Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nihilism or Transcendence? A Reply to Inmendham

Here's my video response to Inmendham's four-part response to my video critique of his radical pessimism and antinatalism. And below you'll find the first part of his multipart response and my point-by-point response I typed up but didn't go into fully in this nevertheless long video reply.

Update: below you'll also find Inmendham's embarrassingly impatient and ignorant video response to my "Nihilism or Transcendence" video.


My Written Reply to Inmendham's Four-Part Response:

Clarification of and apology for my Radical Pessimism video’s definition of AN: AN is the view that procreation is normatively wrong, but I defined AN at the start of my video in a confusing and contentious way. I had a reason for doing so, namely an argument in an article I’d written months before making that video, which argues for the view that antinatalists are on a slippery slope to being opposed to life more generally; incidentally, some of INM’s comments in his reply support that slippery-slope argument and thus my extended definition, even though he also criticizes my definition for being misleading. Moreover, not one of my video’s objections to ultra-pessimism or AN depend on the extended definition (those objections being about consequentialism, the ratio of pleasure to pain, and transcendence in culture, given what Inmendham (INM) presupposes, namely objective reason and normative values). Still, that was my bad.

INM’s method: INM employs the point-by-point method (where you reply separately to every single point—or even sentence or sentence fragment—made in some text or video)—but with a YouTube twist, since YouTubers have a sentimental fetish for first impressions; those impressions are important in mating, but not so much in philosophy; written debates or at least discussions in which each side thinks about what the other has said before responding are far more useful; ideally, you’d want a synoptic view of some part of an argument and then you’d want to prioritize your responses based on your understanding of the logic of the overall argument; even better, you’d want to respond to opposing arguments like a philosopher, engaging in a constructive and cooperative dialogue to discover the truth, even going so far as to help build up your opponent’s argument, which is what I try to do in the first 18 minutes of my video on radical pessimism and AN; this is, of course, the opposite of the bullying, pwning style that produces anti-philosophical competitions, catering to teenaged YouTubers with their infantilized attention spans

The advantages of INM’s method are supposed to be comprehensiveness and a demonstration that the debater can think on his feet. But the drawbacks of INM’s method are so many and apparent that I’ll have to list them:

Since INM responds by interrupting the video after every sentence or so, without knowing what I’m going to say later on, he (1) throws down one red herring after another, presuming I’m saying this when I’m really saying that—as becomes clear when you interpret the quoted sentence in the context of the rest of the argument that comes later and sometimes only a few words later

Here are some examples where INM’s presumptions lead him astray: in the first several seconds of Part 1, INM identifies radical pessimism with efilism and AN, leading him to say later that my video is a waste of time because I don’t focus on the main question of AN; INM thus misses the logic of my overall argument, which targets the links between the pessimistic premises and the AN conclusion; in Part 1 he assumes I’m a theist, since he apparently did no research on me at all (because he wanted to go solely on his first impression of my video), not even glancing at the titles of my blog’s articles; in Part 2, in his reply to my point about the game analogy, he responds before he hears my purpose for bringing up the semantic point about the meaning of “game,” the purpose being to show that the analogy is dangerous, because it’s cryptotheistic and it anthropomorphizes natural selection; in Part 3, he presumes I’m talking about heaven when I say there’s an alternative to the animalistic cycle, not waiting to see that I’m talking merely about culture; in Part 4, 2:10, where I say “we should appreciate the sacrifice of living things and in fact we should be horrified by it,” INM interrupts just at the horror part and then speaks as if I’d only made the weaker point about the need for appreciation, going on to mock that as mere “lip service” (because his interruption prevented him from hearing the “horror” part); and there are dozens of similar instances

(2) The YouTube method helps to enrage INM, since he’s left to watch a sliver of a video at a time and to respond to each isolated silver, anticipating too much, often missing the interconnections between the points or the context or the overall point, and thus failing to understand what I’m saying; (3) this method lends itself to taking cheap shots, which of course is the goal of micromanaged pwning for infotainment: it’s a divide and conquer strategy, except that that’s counterproductive when the meaning of the part you’re discussing depends on that of the whole in which it belongs; (4) moreover, his method makes the video unwatchable, since there are so many interruptions that make each fragment virtually meaninglessness and thus so much annoying blather; (5) the method biases the viewer against the targeted video since that video becomes unwatchable and annoying due to the constant interruptions; (6) the method encourages hyper-defensiveness instead of a more philosophical (constructive, collaborative) mood; (7) when practicing this obnoxious method, you lose sight of the wood for the trees, getting lost in minutia

By analogy, this point-by-point method which tries to disintegrate a source document or video is like pretending to climb a huge mountain by chopping it into a million pieces, stepping over each one at a time, and then boasting that you’ve climbed the mountain; the method is egregious and abhorrent and I recommend that YouTube intellectuals simply stop it

General comments on substance: my video wasn’t really about AN; it was about the radically pessimistic assumptions that fill out INM’s case for AN

As it comes out in his multipart response, the core of INM’s argument for AN seems to be what he says about the problems of consent and fairness: procreation is wrong since the offspring has no choice in being born and thus can’t agree to it, and the parents inject an innocent person into an imperfect world, thus guaranteeing the offspring will suffer

My direct response, regarding consent: given INM’s determinism, consent is irrelevant since there’s no such thing as choice; instead, there are only robotic/animalistic simulations of personal qualities (thus, what I call the undeadness of fundamental natural processes); in any case, consent is constantly given on an implicit basis by everyone who, after their formative years, decline to commit suicide; they thus implicitly say that they’d prefer to live, that they’re glad they were born, even knowing the tradeoffs due to the world’s imperfection; by the way, the fact that some do kill themselves shows we’re not slaves to our genetically-based will to live

Regarding fairness, INM here presuppose a normative distinction between right and wrong, but there’s no such meaningful distinction without what I’ve been calling the transcendence from robotic animalism to personhood and culture (from facts to values, slaves to self-controlling people, etc, due to complexification and evolution, which are nature’s modes of creativity; thus, what I call the divinity of nature as the undead god); thus, the antinatalist faces a dilemma: either radically pessimistic naturalism leads to nihilism, undermining the normative force of AN or there’s the normative reality of fairness due to transcendence, and this transcendence provides an alternative to enslavement to the primitive life cycle

INM protests that morality has nothing to do with his case for AN, but I was using “morality” as s synonym simply for normativity, for the distinction between right and wrong that isn’t just a distinction between kinds of facts. If you deny there’s such a normative distinction, ethical values become illusory and you wind up with nihilism, which undermines AN.

