Philosophy

The Anti-Natalist Paradox

What if you could choose one person in your life and end their suffering? All the pain and frustration and woe intrinsic to their mortal condition would disappear and—best of all—with no financial investment, effort, or trouble on your part. All that is required from you is to abstain from an activity with no compelling justification. Would any reasonable person neglect such an opportunity? Surely, it seems obvious that any other option would be patently unethical?

Although many layers of empirical evidence and argument are ladled on top, these questions form the logical core of moral philosopher David Benatar’s incisive 2006 book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Within its pages, Benatar offers a programmatic and detailed defense of anti-natalism—the idea that procreating is morally wrong because human lives are, on balance, so awful that such lives are not worth starting. For Benatar, a set of immutable asymmetries characterize all sentient life: between pleasure and pain, or well-being and harm, in which the latter are more frequent, permanent, and consequential than the former. Avoiding pain is always good but being denied pleasure is never bad. Following this argument to its logical conclusion,  Benatar argues that bringing someone into existence will always harm the person created, but failing to bring that person into existence will only deny them pleasures they’ll never know. Therefore, the only guaranteed way to avoid increasing the harm quotient of sentient life is for human procreation to be discontinued as a moral imperative. Of course, the inevitable—and, for Benatar, welcome—consequence of this advice will be to hasten the extinction of the human species. Extinction, in his powerfully counter-intuitive formulation, is the only ethical outcome.

No doubt, most people reading this summary will find Benatar’s asymmetries (at least initially) unconvincing and his conclusions repugnant. But temper your intellectual gag reflex for a moment and attempt to forward an ethical program that both conserves the ethical obligation to “do no harm” and also justifies procreation. It is remarkably difficult. And so Benatar concludes that there is no ethically defensible reason to procreate. Procreation is an “utterly pointless” exercise and a “readily avoidable” behaviour that functions only to harm those brought into the world. It is challenging indeed to conceive of a cogent ethical system in which the right to procreate supersedes the procreated person’s right not to be harmed—a right necessarily transgressed the instant they are brought into existence. This, too, is fundamental to Benatar’s argument. While most parents consider it an ethical duty to shield their children from harm, most do not consider that the only certain way to avoid that harm is not procreating in the first place.

In the decade since Benatar unveiled these provocative ideas in Better Never to Have Been, anti-natalism has grown from a fringe position to a locus of serious discussion in moral philosophy circles. Recently, anti-natalism has spilled from the moral academy into the wider culture: the New Yorker magazine profiled Benatar last November and he appeared on Sam Harris’s Waking Up podcast shortly thereafter.

Curious, then, given the multitude of hours and thousands of words devoted to anti-natalism in books, edited collections, academics journal articles, interviews, and popular media appearances, that nobody seems to have noticed how sociologically ignorant and vapid anti-natal philosophy is. While two chapters in Better Never to Have Been are ostensibly devoted to the practical denouement of programmatic anti-natalism, Benatar considers humans in the broadest, vaguest, and most abstract sense possible:

[The] more obvious burden for the final generation is that it would live in a world in which the structures of society would gradually break down. There would be no younger working generation growing the crops, preserving order, running hospitals and homes for the aged, and burying the dead … The situation is a bleak one indeed and we can certainly say that looming extinction would be bad for the final people in this way.

Absent from this quote, and from Benatar’s arguments more generally, is any evidence of concern for the details of just how bad this final burden would be and who would bear it. While Benatar acknowledges that the “final people” will “suffer much” unless humanity’s end is rapid, these “final people” are presented as statistical units rather than actual persons living in real social conditions. A section entitled “Phased Extinction,” for example, diagrammatically represents the level of harm done to the final human population, but bizarrely presents this population as a single, monolithic block in a sterile ethical vacuum. Apparently, the humans in Better Never to Have Been are not citizens of a globe with wildly varying levels of access to the essentials of life and are therefore not subject to sociological factors that would unevenly distribute the social ills of anti-natalism. Nowhere does Benatar seriously consider how suffering, with which he is passionately concerned, is differentially distributed on a global scale: human lives are instead simply collected together on a narrow spectrum of “bad” to “very bad.”

So, it is worth pausing to ponder the questions Benatar and his disciples fail to address. What would the transitional period between the decision to end human procreation and human extinction actually look like? How would the inevitable societal collapse—crumbling infrastructure, lawlessness, resource scarcity, social decay, and so on—be managed? And, perhaps most importantly, who would bear the brunt of this collapse?

Unless a programmatic anti-natalism coincides with a wholesale shift in the social, legal, and political systems of production, distribution, and exchange under which the human population currently lives, the human suffering that supposedly compels us to become anti-natalists stands to get incalculably worse. Assuming current ratios of income (and more importantly, accrued wealth) inequality somehow remain stable in a world committed to severely reducing the birth rate, the poor will reach a point of societal collapse much, much faster than the rich. As the earth’s population dwindles creating conditions of widespread scarcity, there will consequently be fewer doctors to tend the ill, fewer farmers to tend and harvest crops, fewer engineers to build and maintain roads and homes and buildings, and so on. These societal goods are already unevenly distributed when conditions exist for their redistribution. Under such conditions, is it likely that the gap between the rich and the poor—both within and between nations—in areas such as healthcare access, education, drinkable water, housing, food, and so on will close? It is not. Were anti-natalist philosophy to be widely embraced, the world’s poor—whose plight is already desperate—would suffer terribly en masse. A combination of the most abject horrors of the gulags, Mao and Stalin’s famines and purges, Auschwitz and Dachau, and our worst contemporary humanitarian crises would likely amount to only a fraction of the suffering visiting upon the final generation’s poorest members.

And therein lies the rub of the anti-natal argument: the problem is not its logical structure (which is frankly exquisite) but its headlong confrontation with social reality. I find Benatar’s social disregard distressing but not surprising. Moral philosophy has for some time drifted away from considering humans as they are found in their real lives, and closer to a kind of abstract arithmetic. Thousands of words in Better Never to Have Been are devoted to detailing precise ethical theorems such as “A Future Like Ours,” or the non-identity problem, or a multitude of other theories, -ists, and -isms, but not a single word is spent considering how anti-natalism would magnify existing social divisions along geographical, racial/ethnic, or socio-economic lines. In its 237 pages, the words “poverty” and “race” are mentioned twice each, and neither term appears in the context of a robust or meaningful discussion about how these phenomena exacerbate human suffering.

Too much attention is paid to logical elegance and sophistical cleverness in anti-natal philosophy and too little is paid to the application of this philosophy to the untidiness and ugliness of existing social conditions. Benatar’s failure to consider these conditions is most surprising, as he was born and raised in South Africa. Does he believe that under apartheid, the white majority would have equitably shared the harms of a severely declining birth rate and crumbling society? Or would they have foisted the costs onto black Africans? Like other anti-natal philosophers, Benatar simply ignores the most obvious and pressing ethical implications of anti-natalism itself: that it would occur in materially-existing societies with extant social institutions that would, by their nature, mediate an anti-natal program.

If one acknowledges that an anti-natal program would occur amidst the stickiness of inequality and racial tensions and the other various maladies afflicting the world, it is unclear how it constitutes an aggregate improvement on our current pro-natal bias. As things stand, people exist on a spectrum of wealth that stretches from ultra-opulence to the very limits of human squalor. In the dystopian zero-sum game of crumbling infrastructure and scarce goods, all lives would not spontaneously move to a similarly harmful level. The current inequalities would not only persevere but multiply; lives that are already very bad would become much, much worse, and lives that are perhaps worth living would reach the same level within a generation.

It is equally unclear how the unmitigated suffering of the extinction generation benefits the non-extant future generations of persons who are not brought into existence, given there are no recipients of this benefit—all that would exist would be the unimaginable suffering of the last people on earth. As a result, anti-natal philosophy results in a bizarre paradox: one in which its ethical premises are, on the local and individual level, undeniable, but its implementation would produce human suffering so broad, deep, and protracted that the initial ethical impulse is betrayed.

 

Kenton Engel has a Masters degree in sociology and will begin his PhD studies next fall. His broad interests are medical and bioethics, moral philosophy, and social and political theory.

360 Comments

  1. Daath says

    It appears Benatar doesn’t even follow his own logic to its conclusion. It’s not just human lives that involve suffering, but animal lives as well. In natural conditions, it’s remarkable just how nasty, brutish and short their lives are. Therefore, if we want to eliminate suffering as totally as possible, let’s belch out all CO2 we can, pollute all ecosystems we can reach with nastiest long-lasting toxins in our disposal, and to cap it off, fight a nuclear war with arsenals a hundred times bigger than what we have today. That’d give us something to do while we’re dying off, and as a bonus, eliminate the possibility of some survivalist Adam and Eve repopulating the Earth.

    A lot of anti-natalists seem to be environmentalists, though.

    • Terry Martin says

      The Children of Men is a dystopian novel by English writer P. D. James, published in 1992. Set in England in 2021, it centres on the results of mass infertility. James describes a United Kingdom that is steadily depopulating and focuses on a small group of resisters who do not share the disillusionment of the masses.

      Wikipedia

      • Circuses and Bread 🇺🇸 says

        @ Terry Martin

        I was thinking about “Children of Men” while reading this. The anti-natalism movememt reminds me of a bumper sticker that was popular many years ago that said: “those who can’t find anything to live for always find something to die for, then they want the rest of us to die for it too.”

        I find anti-natalism to be repugnant. When you cut through the pseudo-intellectual crap, its just another bunch of putzes advocating genocide. Except in their case it’s on a global and species ending scale. Like the Khmer Rouge on steroids. They’re the epitome of well-educated morons who want to be trusted to “save the world”, but won’t even act to preserve their own genetic line.

        • Brandon says

          Paranoid delusional. “Theys a comim afta my race yall”.

      • tarstarkas says

        Arthur C Clarke’s ‘Childhood’s End’ depicts near its end a society without children (the minds and wills of the children having been stolen by the Overmind). A man who snuck a ride on an Overlord ship back to their home world returns decades later after mankind except for the children has died out to view the results of their frenetic hedonistic destructive last years.

    • Num num says

      Death, good points. Moreover, human lives displace animal lives that, in natural conditions, suffer more than humans. So increasing the number of humans living in modern conditions reduces natural baseline suffering.

    • archvibe says

      Benatar thinks all sentient life is bad, you’re right to notice this. From p.223:

      > Because my arguments apply not only to
      humans but also to other sentient animals, my arguments are
      also zoophilic (in the non-sexual sense of that term). Bringing a
      sentient life into existence is a harm to the being whose life it is. My
      arguments suggest that it is wrong to inflict this harm.

