness, and pointlessness. (I’d add reference to an aesthetic dimension, since nature is supremely creative too, but we can leave that out.) From the pessimism and darkness of that insightful starting point, confusion reigns in the Efilist. She argues for antinatalism on the basis of nihilism and her disgust for natural life, but not for suicide or mass murder. That’s arbitrary. Efilism entails the goodness of supervillainy as the final solution to end nature’s mad experiment in torture. But the Efilist pretends her worldview isn’t so radical and grotesque.

      The Efilist will say she’s opposed to murder even when the murder achieves her highest good (the cessation of life/suffering), because she presumes, despite her nihilism, that pleasure is good and pain is bad. That’s why she’s so appalled at how the world treats living things. Alas, utilitarianism or hedonism contradicts nihilism.

      Of course, if values do emerge, just as wateriness emerges from H2O molecules, then the Efilist must concede that escape from the state of nature is possible after all. If there are orders of being, with the monstrousness of mindless nature (DNA, natural selection, etc) at the ground floor, and special domains emerging from those basic processes, we can indeed strive to bring into being anti-natural societies, ones that are directed towards intelligently-selected ends, ones that help those who suffer, give us reasons to live, and try to eliminate hunger, poverty, and torture. Obviously, that’s what civilization’s about. No matter how difficult or often hypocritical that project may be, the point is that once the nihilist switches (arbitrarily) to implicit utilitarianism, she implies that we’re not permanently trapped on the ground floor after all, notwithstanding all her melancholic rhetoric.

      This is why my favourite line in that Efilist introduction is, “Of course it's wise to end gratuitous misery…” Of course? Despite the pointlessness of life that the intro went on and on about? How did it suddenly come about that we ought to care about our fellow living creatures, if everything is pointless and nothing matters? In so far as we’re crudely reduced to physical objects or playthings of indifferent DNA, there are no moral considerations. Moral values would be illusions, at best. So why is the “enlightened” Efilist ranting about unfair life is? Evidently she empathizes because she thinks suffering is wrong, but how does her reductionistic worldview justify that moral assessment? Why is pleasure good and pain bad if there’s no God and everything’s ultimately absurd? Efilism is just so muddled on this point.

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    4. Or take the freewill issue as another example (discussed in the “Objective Truth” article on that website). The Efilist says freewill is impossible because every event has a cause. But that’s only to return to the metaphysical ground floor. Does the Efilist mean to suggest that nothing exists besides causes and effects as such? That the higher-level distinction between, say, trees and oceans is empty because all that really exists are causes and effects as such? Surely not! Surely other categories arise, such as the tree and the ocean. So why not autonomy (from the human brain)? The Efilist needs to make up her mind whether she wants to stay on the ground floor or venture into the territories of the special sciences and of emergent levels of being.

      Elsewhere on that website (second link below), the Efilist wants to distinguish her view from nihilism, by saying that nomic necessity establishes that everything matters after all, since natural law preserves everything that happens (from the eternal, God’s-eye perspective, as Spinoza would say, which is the source of this mysticism). In the words of the article, “Everything is truly purposeless and futile—but everything really matters forever.” But that’s the naturalistic fallacy again. Even supposing time is illusory and everything is permanent (events can’t be undone), how would that imply that everything has a value? When we say something matters, we mean it’s not just a meaningless fact, but that it’s important in some way, that it has some worth or a purpose. It’s just a non sequitur to leap from permanence to mattering. Mattering is a normative concept, but permanence is a quantitative one. So how is the former derived from the latter?

      Regarding that comment on the YouTube exchange, my point was that Inmendham’s rhetoric implicitly commits the fallacy of assuming that pleasure is good just because it’s natural—because his rhetoric of the inescapable gladiatorial arena and the game of evolution and so forth entail there’s no escape from nature. If he denies the possibility of higher orders of being that aren’t mindless and absurd, and yet, contrary to the nihilism which is entailed by much of his rhetoric, he insists on being a utilitarian, pleasure could be good only because of some natural fact or other. He gives himself no other grounds to justify his values. How do respectable values suddenly arise in a universe of monstrous facts if nothing anti-natural (such as a worthy way of life) can emerge?

      Inmenham wants to appeal to logic and reason as his salvation. “Just follow the logic,” he’ll shout. But logic can establish only the validity of arguments, not their soundness or the truth of their assumptions, and science doesn’t prove the value of anything. So when his back is against the wall, Inmendham will say it’s just self-evident that pleasure is good and pain is bad. Nonsense! Some pleasure is bad and some pain is good. Real nihilists don’t shit the bed like this; they don’t betray their amoral vision of a heartless universe, because deep down they’re softhearted and need to vent their contempt for the world that alienates them.

      That’s what Efilism really is. This is not remotely a logical or scientific worldview. It’s an emotional self-defense strategy for certain cynics who can’t have children for some reason, or who have been hard done by and feel like rationalizing their failures and victimhood. Efilism is not a form of enlightenment.

      https://efilism.fandom.com/wiki/Objective_Truth

      https://efilism.fandom.com/wiki/Efilism_Vs._Nihilism

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    5. Hi Benjamin, same anon as before. I appreciate the attention you give to the topic. Anyhow, in the Youtube comments of a back and forth video discussion between BlitheringGenius and Inmendham I found an interpretation of Efilism from user Hyπατία, and I wanted to know if it lines up with how you conceive it. Any further thoughts are appreciated.