Also, I call INM a utilitarian and he seems to think that’s an insult, because utilitarianism is a kind of morality and INM thinks AN is based purely on science and logic, whereas morality is part of philosophy and philosophy is as much art as it is science (although INM speaks of philosophy and science as equally objective and rational); but INM’s values are utilitarian; he thinks happiness in the sense of pleasurable mental states are precious, and that pain is normatively bad; moreover, he thinks we can quantify these states and that we should try to maximize pleasure; it’s because natural life supposedly necessitates that suffering outweigh pleasure, that we shouldn’t introduce children to this world; also, as I say in the video, INM talks a lot about consequences, and utilitarians think consequences are crucial to determining what’s right and wrong; this kind of value system is different from, say, deontology, which takes duty or honour to be the primary value

Note: most of the following times are approximate


31:28 INM says creating life is less justifiable than killing, since “killing of the unproductive” is justified; also in Part 3, 34:30 he says AN is about stopping reproduction, but then he adds (agreeing with me), “yeah, ending all life eventually, but this doesn’t have to be your problem”; this demonstrates my point about the AN slippery slope

40:00 INM: better programming liberates us, once we condemn our original, genetic programming, replacing it with ideas/philosophy; Ben Cain (BC): i.e. replacing it with culture, which is my point about our ability to play our own game, to escape from the animalistic cycle and transcend nature-as-wilderness (as opposed to nature-as-universe, which we can’t transcend, contra supernaturalism)

46:15 INM contra my point that higher knowledge makes us free: he says “logic does not liberate” and we just switch to the logic game from the lecher’s life, but this contradicts what he just said, which is that ideas replace the worse, innate program with the better one and liberate us

INM goes on to say we can’t make up our own game, because we have limits; BC: different software/games can run on the same hardware; in general, a variety of programs can run on the same platform, so who says nature can’t produce creatures whose primary advantage is their flexibility, their ability to adapt to any environment, which frees them from having to over-specialize to fit into any one environment? That flexibility alienates us from nature and frees us to make up rules instead of slavishly doing what most other animals do


4:24 INM: “Better requires consistency with the facts” (i.e. rebelling against nature is useless if we’re responding with something as chaotic as nature, as opposed to responding with logic or facts); BC: this is the naturalistic fallacy; facts don’t determine values; logic and science don’t tell us what’s better or worse; that takes normative principles which rest ultimately, I think, on a leap of faith in Kierkegaard’s sense, on a choice to come down on one side or another, to put our stamp on the world in this way rather than that one; I’ll come back to this point below

5:45 INM: nature sets the agenda by giving us desires, which a game requires; the agenda includes the motivation for us to play; thus, there’s no way to play another game since we’d need desires and the primitive ones are genetically programmed; BC: I agree that natural selection sets the agenda in this way, which is why I say we’re still animals and our transcendence is limited; but the genetic “programming” is the means by which we change ourselves into something else, since we instinctively create artificial environments that retrain us to be civilized rather than animalistic; nature thus creates some primates which use their traits to transform themselves into a more autonomous and godlike species (godlike because we create microcosms, which are worlds within worlds); I come to back to this numerous times below

10:45 INM back-peddles, calling nature a factual “system” and saying his Game metaphor is merely a description of the facts, not an anthropomorphism; but descriptive generalizations about the facts (i.e. natural laws, which themselves were originally deistic) aren’t the same as rules which are prescriptive; INM says nature is the original game and human artifacts are bastardizations of that game; BC: this illustrates my point about the treacherousness of this metaphor, since systems can be more easily left in favour of some other system or mechanism; systems have no normative or teleological component, whereas games obviously do, given the connotations of that word; moreover, to the extent that our species has thought of the natural world as the primary game, that’s because our experience has been based on animistic projections of our social categories onto the world, so that we’ve treated the world as being enchanted by spirits (minds); all nonliving things then become homes for spirits, and natural laws become social conventions and moral or teleological principles

12:47 INM goes from agreeing with my point that natural laws are given by natural forces, to calling those laws “rules,” thus confusing descriptive with prescriptive laws; sorry, but scientists don’t discover rules in nature—unless we’re talking about sociologists, anthropologists, or political scientists who are talking about the microcosms we set up

14:50 INM explains the purpose of the Game metaphor, which is to explain that there are winners and losers in life; BC: actually, there are winners and losers only in cultural terms, which requires our microcosm and our standards and criteria; there are no winners and losers in natural selection, since there’s no referee, no designer or programmer of the natural laws

Moreover, if there are only natural systems/mechanisms, with no freewill or morality, as INM’s radical pessimism implies, then values in general are illusions; there are then only facts, not meaningful normative questions, human rights, or even the badness of murder; thus, there’s a slippery slope from AN to mass murder to achieve the purpose of eliminating suffering, as I explain in my blog’s article on AN; by the way, contrary to what INM says in his dialogue with Corey Anton, pain isn’t inherently bad; without a moral evaluation, pain just causes us to try to end it, but it’s the naturalistic fallacy again to think that that causal relation equals any kind of normative value; feeling that pain is bad doesn’t make it so; normative value derives from moral axioms/principles and ultimately, I think, from something like a Kierkegaardian leap of faith in the sacredness of some way of life (see Durkheim’s sociological account of religion)

So AN is faced with dilemma: radical reductionism/eliminativism of normative philosophy versus a slippery slope to agreeing there’s transcendence as indicated by the meaningfulness of normative questions, by our limited freewill which makes those questions meaningful, and by our cultural distinctions which individuate us as a species

When we’re being objective, we dispense with our anthropomorphisms and the importance of objectivity here is that it shows us there’s space for participating in artificial rather just primitively natural processes; no one but us cares if we act like animals, so assuming we have the power and the self-control to break free of the innate system (thanks to the tools the genes gave us, with their long leash on us), we can do something else, such as worrying more about ideas than material things

15:00 INM: games require fairness (“decent standard of victory”) and consent; since there’s none in life, life is broken as if it were a rigged game; BC: this is all anthropomorphic; nature is amoral and so it’s not a game in the relevant sense, so it’s not broken; nature is monstrous because it’s impersonal, inhuman, and mindless and thus precisely because it’s not like a game; on the contrary, nature is alien to sentient creatures like us who can see it for what it is without projecting ourselves onto it with personifications

17:00 INM says he’s nowhere near implying that because life is a game and we can’t escape it, therefore we should play it; i.e. therefore we have that extra pressure on us, to play our roles; BC: then why deny the obvious, that human culture (intelligence, philosophy, science, art) transcends the primitive routines of evolutionary life? See below, in Part 3, where INM slips up on this point by talking about our natural “function”

20:00 and 21:00 INM: if we don’t like the word “game,” we can switch to calling everything a “process,” including natural selection and football and Monopoly and the lottery; BC: that misses the point of the dualism, of the break between nature and culture/artificiality: football and lotteries really are games because they’re intelligently designed, they’re run not just by physical laws but by rules in the sense of conventions which have a normative and teleological dimension, because they come from minds; Darwin showed us that evolution’s not like that; thus, the dubiousness of INM’s Game analogy

24:00 INM: this point about the Game analogy is a silly semantic one, it’s irrelevant, and the analogy’s not dangerous; BC: my point isn’t silly since the words have implications, especially when INM argues so much by analogy, relying on connotations rather than explicit deductive reasoning

