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Anti-natalism

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Dealux
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#1

Posted 07 December 2017 - 12:51 AM

Anti-natalism is, roughly speaking, the view that bringing new life into existence is essentially morally wrong because life on balance is more pain than pleasure and the most awful pains are worse than the best pleasures. I guess this view may also address the issue of whether life is worth living or not by extension and it is that part of philosophy that no one talks about and it came to my attention recently for better or for worse. I think it's certainly a dangerous thing to tell to someone who is depressed but logically speaking there doesn't seem to be any real reason to live and yes, bringing life into existence doesn't really have any ultimate value. I don't even think of myself as a nihilist really but I see how our inherent bias towards living prevents us from thinking clearly on this subject.

I used to have this intuition that the potential for positive experiences outweighs nonexistence but that doesn't make any sense to me now. Even if you had the best life possible, not existing wouldn't really be worse because there is nothing there to experience a lack of something. Not existing isn't really a lack of something. It's literally nothing. Maybe the problem here is that this comparison is impossible but even that doesn't seem to make the arguments in favor of existing hold any more weight.

Am I the only one who finds this subject interesting?


Also, here's a podcast debate that just came out on the topic.

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#2

Posted 09 December 2017 - 09:55 AM Edited by Typhus, 09 December 2017 - 09:56 AM.

This is a very interesting subject, and it's one I find myself going back on forth on.

Yes, when one considers the limited resources on this planet, the swelling population and the various social ills around us, I can certainly understand why some would argue that it is immoral to bring new life into this world.

 

However, there is worth in life, and it's actually within our ability to question that worth. Think about it for a second, how many animals walk the Earth and die in horrible pain? Maybe their teeth are rotten and they succumb to blood poisoning, or there's a drought so they die from thirst or hunger, and yet no other beast on this earth has the capacity to solve this problem. Some animals will work together in social communities, some animals will even hoard food, but even then life is often brutal and very short.

Humans, apparently alone among the beasts, can see this brutality and make a conscious effort to change it. Humans can even question why they are alive, and the purpose of their existence.

 

I propose that these qualities, which set us apart from so many other beasts, make our species worthwhile, and life worth living. Our uniqueness as a species is the greatest endorsement I can think of. We have the ability to ask questions, to identity problems and work as a cohesive unit to create solutions. We have even created new species of beast with our technology, and are endeavoring to do the same via robotics. We might even stretch out and colonise new worlds. Existence is meaningless, but humanity has found a meaning in its values of exploration and expansion.


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#3

Posted 09 December 2017 - 02:10 PM

No, I think the argument against bringing new life into existence is that life brings more misery than happiness. This is the case in pretty much any individual's life, even the most fortunate. Just think about how much time you actually spend every day enjoying your life and how much is just misery in forms of boredom, pain, stress, etc. The scale tips in favor of misery for pretty much everyone. So in what sense is life worth living? It may sound like the argument of a severely depressed person but to me this seems to make sense for the most part.

One somewhat valid counterargument would be that there might be an end goal for humanity, a point where we minimize suffering or remove it completely but even in that case it's not clear why anyone should care if humans persist or not.

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#4

Posted 09 December 2017 - 06:48 PM

No, I think the argument against bringing new life into existence is that life brings more misery than happiness. This is the case in pretty much any individual's life, even the most fortunate. Just think about how much time you actually spend every day enjoying your life and how much is just misery in forms of boredom, pain, stress, etc.

I think you're probably transposing your own life views and experiences onto others here. I do find the whole regression to the mean on negative utilitarianism interesting as a thought experiment, but the idea that everyone's life is generally composed more of suffering than happiness is nonsense IMO.

I can only speak for my personal experiences, but I enjoy the vast majority of my life experiences. My job is fascinating, my home life is awesome, and although both are the sources of stress or boredom from time to time that's vastly outweighed by both the quality and quantity of positive experiences.

Maybe you're just a nihilist miser who obtains satisfaction from nothing? Not intended as an insult, but the balance of positive and negative experience and emotion in your life seems mightily out of whack.
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#5

Posted 09 December 2017 - 07:47 PM

Jordan Peterson has the right answer to this:



 

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#6

Posted 09 December 2017 - 08:27 PM

Anti-natalism isn't so much saying you should kill yourself, it's about do you have the right to have kids. The fact that suffering is a prerequisite for meaningful experience supports the idea that we have no such right. 

 

Also, that guy needs to learn to enunciate, f*ck me. 'Kermit the Frog' indeed. 


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#7

Posted 09 December 2017 - 08:39 PM Edited by Eutyphro, 09 December 2017 - 08:42 PM.

The fact that suffering is a prerequisite for meaningful experience supports the idea that we have no such right. 

No it doesn't. It does the exact opposite. If a life full of suffering can still be meaningful, then the fact that life is fundamentally filled with suffering is no counterargument against bringing new life into the world. Utilitarianism is false, and life can still be worthwhile if it is unhappy.

In stead of talking about stopping with bringing new life into the world, we should be considering how we can continue making life meaningful in the future. Evidently we should consider how we can maintain the environment, and how we can keep the world livable, and in my opinion, we should look at how we can curb the rampant social media narcissism that is taking over the developed world. I'm quite sure that a life centered around social media narcissism has very little meaning.


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#8

Posted 09 December 2017 - 09:41 PM Edited by Dealux, 09 December 2017 - 09:57 PM.

I think you're probably transposing your own life views and experiences onto others here. I do find the whole regression to the mean on negative utilitarianism interesting as a thought experiment, but the idea that everyone's life is generally composed more of suffering than happiness is nonsense IMO.