      1st Half | Hyπατία says:
      "My understanding of efilism (far from being exhaustive) is more or less based on the below:

      Negative utilitarianism =/= hedonism. Even if they are related in where they source value from, they are not the same. Efilism is more closely related to negative utilitarianism than hedonism, if hedonism is to be taken as significant at all, then its only insofar that it localizes the source of value in experienced qualities. In which case efilism would be closer to a canonically non-existent negative hedonism. But what superficial analyzers may identify as hedonism in efilism, it is rather merely a phenomenological analysis of the content and structure of qualitative experience. It does not merely perform a naive psychological introspective analysis of feelings, but gets into a proper description of the content of these experiences, and it elucidates how the universal (aka shared by all brains capable of synthesizing qualias of experience) quality categories of experience arise. It observes, that all experiences are qualitatively weighted, and that on closer examination their weight (aka importance, mattering) is given by their degree of negativity.

      The "badness" of a weighed experience is not just a perspectival judgment, but an immediate, inherent component, the main qualitative essence of such an experience. The very concept of "bad" in language is but the label of this internal/inherent/immediate quality all sentient beings directly experience. Experiences tend to cluster based on their degree of this inherent quality, and they behave like a currency of evaluating qualities in general. Negative experiences tend to be the ones which decisively underlie the motivation structure of psychologies - and this is also clear from analyzing the action of evolutionary processes driving organisms on paths of least resistance.

      Positive experiences are more complex, less basic experiences, and as far as they are basic are mostly composed of - phenomenologically speaking - the lack of or the elimination of negative qualias. Hence the value of a product or service, in inherent terms is proportional to the required work that went into them, as "work" in this context being analogous with effort, and effort being a qualitatively negative experience, regardless of any derived instrumental worth. The more valuable something is, the more hard it is to produce, the more hard it is to produce, the more suffering it requires. Rarity (scarcity) also adds to value through the same enhanced weigh of suffering it needs to be acquired. This is even true with reference to the nature of the universe itself, where the forces of entropy are pitted against the forces of order and steady-states. Anti-entropic actions use up energy, in biological terms this translates into energies needed to achieve states of homeostatic equilibrium, which are never stable and in constant frustration.

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    6. Part 2
      Efilism begins from an understanding of nature/life as a whole (evolution, naturalist ontology), proceeds with an existential analysis of what is sentience and its predicament in the world, it explains how value constitutes itself/emerges from the way we exist in the world as creatures with conditions of well-being and qualitative states of mind exposed to an uncaring, unintelligent, non-teleological, overbearing and yes, violent reality. It then turns to analyze what the standards of reason are in relation of what have been described, and it finds nature to be lacking compared to those standards. It utilizes logical extrapolation and relational analysis to understand the essential sameness of the structure of all possible experience-machines (how the pre-teoretical formation of degrees of mattering within experience, significance and value arise from our direct interaction with the world, and how the mechanisms of deprivation-satisfaction underlie the motivational structure of being in the world, how what has value/weight/significance is proportional to what degree of suffering it costs - how this negative currency of value ultimately underpin all our personal, social, even the value of certain material goods, heck even the gravity and value of works of art).

      It concludes that reducing and especially preventing harm is the best course of action demanded by the reasoned understanding of all the above, hence it aligns with negative utilitarianism: reducing harm is more important than increasing happiness. The conclusion is possible due to the fact that we have the "freedom" and the standards of reason to judge (note the standards and values of logic like truth are not the same as the standards of nature/evolution, like survival), evaluate and ultimately disagree with what nature has been revealed to be in relation to creatures who can be harmed. We also can understand via reason, that existential nihilism is true: we live for no cosmic purpose, we play no grand narrative, we have no functional role in the machination of the universe: the suffering payed for existence statistically is staggeringly high FOR NO GOOD OR REDEEMING REASON.

      Efilism then proceeds to chart an efficiency calculation based on the principle of harm reduction and prevention. It concludes that based on what it established so far, there are objectively more and less efficient ways of acting in the world: for every interaction in the world there is more or less suffering produced, and if reduction of harm is the goal, then some interactions are in relation to this goal objectively better than others. The ideal of harm prevention is of course preventing the game/the state of affairs which produces the need for harm reducing interventions in the first place: hence the ideal goal of efilism is to phase out the vicious cycle of reproduction, to put an end to the useless and malignant repetition of the inherently flawed condition of sentient existence. This is the ideal however, until then we should use whatever means there are to reduce harm, making existence more cost-effective, although admittedly one can only imperfectly do so (here I would also add the moral impediment argument from Cabrera's negative ethics). Still, in the light of all the above, reason itself demands us to act in harm-reducing rather than harm-producing ways."

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    7. I think I conversed with Hypatia in the YouTube comments of these or of other Inmendham videos. There’s some overlap between our views, based on this summary, in so far as Efilism is consistent with the themes of existentialism and cosmicism or at least of philosophical naturalism. But lots of people agree with those themes, and they’re not what distinguish our views.