25:30 INM: his AN doesn’t depend on morality (an “imposition of dogmatic sentiment”); rather, AN is just about an ethical value equation or exchange (winners depending on sacrificial losers; e.g. masters on slaves; one person’s pleasure on someone else’s pain and thus rightness on wrongness); BC: I was using “morality” as a synonym simply for “normativity”; anyway, this is the scientistic, pseudoscientific move of reducing normative questions to quantifiable, mathematical ones, but you won’t get any wrongness from such a quantified formulation unless you add moral assumptions/axioms; the mathematical formalisms just put the values into fancy patterns, but the math doesn’t generate the normative status of the values in the first place

28:20 INM: BC’s job is to explain why we have the right to play with someone else’s welfare when we can’t get consent or fairness from them (because they’re too young to give it and we can’t significantly improve the world); BC: determinism implies there’s no right or wrong since there’s no autonomy or personal responsibility; instead, there are only facts; add atheism and you get the implication that life is a process not a game, so again no values or normativity; INM fades in and out of appreciating these implications of his radically pessimistic form of atheistic naturalism: he prefers the more objective and thus non-normative-sounding “equation of values” to “morality” and he compares nature to a game even though he knows nature’s determined by natural laws, not by rules

33:00 INM: time travel is phantasmagorical and ridiculous, so that’s a very dubious example of a happy end of natural life; BC: I agree, so that was indeed a bad example, but maybe techno gods will produce some greater good that won’t literally erase the past but will negate the wrongness of the past suffering, by balancing it with something great in the future, such as a virtual universe in which infinite species are created and given all sorts of opportunities for advancement, self-control, and so on; my point was only that it’s speculation either way, since we’re talking about the distant future and technology has changed remarkably fast (Moore’s Law)

39:00 INM: not all speculations are equal, regarding extraterrestrials; BC: I agree they’re not all equal, but the evidence is ambiguous; it’s like the interpretations of quantum mechanics which scientists are agnostic about until tests eliminate some and favour others; the rational response to the unknown is agnosticism, suspension of belief or at least of certainty, but INM says the state of extraterrestrials is “obvious”

46:25 INM: if pleasures and pains have infinite value, then we can just do the infinity math and tally them on that higher level; BC: no, that misses the point; when art is priceless, experts decline to measure its value in quantitative terms; the contrast is between appreciating something’s quality (as in moral/normative value) versus carving it up with objectifying divisions and pseudoscientific Benthamite equations

47:00 INM: universes can be infinite and still individual, therefore pains and pleasures could be so, assuming they were infinitely valuable; BC: universes would be infinite in extent, not in value; we measure objective properties, not subjective ones like right and wrong; of course, we can measure pain and pleasure as objects (there are degrees of pain), but my point was just that when we do so we’re no longer thinking of them as having normative value, since we’re objectifying them, like the way a killer objectifies/demonizes his victim to live with himself after he commits the horrible deed

48:00 INM: regarding the point that no one knows whether pain outweighs pleasure, we nevertheless have a sense that the game is more about unfulfilled desires which amount to pains (the chase, hamster in a wheel without getting anywhere); BC: a hunch isn’t the same as a mathematical calculation or equation; so those hyper-objective sounding formulations are just pseudoscientific, whereas what we’re really doing here is speculative, partly artistic philosophy; let’s be upfront about that and stop trying to scientistically invoke scientists’ authority

49:00 INM: we can calculate risk (e.g. if we know statistically there’s a 1 in 10 chance of a car’s brakes failing and thus we know the car could more likely run a kid over, we’d be wrong to risk driving in the car; likewise, we can know whether we have a right to gamble with someone else’s welfare); BC: this shows only that rational decisions can be made once we have the probabilities; my point is that we don’t have the overall measurement of the pain-pleasure ratio for our species; we know that if someone gets his arm cut off, he’ll feel pain, but not whether almost any person, let alone the whole species, feels more pain than pleasure; it’s pseudoscience to speak of objective, mathematically precise knowledge there; e.g. thousands of years ago, people looked at the world in animistic terms, so they felt more at home in the world even when disasters occurred; were there lives as full of pain and angst as modern people’s? Did they feel like hamsters in a wheel? No, that’s a modern phenomenon of ennui


2:35 INM: we know enough about the harm in the world to know that we shouldn’t have children, since having children amounts to gambling without their consent, imposing a nonconsensual burden on the offspring; BC: this is implausible, since adults wouldn’t have children if they really did know the offspring would suffer more than feeling relatively happy; by saying it’s a gamble, the antinatalist is conceding that the evidence for the ratio is ambiguous, that our lives are mixed regarding pains and pleasures and no one knows which outweighs the other, because there are way too many factors, including our attitude towards suffering (e.g. Stoics feel less pain than others); moreover, people believe that life is worth it regardless of the gamble, because they think much of the pain is a means to limited higher goods (e.g. the pain of going to the dentist is needed to give us good teeth, which helps us attract a mate and have the pleasure of falling in love); no ultimate, apocalyptic Good is needed to justify our lesser pains, since those are tolerable and often useful in teaching us lessons and helping us achieve our goals; granted, though, some people’s lives really are horrific and as it turns out they shouldn’t have been born at all; and indeed, the risk people take in having children is partly due to genetically-determined ego, but there’s also something heroic in it: we courageously and even crazily rebel against nature, adding to our ranks in the cultural enterprise

4:00 INM: evolution is an inefficient/wasteful process; BC: this assumes that living things are valuable, but nature doesn’t value them at all; nature is amoral and mindless, which is why I call it undead; thus, “inefficient” is anthropocentric or at least anthropomorphic; living things are valuable to themselves, to their to kind, and to saintly altruists like the antinatalists; that value is subjective, not objective; science and math don’t tell us what to value

4:10 INM attempts to summarize my argument about transcendence and culture, concluding with saying that I’m saying that “our contemplations are worth torturing animals”; this is nothing more than a presumptuous strawman; I say that higher mental states transcend the “game,” because they transcend—as a result of complexification/emergence—all undead natural processes, including natural selection, but that doesn’t mean I think the impersonal animals have no subjective value; that’s a whole separate question (see my articles on aesthetic value and originality; torturing animals is certainly ugly and wrong)

5:35 INM: it’s pretentious to talk about the “infinite transcendent value” of mental states, as BC does, since it’s based on no well-known logic; BC: why not watch the whole video before commenting to see if I explain myself? I do so when I talk about culture and complexification throughout the last third of the video (I also explain myself in numerous articles on my blog)