      It’s too bad the author is so quick to brush away all of the arguments as ‘logic’. When all of the arguments are just ‘logic’ and ought to be side-stepped, then of course it is easy to see that Benatar is wrong.

      Moral philosophy doesn’t always give us intuitive answers. It doesn’t always confirm our deepest beliefs, or comfort us that we are on the right track. The author’s quick dismissal is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s easier to brush aside Benatar as missing something crucial in 1000 words because this is easier than confronting what he has to say head on.

      • WildCard says

        “Because my arguments apply not only to humans but also to other sentient animals, my arguments are
        also zoophilic (in the non-sexual sense of that term)”

        That’s hilarious, it reads like an actual satire. Which it might as well be, even though the author probably didn’t intend it to be.

      • Robinson says

        It’s quite absurd. For example, the question is unanswerable as we do not know precisely what is conscious and what isn’t. There may be other conscious systems out there capable of feeling pleasure and pain, i.e. not just biological ones. Some would say the entire universe is conscious at some level. Who knows. We don’t and neither does he.

    • James says

      He is a vegan and argues for veganism on the same grounds. Education yourself before you criticize.

    • Theodore A Hoppe says

      Re: anti-natalists seem to be environmentalist

      David Attenborough famously said that someone who believes in infinite growth is ‘either a madman or an economist.’
      Arguably, climate change or global warming (call it what you will) might have been avoided had humans developed a better understanding of the logistics equation and models of population.
      If China had not instituted a one child policy, part of a birth planning program designed to control the size of its population, in 1979, there might be an additional billion people or more in the world right now.

  2. Man, I flirted with anti-natalism a few years back for a while. Thinking “rationality” is the way to go – and ofc I was nihilistic, depressed – and the idea was all sound.

    Then again, in some forums where someone cleverly responded, “good, then don’t have kids, the world really is better off when everybodu doesn’t get them,” ofc I got narcissistically slighted.

    So, consider such a response the only efficient one when coming across an ideologue as such.

    Been reading Dawkins these days, in his light, mayhaps anti-natalists come due to the perception of overpopulation.
    Then again, while all sorts of people in, say, India are having 5+ kids per couple, and there’s nothing you can humanely do to stop them, and mortality rates have gone down, being “altruistic” enough to not have any kids on my own (because, say, Indians have more than enough), I’d be self-destructive. Doesn’t serve my genes, doesn’t serve my God, doesn’t serve me, my well being neither the meaningfulness of my life.

    Dawkins points out Welfare states have fooked over the populations, not even birth control seems to be capable of getting it under control. But I doubt that self-destruction is the way to go. Some of us will adapt to the new conditions, some will remain, uh, antinatalists (or have so many kids none of them end up making the mother a grandmother).

    Coming from a country with low birthrates, locally I do well by having 2+ kids. Globally, on the other hand… Then again, I have no way to predict what happens globally in the next 10-20 years.

    It is a very inhumane movement – but as long as they don’t force this in authoritarian means on everyone else, it might be useful for the rest of us, even.

    And I do like how slighting it might sound to them.

  3. Scott says

    What a strange review. Of all the possible concerns with anti-natalism, wealth inequality, of the last generation of humans, is an absurd priority to wave around. If you accept the logic that preventing the immense suffering of all future generations is good, the inconveniences of how the last generation get along as they wait for their own lives to end isn’t a meaningful criticism at all. The question of how we avoid falling into pro-mortalism is interesting, and questioning his utilitarian view of suffering may be interesting, but you accept all that, you are endorsing 99% of his view anyway. The technicalities of how exactly civilization ends is… the least relevant piece of the argument.
    The only attempt at a criticism was the claim that there is a paradox in that the future generations that will not exist, will not exist to receive the benefit of not suffering. But this isn’t a paradox, the moral act he describes is of preventing beings who would if they existed, suffer, from suffering. As long as we accept it is our moral duty to reduce suffering, this is coherent. Preventing 100 possible people, who if they came into being, would be miserable tortured slaves, is good, even if they never exist. It is good *for us* to fulfill our moral duty to prevent that. Our moral duty is what matters.

    In reply to the other comment, he does consider animals as well, he thinks they should go extinct too.

    • Indeed. The initial paragraphs acknowledge Benatar’s apparently inescapable logic, but then the rest of the review shoots off in a virtually irrelevant discussion of the “last” generation. Leaving aside the utter unlikelihood of all of humanity deciding to stop procreating, even a dying out would be one-by-one, piecemeal. No one is suggesting that we arrange for a forced end to procreation.

      No one who suffers (which is to say all of us) can have missed the thought that it might have been better never to have been born. We continue for a variety of reasons, and almost certainly we have evolved to just put the idea out of our minds most of the time. But this does not invalidate the argument. Like Peter Unger’s argument in “Living High and Letting Die”, popularized by Peter Singer in “The Singer Solution to World Poverty (https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/05/magazine/the-singer-solution-to-world-poverty.html), we should acknowledge and admire this important philosophical work, even though we know that we ourselves largely lack the ability for ethical behavior on this level.

    • Kenton Engel says

      “The technicalities of how exactly civilization ends is… the least relevant piece of the argument.”

      Quite the opposite. Bentar’s so-called “axiomatic asymmetry” is that life is irreversibly bad, such that harms/bads will always outweigh pleasures/goods. Given this axiomatic asymmetry, it is indecent to future generations to continue procreating and reproducing the human race: whatever transient and ephemeral pleasures we possess are not sufficient justifications to condemn not now, but future-existing generations into the hellscape of life.

      But if the suffering of the final generation is so horrific, so abject, then the utilitarian calculus on which the AN position changes. The point is that *this calculation is never made.* Benatar dismisses the actualities of the final generation’s suffering as an inconvenient logical obstacle. But it’s quite possible, if not probable, that the suffering of the final generation(s) would be so unimaginable and concentrated that, despite its brevity, it outweighs some future number ‘X’ of generations.

      How many? Well, I don’t know; neither does Benatar. But the mere possibility admits for skepticism in the argument.

      So, no, the criticism is indeed relevant – considering it cuts to the coherence of *the* fundamental component of Benatar’s philosophy.

      • Kenton Engel says

        …then the utilitarian calculus on which the AN positions rests changes.*

        My apologies, typing on my phone.

      • Benatar’s axiomatic asymmetry is axiomatically stupid. It is merely an assertion on his part. The vast majority of people I’ve known say he’s wrong; they find life worth living. Does he have some counter argument that we are wrong, our lives really aren’t worth living, we just don’t understand? I’m skeptical.

        If he, and perhaps you, feel life isn’t worth living, at least don’t project that on the rest of us and don’t pretend it’s axiomatically so. It’s your own Weltschmerz, leave the rest of us out of it.

        On a different note, assuming every last human was dead, why care about the relative amount of suffering of one generation vs. another? Philosophy originally was about trying to understand reality and improve human life; but this stuff is less useful than trying to determine how many angels can dance on the point of a pin.

        • Pain is only important as a memory. Torture is not remembered by the dead, just the survivor. I hope the book author donated all proceeds to the Kevorkian Foundation.

        • Misato says

          Yes, he has several counterarguments. One is that people are unable to objectively evaluate how much they have suffered throughout their lives (Pollyanna principle, ego defence mechanisms, etc.). He says if we take objective measurements, the results are pretty awful.

          Another of his arguments is that the worst stuff comes towards the end of one’s life, such as intense, and possibly lengthy, suffering from a deadly disease, intense mental suffering from losing a spouse, or losing children. So until you’ve gone through those experiences you don’t really have a valid balance sheet.

          • Thanks for clarifying, Misato. Benatar’s counter arguments are wrong. “People can’t objectively evaluate” their suffering is silly on two counts: first, such evaluations are always necessarily subjective; and second, Benatar assumes *he* can objectively evaluate for us. It’s absurd that, for example, I say “my life is happy, on net” and Benatar’s response is “you just don’t understand how miserable you are, but I do.”

            “The worst stuff comes toward the end of one’s life…” assumes death and attendant pain at the end are so bad that everyone would regret ever having lived. I’ve seen too many cases of people dying peacefully and happy to believe that. And no, they weren’t drugged up and yes they were fully cognizant of imminent demise.

            Benatar simply projects his own distaste for life on everyone else and pretends it’s an inescapable axiom.

          • curiositas says

            Yes, and those arguments, on his part, are irredeemably condescending. Many people have already experienced plenty of intense loss in life — including spouses, children, parents, siblings, best friends, and more — who *still* would not agree with anti-natalists. And what the book’s author fails to consider is that life simply isn’t some kind of robotically neutral balance sheet. That isn’t how most of us experience it, and it’s frivolous to tally it up in such a way. The results are the same as if I were to apply that strategy to my relationships with friends and family, keeping a constant score of who owes what and who’s contributing the most, etc. It produces a myopic, unrepresentative picture, and in my experience, the kind of people who keep score in such “objective” fashion are some of the most miserable human beings I have ever met.

        • curiositas says

          Another thing, that seems to be so thoroughly taken for granted as to be completely left out of the discussion much of the time, is this idea that any and all pain or suffering is bad and undesirable. As someone who has experienced a reasonable share of adversity, I thoroughly disagree with that proposition.

          Sure, we don’t want people constantly suffering unduly, but I think there are a few adages which apply here. “The dose makes the poison.” “Everything in moderation.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Suffering is a fundamental part of the human condition — and, in sane amounts, I would argue that it’s a desirable one. It absolutely builds character and, if we choose, makes us better, richer people for having persisted and gotten through it. It also often bonds us and grows our relationships with others. It is the necessary and balancing counterpoint to joy or happiness or satisfaction. Its presence makes the glory of its opposite that much greater and allows us to fully appreciate the often transcendent beauty of being alive.

          And lest anyone assume otherwise, I reiterate that this is not coming from someone who doesn’t know what suffering is or who has led a charmed life. I have not. What I have done, though, is experienced a wide variety of life situations, both good and bad, and they have helped make me the person I am. I would not give any of my experiences back.

          It is repugnant to me that anti-natalists display such a level of arrogance as to tell me I would be better off never having been born, because my joys and triumphs supposedly do not justify my suffering. They do not get make that call — I do. And I choose to marvel, every day that I wake up, at the beauty in the world and the sheer unlikelihood of my ever having existed at all, deeply grateful that I get to get to witness the universe and experience all that is my life.

          A critic might be tempted to write my opinion off as just a product of religious devotion, and for that reason, I think it’s worth noting that I’m not religious at all. I’m on the atheistic end of agnostic. I think that when I die, that’s the end. And yet, that still doesn’t incline me to anti-natalism — in fact, it rather makes me appreciate and revel in the joys of my life all the more.