I can only speak for my personal experiences, but I enjoy the vast majority of my life experiences. My job is fascinating, my home life is awesome, and although both are the sources of stress or boredom from time to time that's vastly outweighed by both the quality and quantity of positive experiences.

Maybe you're just a nihilist miser who obtains satisfaction from nothing? Not intended as an insult, but the balance of positive and negative experience and emotion in your life seems mightily out of whack.

Strangely enough even Sam Harris thinks life is mostly bad (even though he's very successful) but I think the math works out that way because the worst experiences you will have are generally more intense than the best ones. That's a bias built into nature itself. So in order for things to average out in favor of positive experiences at the end of your life, you would have to have a mostly positive experience throughout most days. I don't think that's the case for most people though. Pain, boredom, stress, etc are things that most people experience all the time.

It's also worth noting that retrospective self reporting isn't really the best tool for determining the quality of one's life. It would actually be more accurate to have a journal and write down every time your state changes but that's too time consuming.

Yeah, part of that is true. I actually don't really ever get bored which might be part of my introverted nature. I get bored at work because I hate that but when I'm free to do what I want I always have something to do. It might be out of whack but I can't imagine this drastically changing in the foreseeable future unless I start meditating heavily or something.

Edit: My current situation might be part of the reason why I find these arguments at least somewhat compelling, I admit that. In fact I often wondered why I so readily embraced other similarly depressing philosophical truths in the past, such as determinism. There really isn't any coherent description of free will but why did I find that conclusion almost freeing in a way? Do I on some level use that as an excuse to be lazy and do very little because "it's meant to be"? It's possible that I do do that sometimes but I find that being aware of the nonexistence of free will acts as an additional check in the decision making process (i.e. I sometimes ask myself, am I doing this thing because I want to do it or is someone pressuring me into it or something). I think that being aware of the potential harm that can come out of making children can have a similar positive effect, whether intended or not. Most people I know don't think too hard if they should have a baby; the decision process seems to consist of one question: do I like babies and find them cute? If yes, then I want one.

The most compelling argument for having children for me used to be that people of higher economic status and thus presumably higher education and intelligence tend to have fewer children or none. If I find myself in a similarly privileged position in the future then I might see that as a duty to procreate in an attempt to balance things out even if it comes at a personal cost which I usually don't like. The other argument would be doing it out of love if you are lucky enough to find a suitable partner (which is real tricky for me because I'm not easily impressed and have very specific tastes).

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#9

Posted 09 December 2017 - 10:30 PM

I'm not really an anti-natalist but I don't think bare-bones existentialism is much of a response to anti-natalism. 

 

It's not very nuanced to say "life sucks, don't have kids" but nor is it very nuanced to point out that suffering is necessary for growth, least of all because it's a sort of separate issue: the utility of suffering is separate from the actual experience of it. But also because any framework still accepts that suffering is bad and should be avoided. If I had never felt pain, would you attack me?

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#10

Posted 11 December 2017 - 07:16 AM

I'm not really an anti-natalist but I don't think bare-bones existentialism is much of a response to anti-natalism. 
 
It's not very nuanced to say "life sucks, don't have kids" but nor is it very nuanced to point out that suffering is necessary for growth, least of all because it's a sort of separate issue: the utility of suffering is separate from the actual experience of it. But also because any framework still accepts that suffering is bad and should be avoided. If I had never felt pain, would you attack me?

This is a bit of a straw man. Albeit, I'll grant you, one that's been set up for you by previous commenters. Simply because one chooses to take an existential response to anti-natalism, doesn't mean they imply suffering as necessary condition for meaningful existence. Just that suffering doesn't make it any less meaningful or less worth-while.

It's all even simpler, though. If you have a meaningful response to why we exist, it should settle anti-natalism one way or another. If not, there is no way to have a meaningful opinion on it.

There are five known fundamental symmetries, one extrinsic and four intrinsic. Each of these comes with its own coupling constant producing a fine balance between gravity, electromagnetic, and nuclear forces. There are 12 known matter fields. Each with its own set of charges, giving rise to a fairly significant table of parameters that to all appearances could have been absolutely anything. If these were slightly different, there would be no galaxies and stars. If they were very slightly different, all matter would be neutrons, and all life would be impossible. If they were even less different, chemistry would be impossible, and there would be no life. The number of things that had to be just right for any kind of life to be possible is phenomenal. And sure, with a different set, it is feasible a completely different, entirely unfathomable universe with its own things passing for life could exist. But even these would only be possible within a very narrow spectrum of fundamental constants. Everything else produces an empty void.

There are three sensible positions to take on this apparent miracle of existence: skeptical, theological, or anthropocentric. Former means you can't possibly claim anti-natalism. If you claim we can't possibly know why we are here, then you can't possibly claim that reproduction is a bad idea. Not in good faith. Theological is also easy. If you believe we've been put here by higher power for some purpose, you can't possibly claim anti-natalism. This leaves us with anthropocentric explanation. We're here, because discussion of why we're here requires a thinking, feeling beast. And all the other worlds that could have been are void of anything like that. The caveat is that claiming this requires acknowledging that all the other possibilities still exist. If there was only one world, with one set of fundamental constants, it'd be an empty void or a collapsed black hole with pretty much a certainty. If infinite span of worlds exists, with all possible manner of creatures in it, then anti-natalism is non-productive as a philosophy. Wether you reproduce or not, the total number of beings that experience joy and suffering isn't going to change. At all.

I see absolutely no way of reconciling any variation on anti-natalism with the fact that we exist. That doesn't mean we absolutely have to reproduce. But I can see no self-consistent way to claim that we certainly shouldn't. Whether any particular person thinks it's worth it, that's a separate story.
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#11

Posted 11 December 2017 - 06:13 PM

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose. Why we exist may ultimately be a meaningless question. Even if there were an end goal that we created, perhaps the reduction or complete elimination of suffering, it isn't obvious why anyone should care that we get there. After all, every person alive right now will die before that happens.