8:45 INM: contra my representation of his view, there are no net positive values, only positional or relative ones, so we’re merely paying down our debts, as it were, not making money; we’re always fixing what’s bad, not creating anything that’s overall good; BC: my mistake, then, but mere relative normative value entails that we should be agnostic about the relative value of every single experience that’s ever happened on our planet, until we know how all life ends, since all living things interconnect; by analogy, in a horserace, we don’t know which horse is really doing the best until we’ve watched the whole race (but life isn’t a race; that would be an anthropomorphism); also, the point about the slippery slope to transcendence still goes through, since the relative values would nevertheless be objective and, most importantly, normative, for INM; that’s what matters to my argument, not the relative-absolute distinction; the points are that normativity is an emergent phenomenon that indicates our autonomy (due to language and reason) and thus what I called transcendence, and that we use that transcendence/liberty to create culture, which is our own game (a real game, governed by rules, not just natural laws); our game (our artifacts, etc) may only be subjectively good, but that game is still separate from (emergent from, albeit dependent on) the monstrosity of undead nature, since it’s infused with purpose and meaning that we put there

10:37 INM: basic problem of lack of desert/fairness or consent; thus a world with supposedly more and more good in it would have to be failsafe; otherwise, we’d be gambling with the next generation and only digging ourselves out of a constantly-deepening hole (as I’d put it); BC: our game is to go to war with monstrous nature, which is why we create our microcosms that replace/eliminate/trash the wilderness; necessary evils such as gambling by procreating are justified by the profundity of the overall mission, to create a tiny place in the universe where there’s nobility, honour, and tragic heroism, where animals that were once slaves freed themselves and fought back against their undead master, breaking the chains that bound them and refusing to follow the routines of natural selection so slavishly; we’re still animals, not to mention physical objects, so we do follow natural laws and we regress, but we also strive to achieve emergent purposes that are entirely extraneous to and anomalous in the cycle of animalistic life; we do that because we’re relatively godlike (we create worlds)

15:30 INM: BC keeps avoiding the full scope of the cycle of life; it includes reproduction, consumption, cannibalism and addiction, and the addiction part gets at the psychological compulsion to play the game since we desire things and thus suffer when the desires are unfulfilled; BC: in the handful of videos of INM’s I’ve seen, he didn’t include “addiction” in the list, but I see its role now in his argument; I agree that desires and thus the underlying natural/genetic processes are fundamental to culture and that’s why I don’t say culture is supernaturally transcendent (i.e. literally heaven); culture is an emergent phenomenon, which means that it’s a great complexity which rests on simpler levels of nature, just as the cerebral cortex rests on the older emotional and instinctive parts of the brain (by the way, that’s why I talk about the cerebral cortex—not to get at the size of our brain, but to point out its special structure, which makes us relatively autonomous); the downside of this dependence of our projects on undead natural processes is that we’re liable to regress to animalistic behaviour as we often do; nevertheless, there are higher-level processes, just as biological ones don’t reduce to physical ones; so instead of giving in to the horrors of nature, by effectively terminating our species through AN, most people choose to play a relatively unnatural game called cultural life

INM says numerous times that culture will always be based on primitive motives, but he has a burden to show not just there’s a dependence or a causal relation there, but that all aspects of culture qualitatively reduce to the state of those primitive motives; that would strike me as the genetic fallacy (saying that the Olympics is barbaric, for example, because it derives ultimately from our animalistic drives); INM is thus denying nature’s creativity; transcendence doesn’t happen merely on this planet in human societies; atoms became molecules, molecules became nebulas, which became stars and planets and so on (this is natural evolution and complexification throughout the universe; it’s change, the undead god of nature changing itself, and we’re merely part of that creative process—only we can create with an honourable purpose); I’ll say more about the genetic fallacy below

21:20 INM: culture is animalistic, contrary to what I say, because cultures annihilate each other and even drop nuclear bombs on each other; BC: the unprecedented degree of our rapaciousness is actually evidence of our transcendence, since most animal species don’t counterproductively (insanely/irrationally) exterminate other species, thus endangering their ecosystem and themselves; humans are the most barbaric because we’re free to be evil or insane as well as good; the monumental degree of our destructiveness is a byproduct of the very capacities that make us people rather than just animals (personhood isn’t identical to sainthood)

23:30 INM: culture is just selfish people screwing each other over, and many people don’t want to admit that that’s all they’re doing; BC: this is grossly simplistic psychological egoism, refuted in every introductory ethics textbook written in the last several decades; e.g. often the psychological egoist (who thinks all actions are necessarily selfish) confuses the fact that actions necessarily derive from the self with the issue of the action’s object or purpose, i.e. whether it’s aimed towards helping the person performing the action or someone else, as in altruism

26:30 INM denies my distinction between Machiavellian/evolutionary intelligence and the philosophical/scientific kind, which I thought he’d conceded; but without that distinction, there’s no reason to think antinatalists have any objective, absolute knowledge of the facts of natural life and we’re stuck with postmodern skepticism about all knowledge claims; thus, AN doesn’t get off the ground and there’s no point in saying AN is “rational,” “logical,” and so on if reason is limited to the evolved psychological “agenda mechanism,” as if we can’t think of anything besides eating, sleeping and screwing each other over; INM says “the lizard and the ape are still driving the human race”; I actually agree with that if we think of “driving” as providing us with basic motivations (Plato, the big rationalist, said much the same thing with his chariot metaphor); but our creativity allows us to build new games on top of that platform; it’s like new software being implemented in the old hardware

28:00 INM: organisms “walling themselves off” is a metaphor that doesn’t work, since creatures use tools; BC: I was talking about straightforward biology (membranes, homeostasis, etc)

29:10 INM says I’m not going to “win him over with this kind of crap,” referring to my point about how culture transcends animalistic life; BC: I had no expectation that INM would even hear about my video, let alone respond to it or be persuaded by it; I’m merely explaining to my readers why I don’t go so far with pessimism as to be led to AN

30:45 INM says we use technology and our economies in an unwise way, thus we’re still brutes; BC: had INM merely watched a few minutes later in the video, he’d have seen that I concede that our technology progresses much faster than cultures and characters do and that we specifically lack the godlike wisdom to guarantee any great end to our cultural games; moreover, I grant that because we’re still animals (minds emerging from bodies and thus supervening/depending on our older drives, instincts, and so on), we regress to savage behaviour much of the time (in the video I sometimes said “all of the time,” but I was speaking hyperbolically)

35:35 INM asks rhetorically, “Isn’t it curious how the most savage, subhuman people are the ones having the most kids?” thus suggesting that AN is rational; BC: poor people have more kids because their societies more closely resemble uncivilized jungles where there’s no reliable government to keep people safe from predators, so they have lots of kids, knowing that some will die early, as in animalistic life in the wild; in more developed countries, the living standard is higher so there’s a greater chance that any offspring will live a long life; it’s advances in culture (including medical science) that make for that contrast between relatively natural/wild and artificial/civilized cultures