          In short, I wholeheartedly agree with Charles: Anti-natalists do not, and cannot, speak for me. And it’s incomprehensible they dare to think they have the right.

          • Num num says

            Curiousitas, well said! There’s an obvious totalitarian ethos underlying the anti-natalist worldview that they are self-ordained to speak on behalf of the whole of humanity. Moreover, to speak over there will of all people who chose life and procreation. And of all audacious endpoints to drive such a self-appointed position of divine authority over all humanity, straight off a cliff into extinction.

            All anti-natalists I’ve known are depressed leftists and atheists. I’m atheist, so I’m not dissing atheism. But point being, anti-natalism seems to fit in the spectrum leftist thought, which speaks on behalf of and over the voices of the masses, disparages humanity and seeks to destroy what humanity has erected, and does so wherever it gains the upper hand (eg, Russia (1917), China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cuba, N Korea, etc). Hate humanity, hate the most productive, destroy, smash, teardown, …

          • Michelle says

            Don’t flatter yourself. We aren’t speaking for anyone. We’re saying that taking that gamble on another person’s life is morally wrong. Not all suffering is bearable. Not to mention all the suffering you, yes YOU, contribute to as a first world consumer.

          • curiositas says

            If you are advocating for anti-natalism, you are indeed attempting to speak for both me and untold numbers of other human beings. I presume that anti-natalists existed before I was born, and that being the case, they would have been advocating that my life never come into being. And what I am telling you, which you seem to willfully pretend not to understand, is that my suffering is worth it to me. You have no right to decide it isn’t.

            As for the suffering I cause others merely by existing at all, well…you cause at least as much. I don’t mean this as a macabre dig at you, but rather as a serious extension of your argument: If you’re so convinced of the unworthiness of your own existence, why do you persist in existing? It’s really quite easy to stop. And I fully believe anyone has the right to make that decision. *For themselves, and only themselves.* The minute you suggest that the rest of us are morally required to follow you into your nihilistic oblivion, and that we must likewise presume most other humans currently and would in the future, find life unworthy, you absolutely presume to speak for me, and I will not have it. It’s not ‘flattering myself’ for me to know I have as much right to my life as you do to yours.

    • Was looking for this exact comment. Thank you for presenting some sanity down here.

    • Charlotte Jones says

      Indeed. Extremely poor review. On so many levels. Rather embarrassing. Am more than surprised this piece merited publication. I don’t blame the author, however, who (given the brief note provided on him) is just a young man in his mid years at university. I blame whoever took a look at his piece (his university advisors/editors at quillette) and play the role they should…

    • Adam Myhand says

      Thanks for this.

      I was in part scrolling through the comments to see if anyone had made exactly these points, the paradox he defines isn’t one insofar that he accepts Benatar’s logic. This was the weirdest and weakest approach I’ve come across in addressing anti-natalism, given however, that I haven’t seen many offer dissent.

    • Brandon says

      Thank you Katherine. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to not be lost in the weeds and notice the obvious flaw in the argument. Amazing logic is useless if the PREMISE IS WRONG.

    • If you are implying that the outcomes of pain (bad) can be a source of pleasure (good), I think Benatar’s argument is that it still is overridden by the disproportionate amount of suffering which humans simply have no justified reason for enduring other than the fact of having been born, whereas one cannot feel deprived of a pleasure one doesn’t know exists.

      • curiositas says

        Yes, that likely would be his argument. Benatar is exceedingly presumptuous when it comes to his own ability to rationally, objectively, and optimally perform the cost/benefit analysis of the entire value of living for the entirety of humanity. It’s farcical and utterly ridiculous on its face. We’re talking about the ENTIRE value of living, for ALL humanity. The notion that *any* one human is qualified to make such a calculation smacks of hubris of the highest order.

        • Michelle says

          And yet that’s EXACTLY what parents do when they decide to fling innocent children into this unpredictable and unforgiving world.

          • Brandon says

            It just doesn’t compute for them, Michelle. There are definitely some lose screws. They want to seem intelligent but if they comprehend that simple point, nothing they say can be taken seriously!

          • @Michelle
            Then kill yourself if it’s so unbearable… This whole topic is sicko if you ask me. Do people really spend their lives thinking up rubbish like this. There is a biological imperative to procreate, it’s built into the fabric of life itself. That’s the reality, what possible difference does Benatar’s sad opinion make?

            I suggest you pray for a supervova, I’m going to lunch. Bye.

  4. The Sun will burn out someday. The Universe will end. Why the hurry to stop existing? Compared to the infinity of nonexistence that lies ahead, the lives and joys and sufferings of a million generations of humans are still just a momentary spark.

    • Of course the sun will explode more than burn out but one does not know how far life will progress in dealing with this reality over the next epoch. In fact, we may well destroy ourselves and start again many many times and still have time to avoid the end of the sun… Also, I understand, the ultimate fate of the universe (at least the one we can experience) is still in some doubt… Life will likely carry one whether we want it to or not…

  5. E. Olson says

    “How would the inevitable societal collapse—crumbling infrastructure, lawlessness, resource scarcity, social decay, and so on—be managed? And, perhaps most importantly, who would bear the brunt of this collapse?”

    The final Headlines of the New York Times and Guardian:

    “World to End Tomorrow; Women and Minorities Most Affected”

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson

      That’s so true. We can’t plan the end of humanity unless we do it with Equity. First The Patriarchy must be smashed no matter how long it takes.

  6. Justice says

    The calculus he (the author) is making is demonstrably false. If it were true that the evil of suffering is greater than the goods of the rest of life, then people would be killing themselves constantly. But suicide is extremely rare. He is foolishly ignoring the basic fact that life, even for people who suffer immensely, is worth living.

    • Michael says

      I don’t think that it’s really entirely obvious that people stay alive because they rationally evaluate life to be worthwhile. Millions of years of evolution has formed creatures that will strive to stay alive at all costs. It’s extremely difficult to overcome this, even if one is constantly miserable and has decided that life has no value. This is compounded by the fact that people don’t have easy access to swift, safe and painless methods of suicide, and instead have to do so covertly with whatever risky methods that they can get their hands on; and will be locked up and risk permanent disability if they fail. As well as the pain that will be caused by having to go through with it.

      In my opinion, the reason why societies have never adopted the right to die (for anyone, not just for terminal illnesses) is because at some level, we’re worried about making it too easy to come to the conclusion that life isn’t worth living, because we know that there’s really no rational argument to be made for continuing to be subjected to the constant risk of harm and high cost of maintenance, when we would never feel deprived of anything that we enjoyed in life if we just died in our sleep.

      • Kelli R. says

        I think it won’t be long before painless, assisted suicide is legally available. It will be interesting then to find out how many people take advantage of that service. Suicide rates might actually go down. Suicidal plans become obsessions which create their own spirals of suffering and anxiety. Having options might ameliorate some of that. The decision won’t depend on this one moment when I have courage or opportunity. It can be out off until tomorrow.

        Of course, the mitigation of the risk of failure might make it a much more attractive choice. Either way, I think it is a choice we should be allowed to make.

        I like to tell the zero-population folks to lead the way. But I think those people mostly want others to die so there will be more resources available to them. In a Darwinian age, maybe that is the rational stance to take. But at least be honest about it.

        • Brandon says

          “But at least be honest about it.”

          Well it would certainly be nice if breeders were honest about the reason they do what they do.
          May even turn out to be the same motivation – self!

          • WildCard says

            Brandon: do you sincerely believe caring for a child is on the same level of selfishness as hoping for human extinction to fullfill your hate-fueled misanthropic fantasy?

            As Kelli said, if you truly believed life isn’t worth living you wouldn’t be breathing right now. Anti-natalists are either cowards or hypocrites.

        • Michelle says

          You’re a fool. You can’t grasp a simple, honest question about why we decide to drag people into this world, knowing what we know about war, death, disease, old age, unfulfilling work as a way to survive, loss, misery, poverty, cruelty….you think it’s so strange that some people may wonder why anyone bothers with this life nonsense?

          • WildCard says

            Michelle: explain to me why you haven’t killed yourself if you really think life is such a drag, and maybe I’ll bother answering your question.

    • The fact that suicide is rare doesn’t mean anything for the argument. People might be willing to stick around for the rest of the show, but that doesn’t mean they would have come to the show to begin with if they had a choice.

      • Adam, thank you for making that distinction. I’ve often heard people respond to someone saying that their birth was a mistake – either for the individual or his parent(s) – by saying “so why not kill yourself” as if the two were equivalent. Not at all the case.

    • Michelle says

      How about we’re wired to survive at all costs, even if we are in complete misery. You think life is worth living for people in prison, or that suffered the Holocaust?? The body fights against suicide. We are slaves to our bodies. Doesn’t mean life is good or that we’re all so happy to be here.

  7. Solomon Stavrov says

    Who can prove that the ethical obligation to “do no harm” is the major one? Who can prove that in general there is one and only one ethical obligation? Who can prove , that existence of humanity is less important ethical obligation, than “do no harm”?
    Is not it obvious, that if one postulates the only one obligation “do no harm” for any living being, he unequivocally would arrive at conclusion, that life of this being (human’s, or animal’s, or plant’s) have to be stopped immediately?
    It is amazing how miserable is nowadays philosophic mind.

    • Farris says

      Agree. This alleged philosopher, fails to consider that harm is often required for fulfillment. “A” attempts something and fails. “B” constructively criticizes “A’s” attempt. “A” feels chastised and as though he is suffering. Then “A” takes “B’s” criticism to heart, adjusts his efforts and becomes successful. The harm “A” experienced ultimately inured to his benefit. People do not desire to live a life without harm but rather desire to live a life fulfilled. Suffering is part of life. Hoping for a life without suffering is like to trying to swim without getting wet. Life is not merely created, it is bestowed and bequeathed. Life is an opportunity for fulfillment. Debating the end of procreation is a pointless mind numbing exercise. This so called debate is the adult version of Dungeons and Dragons.

      • Michael says

        “Life is not merely created, it is bestowed and bequeathed. Life is an opportunity for fulfillment.”

        If you weren’t brought into existence, would you be being deprived of the opportunity for fulfillment? I don’t think so. What about all those people who could have existed but don’t? What about the Martians that don’t exist? If you’re consistent in your worldview, you must be very concerned about all the missed “opportunities for fulfillment” going on in the universe and all of the counterfactual beings who are right now being deprived of these opportunities. Literally an infinite number of souls floating around feeling terrible deprivations. It’s a wonder how you can sleep at night whilst imagining all that deprivation going on.