I think anti-natalism is one of those philosophies that's too abstract to put into practice. It's just too hard to quantify suffering and well-being in any meaningful way.

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#12

Posted 11 December 2017 - 06:34 PM Edited by Eutyphro, 11 December 2017 - 06:34 PM.

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose.

You or no one else really believes that though. That's an intellectual position that every practical act you've done undermines. Through your behaviour you prove that you understand the world in terms of meaning. Actually, generally in your posts you consistently provide value judgements as well. Human beings have an innate tendency to perceive the world in terms of value. You could say human beings are innately religious beings. That human beings have an innate tendency to be religious also becomes clear in this time of increased secularization and polarization, where people look for new sacred values in the realm of politics. If you analyze political movements you'll quickly discover they have their own sacred values.
 

Even if there were an end goal that we created, perhaps the reduction or complete elimination of suffering, it isn't obvious why anyone should care that we get there. 

It doesn't have to be an 'end goal'. Human beings continually ascribe meaning to the world, and we thus continuously create goals for ourselves or with others.

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#13

Posted 11 December 2017 - 06:39 PM

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose.

Even if this were true, and even putting aside the questions of individual purpose, subjective purpose, belief etc, an absence of purpose in life doesn't warrant ending it. Half the sh*t we, as the great creators of our ecosystem, develop, is essential devoid of explicit purpose or "end goal" when you look at civilisation as a whole.
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#14

Posted 12 December 2017 - 12:45 AM

the whole notion of Anti-natalism (and the very act of debating it) seems like a first-world problem, at best...

 

why would there have to be an "end goal" at all?

life can have meaning and purpose without there being one specific or universal goal that all of creation must strive toward.

 

the point of life seems rather obvious; to make more life and ensure its survival.

everything else is just toppings on the cake. or the sh/t sandwich. depending on the hand you've been dealt. I think the only reason we're having this discussion is because we're recognizing more and more how unjust and unfair and unbalanced society has become. the acknowledgement that - on average - life might be more suffering than joy doesn't lead one to conclude that we should stop reproducing. we really don't need that kind of defeatism and pessimism right now. to acknowledge this gross impropriety should be to inspire the revolutionary ideas and changes that could address the issues of poverty and inequality and opportunity gaps. just because we've allowed it doesn't mean that the world has to be this way.

 

many more people could be enjoying a significantly greater degree of peace and happiness and fulfillment if we could get our governmental and cultural priorities in order. unfortunately that's a huge f/cking "if" :/


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#15

Posted 12 December 2017 - 01:36 AM

This school of thought is very misguided. Just because your life is hard and miserable doesn't mean your children's lives will turn out that way too. I believe anti-natalism is more of a shock-value belief in most cases and is held in insincerity. In cases where it is genuine the believer is usually extraordinarily self-centered. Life is too hard for them to have someone else live it but yet not hard enough for them to terminate their own life? Interesting. Moreover, I would advise not sharing this view with people you know as it comes across as very morose.

Perhaps there's an irony in all this. Most people with children regard having them as the most rewarding, fulfilling part of their lives. So, I guess denying yourself that opportunity on the basis that 'life sucks and is more bad than good' kind of ensures the materialization of this self-fulfilling prophecy.
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#16

Posted 12 December 2017 - 02:23 AM

the whole notion of Anti-natalism (and the very act of debating it) seems like a first-world problem, at best...

 

Philosophy in general is a first-world thing, for the most part. You need a good amount of Maslow's hierarchy before you can spend hours reading what Aristotle thought about theater, y'know?

 

 

I think anti-natalism is one of those philosophies that's too abstract to put into practice. It's just too hard to quantify suffering and well-being in any meaningful way.

 

Well, the thing is that many philosophies are a bit too abstract to put into practice. That doesn't negate the value of thinking about them--the act of participating in discussion about fantastical or unreal things like a system wherein everyone walks hand in hand toward extinction is, in and of itself, of at least some philosophical value (of course, how much depends on whom you ask). The important thing to remember when talking back and forth about concepts like anti-natalism is that, while they may never be fully practical or realized systems, their transgressive nature can give people an insight into themselves that they did not have before. Likewise for those of whom they are talking to--be it friends or family or whatever.

 

 

 

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose.

You or no one else really believes that though. That's an intellectual position that every practical act you've done undermines. Through your behaviour you prove that you understand the world in terms of meaning. Actually, generally in your posts you consistently provide value judgements as well. Human beings have an innate tendency to perceive the world in terms of value. You could say human beings are innately religious beings. That human beings have an innate tendency to be religious also becomes clear in this time of increased secularization and polarization, where people look for new sacred values in the realm of politics. If you analyze political movements you'll quickly discover they have their own sacred values.

 

Couple of things I'd like to address from this response.

 

You're not really in the position to tell others what they actually believe. It sounds illogical to you, but I could say with absolute certainty that I've been in those parts of life where the concept of purpose was itself illogical. Granted, I was in a purely self-destructive mode where I drank and hurt myself and everyone around me and generally let the world around me become as bleak as how I was seeing it in my head, but the point remains: it seemed purposeless. With that being said, I could see someone generally believing that life has no purpose (ie being an existential nihilist) while continuing to go through the motions of life simply because they don't have the willpower to press beyond the instinctual drive that moves them. It's entirely possible to allow yourself to not succumb to suicide, aka to continue consciously living, while still also giving up on the idea that living is of any purpose beyond the tired explanations you hear told to you over and over again. Again, I say that only from my own experiences. I respect that you may not feel the same way, and are instead impelled to feel everyone has some innate meaningfulness inside of themselves. Lord knows I wish I could feel the same.