      Efilism is basically the view that antinatalism follows from existentialism and cosmicism (cosmic pessimism), because the latter entail utilitarianism and utilitarianism entails antinatalism. I dispute those alleged intermediary links.

      This summary from Hypatia isn’t particularly coherent, nor is it consistent with what Gary said in his YouTube debate with me. The claim that some values are inherent or self-evident runs up against the naturalistic fallacy. Saying that badness is inherent in certain events is like the theist saying that God’s existence is axiomatic, obvious, or properly basic. Not so in either case. Moreover, this claim contradicts what Hypatia calls “existential nihilism” (second-last paragraph). If nihilism is true, there are no inherent, objective values.

      Hypatia says Efilism isn’t identical with utilitarianism, but I don’t believe I ever reduced the latter to the former. In my videos I said explicitly that I disagree that antinatalism follows from existentialism, cosmicism, or philosophical pessimism, where I took Gary’s views (Efilism) to be that the opposite inference should be made, the middle link being utilitarianism.

      But as Hypatia summarizes it, utilitarianism doesn’t follow from those dark philosophical premises, after all, but rather from a cliché attributed to Teddy Roosevelt of all people, that if something’s easy, it’s not worth doing, and thus that what matters is what costs suffering in its production (“how what has value/weight/significance is proportional to what degree of suffering it costs—how this negative currency of value ultimately underpin all our personal, social, even the value of certain material goods, heck even the gravity and value of works of art”). That bit of homespun American pragmatism is hardly equivalent to existentialism or cosmic nihilism. There’s some truth in this cliché, of course, but I doubt it makes for a comprehensive account of how values emerge. It’s refuted in the art world, since lots of postmodern art is easy to make and it’s valued highly out of decadence.

      In any case, I reject the claim that “reduction of harm is the goal.” Some kinds of suffering are good, such as sacrifices made for a noble aim. In particular, enlightenment generates higher forms of suffering, such as anxiety, melancholy, ennui, and so forth. Thus, we ought to suffer to prove we understand what’s really going on at the existential level. Happiness in the sense of contentment, rather, is a sign of delusion and of existential inauthenticity.

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    8. So I reject the utilitarianism. But even if we went along with that link to antinatalism, the Efilist has no good reason not to promote suicide or mass murder as a means of ending greater suffering in the long term. I argued this in all my articles on Inmendham’s views and on antinatalism. Why not kill people in their sleep so they won’t suffer anymore? Why not kill everyone who knows them, so they won’t suffer in response to that first person’s absence? Why not be in favour not just of antinatalism but of the active self-destruction of our species to prevent the suffering of future generations? Of course, if everyone stopped having babies, that would end our species, but assuming that’s not going to happen, the Efilist has no good reason, based on her utilitarianism, to reject the secondary option of mass murder or suicide (nuclear or biological war, for example) to achieve the same goal, namely the elimination of harm.

      Utilitarianism is notorious for entailing that minorities can be sacrificed to benefit the majority, because the goal is the maximization of pleasure. Once we enter into our calculations the potential suffering of all future generations, it seems massive suffering of all extant people, via nuclear war, say, would be justified to benefit those nonexistent future generations, to prevent their suffering from coming into the world. (Benatar’s asymmetry argument is bogus, if it has any bearing on this point.)

      Notice the difference between the sacrifices entailed by the Efilist’s utilitarianism and the sacrifices I’m in favor of. I say individuals ought to suffer on behalf of their knowledge of life’s tragic dimension. That same dark knowledge entails empathy and pity towards others who are in the same existential plight, as hapless, trapped, fallible creatures. So far from entailing mass murder, my premises promote a nondeluded form of morality. Moreover, we need future generations to live to continue to testify with their enlightened suffering, against nature’s absurdity.

      The claim in Hypatia’s second-last paragraph, that “the standards and values of logic like truth are not the same as the standards of nature/evolution, like survival,” flatly contradicts what Gary said in his responses to my videos. I argued precisely that “transcendence” from nature is possible, since consciousness, reason, freewill, morality, and personhood in general are just such emergent categories. And I inferred that if emergent properties are possible, and artificiality and human intelligent designs can transcend nature-as-amoral-wilderness (which the Efilist accepts implicitly in speaking of rational standards as non-natural), we needn’t give up hope that future generations will have progressed, in which case antinatalism is fatalistic and defeatist.

      Gary ridiculed that and argued on the contrary that everything is shit and stuck in the mire of natural brutality. Now it’s possible that Gary was arguing as much only out of spite so as not to give me the satisfaction of hearing him admit that he agrees with me and that antinatalism therefore doesn’t follow from our shared harsh premises. That would be the sort of pettiness I’d expect of a fake philosopher. The incoherence of Hypatia’s summary buttresses that suspicion.

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  2. Great rebuttals against Efilism, friend. It's really annoying when Gary's fan-club prides their ideas as being the most logical and most bullet-proof ideology in existence. I read some of the other comments here, and I wanted your opinion on something. I've had some of Gary's followers in the past explain to me that if suffering is a universally bad feeling in every living thing's brain, then the is/ought gap isn't a problem since it always needs to be prevented (unless one needs to cause suffering in A in order to prevent A from causing suffering to B, or unless a little suffering today is necessary to prevent greater suffering in the future.) Personally, I'm not too confident this avoids Hume's Guillotine but I'd like to hear your take on this

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    1. Thanks.

