Tuesday, June 1, 2021

On Medium: A Pig Installs a Safe Space in a Slaughterhouse

Here's a satirical article, the first in my Medium publication, "Weaponized Comedy: An Arsenal of Satire."


  1. Hi, I hope that you've been doing well. I was wondering if you could share your views on the following pieces, particularly the first one, as they seem quite relevant to the sort of stuff you write:


    What's interesting here is how the writer claims that trying to preserve life and persereve against our difficulties is "absolutism". However, this person has also seemed to just elsewhere that they would be fine with using a yellow button to forcibly sterilise everybody (you should know the ideology of the writer from this).

    2. http://antibullshitman.blogspot.com/2020/12/affective-altruism.html?m=1

    More of a "technical" post. The author is clearly not a fan of life-affirming people like Sam Harris, Camus, and Peter Singer

    1. Well, I skimmed the two articles, looking for the main arguments. The articles are long and rambling. The author seems to have studied philosophy, but he or she is more interested in analyzing the landscape of possible positions than in arguing outright for pessimism or antinatalism.

      The first article says that those who value life unconditionally are being absolutists. If values depend on the context, we should be open to the possibility that some people were better off not having been born because of the amount they suffered.

      I don't have a problem with saying it's possible there are such unfortunate individuals. Some of them commit suicide, which itself is evidence that they, at least, decided their life wasn't worth living. Some suicides result from mental illness or from rash decisions, but it's possible that some are based on a rational assessment of the options. If some individuals are highly lucky and their life is filled with joy, wealth, and opportunities, there might be others who live under the opposite conditions.

      Indeed, there are some parents who never should have had children, whether because they had children when they were too young or they're somehow unfit to be parents (they're poor, mentally ill, lifelong criminals, and so on). However, some of these children may rise above their dire circumstances. There are rags to riches stories. Who is to say, then, that it's always wrong for certain folks to have children?

      In any case, what's the argument from value pluralism to antinatalism or to pessimism in general? I'm a value pluralist (subjectivist and contextualist) but also a universalist (rather than an absolutist) because I ground values in our existential situation which is the same for all intelligent primates. Life is hard for such creatures because we suffer in complex ways, but our life is also invigorating because we recognize and appreciate more than animals do. That's why most people don't kill themselves or commit murder: we respect life and even hold it as precious, not because we're absolutists in thinking human life is metaphysically crucial or supernaturally important, but because human life is generally a wonder (due to our godlike capacities of self-awareness, rationality, autonomy, and creativity).

      Presumably, that’s why that pessimistic author refrains from committing suicide or mass murder.

      I didn't detect a general argument for antinatalism in those articles. The author's analysis of the possible positions might be rejected as a series of false dichotomies and strawman fallacies, but I didn't read deeply enough to tell how fair or exhaustive he or she was being.

    2. The second article is more reasonable or relevant, I think. I say something similar in my old response to Harris’s morality challenge (and I say it with much greater concision).

      Regarding Harris’s distinction between the good and the bad life (one filled with pleasure and opportunities, the other with suffering and oppression), I say, ‘But notice that his heroine leading the good life is on a slippery slope to suffering in the way that Oskar Schindler suffers at the end of Spielberg’s movie. “I could have done more,” Schindler says in horror. The fact is that the more empathetic we feel, the more we must personally suffer because in that case we must suffer on behalf of many others. So a world in which we prefer to maximize collective well-being is simultaneously (and ironically) one that maximizes individual suffering, and that’s so even though many people would come to our aid in such a world. A selfless person can’t accept aid or even compliments that could just as well go to other, more needy folks. Indeed, those with altruistic motives intentionally sacrifice their personal well-being, because they care more about others than themselves.’

      And I’ve written a lot about the superficiality of the value of happiness. Some suffering is ennobling.


    3. "Some suffering is ennobling"
      This is a breath of fresh air amidst the usual utilitarian obsession with pleasure and pain which I've become so accustomed to. I do agree with much of what you've said. I think that the absolutist position is one which believes that valuing life is an absolutist position. Nobody who is sensible would claim that all lives are perfectly worth living. Nevertheless, a lot of lives can have sufficient positive value which can justify us creating them.

      Thanks for the insightful and thought-provoking replies!