 

 

The second part I'd like to address is what I've made bold: the innate religiousness. Humans do seem driven to outline for themselves a rigid structure of belief--it's probably got something to do with the pattern-recognition fervor stored all the way down deep in our reptilian minds. Maybe it's an inseparable aspect of what makes us advanced lifeforms. We love to see our world organized before us. However, being that we are creatures of reason (to some degree), you must also see that for all our logic, we are fallible. Even the most primitive aspects of us--those things that strike to our very core, deep into our senses, the things that drive us to fight and die... Well, the short of it is that we can't fall prey to thinking that because something is in our nature, it must be true.

 

While I can admit I've had many instances where I strive to find those sacred values of which you talk, I can also say that I have failed every single time. My own mind shifts and turns like dunes of sand, and oftentimes I'm left believing only that there is even more of which I cannot be sure. Perhaps uncertainty and skepticism and disbelief is just as much an innate tendency within us as the opposite? Call me crazy, but I don't think we're going to find the ultimate answer for what it really is that drives humanity by cutting away certain parts of our minds that have been there since the beginning. That goes for the will to submit to a higher power just as much as the will to find ourselves lost in a world that is grand and unknowable and with no answers that we would understand one way or the other.

 

 

many more people could be enjoying a significantly greater degree of peace and happiness and fulfillment if we could get our governmental and cultural priorities in order. unfortunately that's a huge f/cking "if" :/

 

To that end, everyone knows they're right about how to proceed there. 

 

 

Edit: My current situation might be part of the reason why I find these arguments at least somewhat compelling, I admit that. In fact I often wondered why I so readily embraced other similarly depressing philosophical truths in the past, such as determinism. There really isn't any coherent description of free will but why did I find that conclusion almost freeing in a way? Do I on some level use that as an excuse to be lazy and do very little because "it's meant to be"? It's possible that I do do that sometimes but I find that being aware of the nonexistence of free will acts as an additional check in the decision making process (i.e. I sometimes ask myself, am I doing this thing because I want to do it or is someone pressuring me into it or something). I think that being aware of the potential harm that can come out of making children can have a similar positive effect, whether intended or not. Most people I know don't think too hard if they should have a baby; the decision process seems to consist of one question: do I like babies and find them cute? If yes, then I want one.

 

Determinism isn't particularly depressing--it's just that free will isn't a rigorous enough concept. It's more of a mantra to accept personal responsibility than it is a philosophical framework. You could go either way when it comes to owning up to your actions under a deterministic system; either you were, thanks to the irrefutable chain of events which started some billions of years ago and has lead up to the very moment in which you act, going to talk to your crush, or you weren't. But that historic pressure has nothing to do with you in that moment, really. No matter how much you abstractly consider the multitude of forces that presses you against one certain and defined path, you will never be able to justify using that conceptualization in good faith. It still falls to whether or not you can use some other means to reason your way to action or not.

 

 

In stead of talking about stopping with bringing new life into the world, we should be considering how we can continue making life meaningful in the future. Evidently we should consider how we can maintain the environment, and how we can keep the world livable, and in my opinion, we should look at how we can curb the rampant social media narcissism that is taking over the developed world. I'm quite sure that a life centered around social media narcissism has very little meaning.

 

This is a bit of a tangent so I apologize, but you've set yourself up with this post and then countered yourself later on when you argue that meaning is inherent in every action we end up taking. I know what you're going for, but claiming that a lifestyle you disagree with has little meaning while simultaneously arguing that no matter how nihilistic one feels they simply must know that their life is meaningful is... well you see the issue.

 

 

Anyway I agree pretty much 100% with the square about the actual topic at hand.

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#17

Posted 12 December 2017 - 06:51 AM Edited by Recommended, 14 December 2017 - 04:09 AM.

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#18

Posted 12 December 2017 - 01:40 PM Edited by Dealux, 12 December 2017 - 01:42 PM.

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose.

Even if this were true, and even putting aside the questions of individual purpose, subjective purpose, belief etc, an absence of purpose in life doesn't warrant ending it. Half the sh*t we, as the great creators of our ecosystem, develop, is essential devoid of explicit purpose or "end goal" when you look at civilisation as a whole.

I meant that an "end goal" like I described would seem to completely destroy the anti-natalist arguments but there is no obvious reason why anyone should care until we get there. If ending life is more painful than continuing it then yes, ending it is worse.
 

Determinism isn't particularly depressing--it's just that free will isn't a rigorous enough concept. It's more of a mantra to accept personal responsibility than it is a philosophical framework. You could go either way when it comes to owning up to your actions under a deterministic system; either you were, thanks to the irrefutable chain of events which started some billions of years ago and has lead up to the very moment in which you act, going to talk to your crush, or you weren't. But that historic pressure has nothing to do with you in that moment, really. No matter how much you abstractly consider the multitude of forces that presses you against one certain and defined path, you will never be able to justify using that conceptualization in good faith. It still falls to whether or not you can use some other means to reason your way to action or not.

You mean the history doesn't make you feel any different about the choice? Which is to say that you still feel free to choose regardless of what is true or not. It's interesting to consider why humans evolved that sensation of being free to do something. Apparently it's not even clear why humans are conscious to begin with. An A.I. replica of a human wouldn't necessarily be conscious but would still possess a similar intelligence.

The deterministic outlook does seem to depress a lot of people actually because to them this view robs you of your freedom, which is not really true. Not subjectively. It's just that your freedom isn't really free. I think I stumbled upon a discussion or wiki article on determinism shortly after becoming an atheist and to me it made complete sense in that moment. It should make sense to any materialist but some people find it difficult to deal with. It's also kinda cool to realize this. It's the closest thing to getting "red pilled".