      I'm not sure I understand what the response is supposed to be. The rarity or universality of a described fact has no bearing on the is/ought gap; the gap in logic between descriptions and prescriptions is there either way. So even if there were a universal revulsion against pain, as a matter of biological fact, that fact alone, that we want to avoid pain wouldn't show that we're right in that respect, that we ought to keep trying to avoid pain.

      In any case, when someone says "unless" the pain is needed to achieve a higher good, that person is conceding that, on the contrary, the rejection of pain isn't universal after all. There are all kinds of exceptions, such as going to the dentist, practicing a hard task to improve your skills, and so on. Ascetics go a step further and say pain is good because happiness is for sheep who are ignorant of the hidden nature of reality or we should punish ourselves because of our original sin.

      So this response to Hume is a total failure. In practice, what I think Gary has in mind is that if something is common enough, we just get to accept it as it is, by way of pounding our fist on the table, berating those who say otherwise, and pretending we're not committing a fallacious appeal to popularity. This is what I recall seeing from his videos: he'd resort to ridiculing those who say pain isn't morally bad just because we instinctively think it is.

      Sam Harris does the same in The Moral Landscape. He just throws his hands up and writes off those who disagree with him; in his case, that's because he dismisses the entire philosophical discussion of the is/ought gap, on the irrelevant and laughable grounds that entering into that discussion would be boring, as he says in a footnote.

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    2. Thanks for your reply, Benjamin. Of course, if I were to present this rebuttal towards Gary's followers they'd likely accuse me of being un-compassionate or psychopathic like they usually do. Gary honestly seems like if Harris realized he lost that debate with David Benetar and went full on misanthrope

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    3. I used to argue with Gary's followers a little in the YouTube comments. Some of the commenters are more reasonable than others, but it is something of a cult we're dealing with there. When they so easily resort to personal attacks, we know they're emotionally committed to certain dark beliefs, so arguing them out of them is futile.

      But this point about the naturalistic fallacy is straightforward. There's a logical gap between descriptions and prescriptions. If you have a set of descriptions, they don't logically imply a prescription. It doesn't matter what those descriptions are about, as long as they're not just reworded or covert prescriptions. There will be an open question whether any statement of fact ought to have a certain value. It doesn't matter whether the fact is particular or general, contingent or necessary. It's the facticity that's incommensurable with normativity or morality.

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  3. Hello Benjamin
    good post and happy to find you there and trust you are healthy and fine.
    What you will answer to efilism that:
    "existentialgoof"

    "As for how I’m in the position to judge; well, all of the evidence of my senses leads me to believe that I am not the only entity in existence that experiences suffering. And the only way an entity which can experience suffering can come about is by being brought into existence via procreation. So that’s the mechanism that we need to put a stop to, since you cannot explain how those who aren’t enjoying life deserve to be forced to pay the price for those who do enjoy life (but who wouldn’t miss it if they didn’t come into existence, or even if they died due to someone pressing the red button)."
    Bellow his comment , my answer. Looking for a rebutal of last hist part:
    "you cannot explain how those who aren’t enjoying life deserve to be forced to pay the price for those who do enjoy life (but who wouldn’t miss it if they didn’t come into existence, or even if they died due to someone pressing the red button)."
    https://schopenhaueronmars.com/2021/09/10/negative-utilitarianism-why-suffering-is-all-that-matters/comment-page-1/#comment-41

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  4. hello Benjamin

    Happy to join the exchange with existentialgoof ?
    last reply where he just repeat without explaining that
    "You also cannot retrospectively consent to being born. That’s a nonsense idea"
    https://schopenhaueronmars.com/2021/09/10/negative-utilitarianism-why-suffering-is-all-that-matters/comment-page-1/#comment-41

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    1. If the idea is supposed to be that all sentient life should be terminated out of love and respect for that same life, to prevent it from feeling any pain, that’s blatantly contradictory. It’s the kind of insane reasoning you’d expect to hear from a Doctor Who or James Bond villain.

      No one cares about life just because of the feeling of pleasure and pain. Those aren’t the only things that matter. We appreciate life because of the opportunities to learn, to create, and to experience new things. If life is terminated, all those goods go away. True, no one would be around to miss them, but neither would anyone be around to appreciate the lack of pain.

      So if the antinatalist truly cares about people who are in pain, she’d have to care about the existence of personhood in general and all that the anomaly of life represents in the lifeless universe. Obviously, that means she’d have to be vehemently opposed to life’s extinction.

      There’s honour and heroic courage in carrying the torch from one generation to the next, despite all the hardships. Of course, we want to minimize those hardships, and many people are overwhelmed by them. But we also want to learn to get over them, to man up, to face dangers heroically like our ancient ancestors did who had hardly any of our luxuries.