39:25 INM says we don’t live up to our ideals, so my argument about the availability of a higher game is a “fail,” since “there’s no evidence this [i.e. living up to our ideals] is the function of the organism [i.e. of a person]; the function is [that] the animal is visceral [sic], the animal has the passion;” BC: this is a fine illustration of my point about the danger of the Game metaphor: here, INM is relying on the extra pressure from the pseudo-teleology implied by “function” to get people to doubt the viability of a non-animalistic life path of trying to live up to our more original ideals; he’s talking as if we were bound by our evolutionary programming; that is, he saying not just that we often submit to that powerful programming, but that our purpose/function is to submit to it; very dangerous indeed, that crypto-theistic Game metaphor (to be clear, I believe INM himself is simply an atheist, which is good, but his metaphor has misleading crypto-theistic connotations)

INM goes on to concede that we can transcend that function as long as we’re “passionate about the truth” as opposed to being passionate about more animalistic goals; this contradicts much of what he says above and lands him on the slippery slope I talk about, which leads to the conclusion that we can (imperfectly) transcend our animal nature even as our higher nature depends on and is bound up with that lower nature (just as the cerebral cortex sits atop and interconnects with the older parts of the brain)

44:45 INM: we can’t transcend natural selection, because our brain and understanding are tools that evolved for purposes of warfare, to help us out-scheme competitors; BC: there’s adaptation and then there’s exaptation; I agree that reason, for example, evolved for Machiavellian purposes, as I say in the video, but we also acquired the byproducts/exaptations of science and philosophy; so again, this is the genetic fallacy, reducing something’s value to its point of origin, denying the possibility of one thing’s genuinely changing into something else; this also proves the importance of the “god” part in my “undead god” image: nature is divine simply in the sense that it’s genuinely creative; throughout nature, Y comes from X, where Y doesn’t equal X; human culture vs the animalistic life cycle is only one instance of the natural creativity (evolution, complexification, and emergence) that’s found everywhere in the universe

46:40 INM personally attacks me, saying that I’m holding out the hope that culture is somehow wondrous and sublime, all the while scheming because I’m not one of the many paying the price, because I’m not a slave or a pig being slaughtered; BC: I agree that many people and animals have it worse than me, but I’m an omega male; I’m hardly one of the winners in modern societies, so that personal attack falls flat (and is irrelevant)

49:50 INM: all my talk of “sublime” and “amazing” creative processes is merely subjective, since INM sees nothing special about human culture; BC: the normative aspect of natural creativity would indeed be subjective, but again, if INM had simply watched a little further before interrupting, he’d have seen me talk about the anomalousness of culture, which makes culture virtually miraculous (extremely improbable, albeit not supernatural); the anomalousness of what we’re doing is perfectly objective: no other species has language, for example, nor has any other species dominated such a variety of environments as we have, thanks to our extraordinary flexibility; nor does any other species come close to knowing the total objective truth of nature (including the inevitability of death) whereas we are, thanks to the exaptation of reason; nor does any other species have art as well as just tools, nor is any other species nearly as godlike as we are in terms of our surrounding ourselves with what Dawkins calls an extended phenotype, which is our artificial world that answers to us and is filled with meaning and purpose; whether an ultra-pessimist can look at all of this and still say it’s boring and brutal and lowly is neither here nor there, since the objective anomalousness of that transcendence (emergence/complexification) remains


3:00 INM mocks my “nature is undead” metaphor; I explain that metaphor at length on my blog and in my first YouTube video, but a philosophical naturalist shouldn’t have to work too hard to figure out its meaning (like a zombie, nature simulates personal qualities, such as creativity and intelligent design, even though it’s fundamentally mindless and impersonal; the metaphor is thus hardly “gibberish”)

3:40 INM: the horror of nature isn’t complicated since it’s just a matter of “precious commodities” being “controlled by crude forces”; BC: I agree, but what could make anything precious for the ultra-pessimist who thinks “morality” is a bad word even though I’ve been using it as a synonym for “normativity”? Instead of talking about morality, INM talks pseudoscientifically about the “exchange” or “equation” of values, but what makes anything valuable in INM’s picture of nature, where there’s no freewill or transcendence from natural selection or natural systems/mechanisms/processes? All values and qualities then become illusory and we’re left with physicalistic nihilism

This might be a hidden role of his Game analogy, to ward off nihilism and to provide a crypto-teleological basis of his utilitarian values (pleasure = good, pain = bad); that is, nature would literally program us to feel pleasure as good (even though it wouldn’t since nature isn’t an intelligent designer or an assigner of purpose), therefore pleasure would be our value; sorry, but that would be the naturalistic fallacy; pleasure becomes at best instrumentally good in that case, not normatively so; likewise, having a shovel is instrumentally good, relative to my goal of removing the snow from the sidewalk, but the goodness there is nothing more than a fact about the shovel’s usefulness to my purpose and its increasing the probability of success; if that’s all AN values are, on this reductionistic naturalism, all of INM’s insults against nature and destructive humans are empty, since there’s nothing really wrong with anything, including the murder of all life to achieve the AN goal of ending suffering; this isn’t a semantic point about the meaning of “value” or “morality”; the point is that AN would undermine its value judgment by not leaving room for the emergence of normativity (of values which philosophers usually call moral) from the world of natural facts

INM adds that “crude forces don’t make for a good baby sitter”; I agree, and that’s why intelligent creatures like humans have been busy for thousands of years surrounding ourselves with something other than the crude forces of the wilderness, namely with the microcosm comprised of intelligently-designed artifacts that we (imperfectly) control, which has largely replaced the wilderness on this planet, at least temporarily

7:20 INM asks who is the “we” who I say prefer to live as people rather than animals, who prefer to be civilized by culture rather than live without our tools that support the non-animalistic games; my answer is that most people who ever lived would stand with me against the antinatalist; some would be deluding themselves since their life choices are mostly subhuman, but most would prefer to be relatively autonomous people rather than animals enslaved by their programming and by their given environment; most would prefer to live in the environments we create for ourselves, beginning with the inner, mental environment we create by thinking a lot, rather than be stuck with the crude natural forces of the wilderness

8:15 INM mocks my talk of “precious creatures” and he belittles people as gladiators in a blood sport, thus contradicting his earlier slogan, “precious creatures controlled by crude forces”; are most people precious or not? INM is caught in this contradiction because he wants to distinguish the saintly and rational antinatalists from the brutish human masses who cause all the suffering, but he also bases his AN on utilitarian logic which sees value in the potential of all sentient creatures to be happy (through the mere biological and thus universal capacity for pleasure); thus, INM has to condemn most living things for being so brutal and ignorant even as he has to praise them for being normatively precious (or he has to praise their potential to enjoy the precious mental state of pleasure); again, given INM’s radical pessimism and reductionism, nothing whatsoever is actually precious; instead, there are only creatures that feel some things are valuable, but feeling X is valuable doesn’t make X really so; now, is the antinatalist willing to concede that her utilitarian value system merely feels right to some people as opposed to being rational and thus applicable to everyone? No, INM wants AN to be scientific, so he construes normative questions in quasi-mathematical, objective terms, as if the setting of values in an equation justifies the values in the first place or even shows that the values are real rather than illusory; the reason values and purposes are real, by the way, is that nature complexifies, which has to do with what I’ve been calling transcendence at all natural levels, including psychology and human culture