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#19

Posted 13 December 2017 - 11:47 AM Edited by Eutyphro, 13 December 2017 - 08:25 PM.

 

I think anti-natalism is one of those philosophies that's too abstract to put into practice. It's just too hard to quantify suffering and well-being in any meaningful way.

 

Well, the thing is that many philosophies are a bit too abstract to put into practice. That doesn't negate the value of thinking about them--the act of participating in discussion about fantastical or unreal things like a system wherein everyone walks hand in hand toward extinction is, in and of itself, of at least some philosophical value (of course, how much depends on whom you ask). The important thing to remember when talking back and forth about concepts like anti-natalism is that, while they may never be fully practical or realized systems, their transgressive nature can give people an insight into themselves that they did not have before. Likewise for those of whom they are talking to--be it friends or family or whatever.

It's not very hard to put into practice though right? You can choose to not have kids. That's a practical decision completely within anyone's reach.

 

 

 

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose.

You or no one else really believes that though. That's an intellectual position that every practical act you've done undermines. Through your behaviour you prove that you understand the world in terms of meaning. Actually, generally in your posts you consistently provide value judgements as well. Human beings have an innate tendency to perceive the world in terms of value. You could say human beings are innately religious beings. That human beings have an innate tendency to be religious also becomes clear in this time of increased secularization and polarization, where people look for new sacred values in the realm of politics. If you analyze political movements you'll quickly discover they have their own sacred values.

 

Couple of things I'd like to address from this response.

 

You're not really in the position to tell others what they actually believe. It sounds illogical to you, but I could say with absolute certainty that I've been in those parts of life where the concept of purpose was itself illogical. Granted, I was in a purely self-destructive mode where I drank and hurt myself and everyone around me and generally let the world around me become as bleak as how I was seeing it in my head, but the point remains: it seemed purposeless. With that being said, I could see someone generally believing that life has no purpose (ie being an existential nihilist) while continuing to go through the motions of life simply because they don't have the willpower to press beyond the instinctual drive that moves them. It's entirely possible to allow yourself to not succumb to suicide, aka to continue consciously living, while still also giving up on the idea that living is of any purpose beyond the tired explanations you hear told to you over and over again. Again, I say that only from my own experiences. I respect that you may not feel the same way, and are instead impelled to feel everyone has some innate meaningfulness inside of themselves. Lord knows I wish I could feel the same.

If we want to go deeper into the statement "evidence points to the fact that life has no goal or purpose", my first issue is with the implication that science should provide us with such a purpose or goal. It's true that science doesn't provide us such a goal, because science provides us with a picture of a deterministic materialist universe devoid of any value. Science doesn't provide values. It provides facts. Values are given by human beings. So you could very well believe the universe has no scientifically discernable purpose. Like I said, I believe that myself. But I don't believe you don't understand the world in terms of value judgements. You do, because you are a human being.

 

The second part I'd like to address is what I've made bold: the innate religiousness. Humans do seem driven to outline for themselves a rigid structure of belief--it's probably got something to do with the pattern-recognition fervor stored all the way down deep in our reptilian minds. Maybe it's an inseparable aspect of what makes us advanced lifeforms. We love to see our world organized before us. However, being that we are creatures of reason (to some degree), you must also see that for all our logic, we are fallible. Even the most primitive aspects of us--those things that strike to our very core, deep into our senses, the things that drive us to fight and die... Well, the short of it is that we can't fall prey to thinking that because something is in our nature, it must be true.

Well, yes, we have the ability to reason about our values and moral judgements, and it is wise to do so. If you don't reason about them, they'll remain completely unreflective moral instincts. If you are unable to reason about your morals, others don't have much reason to listen to you talking about them. Morality is a complex phenomenon that has its basis in innate sentiments, but that can be greatly advanced and furthered by reason.

 

To elaborate on the idea of 'innate religiousness': science does not provide us with values. But human beings are innately moral creatures who understand the world in terms of value. Thus our moral faculty is fundamentally religious. It's religious because any conviction that is not factual or scientific can be considered religious. 

 

Empirical science is only several hundred years old, and our moral faculties are much older. Our moral faculties struggle with incorporating science and reason. That's the reason why most political discussion is an exchange of moral sentiments devoid of fact.

 

Nihilism, or radical relativism, are academic positions, that noone really practices or is even able to practice, except possibly for severe sociopaths and other uniquely mentally ill people.


While I can admit I've had many instances where I strive to find those sacred values of which you talk, I can also say that I have failed every single time. My own mind shifts and turns like dunes of sand, and oftentimes I'm left believing only that there is even more of which I cannot be sure. Perhaps uncertainty and skepticism and disbelief is just as much an innate tendency within us as the opposite? Call me crazy, but I don't think we're going to find the ultimate answer for what it really is that drives humanity by cutting away certain parts of our minds that have been there since the beginning. That goes for the will to submit to a higher power just as much as the will to find ourselves lost in a world that is grand and unknowable and with no answers that we would understand one way or the other.

I can recommend you moral foundations theory by Jonathan Haidt. It's the most scientific account of how the human moral faculty evolved, how it functions, and what its fundamental values are. It actually transformed how I view politics to a significant extent.

 

Uncertainty and skepticism are, I agree, really a logical consequence of our existence as limited beings. Since recently I've become more drawn to religious belief. As I pointed out in another topic, I believe many important ideas are essentially leaps of faith. I don't think a scientific materialist deterministic nihilist understanding of the universe and existence can provide a sufficient framework for human beings to flourish. I'm increasingly drawn to religion, but I don't believe religious myths are literal truths, and I don't believe ancient moral norms are appropriate for modern human beings. But I believe religion provides spiritual truths concerning existence and morality that science can't provide. Furthermore, I think having faith is better than having existential doubt.
 