      There’s something hyperfeminine and decadent about this antinatalist line of argument. We’re more pampered than ever in our developed societies, thanks to technoscientific and political progress, and antinatalists are still saying there’s too much pain—and indeed so much pain that our species should be shut down. This is like the woke progressive who says someone should be cancelled for committing a mere microaggression. This is unmanly.

      And I don’t credit the utilitarian conceit that the antinatalist is a moral purist. Far from being so moral in wanting to end every trace of pain, the antinatalist feels burdened by troubles, and wants to drag everyone down to his or her level out of resentment and selfishness. She feels like she’s nothing and she wants everyone else to be just as negligible (as in extinct). This is a contradictory, deranged argument that gets by on Orwellian doubletalk.

      (Feel free to use my comment however you like in your exchange.)

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    2. Interesting exhange on Youtube channel coming via Is Having Children Wrong? | Philosophy Tube:
      Do you have a channel?happy to answer for below?

      Rainn Chen
      3 years ago
      Penny Lane
      There is a HUGE cost and need of bravery to suicide, but there is none for not existing in the first place. Prevention is always better than cure. We have a lot of shots for people to prevent diseases, but zero to little solutions for treating them. Not weight as heavily? lol, what a fucking joke from a lack of common sense. That should be the BIGGEST factor any potential parent should consider.

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      Rainn Chen
      Rainn Chen
      3 years ago
      "most people don't wish they had never been born"
      I doubt that's the case. Unless you've got the stats to back it up.
      More like most people don't wish to to die because they already been born. When you ask people these kinds of questions, most people would jump to that conclusion because they think their life is good continuing, but have you asked them clearly, most of them would think their life is not actually good enough to start but not bad enough to end.
      Have given the choice in the begin, most would not want to to come into existence.
      A movie might not be bad enough to make you leave immediately, but have you known how good it is, will you have gone, considering this movie lasts 70+ yrs?

      4


      Rainn Chen
      Rainn Chen
      3 years ago
      Ivan Clark
      lol, plz, try asking people this and see the vast amount change their answers to never want to be born, "If you would have known how you are going to look like, if you would have known who your parents are going to be, your lifetime financial status, social class, if you would have known what grades or jobs you will get in life, if you would have known how tall you are, if you would have known you would have gotten these diseases/sickness/problems in life, and you can prevent them all by not coming into existence, would you still want to exist?"
      Most people don't like factors that are already determined for them, just like you don't like being thrown a random character without being able to customize it when you first start playing a game.

      6


      Rainn Chen
      Rainn Chen
      3 years ago
      Niko
      "Guilt and stuff will get you, but then maybe that is part of who they are and they use that to "give there consent to life"."
      That would be saying wrongfully guilted prisoners who endured 20 years of unfair suffering should be grateful that they still have a choice to come out after. lol.
      Of course I don't expect a probreeding pig like you to understand death is compensation of enduring life, not the consent.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bDuNKEzRa8&ab_channel=PhilosophyTube

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  5. Good evening to you and thank you Benjamin for the good chat

    I was getting response back from his/her blog:
    "Sorry, this comment could not be posted."

    Then I tried on this blog entry and looks like it passed through:
    https://schopenhaueronmars.com/2021/09/15/antinatalism-vs-the-non-identity-problem/comment-page-1/#comment-44

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  6. The argument I often get from efilism is that once they stop the life they stop the problem maker too.
    Please see above link my comment and lets discuss it once he/she replies back please

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  7. Good morning Benjamin

    Right to the spot you answered above Benatar personal believes from interview he gave:
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/the-case-for-not-being-born
    Some people argue that talk of pain and pleasure misses the point: even if life isn’t good, it’s meaningful. Benatar replies that, in fact, human life is cosmically meaningless: we exist in an indifferent universe, perhaps even a “multiverse,” and are subject to blind and purposeless natural forces. In the absence of cosmic meaning, only “terrestrial” meaning remains—and, he writes, there’s “something circular about arguing that the purpose of humanity’s existence is that individual humans should help one another.” Benatar also rejects the argument that struggle and suffering, in themselves, can lend meaning to existence. “I don’t believe that suffering gives meaning,” Benatar said. “I think that people try to find meaning in suffering because the suffering is otherwise so gratuitous and unbearable.” It’s true, he said, that “Nelson Mandela generated meaning through the way he responded to suffering—but that’s not to defend the conditions in which he lived.”

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  8. Good evening Benjamin I trust I find you well and help me a bit onwards with a sound argument about "value of life" in respect to suffering as per below update which cries for an answer :)

    May I have your thoughts following the update I got from "existentialgoof" like below(please see the whole comments starting from "Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I’ve been without Internet for a couple of days")
    "Your argument about imposing on a person yet to come into existence is mere semantics, and is a way to deflect from the real ethical question, which is whether it is ethical for you to undertake an action that is going to originate all of the harm that befalls a person who will have to suffer those consequences. And not only do you open the door to those consequences for your own children, but all successive generations which branch off from your children. And you’ve failed to address that. Even if the majority report that they are happy with their lives, that does not justify creating the bad lives that will never be enjoyed by their victim. People wanting to procreate does not justify allowing them to create a slave to their desires, who will have to bear untold consequences."
    https://schopenhaueronmars.com/2021/09/15/antinatalism-vs-the-non-identity-problem/
    I am planning to respond even tonight though...

