Thursday, November 18, 2021

Is Having Children Always Wrong?

There have perhaps always been misanthropic curmudgeons. But their unremitting pessimism has metastasized on the intellectual dark web, as they’ve availed themselves of the social media tools that are notorious for creating feedback loops that can nurture even the most outlandish of poisonous discourses.

David Benatar is perhaps the most prominent antinatalist, for example, believing that procreation is immoral since it causes untold harms in opening the next generation to the inevitable hardships in life. And Benatar debated Jordan Peterson on the matter.

Gary “Inmendham,” whom I debated onYouTube in 2014, has for years hammered away at conventional society for rejecting antinatalism and misanthropy. And a blogger who writes under the name “Existential Goof” follows much of Inmendham’s framing of the issues.

A Case for Antinatalism

Here’s the start of Existential Goof’s case for antinatalism, that is, for the ending of human procreation and thus for the indirect suicide of our species:

my thesis is that if one accepts an atheistic and materialistic conception of reality, then there can be no such thing as a good or a bad that is not defined exclusively by the feelings of sentient organisms. There is no basis for having a preference between two different outcomes outside on the impact that those outcomes are going to have on the feelings of yourself, or other sentient organisms. The gulf which exists between pleasure and pain is what drives preference; and if not guided by this, then all choices would be as arbitrary as the result of a meaningless coin toss.

He says also that nature punishes those who have no kids. Thus, he says, “Only when we allow ourselves to outsmart the unintelligent forces of natural selection will humanity realise that the only rational course for us to pursue is that of the extinction of ourselves, and of all life. We can then realise that, in a game in which nobody can win, the best option left to us is to cut our collective losses.”

Why should we “cut our losses” by collectively forgoing procreation? Because “It is only the feelings themselves which have intrinsic value, and thus ‘suffering’ is tautologous [i.e. synonymous] with ‘bad’” (my emphasis). And living is impossible without some suffering. Thus, life is at least largely bad. Therefore, those who perpetrate life by having children are indirectly bad for ensuring a continuation of those harms. Seemingly confused, Existential Goof also says that “pleasure has instrumental value, because living organisms have an innate desire for pleasure and aversion to suffering” (my emphases).

Is the idea that pleasure is instrumental because pleasure is a means of avoiding pain rather than an end in itself? Is pleasure supposed to be instrumentally good whereas pain is intrinsically bad? Moreover, isn’t it society rather than nature that punishes non-procreators, by holding up family as an ideal to make single people feel unhelpful? Nature rewards those who have sex by making that a pleasurable experience, but perhaps Existential Goof thinks that holding up those natural pleasures would cast some doubt on his antinatalist argument.

In any case, this crude reduction of morality to the existence of pleasure and pain won’t take us far. This is odd, too, because Existential Goof contrasts human morality with nature’s amorality as though he had some respect for the former’s sophistication:

Moral nihilism is how the animal kingdom operates, and how nature and evolution have always operated. There was no benevolent guiding force which created these beings, and they have very limited capacity for morality themselves, and for structuring cohesive societies based on mutual interests.

Indeed, human morality seems anomalous in the universal wilderness. So why leap from that admiration of a human accomplishment to identifying goodness and badness with mere pleasure and pain, especially when lots of other animals have those sensations and don’t have much morality? No, morality evidently takes into consideration much more than tallies of such base sensations.

Nevertheless, this antinatalist seems to think the existence of some unjust suffering in life warrants this villainous proclamation: “if the Benevolent World Exploder came tonight and instantaneously eradicated all sentient life on the planet, then it would not be possible for me to register any qualms about its decision to act without my consent. Consent is only important when the potential outcomes of one’s actions are going to cause harm, and a scenario in which life was eradicated painlessly at the push of a button would do nothing other than remove harm from existence.”

This implies that Existential Goof takes himself to be such a moral purist that he’d be appalled at the prospect of killing humanity if that extinction event would require harming the dying people in the process. But if that extinction could happen bloodlessly, as in this thought experiment of deciding whether to press a button to annihilate everyone in a nanosecond, he’d have no moral objection because that extinction would end the chances for pain by ending our capacity to produce a new generation of sufferers.

Of course, the end of procreation would also preclude the existence of future pleasures. So isn’t it a toss up?

Is Pain More Morally Important than Pleasure?