This is a bit of a tangent so I apologize, but you've set yourself up with this post and then countered yourself later on when you argue that meaning is inherent in every action we end up taking. I know what you're going for, but claiming that a lifestyle you disagree with has little meaning while simultaneously arguing that no matter how nihilistic one feels they simply must know that their life is meaningful is... well you see the issue.

I think an existence based on the pursuit of meaningless pleasures is... meaningless. Social media are generally such meaningless narcissistic impulses. That doesn't mean I think people chasing meaningless pleasures don't live in a mental frame of value. I think they experience a significant amount of existential emptiness when they chase meaningless pleasures. As I pointed out, I think utilitarianism is false, and I think equating value with pleasure is a mistake.

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#20

Posted 18 December 2017 - 09:05 AM Edited by Eutyphro, 18 December 2017 - 09:07 AM.

I'm double posting, but I wanted to point out I think it's sad this topic died. I was enjoying the philosophical exchange, as opposed to the political sectarian strife, which has gone o so stale.

I originally expected this topic to die immediately, but it actually went somewhere fun for a while.


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#21

Posted 23 December 2017 - 05:52 PM

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose.

Even if this were true, and even putting aside the questions of individual purpose, subjective purpose, belief etc, an absence of purpose in life doesn't warrant ending it. Half the sh*t we, as the great creators of our ecosystem, develop, is essential devoid of explicit purpose or "end goal" when you look at civilisation as a whole.

To out-rightly deny purpose in so much that civilization achieved still seems rather exaggerated to me. There is fundamentally at least the one purpose of survival to begin with and then there's so much more. Every economic activity, personal or collective, every non-economic activity, personal or collective, always has an end-goal. A need to be fulfilled.

I mean, in the context of this topic and the point being discussed, sure, life may not need purpose to be meaningful and in the same way, a purposeless life also doesn't need termination but in the bigger picture, humans have always come together in groups only to strive towards an end-goal which all of them collectively considered valuable or beneficial to achieve. I can't think of any development made throughout human civilization which lacked a valuable end-goal.

If a group of humans, a part of society comes to believe in practical anti-natalism, they too would have an end-goal. Anti-natalism isn't as much as saying life is meaningless so doesn't deserve a chance, it is to say that bringing a life into the world without knowing whether they would want this existence or not, is morally wrong.

There is no one universal purpose to life or maybe there is one: survival but there always are hundreds of small purposes to pick up in pursuit of a meaningful life. Humans are meaning making machines, be it an entrepreneur or a lazy bum.

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#22

Posted 24 December 2017 - 08:31 PM Edited by Triple Vacuum Seal, 24 December 2017 - 08:32 PM.

The explicit purpose of modern civilization is to accumulate wealth, whether it be for ourselves or for someone else.  As individuals, our offspring do not have to accept this purpose insofar as they are willing to swim upstream.  This is where our abstract sense of individual purpose seems open-ended and liberating.  We can be about anything we want.

 

 

Procreation is more deliberate now.  We used to not have much of a choice because birth control sucked.  So now that we can control these things, we scramble for the rationale behind procreation.  While I personally don't subscribe to anti-natalism, there are plenty of other more rational reasons not to procreate.

 

 

@Euty

 

Humans are fundamentally spiritual indeed, but not religious.  Spirituality predates religion.  Religion is institutional spirituality driven by opportunistic leaders.


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#23

Posted 25 December 2017 - 02:46 AM

Spirituality is also driven by leaders. Any field of human exploration or accomplishment has leaders. But when I call people religious by nature, I'm not just alluding to the fact that humans are by nature spiritual, which is surely true, but that the beliefs that humans have about how they value the world are religious beliefs, because those beliefs can't be reduced to science or other fact, but people still hold them up as truth claims. Relativistic positions are academic positions that noone is able to consistently uphold, because all people enforce their moral beliefs as truth claims in the cases of certain transgressions.


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#24

Posted 25 December 2017 - 09:37 PM Edited by Triple Vacuum Seal, 25 December 2017 - 09:44 PM.

Because this discussion involved a chronological comparison of purpose-seeking behaviors over human history, I wanted to push back on this notion that we can so loosely conflate organized religion and spirituality because the former is a very narrow and late form of the latter. But if we more-strictly consider spirituality to be an acknowledgement of a supranatural order or lack thereof, then perhaps I am exaggerating the difference between religion and spirituality aside form the fact that one is institutional.  Both are an operative crutch for satisfying that elusive upper section of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (peace of mind, commitment to causes larger than oneself, etc.).

 

But when I call people religious by nature, I'm not just alluding to the fact that humans are by nature spiritual, which is surely true, but that the beliefs that humans have about how they value the world are religious beliefs, because those beliefs can't be reduced to science or other fact, but people still hold them up as truth claims.

 A lack of answers offered by science has no bearing on the veracity of answers offered by religion. People have a tendency to supplement abstract uncertainties (and general ignorance) with faith. However, such an absence of understanding doesn't make such value judgments fundamentally religious nor does it make the beliefs that are religious in nature any more clear than scientifically-supported conclusions. So in other words, an inability of science to interpret itself (something it was never intended to do) does not necessarily mean that we shouldn't take a scientific approach to determining our purpose. This is especially true when determining what is not our purpose. For instance, surely your assertion that contemporary narcissism offers too little purpose could be backed up by some sort of quantitative scientific evidence if we explored the issue further.