      • Michelle says

        “suffering is a part of life”

        Will you be so nonchalant if it’s YOUR child with a deadly disease? If yours is the one that dies in a car crash? Or is assaulted, or bullied to the point of suicide? Do you think these types of suffering only happen to other people? Not all suffering is the redemptive type that causes growth. Some of it is needless and leads to death, to suicide, addiction, depression….and that’s the risk you’re taking. And if it happens to your child, well, that’s entirely your fault, and a result of your selfishness.

    • Michael says

      It’s a matter of values, so it’s not something that is amenable to ‘proof’. There’s no way of verifying it by looking through a microscope or up into the skies using a powerful telescope, because the universe ultimately doesn’t care about our moral systems.

      However ‘first do no harm’ tends to be the ethical code that most of us use on a day to day basis. So you’d expect others to do nothing to endanger you, even if they were doing so with the intention that their actions might make you happy. Unless you’d given explicit consent beforehand to be subject to that risk, of course. So it wouldn’t be OK for me to access your bank account and steal all your savings to go gambling at Las Vegas, even if I were intending to pay you back more than what I’d stolen in the event that I had a profitable session.

      Whence derives the “importance” of human existence that you are thinking of? If all humans are gone, who is going to miss us? What constructive purpose are we serving in the universe that would go uncompleted were we not here to complete it? Is the universe missing out on something “important” due to the non-existence of Martians, magical unicorns on Venus, or the kids that you could have had, but didn’t?

      There’s no need for a child to be born other than to serve a notion that exists in your head, or needs that already exist for society. If all life on Earth died overnight, there would be nothing missing us and nobody to be deprived of anything that we provide to the bigger picture.

      • WildCard says

        Michael: that sounds like the kind of logic a clueless robot would use. Are you a human, or a drone? Is there no value to human life to you? And if so, why are you still breathing?

      • augustine says

        “If all life on Earth died overnight, there would be nothing missing us…”

        Just as “nothing” would care if we continued on for millions of years…

        What does a nihilist care about, and why?

  8. Joe Halstead says

    I look at anti-natalism as simply a justification for abortion at any stage of pregnancy, dressed up as compassion for the unborn and un-conceived.

    Better to subject a fully-developed unborn baby to a moment’s suffering during an abortion than a lifetime of suffering, right?

    The world we live in is undeniably bad, but in such a broad, ubiquitous sense that I don’t have the brain power to either know where to begin or otherwise describe it.

    • Evander says

      I share your suspicion, Joe.

      Finding a moral ground for killing unborn humanity is extremely difficult. I’ll give Benatar the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the licensing of abortion is a by-product and not the aim of his anti-natalist position. But it’s very convenient.

      And the West calls ISIS a death cult.

  9. ga gamba says

    Let’s see. People who live well beyond the urban centres are too stupid to vote correctly and these outcomes threaten the planet. It’s now acceptable to violently assault those whose wrong opinions offend you because their words are violence and they’re fascists anyway. A large group of people have been declared guilty of crimes simply by the accident of their immutable characteristics and cultural elites have voiced their advocacy of genocide be perpetrated against these people. And now anti-natalism is becoming mainstream.

    A cynic might see all these related and deduce grooming is being done to normalise the idea some lives, namely those of the virtuous woke, deserve preservation at the cost of those bumbling oafs who are too stupid or too wrong thinking to deserve consideration.

    • Martin28 says

      “A large group of people have been declared guilty of crimes simply by the accident of their immutable characteristics and cultural elites have voiced their advocacy of genocide be perpetrated against these people.”

      Which cultural elites have voiced their advocacy of genocide? Are you exaggerating? (I hope so.)

      • ga gamba says

        “All I want for Christmas is white genocide.” Professor George Ciccariello-Maher, formerly at Drexel University and then hired by NYU after this and similar tweets became public. When asked by a journalist whether he stood by his tweets he replied “Absolutely”.

        Trinity College’s Professor Johnny Eric Williams shared an article from Medium called “Let Them Fucking Die.” It called for non-whites including first responders, such as paramedics, and nurses to cease giving emergency aid to whites. In sharing the article Williams used the “Let them fucking die” comment as a hashtag, and wrote that it is “past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be ‘white’ will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system.”

        The university left and left-leaning journalists adhere to the idea racism is the exclusive property of white, mostly ethnically European people. This is a mandated racial blindspot, allowing them carte blanche to write and say things that would never be acceptable when targeting non-whites.

        James Livingston, a professor of history at Rutgers University, wrote on Facebook: “OK, officially, I now hate white people…I just went to Harlem Shake on 124 and Lenox for a Classic burger to go…and the place is overrun with little Caucasian assholes who know their parents will approve of anything they do. I hereby resign from my race. Fuck these people.”

        When Facebook sanctioned his comment for hate speech he responded: ““I just don’t want little Caucasians overrunning my life, as they did last night. Please God remand them to the suburbs where they and their parents can colonise every restaurant, all the while pretending that the idiotic indulgence of their privilege signifies cosmopolitan—you know, as in sophisticated ‘European’—commitments.”

        Then there is Sarah Jeong of the NY Times. Her years of racist tweets whilst employed by the Verge were revealed upon her hiring by the newspaper and it stood by its decision. These included “#cancelwhitepeople,” “Oh man. It’s sick how much joy I get from being cruel to old white men,” “are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins,” and “White people have stopped breeding. You’ll all go extinct soon. This was my plan all along.”

        In reporting Jeong’s controvery, the Economist wrote: “Start with this truth of American society: disparaging remarks about white people as a whole that would be simply impermissible for other sets of people are largely permissible and carry few repercussions. . . . She [Jeong] would surely have never been offered the job if the target had been a minority.”

        Under the pretext of fighting ‘white supremacy” Professor Albert Ponce of Diablo Valley College urged his students to break the law. Not unjust laws, or discriminatory laws, such as those that existed during Jim Crow and may no longer exist. Just break the law. Diablo Valley is the same school that employs Professor Eric Clinton, the convicted bike-lock basher.

        • Martin28 says

          The most disturbing example from your list is Johnny Eric Williams, who really does seem to be advocating a passive form of white genocide. Ciccariello-Maher, as I recall, said that he was mocking “white nationalists,” so while his comment is ugly and not funny, I accept he was not calling for actual genocide. Nevertheless, the cavalier hatred and advocacy of the break down of civility is shocking from these professionals in supposedly respectable institutions.

          There is some very ugly thinking that is fashionable these days in our intellectual class. Anti-natalism devalues human life itself. Another cynical thought would be that it supports a feminist aversion to having babies and all of the personal responsibility that requires. While I don’t think we have gotten to the point you mention, we have been to such dark places before and could get there again.

          Cheers for the holiday season. I plan to enjoy it. It is a celebration of birth and re-birth.

        • I’m glad you posted this. A number of colleges are now offering courses in “The Problem of Whiteness.” We’ve seen this before. This is the sort of thing one does to prepare people to find Dachau acceptable.

          • Kelli R. says

            Yes. Some of the same people who rightfully decry the anti-Semitic propagandizing of generations of Germans do not notice that it is now happening here. The recent Quillette article on the Red Guard in China didn’t apply that history to current political movements, but it was chillingly relevant.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @ga gamba

          But none of that matters because only The Oppressor can be racist since racism is the combination of dislike of another race and Privilege. In the same way, only whitey can Hate or be Xenophobic. Whatever the merits of ending humanity in total, surely whitey must go extinct since he is the source of almost all of the world’s misery. When he is gone, then everyone will be happy.

  10. Surge says

    Sick stuff. This philosophy also justifies murder. First, according to one of the basic assumptions, non-existence prevents harm. Another assumption sais there is no loss of happiness, because that lack of happiness only counts if the person is alive. Therefore any murder that won’t make others unhappy is a net improvement. One can justify killing the homeless, the instant annihilation of the world, etc. Sick stuff.

    • Martin28 says

      Exactly. If I kill someone efficiently, with no pain, then I am doing nothing but good, according to this philosophy.

    • Pirus says

      Yes it is totally sick and frightening. It goes to show where hard logic can take you if you stick to it as a new type of religion.

      Mind you this is exactly the type of conclusion artificial intelligence may arrive at in the future.

    • Brandon says

      Gtfo. Pro-natalism justifies literally every f…king thing because when backed into a corner they ultimately concede that there is no absolute morality, that is until they arbitrarily inject some fake a$$ deity.

      • Evander says

        How does being pro-birth justify cannibalism, ethnic cleansing, or governmental corruption?

        So, you must be a theist if you don’t support anti-natalism?

        If you stop strawmanning, we can have a proper dialogue.

        • Brandon says

          When you stop using a clever euphemism, we can have a debate. “Pro-birth”, my ass. More like pro-dominion over another beings’ physical self. When you have justified that original slavery, anything goes. All are property, tools to be used to an end See, you breeders (mostly being theists) really hate the fact that ultimately Antinatalism ruins your romantic notions of the “family unit” being some kind of fortress because in reality sex (particularly unprotected heterosexual sex) is far from a right or a gift to be bestowed. It is a compulsive intrusion, a primitive addiction, the proverbial pandora’s box that ought to be shutdown. But just as with drugs, just because a dependency has been created, that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

          • WildCard says

            Sounds like someone is having a very hard time getting laid.
            Why make any effort to get out of inceldom when you can just blame the “breeders” (99% of people) for everything wrong in the world?

          • Michelle says

            @gothcontrol on Twitter. There are quite a few antinatalists there and Reddit is growing. Nice to see some like-minded people on here.

    • tarstarkas says

      The thuggee cult justified! Also the practice of suttee! Kali would be so proud!

  11. Fluffy Buffalo says

    This article completely missed the point. When dealing with a profoundly nihilist philosophy that aims to end all that humans have created, invented and toiled for, surely the uneven distribution of suffering of the last generation is just a drop in the ocean of evil we’re looking at.
    Seriously, if you can’t see life as worth living, I pity you. If you absolutely can’t have children because you think you inflict too much suffering on them, by all means abstain from having children… but please don’t write books to spread your insanity, and refrain from imposing it on others by force.

    • augustine says

      Your comment points to the narcissism of Benatar’s claim of concern for the suffering of future humans. He is not bearing any burden of the unborn. The burden he writes about is really *his own suffering* over the current and imagined future condition of our species. His philosophy is his personal remedy, but the premise is dubious at best.

      This mindset reminds me of people who claim that their top priority is the happiness of others. No. Their priority is their own happiness in trying to achieve this goal, however much dysfunction and suffering are caused in this misguided process.