Antinatalists like to argue, on the contrary, that there’s an asymmetry here. It’s much more important, they say, that we avoid pain than that we obtain pleasure. So ending our capacity for pain is more morally significant than ending our capacity for pleasure. As Existential Goof says, “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.”

Yet that looks like John Stuart 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 for 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. Thus, 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, including 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 being civil and displaying good manners in public. We might not take much pleasure in mere civility, but that’s because we’re spoiled since our societies are relatively advanced and luxurious.

The way this positive obligation comes about is that children in secular liberal societies are trained to be conscientious humanists. 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 and Kickstarter 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.

The upshot is that we evidently do care as much about the potential loss of future pleasures and of other benefits in life as we would about the freedom from future pains. The antinatalist’s asymmetry is bogus.

Happiness and the Flexible Mind

Does pain so outweigh pleasure in human affairs that we’re obliged to throw the baby out with the bathwater and to terminate our species to end all forms of human pain? Of course, if moral badness were the existence of mere pain in general, the same conclusion should apply to all species that can feel pain. Ideally, for the antinatalist, we should be thinking of a way to painlessly end all terrestrial life.

And the antinatalist’s shock at the suggestion of extinguishing life if doing so would result in some pain seems superficial. After all, while we’re busying weighing the pleasures and pains to see whether life is worth living, we can weigh the pains caused in killing all life on Earth against the pains that would result from allowing life to continue to exist perhaps millions or billions of years into the future. Clearly, the end would justify the means, on the antinatalist’s crude utilitarian grounds. So what antinatalism entails is indeed the murder of humanity and of all life, period, regardless of whether that extinction event would be painful or painless.

If we’re going to stoop to judging whether there’s more pain than pleasure in life, we should observe that there aren’t likely many lives that are so tortured, they’re bereft of enjoyment. 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. The richer always want to make more money than they have because they're competing with other rich people, so wealth has some diminishing returns.

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 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 person’s life has been lived. Others occur in the heat of a personal tragedy or due to untreated 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 if they’d never 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.

The Incoherence of Moralistic Antinatalism

Regardless, as I showed in my debate with Inmendham, there’s no such thing as an antinatalist “morality,” since this outlook comes apart at the seams. The antinatalist’s worldview is deeply incoherent.

Consider, for example, what it means to imply that parents are the metaphysical originators of all the harm experienced by their offspring, such that the parents are ethically to blame for it. For one thing, it means that the parents have freewill. On the contrary, 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 making 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, existentially crucial, precious, or awe-inspiring. Together with consciousness, this would be the basis of valuing all people. 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.

In other words, the more respect you have for people, the more you should appreciate our potential for transcending monstrous nature with social progress. Yet the antinatalist’s conceit is that he or she can claim to be a moral purist who reveres human and animal life (by not wanting them to come to any harm), while declaring that all humanity is condemnable and worthy only of being extinguished. That’s quite contradictory.

If you’re so squeamish that you’re appalled by the least suffering in life, you must think highly of the being that suffers. The unpleasant mental state doesn’t exist in the abstract. It’s a person who suffers, and people happen to be anomalous in nature in part because of our rational autonomy and potential for social progress, which are what give us moral rights in the first place. So if you acknowledge that we shouldn’t be harmed because we’re special creatures, you shouldn’t be going behind our back and casting such morbid aspersions by saying we should all wish to be killed.

Indeed, this kind of self-contradiction is what you’d expect from a mentally ill, wannabe supervillain. Rather than being philosophically rigorous, the antinatalist’s unhinged misanthropy is likely sustained by depression or by some other mental illness.

And the antinatalist is a misanthropist, not a lover of humanity, regardless of how she attempts to spin her denunciations. You can tell Inmendham hates humanity, for example, by the insanity and the condescension of his frequent rages. But supervillainy is off-putting, to say the least, so the antinatalist prefers to assume the pose of a humble, sensitive moralist, of a saint who just wants to end all our suffering.

With saints like these, who needs enemies?

The Continuity Between Generations

There’s also something grossly legalistic in speaking of parents as being liable for the harms their offspring likely undergo. Although the law recognizes the individuality of parents and of their children, and neurologically and perhaps culturally people who belong to different generations are, of course, at some level different entities, there are genetic and social continuities between parents and their children. And at this level of discourse, when we’re pondering whether humanity or even all animal life deserves to continue, we should reflect on those continuities.