 

Determining our values and sense of purpose isn't a purely data-driven decision, and yet scientific analysis can aid this process. This point of contention is key because there is a popular notion lately that perhaps we can turn to older institutions for answers to our very novel problems of the day simply because science has failed to do something that it was never intended to do anyway (interpret itself). The world's gloomy circumstances have given way to a fashionable sense of nostalgia that permeates much of our discourse today. And as sincere as it is, I don't really think it helps much.

 

Nonetheless, there's much to be gleaned from the motivational parallels you've drawn between political commitment and religious commitment.  Both offer a sense of purpose and might serve as a reason to procreate. At times it seems like there are only six degrees of separation between a heretic and revolutionary or a disciple and soldier.
 
 
 

Relativistic positions are academic positions that noone is able to consistently uphold, because all people enforce their moral beliefs as truth claims in the cases of certain transgressions.

Personally, as I mature, everything from the timing to my hypothetical reasons for procreating have gotten progressively more scientific. So it's only natural that abstract religious ideas around purpose and procreation are met with such skepticism.


Absolute moral arguments around procreation are easily dismissed whether they be pro- or anti- offspring. The situational influence of anti-natalism seems more interesting however. While it's easy for us denounce moral objections to procreation from the standpoint of our relatively secure existence, I can think of a number of thought experiments and real historical circumstances where even the most unquestioning minds would call into question the ethical limits of procreation.

 

Imagine how many folks felt they could not morally justify bringing kids into a particular circumstance at a particular time in their lives. Another common example that comes to mind is when today's narcotraffickers procreate when they know damn well them offspring might get kidnapped/murdered. Or when people on welfare living in abject poverty have 12 kids. I mean yeah life is beautiful yada yada...but after the 10th kid is born into poverty, you kinda gotta question it no?  What if someone on public assistance has 4 consecutive poorly-looked-after baby's with down syndrome, and then decides to have another?

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#25

Posted 27 December 2017 - 01:47 PM Edited by Eutyphro, 27 December 2017 - 01:50 PM.

Both are an operative crutch for satisfying that elusive upper section of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (peace of mind, commitment to causes larger than oneself, etc.).

They are terms that are hard to define.
 

 A lack of answers offered by science has no bearing on the veracity of answers offered by religion. People have a tendency to supplement abstract uncertainties (and general ignorance) with faith. However, such an absence of understanding doesn't make such value judgments fundamentally religious nor does it make the beliefs that are religious in nature any more clear than scientifically-supported conclusions. So in other words, an inability of science to interpret itself (something it was never intended to do) does not necessarily mean that we shouldn't take a scientific approach to determining our purpose. This is especially true when determining what is not our purpose. For instance, surely your assertion that contemporary narcissism offers too little purpose could be backed up by some sort of quantitative scientific evidence if we explored the issue further.

In this context my definition of religious belief is 'belief that is not based on evidence', which makes my argument about morality being based on religious beliefs almost circular, except for people who want to believe in naturalist morality. Furthermore, I don't claim such 'religious beliefs' are clearer than scientific judgements.

The problem with science occurs when people start making metaphysical claims, claims about ultimate reality, on the basis of scientific claims. Science indeed was never intended for that. Science is a pragmatic method.

Even if we could pinpoint in the brain how meaningful experience occurs, and then test whether it arises in certain circumstances, it would be a mistake to turn this scientific claim into a metaphysical one, where the science becomes synonymous with ultimate reality. Firstly, I don't believe we truly can understand 'meaning' in such a scientific way. All we can do is turn it into something banal. Something ultimately meaningless. That doesn't mean such an experiment couldn't be useful. It could. But our leading reality should remain our existential one.
 

Determining our values and sense of purpose isn't a purely data-driven decision, and yet scientific analysis can aid this process. This point of contention is key because there is a popular notion lately that perhaps we can turn to older institutions for answers to our very novel problems of the day simply because science has failed to do something that it was never intended to do anyway (interpret itself). T

I agree with this.

 

Imagine how many folks felt they could not morally justify bringing kids into a particular circumstance at a particular time in their lives. Another common example that comes to mind is when today's narcotraffickers procreate when they know damn well them offspring might get kidnapped/murdered. Or when people on welfare living in abject poverty have 12 kids. I mean yeah life is beautiful yada yada...but after the 10th kid is born into poverty, you kinda gotta question it no?  What if someone on public assistance has 4 consecutive poorly-looked-after baby's with down syndrome, and then decides to have another?

Which is all completely sensible, but has no bearing on the morality of bringing a child into existence under more reasonable circumstances.

Life is full of suffering. But we can bear the suffering on the basis of transcendent meaning and being good. I can't make a truly convincing argument in favor of bringing new people in the world. But I do believe doing so would make me happy, and is really part of my destination in life. I hope I can bring new people into the world under circumstances and with instructions to make the instrinsic suffering of life bearable, and that they will be thankful for existence, but I can not be sure of it really.

The conviction that existence is fundamentally morally corrupt is truly dangerous though. If you want to understand why then read some testimonials by high school shooters and other violent degenerates. It's a genocidal conviction. Possibly the most dangerous one of all.

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#26

Posted 30 December 2017 - 02:14 AM Edited by SaveTheZombies, 30 December 2017 - 02:16 AM.

It's interesting but then, wouldn't only the truly bestial humans would populate the earth. Reminds me of the beginning of Idiocracy.

 

Personally, I kind of feel sorry for anyone who really feels that the suffering of this world outweighs the comfort. I know there are way too many people trapped in a cycle or a system of suffering but there are also too many people who can have comfort but choose the suffering. I'm reminded of another great philosopher:

https://youtu.be/LH5DCIf1bRI?t=32s

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#27

Posted 30 December 2017 - 03:17 AM Edited by Triple Vacuum Seal, 30 December 2017 - 03:21 AM.