  12. It really is incredible how badly Benatar is misunderstood even by really intelligent people. “Why don’t people just kill themselves?” Seriously.

  13. Bah! “The only solution to unhappiness is the extinction of the human race” sums up anti-natalism. It isn’t “exquisite logic” nor undeniable; it’s ridiculous pop-philosophy for wealthy first worlders who suffer from Weltschmerz because they’ve never learned how to live. It’s disturbing that a fledgling bioethicist finds anti-natalism a powerful argument.

    Many of us find existence and life thrilling, not just the high points but also the low points. Both Alexander Solzhenitsyn and James Stockdale write that some of the most profoundly meaningful and satisfying moments came from their darkest experiences. Ayn Rand argued that modern “anti-life” irrationalists don’t worship death, they worship non-existence. I finally begin to understand her point. If non-existence strikes one as the ideal state, one ought to consider counseling.

  14. Anti-natalism is, of course, one of the most concentrated forms of left-wing nihilism around. The author, however – being a proto-academic and therefore beholden to all the academic (left-wing) norms of respectability – fails to address this aspect of it (the aspect that actually defines it) at all. Instead he calls anti-natalism ‘vapid’ on account of its lack of sociological sophistication; and his entire criticism of it amounts to pointing out its seeming indifference to the social inequalities that would be worsened in the so-called last days, and how such indifference to all the additional ‘harm’ that will probably be inflicted on the underprivileged in those final hours (before humanity ceases to exist altogether) vitiates its otherwise ‘exquisite’ logic.

    Oh, author! Oh, God!

    No doubt this ‘criticism’ will pass muster with the anti-natalists, their sympathizers, and fellow life-hating left-wing nihilists, and perhaps it may even, in the end, result in a new anti-natalist book (how wonderful!) which addresses these ethical-logistical shortcomings pertaining to its apocalyptic vision of the ‘last generation’. Perhaps the person to do it is this author himself!

    Meanwhile, of course, the blight of left-wing nihilism spreads, concentrates, decimates culture, infects everyone. Who’s talking about that? Who’s talking about how anti-natalism connects with the celebration of abortion in our culture, or the mass abnegation of responsibility in the growing refusal to have children? Who’s got the intellectual balls to stop trying to convince the unconvinceable, and simply speak the truth (intelligently)? The anti-natalists are not anti-natalists because they have been seduced by the ‘exquisite’, undeniable logic of anti-natalism, they are anti-natalists because they are nihilists. They are tired of life, tired of the struggle and the suffering (etymologically, ‘harm’ means ‘pain’) and wish for the painless peace of death. But it is worse than that, of course, because they want to take us all with them. In fact, they are a very power-hungry lot indeed. And that, no doubt, is why Benatar lavishes so much thought on imagining the end days, when HE, or one of his proteges, is in charge, and can force everyone to deny the life-instinct in themselves as he and his followers have done.

    • Kenton Engel says

      Let’s put aside the purple prose and bloviating, for a moment.
      Perhaps also the unfounded assumptions about my political associations. (Nowhere stated nor implied in the article.) Let’s zero in on the logic.

      Anti-natalists’ fundamental assumption is that, on balance, human life consists in more suffering/harms than pleasure/goods. A phased extinction is a philanthropic effort, then: as Benatar notes, the transient suffering of the final generations is justified in light of all the absent harms that non-existent future generations would have possessed.

      But – and here’s where your condescension jumped the shark, in the first paragraph no less – if the suffering of the final generations is so horrific, so abject, it might, in its concentration, be worse than the potential suffering of non-existent generations. The supposed moral obligation on which anti-natalism rests is therefore in conflict with its execution.

      The uneven distributions of healthcare, access, etc., are not intrinsically relevant on this account – notice the distance between my descriptions of these phenomenon and what you read into them – but are relevant insofar as they would magnify suffering.

      • Kenton, this kind of moral calculus is hogwash. There is no total utility/disutility, not of us, nor of Benatar’s imagined last generation, nor of the hypothetical nonexistent generations. These aren’t real things.

        I can tell you for a fact that for me, the utility of life outweighs the disutility, I know this firsthand. It’s irrelevant that perhaps for another person life is not worth living (sad but irrelevant), Benatar is still wrong to conclude life isn’t worth it. My life is, and many other people find theirs worthwhile. You can’t add our positive lives to some negative ones (largely imaginary) and conclude life is a moral evil. Your calculus is nonsense.

        You and Benatar speak of whether the suffering of the final generation is justified. Justified to whom? Do you realize that’s insane talk? You consider exterminating human life and wonder how you’d justify it? Justification is how you get reasonable people to agree with you. Why would someone who believes humans should be extinct care whether humans agree?

        You should study carefully the many comments on your article. They are some of the best I’ve seen. You’ve gone awry here and there are good insights from which you can learn.

      • Kelli R. says

        Thank you for staying in the conversation you started. That’s really great.

        I see the point of your piece, but as you just stated, the book speaks of a phased extinction. Might not the author be imagining a slow, planned extinction that would seem to minimize the suffering?

        Please don’t read this question as agreement with the anti-natalist view.

      • Dear Kenton, I doubt you’ll wish to continue this exchange, but I must say a thing or two in my defense. I promise not to use any exclamation points; I know how those annoy academics.

        Thank you for the summation of your argument. It is, as most every intelligent comment on this page attests, a trivial one. All you have shown is that any execution of anti-natalism will probably have to “coincide with a wholesale shift in the social, legal, and political systems of production, distribution, and exchange under which the human currently lives” – or it will defeat its own purpose. In other words, all you have done here is to suggest that anti-natalists, if they wish to remain true to their moral principles, must become socialists (or some such). Or, more likely, they must become sociologists. (Which is where you come in – this little essay being your calling card, as it were.)

        Do I have that right, Kenton?

        • A few final words here, Kenton. When we look at the pessimistic utilitarianism underlying Benatar’s plan to end humanity, we are quite naturally repulsed. It hardly seems an indication of the spiritual health of our society and our age that such a doctrine, with all its despairing assumptions, is taken seriously by anyone. (At least Schopenhauer, for example, had an entire metaphysics.) So we are quite understandably baffled by your ‘criticism’. For one, it seems better suited to an academic paper or blog than a popular polemical outlet such as Quillette. Secondly, although you seem to pretend at times that your criticism compromises the entire anti-natalist position, upon examination it is actually more constructive than destructive. You are essentially calling for an elaboration and clarification of the anti-natalist program in view of current sociological realities – nothing more. The predictable effect of such a criticism is only to make the anti-natalist position more sophisticated and realistic sociologically. Forgive us, then, for our lack of enthusiasm.

          There is no doubt the age-old pleasure in ‘shocking the bourgeoisie’ that drives some people to advocate anti-natalism. And I suppose there is always the possibility that Benatar is actually satirizing the degenerate spirit of his time. But the reaction you have gotten here is hardly to be wondered at, given that you yourself seem to have been seduced by Benatar’s premises (“on the local and individual level” AN’s “ethical premises…are undeniable”).

  15. Sad to see contemporary intellectuals stumbling drunkly about in the dark, squandering a rich (and sacred) tradition of meaning. Gandalf had words for times like these:

    “The old wisdom born out of the West was forsaken. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living, and counted the names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls, musing on heraldry, or in high cold towers asking questions of the stars. And so, the people of Gondor fell into ruin. The line of Kings failed. The White Tree withered. The rule of Gondor was given over to lesser men.”

    Gandalf, The Return of the King

  16. Dan Vesty says

    Doesn’t the whole anti-natalist argument fail on an evolutionary basis ? Ethics evolved amongst humans as a system of social coordination aimed at survival. So by definition, any ‘ethic’ aimed at extinction cannot be ethical in any meaningful sense, and should simply be viewed sympathetically as an impassioned howl of pain and anguish, dressed up in philosophical clothes.

    • It’s an a absolute fail, considering infant and child mortality throughout our existence. Despite such great suffering, women kept getting pregnant.

    • Freidrich Goatse says

      Yes but the entire set of ideas is being packaged and sold to a specific ancestry of people that cultural elites have targeted for extermination. You can see it in the stock photos they use in every mass media article on the subject telling these people who are already reproducing far below the maintenance rate that they should “have 1 fewer children” (or none at all)

      • Abirdinthehand says

        “Yes but the entire set of ideas is being packaged and sold to a specific ancestry of people that cultural elites have targeted for extermination”

        The only whites who buy into this dreck are the same sort of people who write these books – white, secular, upper-middle class people who might be impressively credentialed but are not terribly well educated or wise. They are the greatest beneficiaries of Western civilization and enjoy creature comforts Louis the Sun King would have envied – and yet, oh woe, life is so shitty it would be better if we weren’t alive.

        There are other whites who have fewer material possessions and harder lives than the angst-filled sophisticates and they haven’t gotten the message. The plumber who fixed my toilet last month proudly showed me a picture of his newborn son – his third child. He’s a fine, honest plumber too, and I posit he does more good for more people in a week than Benatar will do in a lifetime. He’s what the sort of people who take Benatar seriously would call “deplorable.”

  17. Grant says

    Yes there’s a lot of suffering, but there’s a great deal of joy, contentment and fulfillment too. Sometimes there’s a lot of pain, sometimes not. What the hell, I know life is rigged, but it’s the only game in town.

    • WildCard says

      “I know life is rigged, but it’s the only game in town.”

      Very well said, and end of the discussion as far as I’m aware.

    • Brandon says

      “Yes there’s a lot of suffering, but there’s a great deal of joy, contentment and fulfillment too”.

      Said the addict after a big hit!

  18. TheSnark says

    Anyone who espouses anti-natalism has been educated beyond his/her common sense. On the plus side, anti-natalism in practice is not hereditary, so at least that combination of high intellect and lack of common sense won’t be passed on to the next generation.

  19. By the way, pain seems to me to be mostly an indispensable function of survival, just as pleasure is an indispensable function of survival. I see no logic in separating the two. Humans flourish precisely because we are so aware of our pain and our pleasure. As evolved intelligence we naturally desire to attach some meaning to our experiences because pain and pleasure are so overwhelming at times.
    The tug of war is always on and can change rapidly. Witness combat soldiers in WWII who thought of themselves nearly immortal but after a very short time of intense suffering considered themselves walking dead, with no concept of a future.
    Most of them, however, when the suffering abruptly ended, and they slept and ate warm food again, and they were certain the guy next to him wasn’t going to evaporate unexpectedly, began to cherish their existence and that of others.
    And they, naturally became mostly pacifists, having learned from their pain.