9:10 INM accuses me of hypocrisy, since I allegedly discharge my moral obligations merely by paying lip service to high ideals while I meanwhile feel free “to do whatever the fuck I want,” as opposed to joining the antinatalist and combatting destructive actions with constructive actions; BC: I don’t claim to be a hero or a saint; the articles on my blog lay out what I condemn; likewise, INM has made over 2000 videos, thus he’s done a lot of talking as well; Does he also act to uphold his values? Well, I believe he’s a vegetarian and I assume he doesn’t have children; none of that personal stuff is any of my business, though, since I’m interested only in the philosophical ideas here; how could INM know whether I’m a hypocrite when he doesn’t know the first thing about my values? After all, he evidently did no research on me, misreading even the name of my blog at the very beginning of Part 1 of his video response; certainly, he showed no signs of having read any of my articles; so these are cheap and more importantly boring personal attacks

13:00 INM’s elitism: there are the minority of rational pessimists, including antinatalists, and then there are the masses who live as beasts; BC: if INM had done a little research on my view—which, of course, he had no obligation whatsoever to do, although it would have been useful to him—he’d had seen my dozens of articles where I talk about esoteric vs exoteric knowledge and about the rationally enlightened (thanks to the curse of reason) vs the beastly masses; so he’s arguing with a ghost here—as in at least half of his multipart response where he presumptuously throws down red herrings and goes after strawmen because of his egregious YouTube-style, point-by-point method of debate

13:30 INM: culture isn’t anomalous in the sense of being surprising, because we know how it evolved from simpler processes; BC: again, adaptations vs exaptations; the new uses to which we put our traits do have many surprising results, such as the scientific ability to understand the whole universe or language’s ability to project our minds outside our bodies to give us what Plato called a kind of immortality (e.g. we can read Plato’s thoughts long after he died); history, therefore, meaning the record of ancient events is surprising and anomalous and thus evidence of our transcendence from the animalistic cycle of life

14:15 INM: we don’t control culture or our microcosms, because we don’t control “the agenda engine” (i.e. our primitive motivations and psychology); BC: I agree we don’t choose our goals and ideals out of nothing, so we’re not godlike in that respect, but unlike animals that can’t think twice or reflect on their motivations or balance one goal against another, searching for coherence in their model of the world and struggling to overcome cognitive dissonance, we have limited self-control; we may not choose our basic desires, but we can prioritize them based not just on more primitive desires, but on logic and our comprehensive understanding of the facts, on our long memories, and on our cultural conventions (including historical lessons and testimonies); we can shape our character even after our parents shaped our childish and animalistic instincts by teaching us their cultural values;

INM goes on to say there’s no logical need to create needs that don’t have to exist, so we’ll always be controlled by our agenda engine; but who says our creativity has to be dictated just by logic? Artists have many nonrational inspirations, including their curiosity and idiosyncratic way of interpreting their subconscious, archetypal desires and whisperings of the muse; again, reason alone doesn’t tell us where we ought to go; reason can help us get there if our goals are realistic, but our primary goals have ultimately nonrational motivations; those motivations can be genetically programmed or more transcendent, personal, and cultural; in any case, these mix together in our mind, so that the ultrapessimistic reduction of everything to beastly egoism and bigotry (“scheming brains”) is a crude oversimplification

19:30 INM: self-control of ideas is really about memes, as Dawkins says; BC: not all ideas are memes, and memetics is at best a protoscience if not a pseudoscience

19:55 INM: my talk of “higher nobility” and of aesthetic value is as silly and subjective as saying that women with big breasts are magnificent; BC: the notion of “objective value” is an oxymoron, so the fact that values mean something to some creatures but not to different ones is trivially true; art doesn’t lose its value just because that value needs to be understood in a context; indeed, scientific models have pragmatic and aesthetic aspects as well, since they pick out relevant properties in the world that interest creatures like us; that doesn’t make the models less useful; aliens would indeed laugh at our values, as INM says, just as most people would laugh at the antinatalist’s radical pessimism; the difference is that the antinatalist contends that her values are somehow objectively true because they’re based on reason and mathematics rather than on faith or intuition or some creative vision; but that’s the naturalistic fallacy: reason tells us the facts, not what ought to be done about them (e.g. Should we pursue pleasure or pain? The answer’s not obvious, as is shown by asceticism)

22:00 INM: being controlled by silly forces (i.e. artificial ones we fall for) is just as bad as being controlled by crude, natural, evolutionary ones; BC: the silliness here is just subjective; most people don’t think culture is silly; on the contrary, billions of people have died for their ideas (for their gods, etc); they lived as hybrids we can think of as people-who-were-also-animals; they lived in microcosms rather than in the wilderness and those microcosms were refuges from the nonintelligently-created parts of the world, so those masses have signed onto the existential war against nature’s monstrosity, by signing up for culture (for the noosphere and the technosphere); the aliens that would come here to laugh at our cultures would have a culture of their own (since they’d have godlike technoscience), so they’d be hypocrites, just as imperial humans are hypocrites for mocking primitive cultures

26:00 INM says I’m a hypocrite for not being a vegetarian and again for only paying lip service to my sympathy for vegetarians, because I rely on others to kill animals for me; thus the “we transcended ones” who I keep talking about are just low-life hypocrites; BC: again, I’ve used the royal “we” to refer to those who prefer culture and degrees of civility to the naked jungle; whether I live up to my ideals—even if it were true that I don’t do so here—is irrelevant to whether we all have the potential to live up to our personal or cultural ideals that isn’t explained just by positing naturally-selected selfishness; by the way, the contrast here between the pwner’s preoccupation with personal attacks and the philosopher’s preference for discussing ideas themselves nicely illustrates the difference between the two kinds of intelligence, the animalistic Machiavellian kind which makes us competitive animals and the transcendent, exapted kind that makes us civilized, godlike people who live in worlds we create for ourselves (e.g. worlds made out of ideas rather than just flesh-and-blood bodies we compete with for food and sex)

27:20 INM responds to my point that “there’s a difference between human beings and animals,” by mocking me as if I’d said that humans are wholly better than animals; the point about transcendence/complexification/emergence is descriptive, not normative; humans are manifestly different from the other species; we’re godlike not because we’re majestic or omniscient, but because we create worlds (microcosms); we’re also often proud of ourselves so we add value judgments and we prefer the human potential to that of most other species, instead of just describing the different limitations of each species; but those value judgments would be subjective; if INM knew anything about my philosophy, he’d know I don’t egoistically celebrate the human potential; instead, I say that the best of us are at most tragically heroic in their degrees of asceticism, since they’re burdened with knowledge of the horrible truth of nature, while the majority’s happiness is sustained by delusions


  1. I'm very much reminded by this of the south park episode with the wrestlers where there this one guy who want to make real wrestling more important again.
    Those youtube commenters are like the kids from this episode who don't really know what wrestling is about and let demself get distracted by the entertainment value of the programm.