The conviction that existence is fundamentally morally corrupt is truly dangerous though. If you want to understand why then read some testimonials by high school shooters and other violent degenerates. It's a genocidal conviction. Possibly the most dangerous one of all.

 
It's a strong conviction indeed.  Letting the existing fires burn and setting new ones are two radically different convictions though.  As a knee-jerk reaction in disgust, unconditional anti-natalism is more like the former.  So I don't think it's particularly dangerous, at least not anymore than blissfully distracting oneself with raising a family.  The spectrum of misanthropic sentiment ranges from genocidal to nurturing.  I also doubt high school shooters had any moral convictions seeing as they were shooters.  They were simply mentally unstable, impulsive, sexually frustrated, and jealous teens.  

 

Moral appeals in general, anti-natalism included, are not scalable enough to be a threat (and much less a solution).  Moral principle alone has never guided a critical mass of civilization.  Morality in practice relates to conditions.  Humans generally disregard moral ideals when they are not secure.  When they are well-off, humans tend to be pretty moral and quite tolerable.

 

 

 

It's interesting but then, wouldn't only the truly bestial humans would populate the earth. Reminds me of the beginning of Idiocracy.
 
Personally, I kind of feel sorry for anyone who really feels that the suffering of this world outweighs the comfort. I know there are way too many people trapped in a cycle or a system of suffering but there are also too many people who can have comfort but choose the suffering. I'm reminded of another great philosopher:
https://youtu.be/LH5DCIf1bRI?t=32s

 
Too bad we cannot procreate our way out of the world's problems.  Stupid people will always out-f*ck the smart ones.  Yet there's a glimmer of hope in the fact that rationality isn't genetically-determined.  If experiences and conditions reinforce enlightened attitudes, then even them stupid folk's offspring would be much smarter.  A large minority of smart people have stupid parents.

 

As for suffering, I think suffering is generally accepted in hindsight.  Suffering alone doesn't appear to be a problem for the modern misanthropic.  What people are averse to is the suffering in vain.


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#28

Posted 31 December 2017 - 03:35 AM

That's why I attribute this theory to clinical depression; it is a pointless suffering and if you live in that world, it can be hard to see a point in passing that on.


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#29

Posted 01 January 2018 - 02:17 AM

I wouldn't personally. There's still a difference between what people feel and what they think is true. If anyone here felt that life was truly worthless then I don't think they'd be here to debate anything.

You may feel like life is more pleasure than misery but you may actually be wrong. In reality it could be the case that most of the moments lived by the average person are more pain than pleasure but it is hard to quantify that. In fact even if I somehow knew that most of my life revolves around being mildly miserable I would probably still feel like life is worth living for the potential positive experiences.

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#30

Posted 01 January 2018 - 04:14 PM Edited by j peril, 01 January 2018 - 04:13 PM.

 

No, I think the argument against bringing new life into existence is that life brings more misery than happiness. This is the case in pretty much any individual's life, even the most fortunate. Just think about how much time you actually spend every day enjoying your life and how much is just misery in forms of boredom, pain, stress, etc.

I think you're probably transposing your own life views and experiences onto others here. I do find the whole regression to the mean on negative utilitarianism interesting as a thought experiment, but the idea that everyone's life is generally composed more of suffering than happiness is nonsense IMO.

I can only speak for my personal experiences, but I enjoy the vast majority of my life experiences. My job is fascinating, my home life is awesome, and although both are the sources of stress or boredom from time to time that's vastly outweighed by both the quality and quantity of positive experiences.

Maybe you're just a nihilist miser who obtains satisfaction from nothing? Not intended as an insult, but the balance of positive and negative experience and emotion in your life seems mightily out of whack.

 

That premise goes both ways.

 

It's just as easy to say "You're deluded for thinking life is good!"  It's just as easy to say "You're a silly child living in fantasy land!" as it is to call someone a "nihilist miser".

 

The point is, who knows what a hypothetical child may think of existence or human society?  Accordingly, who is one to make the decision to go ahead with creating one to find out?


 

Except that all the evidence points to the fact that life has no end goal or purpose.

You or no one else really believes that though. That's an intellectual position that every practical act you've done undermines. Through your behaviour you prove that you understand the world in terms of meaning. Actually, generally in your posts you consistently provide value judgements as well. Human beings have an innate tendency to perceive the world in terms of value. You could say human beings are innately religious beings. That human beings have an innate tendency to be religious also becomes clear in this time of increased secularization and polarization, where people look for new sacred values in the realm of politics. If you analyze political movements you'll quickly discover they have their own sacred values.

 

 

 

The goal is to survive.  Survive to survive.  Suicide isn't easy.  There exists an inherent biological mechanism which pushes us forward despite tremendous amounts of pain and tension.  That's just another one of the stupid features of life.  It's basically geared to endure lots of pain and misery and continue on enduring it.  Not only endure it but create all new units to endure more of it and in different ways.  One way it endures said pain and misery is by constructing elaborate stages of distraction to distract from the misery, such as the highly-acclaimed Grand Theft Auto series and all related gaming material.  Ironically this very game details the glaring pain, conflict and suffering prevalent throughout all levels of society.
 
As stated previously in this thread life has no "end goal" other than death.  There is no "purpose" and as such we must create "purposes" ourselves.  For most the "purpose" seems to be minimizing misery.  But that will always be sought, never attained.  If misery and pain are eliminated, they will ultimately be forgotten.  And to not know pain or hardship is to not know comfort or success.
 
Life, reproduction, is essentially just things caught up in a cycle, like Earth spinning around the sun.  It's just a thing stuck in repetition.  The only objective point seems to be "continue to continue".  Personally I'm not.
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