    • augustine says

      How can we know pleasure without knowing suffering? Or hot without cold, good without evil, etc.? The polarities are interdependent rather than contradictory or paradoxical. We grapple with our movement between these states or else retreat into nihilism (as others have commented here) or escapism.

      • Indeed, augustine! Even an episode of Worzel Gummidge has more wisdom in one sentence – “If it wasn’t for sadness, Worzel, how could we know what happiness is?” – than a whole book that reduces evil down to suffering and concludes that mass extinction is therefore not only good, but the only good.

  20. David Turnbull says

    … human lives are, on balance, so awful that such lives are not worth starting.
    … Avoiding pain is always good but being denied pleasure is never bad.

    If these are an accurate accounting of Benetar’s premises, why bother reading his work?

  21. Defenstrator says

    I find it interesting that you feel a need to even bother addressing the anti-Natalists. I suspect it is because you have made the error that their logic is exquisite. Their logic is that of many ivory tower types, clever but not smart. In fact it is a perfect example of how only intelligent people have truly stupid ideas, with this being a completely moronic one that no actual moron could conceive.

    The fact that there is more suffering than pleasure in life is not new observation. The difference is that nobody thought that life was supposed to make you happy. In fact, it was the battle against suffering, the struggle to overcome it and improve the world for yourself, your family, your community, that defined you as a person.

    Theis the initial flawed assumption of Benatar, from which he weaves his whole idiotic thesis, is that since you get more suffering than pleasure in life then the obvious solution is negate life. But a life of pleasure is completely empty. With no struggle, where is the challenge, the purpose? If we had lives of pure pleasure you can be sure others of Benetars ilk would be saying that such a life is empty and meaningless, and we should kill ourselves because if the pointless of existing.

    Benatar makes no argument, simply an excuse to justify the nihilism he feels. His entire thesis is that of the pathetic, and the cowardly, who wish an excuse to not deal with struggle that is life. His is the opposite of the heroic existence that struggles mightily against the vagaries of life. Instead, he has put his intelligence into rationalizing giving up in such a way that he can pretend is not a weakling. My suggestion is that he and the rest of his disciples who are too gutless to face life have no heirs and jump into the sea. The rest of us will not miss them as we carry on our journey.

    • Michael says

      “In fact, it was the battle against suffering, the struggle to overcome it and improve the world for yourself, your family, your community, that defined you as a person.”

      For what purpose, exactly? If you admit that the negative outweighs the positive, then that doesn’t sound like a very good game to play, does it?

      “With no struggle, where is the challenge, the purpose? If we had lives of pure pleasure you can be sure others of Benetars ilk would be saying that such a life is empty and meaningless, and we should kill ourselves because if the pointless of existing.”

      That would, in fact, be true. Suffering is what gives definition to pleasure, so even if heaven actually exists, it would be pointless, because it wouldn’t be solving any problem. Life/consciousness cannot solve any problems other than the ones it creates by fact of its own existence. To continue this madness is akin to being a firefighter who starts the fires in order to justify his own existence when he puts them out.

      “Benatar makes no argument, simply an excuse to justify the nihilism he feels.”

      Benatar is not a nihilist. Antinatalism is not a nihilistic philosopher. It posits that the suffering experienced by sentient organisms is important and does matter (albeit not at a mind-independent level).

      “His is the opposite of the heroic existence that struggles mightily against the vagaries of life. ”

      Heroic struggle to what end, though? What’s it supposed to be accomplishing? It’s not heroic to struggle against the vagaries of this dangerous world. It’s just futile and ridiculous.

      Are you a Jordan Peterson fan, by any chance? Or even Peterson himself? Your entire thesis here seems to echo Jordan Peterson’s debate against Benatar.

      • Martin28 says

        “For what purpose, exactly? If you admit that the negative outweighs the positive, then that doesn’t sound like a very good game to play, does it?”

        More suffering than pleasure does not mean that the negative outweighs the positive. Suffering has meaning. People climb Mount Everest, and endure far far more pain than pleasure, yet if they survive and make it to the top they invariable count it as one of the greatest experiences of your life.

        “Life/consciousness cannot solve any problems other than the ones it creates by fact of its own existence. To continue this madness is akin to being a firefighter who starts the fires in order to justify his own existence when he puts them out.”

        Life does not exist to solve its own problem. You are an overeducated twit. Get away from the academy, and experience life directly. You will find it is not meaningless.

        “Benatar is not a nihilist. Antinatalism is not a nihilistic philosopher. It posits that the suffering experienced by sentient organisms is important and does matter (albeit not at a mind-independent level).”

        The conclusion is nihilistic. That we would better never to have been born is a nihilistic conclusion, because it denies meaning to life. He thinks suffering matters only to the extent that it should be eliminated. He does not understanding suffering. This is the most useless philosophy I have ever heard of.

        “Are you a Jordan Peterson fan, by any chance? Or even Peterson himself?”

        That’s a high compliment to defenstrator.

      • augustine says

        What problem does human existence solve? It solves the problem of humans not existing and everything pursuant to that existence. As Michael himself notes, there is no burden of proof, because the problem is not amenable to an empirical solution.

        • Michael says

          augustine – are you suggesting that the universe had a problem with humans not existing before they evolved?

        • What’s the point for these “intellectuals” creating and discussing these silly theories anymore. I thought the only purpose was to get high and bang 22 year old TAs. Can’t do that anymore. Guess now it is just mental masturbation.

      • Michael, you write: “Life/consciousness cannot solve any problems other than the ones it creates by fact of its own existence. To continue this madness is akin to being a firefighter who starts the fires in order to justify his own existence when he puts them out.”

        Don’t you get it? Life is fun. It is a struggle, but it’s worthwhile. It necessarily includes suffering. Benatar, and Engel too I gather, think that if we could completely eliminate another’s suffering, we should. Hence they want to eliminate life.

        No. Why would we want to do that? Life is good. So is suffering. I teach university level economics, and also coach people in running ultramarathons. In both cases I put people though painful experiences that will make them suffer. If they are willing to endure the suffering, they’ll possibly achieve something that will make the suffering feel worth it. But even more, they’ll likely come to understand the struggle and suffering as something they value.

        To what end? Life IS its own purpose. Did you ever see anyone on their death bed saying “that was great, I’d do it again!” vs. someone bitter that they’d wasted the gift of life they’d been given? I’ve seen both; it’s instructive. Life is good, and it should be lived to the fullest, the good cards and the bad, whatever the draw.

        • Corsair says

          “that was great, I’d do it again!” I want that on my gravestone 🙂

        • Michael says

          “Don’t you get it? Life is fun. It is a struggle, but it’s worthwhile. It necessarily includes suffering.”

          It seems “fun” and worthwhile for you because you were born into a relatively comfortable position where you are relatively well insulated from the harms. So the cost that you pay (in terms of suffering) for your fun is not representative of the cost that everyone pays. Especially as you are likely living a comfortable middle class lifestyle in a developed country, rather than a hardscrabble existence where you don’t have clean water to drink, are constantly sick and can barely eat, or were born with a severe disability.

          “No. Why would we want to do that? Life is good. So is suffering. I teach university level economics, and also coach people in running ultramarathons. In both cases I put people though painful experiences that will make them suffer. If they are willing to endure the suffering, they’ll possibly achieve something that will make the suffering feel worth it. But even more, they’ll likely come to understand the struggle and suffering as something they value.”

          It’s fine to put yourself through suffering in order to achieve some illusion of having achieved someone. Not fine for you to decide for someone else that life is worth the risks and hazards when you a)don’t know what lies in front of that person; b) have very limited ability to protect them from the dangers out there; and c) don’t know what that person’s disposition will be towards how much suffering is worth enduring for the sake of a life that they didn’t need before you forced it on them.

          “To what end? Life IS its own purpose. Did you ever see anyone on their death bed saying “that was great, I’d do it again!” vs. someone bitter that they’d wasted the gift of life they’d been given? I’ve seen both; it’s instructive. Life is good, and it should be lived to the fullest, the good cards and the bad, whatever the draw.”

          I don’t have any problem with that for those currently living. Nobody who doesn’t currently possess sentience has any need of it and we shouldn’t bring into existence anyone who will have to bear the burdens of maintaining the needs imposed upon them by their unasked for existence, and who is vulnerable to severe harm.

          • Michael, thank you for your reply. Note you’ve conceded Benatar’s argument is wrong: 1st, you agree some suffering could be purposeful and even good, so the original statement about the desirability of eliminating all suffering is wrong, and 2nd, you concede some lives might well be positive and worth living on net. Thus Benatar’s argument is wrong.

            Your defense of his conclusion, a universal Final Solution, apparently depends on two assertions that I find astonishing. The first is that the only thing that counts is the pain felt by those who decide their lives aren’t worth living – those of us with positive lives don’t count, including positive lives of future yet unborn generations. Second is that human procreation could only be justified if, in advance, the person to be procreated were fully informed of the risks of life, and then gave consent to be brought into the world. These are indefensible assertions.

            I lived for a time in a country in what World Bank listed as the poorest country in the world, in a small village with no electricity, no safe water, widespread malaria and other diseases. The locals would have been surprised to hear that wealthy people in the developed world had decided that their lives weren’t worth living and they should not reproduce but simply die off. And they would not agree.

      • Defenstrator says

        “For what purpose, exactly? If you admit that the negative outweighs the positive, then that doesn’t sound like a very good game to play, does it?”

        You don’t seem like a very practical person. You complain about the rules while failing to acknowledge that the fact the deck is stacked against you is immaterial. Life is the only game in town. If you don’t want to play, that’s fine, take a long walk off a short pier. But whining that the rest of the people are staying to play is just annoying. Apparently the rest of us can deal with the suffering sufficiently that it isn’t enough to disused is from playing.

        “That would, in fact, be true. Suffering is what gives definition to pleasure, so even if heaven actually exists, it would be pointless, because it wouldn’t be solving any problem. Life/consciousness cannot solve any problems other than the ones it creates by fact of its own existence. To continue this madness is akin to being a firefighter who starts the fires in order to justify his own existence when he puts them out.”

        So what? And I mean that quite seriously. Your obvious point is only impressive in it’s irrelevance. Life creates it’s own problems? Well no shit Sherlock. The question is, why do you care? I am happy dealing with the problems. They are the challenge that is my life. What ever suffering there is certainly isn’t stopping me from living it. This is why you come across as rather impractical. You’re busy being existential and angsty while I’m actually doing things.