    I think this is a very good and thorough reply. I don't know if this will get you any less fuck-yous from INM or if this goes through to him at all so that he starts to rethink his illogical position. Unfortunately reason alone doesn't get you very far when it comes to convincing anybody who is that stuck in his hatred for the way the world is.

    1. Damn, I only barely remember that episode so I don't see the comparison with the commenters. I'll have to re-watch that one.

      Yeah, I'm not out to change the minds of antinatalists. There are psychological factors that help sustain all of our deepest beliefs, no matter what they are. I'm just trying to explain to readers who are more friendly to my views why I personally am not an antinatalist. If we asked average people what they'd say about AN, they'd surely think it's a sign of mental illness such as depression. But that's not a satisfactory response, in my view, because psychological normality and abnormality are both matters of causality. All of our beliefs are caused to exist. The philosophical question is whether a set of beliefs is good in some way, not just whether it's held by the majority or the minority.

      I'm sure you know that already, but I'd prefer to get at the bottom of what's wrong with AN, as opposed to just dismissing it outright. However, now that I have laid out my case, I am going to wipe it from my mind for awhile.

    2. The problem with the depression angle, is that the overwhelming number of people who suffer from depression are not AN.

    3. Just so you know. I was refering to youtube commenters in general, I haven't read all of them, so there might have been some more reasonable ones.

      Although I agree that the origins of our believes don't determine if they are right or wrong, I nonetheless found it quite helpful and healthy in a way to think about them from time to time as a way to see your convictions from another standpoint.

      I think your first video was enough to get your point across, but I found it very admirable of you to do all that hard work of going through Inmendham's responses. You must have a great supply of serenity (not sure if this makes sense ;-)).

      Did you mention what your next video will be about? I vagely remember that you said it, if I'm not mistaken.

    4. @anon: I don't think anybody here is arguing that depression implies antinatalism. Or that the oppsite is the case for that matter.

    5. Dietl, Patience is indeed needed in a philosophical debate, especially when you're debating someone as hostile as Inmendham.

      My next article will be on a connection between theism and fame/celebrity. Atheists who worship celebrities are being hypocritical when they hyperrationally attack religious faith. The next video will likely be on the anthropocentric basis of theism.

    6. I guess it didn't help that at first he mistook you for a theist because of the name of your blog.

      Sound very interesting, especially in the youtube guru context.
      "But mortals think that the gods are born
      and have the mortals' own clothes and voice and form."

  2. I take issue with the idea that by not suiciding one is consenting to be brought into existence because suicide is not easy. But even then, that does not mean antinatalism has it right. This idea of asking people for consent has its origin in living societies (obviously). Morality develops to help society flourish, no to destroy it.

    1. I agree suicide isn't easy and there are lots of reasons we prefer to live. But I think a major reason we prefer not to kill ourselves is that we implicitly consent to having been born because we feel that our life has overall positive value. We may be wrong in making that optimistic judgment about ourselves, but we're nevertheless implicitly glad to have been born.

  3. 'INM asks rhetorically, “Isn’t it curious how the most savage, subhuman people are the ones having the most kids?”'

    Isn't that essentially the same argument as late 19th/early 20th century eugenicists? This of course has a long racialist history. "Savages" and "subhuman" are definite terms that hearken back to an era of compulsive sterilization laws. One can pretend that the two aren't linked, but these types of words carry weight.

    1. Inmendhman made a more worrying comment even than that, when he said at around 31:20 in Part 1 that killing unproductive people would be justified. Also, in Part 3, 34:30 he said that all life should eventually be ended. As I point out in my written point-by-point reply, these comments support my slippery slope argument which I make in my article on AN (link below): antinatalists are very close to being wannabe megalomaniacal bad guys who want to destroy the planet.


    2. So saying that stabbing someone isn't bad, it's just an act, isn't a dangerous way of thinking? Chewing gum is also just an act, for some odd reason chewing gum is legal, and stabbing someone isn't. Must be the backward archaic laws of theists at work there.

    3. Anon, where do I say that stabbing someone isn't wrong? What I said in the video is that stabbing someone isn't *inherently* or objectively wrong. Objectively speaking, stabbing someone is a physical event, like the solar wind blowing through the void. Rightness and wrongness are found at higher levels of explanation which must get into our subjectivity, and so the badness of an event isn't an objective matter of what's inherently happening in the event (unless we're talking about our subjectivity as being inherent in the event).

      This is a little confusing, but the point is that for Inmendham, right and wrong are just matters of pleasure and pain, but in so far as pleasure and pain are inherently just matters of biological causality, I maintain there's nothing normatively right or wrong about them.

  4. The same argument is regularly made about atheists, from the religious right. That it leads to things like eugenics, genocide, etc. After all, who is to say that eugenics is wrong without objective morality?

    1. Well it's not really the same argument. Ben's argument is something this:
      (1)Antinatalism is a set of moral believes.
      (2)Determinism and the believe that there is no free will implies that there is no morality.
      (3)So you can't be an antinatalist and believe in Determinism (and not in free will).

      I'm gonna leave out the part about transcendence here, because I think Ben can explain it better than me being a kind of nihilist. But I guess this is a pretty straightforward argument based on reasonable thinking.

      The religious right's arguments on the other hand go like this, if I understand them correctly:
      Argument 1:
      If there is no God, then there is no morality.
      Argument 2:
      If there is no morality, then there will be eugenics, genocide ect.

      You could build a single argument for theism like this:
      (1) If there is no God, then there is no morality.
      (2) If there is no morality, then eugenics, genocide ect isn't wrong.
      (3) Eugenics, genocide ect. is wrong.
      [(2)+(3) lead to: (4)There is morality.' and (1)+(4) lead to the conclusion:]
      Therefore: There is a God.

      You see it's not the same at all. If they aren't obvious to you I could show you the problems with the religious reasoning, but put simply it's based on a lot of hot air.

    2. So, you're saying that the belief that eugenics is wrong is not morally based?

    3. No, I didn't say that.

    4. Excellent, anti-eugenics is a set of moral beliefs. BTW, I mentioned nothing of determinism in my comment. You may have to check with Ben, but I think he believes there are two types of determinism. I also believe this, gained knowledge, technology, etc. are game changers.

    5. I didn't want to go into detail with this, which is why I left out the different kinds of determinisms. My point was more about the structure of the argument, because your first comment sounded something like 'yeah, but the religious right argues the same way', which is simply not true.

      Every sentence/statement/opinion that says that any action X is good or bad is a moral sentence/statement/opinion.
      The notion that there is no free will makes any moral statement obsolete. So if you don't believe in free will it means that anti-eugenics and eugenics don't have any value one way or the other.

    6. Anon, I think we tend to be confused about the relation between objectivity and universality. What we want in ethics are universal standards that apply to everyone and I think we have such standards, postmodern relativism and multiculturalism notwithstanding. What we don't have are ways of justifying our moral judgments in purely objective, which is to say scientific, materialistic terms that leave aside our personal, subjective nature.