When parents have kids, they’re not just creating new people; they’re extending themselves. Children are physical and social extensions of their parents since parents raise their children and pass their mindsets and habits onto them. Therefore, parents tend to empathize with their children so that when the children suffer or feel joy, the parents share in those feelings. When the child suffers, the suffering happens indirectly (by the mechanism of empathy) to the parents. And the suffering happens directly to this genetic and enculturated extension of the parents.

All of humanity, therefore, is genetically and historically related in that there are real continuities in the transmission of biological and cultural information. The relevance of this is that when we consider whether we should have kids, we’re implicitly wondering whether our life has been worthwhile—because we’d be extending that life in our offspring.

And that judgment about our life’s worth isn’t governed by Mill’s harm principle. Again, by having children and thus by helping to propagate human life, we’re not creating new life in the abstract, a set of strangers or aliens whose individuality and foreignness would be absolute. Instead, we’re extending our bodies and minds into the future to live on after we die.

Moreover, we know that in the final analysis most people think their life is worthwhile, despite all the setbacks and hardships, and that’s so even for those who don’t have children. We know this because most people don’t choose to kill themselves, and as I said, we’re adept at adjusting our expectations because the human brain and mind are supremely flexible. Even imprisoned criminals who are locked up in a hellhole for years may feel content enough with how their life panned out, because they focus on the little pleasures. If a watched pot never boils, a little pleasure can be magnified in the spotlight of consciousness.

Sure, the grass is always greener on the other side, to resort to yet another cliché, and we can also exacerbate our situation by overanalyzing and focusing on the worst-case scenarios. This is a question of temperament. Some people are optimists while others are pessimists, but even most pessimists are happy enough with life; indeed, pessimists may even derive some satisfaction from their negativity, from being able to say, “I told you so,” to someone who underestimates the dangers.

But just because someone feels misanthropic doesn’t mean antinatalism is philosophically sound. Far from it. And that’s coming from a card-carrying cosmicist who thinks happiness is for sheep anyway. Far from being obliged to terminate humanity to end our suffering, we should suffer on existential grounds to show that we understand the full implications of reality’s godlessness.

Full contentment with life is for deluded people and for animals that don’t know any better. Philosophy awakens us to the deepest, most absurd roots of suffering, but this means only that the most authentic kind of person would likely be honour-bound to suffer on behalf of an absurd world that reflects its monstrousness back onto itself most clearly through that purified vessel. Ending intelligent life would mean shattering the mirror and enabling nature to get away with its mindless absurdities with no reporter to bear the bad news. That’s not a worthy existential purpose.


  1. A good critique. I also found it fascinating that you didn't spend much time trying to create a utilitarian rebuttal, such as the absence of happiness being negative and satisfaction having inherent positive value. I would only like to correct you on something you wrote regarding the antinatalist not wishing to inflict pain. I have seen posts from them where they have openly said that inflicting horrible pain undemocratically would be justified as long as it wipes out everything and the suffering is less than "potential suffering". This is the logical conclusion of a framework that doesn't value happiness.

    I would recommend checking out the video called "When the Mask Slips" uploaded by Steve Godfrey.

    1. I don't think that's a correction exactly, since I'm led to that same conclusion in the article. Some antinatalists may be upfront about wanting to kill humanity even if doing so causes pain--because that's what their villainous assessment entails. But others may want to seem less overtly evil, by saying we shouldn't kill our species only because doing so would cause enormous suffering.

      My point in the article is that that friendlier side of antinatalism would be a ruse. The utilitarian logic is overwhelming, as I said: causing some pain is justified if it prevents much worse suffering.

    2. Hmm, yeah. I think I was specifically referring to the "moral purist" label being applied to the concerned blogger, since he doesn't seem to actually have many qualms about the project as long as it's efficient.

      I would also add that the "negative" utilitarian logic might be somewhat convincing, but I don't believe that it holds much weight with positive utilitarianism that also emphasises happiness.

    3. I saw that my reply hadn't appeared, so I posted again, just to be safe.

      I agree. I think that the word "addition" would be more suitable. I guess my main point was addressed towards the "moral purist" remark, since I am sure that I've seen Existential goof comment on reddit that ending all life, even if there's pain involved and is undemocratic, is not only acceptable, but also inevitable because they cannot convince everybody.