        “Benatar is not a nihilist. Antinatalism is not a nihilistic philosopher. It posits that the suffering experienced by sentient organisms is important and does matter (albeit not at a mind-independent level).”

        ni·hil·ist
        /ˈnīələst,ˈnēəlist,ˈnihilist/
        noun
        a person who believes that life is meaningless and rejects all religious and moral principles.

        Not a nihilist, huh. He’s saying that life should extinguish itself rather than suffer. That non being is preferable to being. And then rationalizing it as a moral act. Except such an attitude is not moral, it’s the attitude of the mass murderer. You’re life is suffering, so you’d be better off dead. So I can kill all I want because it makes their pain go away.

        “Heroic struggle to what end, though? What’s it supposed to be accomplishing? It’s not heroic to struggle against the vagaries of this dangerous world. It’s just futile and ridiculous.
        Are you a Jordan Peterson fan, by any chance? Or even Peterson himself? Your entire thesis here seems to echo Jordan Peterson’s debate against Benatar.”

        I certainly agree with much of what he says, although certainly not everything. Finding him was nice though. At last someone who talked about what I was already thinking.

        To be honest I have been less stuck by how correct he is than by how weak the arguments of his opponents are. In his initial debate at the University of Toronto my main impression coming out was that he had done ok, and that his opponent had shown you could be functionally retarded and teach law at the University of British Columbia. Then watching the bald imbecile on the Ontario public access show try to lecture him on biology when any one who passed it in grade 11 would know he didn’t have the slightest clue what he was talking about. And then of course the infamous Kathy Newman, which really catapulted him to fame, as a person who clearly was letting her ideology think for her tried to pass for an interviewer.

        To be blunt, this argument put forth by Benatar is more of the same tripe that does nothing but convince people that academics are divorced from reality, and not actually serious thinkers. Serious thinkers work out how to solve problems, not complain that they exist and that they wouldn’t if nothing did. That’s the logic of a sulky teenager.

        • Brandon says

          Which screw are you missing that you overlooked the glaring fact that a solution is posited. You just dislike it because it’s an actual solution..meaning your childish VR game of “I can do it”, has to come to an end?

        • Michael says

          “You don’t seem like a very practical person. You complain about the rules while failing to acknowledge that the fact the deck is stacked against you is immaterial. Life is the only game in town. If you don’t want to play, that’s fine, take a long walk off a short pier. But whining that the rest of the people are staying to play is just annoying. Apparently the rest of us can deal with the suffering sufficiently that it isn’t enough to disused is from playing.”

          I don’t have a problem with you staying to play, I have a problem with you forcing other people into the game. And I’m really not very convinced that most people are good at dealing with the suffering, considering that mental illness diagnoses are at epidemic proportions, along with alcohol and drug dependencies, many of whom are amongst the most privileged people who have ever existed and have pampered lives which are well insulated from the harsh realities of trying to eke out a survival that most humans face. So usually the “life is a wonderful gift” testaments can be taken about as seriously as a heroin addict speaking in praise of his drug of choice.

          “So what? And I mean that quite seriously. Your obvious point is only impressive in it’s irrelevance. Life creates it’s own problems? Well no shit Sherlock. The question is, why do you care? I am happy dealing with the problems. They are the challenge that is my life. What ever suffering there is certainly isn’t stopping me from living it. This is why you come across as rather impractical. You’re busy being existential and angsty while I’m actually doing things.”

          So I’m saying let’s not create unnecessary problems for other people, then pretending that imperfectly solving a portion of those problems is a heroic accomplishment. You may be happy dealing with your problems, but you don’t know what problems your offspring will deal with, nor can you guarantee that they will have the same mindset towards having to deal with these problems that you do. Your problems already exist, so you should be able to do what you wish with them, but only up until the point where you start to endanger and create burdens for others.

          “Not a nihilist, huh. He’s saying that life should extinguish itself rather than suffer. That non being is preferable to being. And then rationalizing it as a moral act. Except such an attitude is not moral, it’s the attitude of the mass murderer. You’re life is suffering, so you’d be better off dead. So I can kill all I want because it makes their pain go away.”

          He’s an existential nihilist, but not a moral nihilst. He doesn’t have the attitude of a mass-murderer, he merely lacks the attitude of a rapist. He didn’t sanction killing people in his book. I would sanction killing off all life, but only for the purpose of preventing future life; not for the sake of the people already living.

          “To be blunt, this argument put forth by Benatar is more of the same tripe that does nothing but convince people that academics are divorced from reality, and not actually serious thinkers. Serious thinkers work out how to solve problems, not complain that they exist and that they wouldn’t if nothing did. That’s the logic of a sulky teenager.”

          Well people tend to reject findings that don’t correspond with what they want to believe. I used to be that way myself, when I wanted to believe in spooky supernatural events. Preventing life from perpetuating itself is the only solution to the predicament that we find ourselves in. The fact that even many of the most privileged people on Earth are obviously unhappy and insatiably greedy proves that fact. Every other attempt to solve the problem barely even qualifies as a sticking plaster solution.

    • Martin28 says

      “Their logic is that of many ivory tower types, clever but not smart. In fact it is a perfect example of how only intelligent people have truly stupid ideas, with this being a completely moronic one that no actual moron could conceive.”

      Great post and excellent comment, defenstrator.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Defenstrator

      “With no struggle, where is the challenge, the purpose?”

      Thanks. The upvoting of pleasure here is very poorly thought through. Suffering with purpose is better than pleasure any day.

    • Brandon says

      “The difference is that nobody thought that life was supposed to make you happy.”

      You need an enema

  22. markbul says

    If you believe that all life is inevitable suffereing, then please kill yourself. No, that was not a rhetorical device – I mean it. Just kill yourself and free us of your burden. Kill yourself. If you think there are too many people on the planet, kiill yourself. Quickly. You are either part of the solution, or part of the problem. Kill yourself. I recommend carbon monoxide – painless.

    • I don’t think life is inevitable suffering for all. In the case that it is, well: tired of living and but scared of dying. But I still think not having children is the way to go. Of all the burdensome people, someone having a conclusion that not having children is the way to go being so burdensome as to need to die seems horribly skewed. All they’re saying is you can’t deny a thing to that which does not exist so it’s a good wager to not bring that thing into existence so as to not risk the potential burdening.

      You clearly have murder on your mind, man. I’m literally posting at someone who wants me dead. Let it sink in who’s the ass.

      • WildCard says

        MF: I think they’re just fed up with people who fantasize about human extinction but aren’t consistent enough in their philosophy to actually end their own lives. And I can’t blame them.

        I wouldn’t recommand suicide to anyone though. If there’s any doubt left in your mind that life might be worth living, you owe it to yourself and anyone your death might affect to pursue that possibility.

    • Michelle says

      You’re exactly why I’d never bring anyone into this pointless shitshow where they’d be surrounded by vapid morons.

      • WildCard says

        Michelle, I don’t think anyone’s gonna lament the fact you and like-minded people will not have children that you can brainwash into thinking all human lives should be ended.

        Good riddance and merry Christmas.

      • Michelle, if you and the other people who see life as painful had a serious intellectual position, you’d be working to make people happier and eliminate sources of unhappiness. Your fascination with the extermination of all life is strongly indicative that you are simply depressed.

    • David Turnbull says

      If you think Ligotti has something original or insightful to say then there is no point in debating you.

    • WildCard says

      What about the mental gymnatics of “human life isn’t worth living, but I refuse to kill myself”?

      • Brandon says

        What about the mental gymnastics of I don’t want to be placed in a risky situation without consent but I am ok with doing it to someone? Or the mental gymnastics of pain/suffering is fine but I want to experience it seldomly..just enough to make myself believe I’m a tough mf?

  23. augustine says

    Engel:

    “[anti-natal philosophy’s] ethical premises are, on the local and individual level, undeniable…”

    How is this claim supported in the essay? Ditto “exquisite logic”.

  24. Is there any empirical proof to support the idea that life isn’t worth living and that our suffering outweighs all of the joy we find in life? It seems like the entire premise of anti-natalism is based on an unproven assertion that most people agree life isn’t worth living. Have there been any interviews conducted with the elderly and the infirm where they’ve said life wasn’t worth living? I would think very few would say so on their deathbeds.

    • Eero Simanainen says

      I think your observation is true, but I am not certain whether it suffices as a counterargument to anti-natalism. To me it seems that some kind of belief in an inherent meaning of life is necessary to counter it.

      People do constantly pursue hard goals in life, and voluntarily accept suffering while doing so. Thus people constantly affirm their belief that there are things worthy of all their suffering. To say that lives, on average, are more bad than good, is to say that most lives do not have sufficient meaning to justify the suffering by the standards of those living, which is indeed not the case.

      However, one can still argue that even if lives can be, and often are, meaningful, procreation is still wrong, because the suffering in life is inherent to it, but the responsibility to find a justification to the suffering is up to the individual, who cannot take the responsibility while unborn.

      If the meaning of life was something arbitrary, something everyone has to invent for themselves, it would seem to be unethical to “throw” someone in existence without their permission. After all, the standard human condition would be one of meaninglessness.

      On the other hand, if we assume that human life has some intrinsic nature and purpose, a “telos” of sorts, and that a sense of meaninglessness in life is not the standard condition, but only a result of alienation from this telos, the lack of conscious volition in being born would become irrelevant.

      • I would argue that deep existential satisfaction is not necessary in order for a human life to hold joys sufficient enough to outweigh its suffering. Consider the countless moments of creature comfort pleasures we enjoy on a daily basis. The taste of food on our tongues, the comfort of the embrace of sleep, the thrill of an orgasm, all of these things makes us happy. So I guess what I’m saying is that even a life without “meaning” can still be immensely pleasurable and that many of the features that make that true are universal to the human experience. Does that make sense?

  25. Michael says

    I don’t think that this article has prevented a perspective that most intelligent antinatalists will not have already considered. But the crux of the matter is that your suffering doesn’t entitle you to rope someone else into your hellish world, who will then in turn have to rope in someone else.

    We all know that in a decaying society, suffering will intensify for those already alive. But for one thing, the suffering of those people would be a molecule of water in the ocean compared to the suffering prevented. Secondly, you don’t even prevent the suffering by allowing people to continue to shit out more victims; you multiply it. The whole structure is a pyramid scheme, and eventually there will exist the final generations who will likely have to endure the lingering exit as described in the article.

    No. You shouldn’t have the right to enslave others in order to help to alleviate your own suffering. Especially when all you’re ultimately achieving is passing the buck, rather than ultimately preventing suffering. You’d be reducing your own suffering, but multiplying the overall levels of suffering, countless times over.

    • Evander says

      Michael, are you an anti-natalist or simply a de facto defender of the position to further discussion here?