      As for my account of universal norms, I construe moral questions in aesthetic terms and whereas the stereotype is that artistic taste is different for each person, I think there are universal standards when it comes to art and to living in artistically creative ways. But I'm still working on that account of morality.

    7. Sigh, the pedantry is suffocating. Dietl, it seems that you think that AN's do not believe in free will. I personally think people have free will, to a degree. Anyone calling themselves an AN, who claims that people have absolutely no free will is an idiot for obvious reasons. It seems that you are attempting to marry AN with determinism, that isn't going to happen on my watch. I don't think it's a coincidence that when a culture becomes educated, and has access to birth control, the birth rate tends to decline. We can see this example historically, I seriously doubt my mothers parents had 5 children on purpose. My mother even found a pamphlet of my grandmothers, with instructions for "the rhythm method" It was probably that, or a condom as thick as a dish glove!

    8. Sorry, but I've tried to make myself as clear as possible since you were (and are continueing) to put words into my mouth. I never said that ANs do not believe in free will nor that antinatalism and determinism are necessarily connected. Quite the opposite, I was trying to say that it doesn't make sense to be an AN and a determinist/free-will-denier.
      The reason we are even talking about free will and determinism is that Inmendham obviously doesn't seem to see what you called "obvious reasons".

      As for what I believe. I'm not a natalist and not an antinatalist. In fact I don't really care if people have children or not.

  5. How do you feel about groups like the VHEMT? They don't really give a hoot about human suffering, but believe humans are destroying the environment. They would like to see humanity go extinct, or close to it to save the earth.


    1. I wasn't aware of that movement. At first glance, I see some incoherence in it. I can understand misanthropy, but I don't quite understand contempt for people combined with love for the rest of the planet. Although we're unique creatures, we're fundamentally animals do. So what would be so great about the rest of the planet that it would be worth preserving without us? I understand that we're killing off many species and destroying the environment, but I doubt we'd be able to impact the environment to such an extent that it can't bounce back. It's already bounced back from ice ages and huge meteor impacts and so on. Drastic changes in the environment are part of natural selection, since those allow for new species to emerge.

      You might be interested in my article, called "Humankind as Life's Executioner: The Environmentalist's Nightmare."


  6. Great write I really enjoyed reading your bits on determinism. One of these efilist types once gave me a little write up on how morality can exist under hard determinism, I thought it would be appropriate here:

    "Determinism does not mean that there is no possibility for things in the future to be different from how they are today. While ultimately, whatever does happen was bound to happen, determinism allows causes to have effect. Therefore, it is possible to deter people from causing harm or allowing harm to occur through negligence. Punishing those for immoral behavior is not retributive, but instead ia a deterrent to prevent future behaviors."

    Was wondering what you thought of this

    1. When I said that Inmendham's "determinism" doesn't allow for morality, I was speaking roughly. It's not just his determinism, but his crude reductionism, psychological egoism, cynicism, and so forth that have that result. It's his whole cynical worldview that excludes morality, although it conveniently leaves room for the Efilist performance of resentment against the unenlightened masses. I likewise rail against the masses, but I aim to reconstruct morality in aesthetic terms.

      I'm a determinist and a compatibilist, in that I agree there's no such thing as supernatural or libertarian freewill (the freedom to break laws of nature). However, nature transcends itself, which means there are virtually anti-natural levels of complexity that emerge from the simpler levels. Chemistry leads to biology which leads to psychology which leads to sociology, culture, enlightenment and the existential/spiritual Promethean/Luciferian revolt against nature-as-the-wilderness. The virtually anti-natural or miraculous is what we call the "artificial," the humanization of inhuman nature.

      So we do have limited freewill (self-control or autonomy) which provides the foundation of personhood, morality, and so forth. That's my more developed view in a nutshell.

      As to the quotation, I agree that punishment can have positive or constructive effects, but that's not yet morally significant. If punishment deters some people from committing crimes, that's a matter of force and it can be explained in purely descriptive (rather than prescriptive) language. There's no need to posit values, obligations, or "oughts" to make sense of such a causal relation.

      So that argument doesn't entail that determinism is compatible with morality. What it shows, rather, is that certain applications of force can have preferable effects. Calling those effects right or good or even positive would still make no sense without positing at least limited freedom, which would imply compatibilism rather than pure determinism (the latter being the view that freewill is an illusion).

    2. Thanks for the reply. I look forward to reading your other articles

  7. I really enjoyed your Medium posts and came across your take down on "Efilism" which I had the misfortune of encountering in the past. I agree with most of your points, but I do have some questions I hope you can answer as someone not too well read on philosophy. These utilitarian types stipulate that pain is bad and pleasure is good, but you invoke Nietzsche and state that pain isn't inherently bad. Why exactly is this? I've read snippets from some pessimistic thinkers like Schopenhauer who believed that life is just dealing with one thing after another, finding comfort, and then suffering. I don't know that much about Nietzsche, but I know he was disgusted by this kind of thinking as he developed his philosophy since we could get stronger by suffering and create things. But these negative utiliarians/Efilists argue that isn't this just cleaning up a mess that our own existence caused in the first place? I remember one of Gary's fans arguing that we only become strong or create art because it satisfies a need or prevents further harm, and that the general consensus revolving around "suffering building character" is that it just makes us better equipped to deal with it. Wouldn't we not have a need to heal our wounds if we never existed in the first place? From what I've seen of Nietzsche, he presents the counterintuitive notion that suffering can be good, but as Schopenhauer would say we always need to fill a need. Even when we are satisfied, the boulder rolls down the hill again and the striving continues. What exactly might be some examples of suffering having any constructive value that can't be reduced to long term reduction of one's suffering? Sorry if this is long, but I like how you write and I want my views changed

    1. The disagreement between Schopenhauer and Nietzsche is more straightforward, I think. It's not about whether suffering can be good, but about how we should respond to the problems we inevitably face in life. Schopenhauer's answer was essentially the ancient Indian, and especially the Buddhist one, which is that we should withdraw from nature because it's absurd and bound to disappoint us. Nietzsche said that's unheroic or ignoble and that we should overcome absurdity by strengthening our will and finding new fictions or myths to rationalize the hardships and unfairness.

      We may be responsible for human-made suffering, but not for nature's indifference to living creatures. Of course we would have no wounds if we never existed, but that's throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      I discuss one of the good kinds of suffering in my response to Sam Harris's old moral landscape challenge (link below). Empathy causes the selfless person to suffer on behalf of victims, including the victims of nature's absurdity and amorality. That's a moral kind of suffering. Even Gary would say he experiences that suffering, since he's always ranting on behalf of victims such as the animals we slaughter.

      Another good kind of suffering is that which is deserved by those who've done wrong. In so far as none of us is as heroic as we could be, we all deserve to suffer if only for our inaction in the face of great injustice.