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    1. If parents are the metaphysical “originators” of all the harm experienced by their offspring, such that the parents are ethically to blame, that means the parents have libertarian freewill. Antinatalists like Inmendham tend to be determinists for the important reason that once you posit freewill, you posit the potential for the improvement of human life, for social progress, and for moral modifications of nature. That hope could justify procreation as a rational, reality-based strategy for gradual improvements from one generation to the next.

      Moreover, if there’s freewill, there’s an anomaly to be treasured and perhaps even to be deemed sacred or at least existentially crucial, precious, and awe-inspiring. Together with consciousness, this would be the basis of valuing all personal life. The continuing existence of free beings might therefore trump all the harms they experience, and the greater tragedy might be snuffing out personhood altogether via antinatalism.

      If, however, there’s no freewill, the moral condemnation of parents vanishes, and the antinatalist’s indignation at the hardships we experience turns out to be a bluff.

      Also, I doubt there are many “bad lives that will never be enjoyed.” The reason is that we adjust our expectations for happiness to suit our circumstances. Thus, although poor people may say they’re less happy than rich people, the poor don’t say they’re miserable or nowhere close to being happy. And beyond a certain level of wealth, the rich don’t report being that much happier than the less rich.

      Happiness is relative to expectations, as the ancient Stoics saw. Happiness depends on brain functioning, and the brain is highly adaptable. Consequently, happiness was possible even in barbaric and medieval periods, and even in prehistory when life was nasty, brutish, and short. Otherwise, our species would have been terminated long ago by mass suicide.

      To be sure, significant numbers of people kill themselves. Not all suicides, though, are committed as fully rational, sane, or sober acts. Many occur in old age after most of the life has been lived. Others occur in the heat of the moment or due to mental illness such as depression. It’s possible there are some lives that are so gruesome or awful that the individuals might have been better off never having been born, even with the brain’s ability to adjust to its circumstances. This might include the severely disabled or perhaps those born to abusive parents who make their children’s life a living hell. But those are relatively rare circumstances, and they’re fixable by societal improvements.

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  9. Good morning Benjamin

    the discussion stoped now with his reply on :
    https://schopenhaueronmars.com/2021/09/15/antinatalism-vs-the-non-identity-problem/
    Not sure what I can add to my arguments to oppose his own
    Kind Regards
    Silviu

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    1. I'd rather not get involved in a long indirect back and forth. I said my piece on it. He may not have understood what I was trying to say, but I can't really explain further without responding directly to him. And I don't know if it's even worth it to argue with antinatalists.

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  10. Good evening Benjamin

    REgarding this topic"valuing all personal life", I was preparing an answer:

    HI existentialgoof,

    Regarding your epistemology of pain and pleasure, you mentioned:
    " what we would call “good” value (good because it elicits pleasurable emotions) is only really good because it satisfies a hunger that came into existence when our sentience was formed,
    ....if the social bonds that you have in your life are insufficient to meet your needs.""

    is not at all as obvious as general premises since:
    I can anticipate the sensation of hunger, thirst or cold and take an informed decision to drink or feed myself before the sensation kicks in.
    But you aren't always hungry for food. Yet, eating something good, when you're not hungry, leads to pleasure.
    The claim that those neurotransmitters lead to pleasure because they reduce some discomfort can be falsified by introducing to the organism this chemical, when the animal (human or not) is not in discomfort. The pleasure will be felt strongly, even though no discernible negative had been felt by the subject before.

    Is it the pain the only thing related to the increase of desire? Can't pleasure motivate desire too? Particularly, the anticipation of a pleasurable experience can motivate action. Also, the anticipation of a painful experience could also take away motivation to do something. These above lines of reasoning break away from your assertion that "good" or pleasure is always a compesantion or a fix of pain.

    Another way this claim does not seem to be justified is by looking at the strength of the feelings. I may not feel hunger now, but if I ate something really tasty, I would feel very good. It's not clear why a lack of hunger would, after eating something good, transform into pleasure. And same goes to the thirsty , I can drinnk something now by anticipating a sensation of disconfort and I can drink somethig tasty that brings me more pleasure. I still think memories can play a part in motivation (this includes anticipation, as anticipating an experience ultimately depends on one's memories of past experiences), culture and family inheritance and not last the science to back up motivations and assesments.

    As you agree above, the value and experience of life is subjective, it is how we see the world in this game called life and it is linked to motivations, we are driven by those since we are borned.
    Viewing anything from an "objective" standpoint makes value dissapear, because value is subjective.


    But this all approach that pleasure is fixing a pain/need is missing the point about human behaviour:
    No one cares about life just because of the feeling of pleasure and pain. Those aren’t the only things that matter. We appreciate life because of the opportunities to learn, to create, and to experience new things. If life is terminated, all those goods go away. True, no one would be around to miss them, but neither would anyone be around to appreciate the lack of pain.
    ...........
    Any thoughts on my above? are willing to extend the conversation with him on your blog, or on Redit or another media platform you think is best to expose the incoherences? I see you have more arguments I could think about and more versed in these debaits. Right now I feel very tired going with him in long updates :(
    We have left here, see last comment:
    https://schopenhaueronmars.com/2021/09/15/antinatalism-vs-the-non-identity-problem/
    Cheers

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    Replies
    1. You make some good points in your reply. He seems to be assuming hedonism, that pleasure is the highest moral value. I don't share that view.