    4. As for the utilitarian logic, I would say that it might only make sense to reach such conclusions if one is an absolutist negative utilitarian. On the other hand, I don't see any logical argument for extermination if one a positive utilitarian and cares about the positive aspects of life.

    5. To say that everyone should be killed because they're so bad that they can't see the logic of antinatalist arguments is a little like the self-righteousness of any religious folks.

      Christians think everyone is degenerate due to original sin, and we all deserve to burn in hell, but the Christians take themselves alone to be saved by their faith in Jesus. Why, then, don't Christians advocate killing all non-Christians to do God's work for him? Because they also think everyone has the potential to be saved, and that God's Creation is fundamentally good--unless the Christian's a Calvinist and a double predestinationist, in which case she thinks many people were created to be bad and to be punished in hell.

      The only important difference between Calvinism and Efilism seems to be that the Efilist rules out the possibility that anyone was created to be saved: evolution made us all degenerate and there's no hope for salvation or for progress, so we should all be killed or punished for the hardships we impose on others.

      This is similar also to ascetic traditions in the world's religions, which take life in the fallen or illusory world (material nature) to be abhorrent and irredeemable. So the solution is to withdraw from life.

    6. I think that the efilist is arguing that most people are too illogical to see the "truth", therefore, undemocratic acts are necessary. Of course, epistemic/moral humility is not often entertained by these individuals.

      I am also a "religious" person, but my beliefs are more pantheistic in nature (like vedantic concepts of Hinduism). We, unlike many Buddhist views, actually celebrate life in many aspects through the celebration of things such as nature, singing songs in praise of all that is, and actively encouraging (though it's not mandatory) having a family. Buddhism seems to be more ascetic in nature. Although, I would say that some views are about transcending this reality towards a greater/truer one. On the other hand, views that seek annihilation aren't truly seeking something better, but are solely (and in my view, irrationally) obsessed with removing the "bads".

      Absolutist conclusions regarding such matters can often lead to disastrous consequences.

  2. Good evening Benjamin,

    Did you see tackle or debunk Existential Goof’s case argument that antinatalism is reasing that life has no intrinsic value since its only fixing a need or negative hence the struggle of the personhood , below his statements:

    Nonetheless, the more important part of my point is that there isn’t some disembodied soul floating around the ether who is worse off for not enjoying the goods of life. You cannot say ‘this person is in a sub-optimal state because we haven’t given them the gift of life’, because as I discuss in my blog, there is no person that you can identify. So that would render your arguments about neurotransmitters moot, because all you’re doing in any case is creating an addiction and all of the ‘good’ is still just derived from satiating the addiction. But it is not good to impose ruinous addictions on to people. It’s not good to force someone to need something, or force them to want something.
    It is only good to satisfy needs and wants. It’s virtuous to “make people happy” but criminal to create the person under the belief that you are “making happy people”.

    Also, if you’re anticipating a pleasure, the simple fact is that if you don’t obtain the pleasure that you desire, then that’s going to cause an experience of deprivation that you’re going to want to avoid. Regardless of your framing of the issue, the goodness of pleasure is inextricable from the badness of suffering. One step towards the pole of greatest pleasure is always one step away from the deepest suffering. The question of whether there is some kind of middle ground where you’re not really enjoying pleasure, but you aren’t really suffering either is kind of an interesting one philosophically"

    1. I don't think that there's much point in debating someone so entrenched like him, but I don't see how his arguments work.

      From my knowledge, there aren't any souls in some blissful void seeking to not exist. His talk about "addictions" is vacuous, because having experiences that are genuinely valuable for you would hardly be considered a harm. And, once again, it isn't the case that you were in some non-addicted state before you came into existence. The "bads" are also a result of biological processes, so I don't think that they are more significant than happiness. You cannot "force" anything upon nonexistent people. It is equally criminal to eliminate all happiness (which is what efilism entails) or prevent it entirely, even though nobody asked to not exist.

      If you're anticipating a pleasure, you obviously have a need to have it. But the same applies to needs, since if you have a deprivation, it would likely be because you are no longer satisfied with your state of affairs. I was once content with not having meaningful relationships. Now that this isn't the case anymore, I have a desire to have one. The poles are indeed intertwined, and both suffering and happiness matter. I don't think that there is a middle ground because I believe that all experiences have some sort of value.

      I replied to you because I am not really interested in discussions that drag on for days, so I would appreciate it if you didn't mention my reply elsewhere. Have a nice day!

    2. I'd also rather not keep replying to random quotations that don't give all the context and that aren't based on anything I've said. Maybe if he hears about my article he'll respond to it and then we can have a proper discussion.

      But yes, there are plenty of disappointments in life. Yet not everyone is so weak that they'd want to extinguish our species so we no longer face any disappointment. The solution to the problem is so deranged that it's hard to take seriously.

    3. SicaRacarica, I would suggest that it would probably be better for this blog to have never been mentioned to the person you've mentioned. It would probably result in a hundred-comment long thread and no real progress would be made. It would merely be a repetition of the old negative hedonist argument and the conversation here would become tediously toxic. I would also recommend to you that you read the critics of Benatar made by people like Elizabeth Harman. For a critique of Inmendham in particular, a guy called BlitheringGenius and Benjamin here should suffice. All of these sources have addressed their arguments (although I believe that my rebuttal is a more direct one) and you won't have a need to get bogged down by these long discussions. That's just what I would suggest.

  3. Hi there. Thanks for your post relating to my blog. I have only been recently informed of this blog post, but please be assured, a response post on my own blog will be forthcoming shortly. I actually started to type it out, but then decided that I needed to have another post or two ready to refer back to in order to help me form my response.

    Anonymous (actually someone who regularly corresponds with me on Reddit and Youtube comments sections) has set you straight on one matter - I am in favour of solving this problem with the greatest efficiency possible. So I would certainly not cleave to the position that if it inflicted even so much as a hangnail on anyone else, that it cannot be done. Just so long as it is a solution that is reasonably certain to work and reasonably certain to cause less suffering than it prevents, then I support it. So that could, in reality, be quite a brutal killing off, because one realises that the alternative would be an endless chain of suffering unfolding into the indefinite future and that the presently extant quantity of harmable welfare is tiny compared to the harmable welfare that can be prevented in the future.

    1. I look forward to it.

      If you're open about the diabolical implications of antinatalism, that would make your view more consistent than someone like Inmendham's. At least since the last time I checked in with his channel, which was some years ago, he wanted to take the high road as a moral purist. The most he advocated for was to vent his anger at the wrongdoers by yelling at them like a maniac. But he wouldn't say our species should be killed off, even though that's just the kind of sacrifice strict utilitarianism might entail.

      Of course, that implication you're happy to admit to could be interpreted as amounting to a reductio ad absurdum against antinatalism. The internal contradiction would be in claiming to love or respect living things while simultaneously advocating for their total destruction. The incoherence is pretty blatant, as far as I can see.

    2. Hello Existentialgoof and Benjamin

      Is it this conversation going to continue or it set already?
      Shall we move to a common platform like Reddit or what do you suggest existentialgoof ?

    3. I took him to be saying that he'll reply on his blog, in which case I might reply on mine. I'd rather not go back and forth in comment sections.

    4. Yep, "anonymous" is generally willing to express their disagreements with illogical and unethical arguments ;)

    5. Is it this lines of arguments or thoughts illogical ? If yes, why?
      He is still writting , may be against Anonymous or someone called Cosmic Lifeist
      His negative ulitilarism I think he better summarise it in:

      "Consider the following equation where “y” = the desire for joy, “z” = the actual amount of joy experienced, and “x” = the total utility value. Thus x = (y-z). In the scenario in which procreation is prevented then y = 0 (there’s no desire for joy from the person who would have existed) and z = 0 (there’s no joy experienced). Thus x = (0)-(0)= 0. Now let us consider a hypothetical scenario where there is a soul in the void that is experiencing unalloyed bliss as a consequence of preventing their bodily incarnation. Heaven is characterised by the fact that no desire ever goes unfulfilled, and if we suppose that 100 units is the highest possible value for either y or z, then x= (100)-(100) = 0.

      You’re obviously focused exclusively on the 100 units of joy signified by z, however if we hadn’t created someone with 100 units of desire, then we wouldn’t need the 100 units of joy as a compensation. If you argue that it’s better to have the 100 units of joy being experienced by someone than the 0 units in any case, then creating a mind guaranteed to go directly to paradise would not be problematic because there is no deficit being generated. As long as you can guarantee that you are able to perfectly meet the demand for the need that you’re creating, then there’s no ethical issue concerning consent. Providing that allowing for this mind’s experience of absolute bliss didn’t cause a deficit to crop up in some other mind, that is.