      But I had my fill of arguing about antinatalism when I debated Inmendham on YouTube some years ago. It is indeed tiring because I doubt antinatalism is an entirely philosophical matter. Depression, misanthropy, or other psychological factors likely enter into it.

      I respond to comments, though, so if he raises antinatalism on my blog, I'd reply to it.

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    2. I see that Existentialgoof argues in his article that, “Under the normal ethical rules of civilisation, there is first an obligation to do no harm; and no obligation at all to give someone pleasure.”

      That looks like Mill’s harm principle, so it’s a function of liberal society, not of civilization in general. The reason it’s part of liberalism is that the liberal emphasizes our freedom (autonomy) and need for privacy. Pleasuring someone without that person’s consent would amount to a harm, not a good, because pleasure is deemed a private matter. The idea is that the individual’s space shouldn’t be violated either by harming him or even by forcing some pleasure on him. We’re supposed to be free to pursue happiness as we deem fit. Of course, that principle was meant originally for wealthy landowners who did indeed have the means to provide for themselves. They had no need of charity, and the slaves or rabble who did were barely considered persons, so moral considerations weren’t supposed to apply to them.

      In any case, this alleged asymmetry is superficial at best. Liberalism in turn is part of what we can call “modern civilization,” which means it runs on science-centered progress. So the reason individuals aren’t supposed to be obliged to provide pleasure to others is that that obligation is deferred to progressive modernity in general. For example, we’re obliged to pay taxes not to a king who exploits the peasants, but to a democratically elected government that’s supposed to support the middle class and to help the sick and the poor by setting up homeless shelters or by providing free healthcare and education. The pleasures in these developed, modern societies are provided collectively rather than individually, by all the aspects of modernity (capitalism, democracy, consumerism, science, technology, freedom of thought, church-state separation, and so on).

      Moreover, there is a civilized obligation to help others in need, to give to charity, and to treat others with respect by displaying good manners. We might not take much pleasure in the showing of mere civility, but that’s because we’re spoiled since our societies are relatively advanced and luxurious. The way that positive obligation comes about is that children in secular liberal societies are trained to have a conscience. Thus, we learn to feel bad when someone’s in need. That conscience is limited, of course, and we violate it in all sorts of ways, such as when we ignore the plight of those who live far away. But there are also charities, animal shelters, and websites like Patreon where we can give directly to causes we care about. Again, this obligation is deferred and collective. Our societies inculcate us with a liberal sense of the worth and the rights of every single individual, so when we grow up, we’re inclined to help others when we can or when the mood strikes. And we often do so collectively, such as by voting in governments that systematically provide aid to poor nations.

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  11. Hi Benjamin
    Trust you are fine. Did he wrote back to you? At least this is what he was writing in my last update last night:
    "I’ll maybe have a go at responding to that post shortly. I have debated him before, though, I’m certain of it."

    His main content repeated all over the posts is:
    I think that if you tried to apply your point about nobody being able to appreciate the absence of pain to any real world scenario that involved real people, then people would think that you were a monster. The onus isn’t on the person who wants to prevent the torture to demonstrate that the would-be victim is positively enjoying not being tortured. The onus is on YOU to explain why your goals are so important that you’re going to cause torture. That’s because you’re the one trying to fix something that isn’t broken, with a solution that could prove disastrous and whose effects will be experienced by an entirely different sentient entity who had no say in being put in a position of peril.""

    The best shot I gave was this :
    Last but not least, this all approach that pleasure is fixing a pain or need is missing the point about human behaviour:
    No one cares about life just because of the feeling of pleasure and pain. Those aren’t the only things that matter. We appreciate life because of the opportunities to learn, to create, and to experience new things, to strive and cherish and flourish. If life is terminated, all those goods go away. True, no one would be around to miss them, but neither would anyone be around to appreciate the lack of pain with the prospect of nanotechnology and biotechnology, AI and intelligence.
    and asking a posteriori(while children are born) about their life value and your 2 post from above sent that I linked in my last comment:

    I see Benjamin replied to your last post here, join him in conversation if you feel like its worth following:
    https://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.com/2014/02/debate-with-youtube-antinatalist.html?showComment=1636547288022&m=0#c6309203700950732633

    Like

    Reply
    existentialgoof
    Nov 10, 2021 at 11:05 pm
    I’ll maybe have a go at responding to that post shortly. I have debated him before, though, I’m certain of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I just wrote in the above comment (Nov 11, 8:27 AM), the so-called asymmetry between pleasure and pain is bogus. But I don't know the context of his criticism or if it's relevant to how I would frame the issues. I take it the idea is that procreators indirectly torture their children by sending them out into the world, and that that's obviously bad. So antinatalism eliminates that potential suffering.

      And of course it would so so, but the end of our species would also eliminate all the good things people experience. So if it's right to eliminate all that potential harm, it's also wrong to eliminate all those potential benefits of being alive. The antinatalist's claim that there's a crucial asymmetry there, that the one matters and the other is irrelevant is specious.