      Now let’s compare this to a real world scenario. A person comes into existence . They desire 100 units of pleasure, but only receive 60. That’s because, by the very nature of our evolved psychology, we are almost constantly striving for something more than what we have (commonly known as the hedonic treadmill effect). And that’s before we’ve even gotten started on all of the serious misfortunes that could be awaiting this person. Thus x=(60)-(100)= -40. Thus you are creating an unnecessary deficit in the universe. You’re creating a demand for more units of pleasure than can be provided, and the resulting deficit is imposed on someone who does come into existence and didn’t have any pre-existing interests that were being advanced by causing the deficit to be experienced."

      "There is no “above 0”, because you cannot satisfy desires to a greater extent than the strength of the desires in the first place. So there can never be a surplus of happiness; in the best possible world, the optimal outcome would be to break even. But by not creating the beings, you’ve already broken even by not creating the desire which demands to be fulfilled by a commensurate amount of gratification."

      There is no such thing as an overall positive utility, because the goods of life are only good to the extent that they can satisfy a desire. No desire = no good. A person incapable of desiring anything would never experience true pleasure.

    6. + to complete

      The most perfectly happy life is characterised by coming as close as is possible to breaking even. Breaking even is the best that can be done, because you cannot enjoy pleasure to a greater extent than you desire enjoyment. To be within sight (even just momentarily) of th break-even point feels absolutely amazing when the default state of existence is to be sustaining an onerous deficit. Just like if you were forced to participate in a gamble where the typical loss was £1billion, and you only lost £100.

      I’ve already explained why there cannot be profit. You have to create the desire and good can only be measured by how well it satisfies desire. “Good” and “desire” are concepts that are only applicable within the realm of sentient experience. So to bring someone into existence for the sake of allowing them to experience good is akin to infecting someone with a disease for the sake of curing them.

      I think this lines summarized his main antinatalist philosophy and most up to date one. Not sure if Benjamin was aware and addresses it in his article though since it come from "existential goof" last days only

    7. I believe EG is replying to another commenter on my writings, who's calling himself Cosmic Lifeist on EG's blog. But I'm not aware of EG replying to the above article of mine, and it's been months so I'm not holding my breath.

      I don't see why the premise you're presenting should be conceded. EG's saying "you cannot satisfy desires to a greater extent than the strength of the desires in the first place." But why can't some pleasures be surprising?

      I learned years ago not to go into a movie theater with expectations held too high. The lower your expectations, the more likely you'll be able to overlook a movie's faults and enjoy it for what it is. Sometimes, if your expectations are low, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Politicians likewise learn not to raise expectations, to avoid the pile-on effect in the mass media if something goes wrong with their plan. So those are plain cases of the satisfaction "outweighing" the strength of the desire.

      I also don't accept that we can assign objective weights to desires and to pleasures or pains in the first place. True, some pains are obviously much worse than others, but this is largely subjective and it's not so easy to quantify. There are mixed mental states, as shown well at the end of the animated movie Inside Out. For instance, there are bittersweet pleasures that are made more paradoxically pleasurable because of the presence of some pain or disappointment.

      It's like a fancy cheese with a rich flavour that becomes tastier because it's also on the funky side. We acclimate ourselves to unfavourable circumstances, and learn to appreciate our willpower and strength of character in doing so. Thus, what might start off as a pain becomes a complex pleasure. Again, it's not so easy to quantify.

    8. existentialgoof here (for some reason your blog will no longer allow me to identify myself as such) - SicaRacarica reminded me that I'd never gotten back to you on my blog. I had actually typed up part of a response, but never got round to finishing it, as it was too much like a Reddit response and not enough like a well formatted blog response. I do tend to procrastinate a lot with respect to the blog, and am not publishing as much as I should be. I will try and get round to responding in due course on my blog, but with no guarantees as to when that will take place as there are currently several other pieces pending completion.

      Pleasures can be surprising. There doesn't need to have been a conscious awareness of a desire in order for something to be enjoyed. There just has to be a desire for a certain type of stimulation. So perhaps you didn't like "funky" cheese at first, but that type of cheese stimulates your gustatory sense better than anything that you've had before, so now it's your favourite food.

      Lowering one's expectations is a useful way of learning to enjoy life more, and it has made life more tolerable for me. But I would still say that I desire the same sort of richness of experience that I did when I was younger (when I thought that life could be like it was in the cinema and on TV)...but now that I'm old enough to know that life isn't like the movies, I'll generally manage to settle for a holiday abroad once or twice a year and enjoy it, but it doesn't really make me ecstatically happy like my dream life out of the movies would have done.

      If you lost all capacity for desire, then nothing would be enjoyable, so that's the basis that I'm using for my statements. You don't need to have a conscious desire, but something which is pleasurable is desirable, even if you didn't have a conscious awareness of that particular desire. It's the feelings that it engenders which are desirable. The type of stimulation that it gives you. So you didn't need to have already been aware of a penchant for richly flavoured cheese, but you did need to have tastebuds that craved some kind of powerful stimulation. If you had no sense of taste, then you'd get no unique kick out of the rich cheese, and would be as well just eating cheap gruel for every meal. It's like that with every other form of desire too.

    9. Conceivably, an ascetic who had renounced all personal desires could still experience a pleasure in so far as his brain’s pleasure centre could be activated, perhaps to his great surprise. But there’s no point in quibbling about the meaning of “desire.”

      Is your antinatalist point that desire is inevitably tragic since it sets us at odds with the world? We’re always desiring what can never be fully provided, so we’re inevitably unsatisfied? Thus, suffering is inevitable. This is just Buddhism. But while some Buddhists advocate the renouncing of all desires, including sexual ones, they wouldn’t make the grotesque utilitarian argument that all life should be exterminated to end suffering once and for all. Buddhists say the natural realm of life and death is illusory, so the act of trying to kill all living things would take the illusions much too seriously.

      Anyway, what’s your argument that connects the tragic side of desires to the imperative to cease sexual reproduction or to the utilitarian conclusion that all life should be destroyed? Is it that we shouldn’t impose the tragedy of desires on the unborn since they didn’t ask for it? The problem is that the tragedy isn’t so one-sided. There are heroic tragedies, and there’s beauty in fragility and complex pleasure in certain forms of suffering. Evaluating these mental states isn’t so black and white.

      If the having of desires were purely hellish, having children might indeed be plainly immoral, and our duty would be to escape from life as fast as possible. But very few people would say that their life as a self that tries to satisfy its desires is entirely a nightmare. We adjust our expectations for happiness to suit our circumstances, which is why poor, starving populations don’t commit suicide en masse.

    10. @SicaRacarica here .This is indeed the bad rock argument of antinatalism like Immendhal and existentialgoof, that life is a desire machine and never fully fulfilled hence suffering.
      Did you debate with Inmendham this subject in depth? May be its worth a blog entry by itself .

  4. Thank you for reply Benjamin

    I will also add that the maths of EG does not hold , since we need to assign utility value(according to the ulilitarism ) for the desires in the first place, lets say 100 unit are quantified as pleasure ? May be yes, why not....I can not see why we should assigning negative value/suffering for those.
    Granted not satisfying that desires might lead to suffering in some cases, lets grant that.
    So once we make the maths it still provide valuable positive value(100 pleasurable desires + x(fulfilled desires) - y(unfulfilled desires/suffering (where x+y=100)) > 0)

    I personally like your previous lines of thought where you argued more realistic that nowadays mostly likely the people are not interested in the net maths of suffering versus pleasure but in learning new thinks and experience new scenarios, preventing suffering (discovering new medicines) or even better by providing a tragic hero alternative against the harsh and cruel nature of our universe we are fighting with(tsunamis, typhoons, storms etc).

    Cheer and stay healthy !

    1. As I've explained to existentialgoof on numerous occasions, it makes no sense to suggest that eliminating harms at the cost of ending all being is ethical, since nobody in the void experiences the positive state of non-suffering (and I would argue that people who believe that values are synonymous with good/bad experiences are committed to the view that non-existence cannot be better or worse for those who do not exist). Furthermore, the suffering we experience also only exists to the extent they reduce our satisfaction, so I don't think that the negatives are somehow more fundamental or important than the harms—not always at any rate.

      Since I am already having a conversation with him, I would appreciate it if you could avoid sharing comments back and forth as doing so only makes the discussion more convoluted. Have a nice day!

  5. I think it's entirely possible that antinatalists are frustrated with the state of the world, and not so much "life" itself. They may not even realize this. The corrupt political and economic systems we all deal with can be quite demoralizing.