      I may have debated Existialgoof in Inmendham's YouTube comments. I don't remember, and it would have been years ago. Or maybe he commented on some articles on my blog.

      I see that he says he wasn't impressed with my blog. So the bluster begins early. One of the most prominent antinatalists, such as they are, is Inmendham, and I annihilated his worldview and caused him to flee the debate in exasperation. His worldview is quite incoherent, and I suspect the same is true of any antinatalist's. No one who claims to be a moral purist and who insists that humanity should be extinguished will evade being properly ridiculed for long.

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  12. HI Benjamin
    Regarding:
    "But I don't know the context of his criticism or if it's relevant to how I would frame the issues"
    it come quite often in this phrasing :

    "if we imagine that antinatalism has prevented 1 million people from coming into existence (at the moment, this would seem to be a lofty aspiration to be sure), and we can assume based on the surveyed responses from those currently alive that 900,000 of those people would have probably been happy to be alive, but 100,000 were struggling with their existence and were finding it difficult to find much joy in it, then you would still have to take the side of the 100,000 simply on the basis that you would be preventing that suffering, and not paying any cost for that prevention (in terms of harming people who could have come into existence, rather than the ones who already existed) because not one of the counterfactual 900,000 who hypothetically could have come into existence would be suffering any kind of deprivation from the fact that they were prevented from coming into existence. Moreover, you cannot demonstrate why those 100,000 could have done anything that would warrant such unfair distribution of the goods and bads of life. You would fail to justify why you’re going to run a lottery and force a minority to pay a heavy price for the pleasure of the majority. The only way you could rationalise such a deal would be if the 900,000 were going to suffer in some way if you failed to incarnate them into a body, because that would mean that you were reducing the amount of harm that you would be causing."

    ReplyDelete
  13. please see also below exhange for the same topic:

    Me:
    "Last but not least, this all approach that pleasure is fixing a pain or need is missing the point about human behaviour:
    No one cares about life just because of the feeling of pleasure and pain. Those aren’t the only things that matter. We appreciate life because of the opportunities to learn, to create, and to experience new things, to strive and cherish and flourish. If life is terminated, all those goods go away. True, no one would be around to miss them, but neither would anyone be around to appreciate the lack of pain with the prospect of nanotechnology and biotechnology, AI and intelligence"

    existentialgoof


    I think that if you tried to apply your point about nobody being able to appreciate the absence of pain to any real world scenario that involved real people, then people would think that you were a monster. The onus isn’t on the person who wants to prevent the torture to demonstrate that the would-be victim is positively enjoying not being tortured. The onus is on YOU to explain why your goals are so important that you’re going to cause torture. That’s because you’re the one trying to fix something that isn’t broken, with a solution that could prove disastrous and whose effects will be experienced by an entirely different sentient entity who had no say in being put in a position of peril.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Good morning Benjamin
    Is it the argument from "extreme sufferring" addressed or it fails on the overall your above posts about suffering?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Nf9Aax7gUY&ab_channel=Conundrum
    Someone replied in the posts:
    Problem with this argument though is why is it only applied to procreation? By simply being alive humans risk causing extreme suffering. This argument says that we shouldn't procreate because of the mere possibility, so why should we do anything at all in our daily lives?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure, that looks like a stronger version of the argument, to talk about extreme suffering rather than just any old harm. But it's a detail in the context of the deeper problems with antinatalism.

      By the way, I've written an article against Existential Goof's kind of antinatalism. I might post it on Medium soon.

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    2. I look forward to that!

      Delete
  15. GOod morning Benjamin,

    then keep us posted about that(medium article)please

    have a good day!
    SilviuC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm probably going to post it only on this blog, not on Medium. It will be later this week.

      Delete
  16. Greetings Benjamin

    Have you got any follow up with existentialgof please ?
    Take care
    S.C

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was supposed to have replied to my critical article that I posted on this blog (link below). I can't find any such reply on his website, "Schopenhauer on Mars." He doesn't seem to post much there at all, though; indeed, he writes more comments there than articles. So your guess is as good as mine.

      His bark was worse than his bite.

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.com/2021/11/is-having-children-always-wrong.html

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    2. Hi Bejamin
      Trust I found you healthy and fine there.
      I was reviewing your arguments against Immendhal . Have you passed over his premises 4:10 - 4:50 where he interates:
      A fair game/his definition: consent and fairness vs consumption reproduction canibalism and addiction(he later on is willing to discount the canibalism).

      Have you commented on somewhere else or may you add your view over this contrasting phylosophy more in a nutshell please
      Cheers,
      Silviu

      Delete
    3. No, I didn't pass over what he said about "consent." Just search the above page for that word and you'll find where I talk about it (at the 11:15 and 18:00 minute marks). My point was that as soon as Inmendham grants that people have freewill such that they could logically be said to have given or withheld their consent to something, he grants that there's an emergent property subject to autonomous, higher-level rules. In that case, his crude social Darwinian reductionism can be dismissed as irrelevant. Specifically, as soon as you have freewill and all the attendant emergent properties of culture, you have the potential for progress, which counts against antinatalism and efilism.

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