      ‘You shouldn’t have the right to enslave others in order to help to alleviate your own suffering.’

      Above you mentioned that the universe is indifferent to human morality. Then you said most people live by a ‘do no harm’ coda, so that becomes a collective ethic which, through anti-natalist reasoning, leads to the gradual extinction policy becoming the most moral course of action. Non-compliance, therefore, is an impingement on people’s ‘right’ not to exist.

      A few questions:

      i) Why privilege the anti-natalist moral system above any other given cosmic indifference?
      ii) Why does ‘most people live this way’ become the authoritative factor in determining an ethic?
      iii) Why speak of rights in the context of a utilitarian argument?

      • Michael says

        Evander, I am an antinatalist.

        “i) Why privilege the anti-natalist moral system above any other given cosmic indifference?
        ii) Why does ‘most people live this way’ become the authoritative factor in determining an ethic?
        iii) Why speak of rights in the context of a utilitarian argument?”

        i) Because conscious experience is the only source of value in the universe, as a consequence of cosmic indifference. Antinatalism is the only way to avoid taking risks with the wellbeing of others who cannot consent to the risk. Since there is no objective imperative to have children, there is no argument that outweighs the importance of consent and risk-aversion.

        ii) It shows that it is intuitive to most people that we shouldn’t gamble with the welfare of others, because we wouldn’t want others to do it with our welfare.

        iii) Because rights only exist as a concept to prevent impositions and harms which create negative utility.

        • Evander says

          Thanks for your response, Michael.

          i) Nietzsche thought that the erasure of God from philosophy necessitated the erasure of meaningful value from the universe. Human societies differ in what they value, but they all participate in the act of valuing. Can you please justify why your valuing of conscious experience is more than a preference, i.e. the only thing of value in the universe?

          ii) So, what is intuitive to the majority provides the canon for morality? It’s intuitive to most people that human existence is on balance good rather than bad.

          iii) Rights, originally conceived, were recognised – not invented – as inviolable standards intended to guarantee the just treatment of human beings. Inconveniently for the modern liberal, they’re grounded in an appeal to God or a transcendent good. The right not to be born is grounded in the undemonstrated claim that the net value of life is negative.

          • Michael says

            Evander, to get to your response:

            i) Sentient creatures are the only things capable of valuing, and therefore the only source of value. So Nietzche would have been right about the universe not having any meaning; however subjective experience occurring within the universe cannot help but have meaning to the experiencer. If we could somehow eliminate all consciousness from the universe, then there would be no value, and that would not be a problem.

            ii) It’s only intuitive to us that human existence is a good thing because we cannot comprehend the alternative, and are programmed by evolution to want to live for as long as we can, and also transmit our genetic material to another generation. That’s evolution, and evolution doesn’t have any rational objective. Whereas it is in one’s own rational self-interest to want to avoid an excess of unproductive negative sensation, and therefore if I wouldn’t want someone gambling with me getting cancer, being disabled, going blind, contracting a flesh-eating virus, developing a severe mental illness, then I shan’t be doing the same with my own offspring. Their welfare is of equal value to my own, and therefore I cannot morally countenance the thought of imposing those dangers on them in order to alleviate my suffering.

            iii) Most of our rights stem from the fact that if I want to be protected from harm, then I need to agree not to unduly inflict harm on you. The concept of a right would not work if my welfare was arbitrarily deemed to be more important than yours. And I would argue that we ought to now apply that logic to the vulnerable positions that we are placing others in by giving birth to them. Rights obviously aren’t an exact science, but you can’t really arrive at a natalist conclusion without appealing to “might makes right” ethics.

    • augustine says

      “…allowing people to continue to shit out more victims”

      Right there you have distilled your humanitarianism. I hope someday you may rise to cynicism.

    • WildCard says

      “the crux of the matter is that your suffering doesn’t entitle you to rope someone else into your hellish world”

      Couldn’t agree more. Your life being miserable doesn’t entitle you to rope everyone else into your twisted pseudo-ethical voluntary extinction scenario.

    • Now Michael, now you are equating having children to enslaving people. This is a crazy metaphor, and illustrates nicely how depressed and crazy is the anti-natalist view of reality.

  26. First Benatar should simply kill himself now and reduce the worlds net suffering by at least one.

    Clearly he is a fatalist who we would all be better without… How dare he or anyone presume to weigh the balance of the value of any individuals lives to themselves. How can he quantify the net value of what my life is worth to me or yo to yours…

    F You Jim Jones…

    • Michelle says

      But that is what people who procreate do to their children. They assume even though they haven’t a clue how their child will feel about being born.

      • Birth is the ultimate gift. It is the chance at heaven. Prove there is no heaven then you have convinced me.

        • Brandon says

          Spoken like a double-talking theist (pseudo theist I should say) with a God complex. You speak of a God but in reality you act as if that being who “has a chance at heaven” wasn’t with said God originally but originated in the human couple. What exactly did God do in the scenario? There is no logical coherence within the faith driven pronatalist worldview, other than within Gnosticism. Now that’s a religion that keeps it real since they don’t simultaneously try to reject this world while loving it. Most Christians are hypocrites for this very reason. “Necessary” evil is only necessary for the evil minded.

  27. Michael Zeleny says

    While social and empathetic factors are essential constituents in a worthwhile life, their role in evaluating whether an ongoing life is worthwhile does not find any counterparts in deciding whether a prospective life is worth being brought into existence. There may be no grounds for disputing that all social and empathetic factors ought to be discounted in considering, of an individual life, whether or not it is worth being brought into existence, just as there may be no actual lives having been brought into existence in complete disregard of these factors. In other words, while people invariably have children for selfish reasons, the only good reason to have a child is for its own sake. Some variety of methodological solipsism is indispensable as the correct framework for such deliberation. It may be impossible to understand a person in separation from other people or in separation from his environment. But there is a crucial difference between understanding an actual person in his connection with other people and his environment, and deliberating on the merits of bringing into existence a potential person with merely conjectural interpersonal and environmental connections.

    In this regard, Benatar’s argument has devastating consequences for the utilitarian assessment of the choice to bring a new life into existence. If there is nothing bad about never coming into existence, whereas there is something bad about coming into existence, it is always preferable to choose a scenario that involves nothing bad.

    https://larvatus.livejournal.com/215389.html

  28. Rubbish written about satanic rubbish. Why do these loonies make me suffer? These are the very ones responsible for the pain and misery of humanity.

    Simple directive, don’t argue: Go forth, procreate and subdue the world. Enjoy people.

    • Brandon says

      So the truth makes you weep Max, but you the gall to call something satanic? 😂

    • Michelle says

      We’re the loonies but you’re talking about Satan and quoting a bullshit book.

    • Martin28 says

      Yes, and also feminist justification for calling all sex rape.

      • Brandon says

        One wonders how much reproduction would actually happen in the world if not for actual rape and at the very least coercion/manipulating/guilt tripping by the party most in need to satisfy their lust.

    • Michelle says

      Plenty of us are attractive and get laid often. I’m one of them.

  29. Benjamin Briggs says

    Won’t all these cost come eventually eventuall? Even if the human species makes it all the wait to the heat death of the universe .

  30. Lsteel says

    Alternative diagnostic method: diagnosis of major depression applies if any sympathy for anti-natalism is detected regardless whether other features of the illness are present.

    Submitted for inclusion in DSM VI

  31. Stephanie says

    I suppose I’m not surprised that some philosophers have such an anti-human outlook, but the author’s decision to tackle this on such an irrelevant point is strange. The insistence that everything be seen through a social justice lens is so typical, but doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s wrong about this philosophy. The “exquisite” logic the author points to is anything but. I weep for our future that people like this populate our universities and corrupt the minds of our young people.

    • Martin28 says

      Maybe the author was just trying to start a discussion, knowing that the Quillette message board would see through the gaping holes and ugliness and of this philosophy in a New York second, and rip it to shreds. But I share your despair over what our educational institutions are teaching our children.

  32. Ocean Creature says

    “So, it is worth pausing to ponder the questions Benatar and his disciples fail to address.”

    The question Benatar and his disciples fail to address is this: why do you weird, miserable, nihilistic people write books about why everyone else, but you, should be dead? If you shouldn’t have been born so that you could avoid suffering through this post, then do the deed and remove yourself from the suffering pool.

    I always find those most hateful towards life, those believing in euthanasia, abortion, anti-natalism, etc., so happy to make us suffer through their disdain, while clinging white knuckled to their own lives.

    Let go, if it existence is so worthless and leave the rest of us to enjoy the sublime gift of our lives, come what may!

    • You fail to grasp the difference between not being born and ending your life. This is a very basic difference that is fundamental to the issue. You, and everyone who has agreed with you, are arguing against a position that does not exist.

      Antinatalists do not believe everyone should die. They believe people should not procreate. Unless you are some kind of religious fundamentalist or evolution-worshipper, you should not believe that not procreation is the same as dying. That’s absurd and you deserve to be mocked soundly.

      • Evander says

        Francois, you fail to grasp the distinction without a difference between genocide through activity and genocide through omission; genocide is repugnant no matter the means. People don’t assent to the presuppositions of antinatalism, nor do they think the consequences humane, so they’re reacting with and without logic to the position. I join their ranks; your philosophy is arbitrarily grounded and anti-human.

        “Unless you are some kind of religious fundamentalist or evolution-worshipper, you should not believe that not procreation is the same as dying. That’s absurd and you deserve to be mocked soundly.”

        Do you struggle to respect people who have a different point of view?

        • So which one are you, a religious fundamentalist or an evolution-worshipper? Let me make it easier for you: do you own a fedora, or do you own a cross?

          • augustine says

            Francois,

            How do you establish a rational position on a life that never was? By probability? How do you know that human lives, far in the future, will not be largely or totally free of suffering as we know it? You seem to believe that we can not only never improve our lot but we have a wretched time of it now and in all times past. You seek the end of misery but cannot see the beginning of anything good. This ranges between the subjective and the unknowable, neither of which is a good basis for convincing others of what is true.

          • Evander says

            I’m a conservative Anglican.

            I checked out your blog which you self-promote through your hyperlinked username. The post called ‘Facts about childbirth you don’t usually hear about…’ was very informative. Wearing diapers after childbirth would be a drag for women. I suppose they would say that suffering is more than compensated for by the joy of caring for a new life that you’ve created. The post is three above ‘A funny satire about Sunday School’.

          • Defenstrator says

            I’m an atheist that does not own a fedora. I’m also far too grounded in reality to take presumptions edge lords posing as philosophers at all seriously.

            To reverse the argument, who are you to decide for the unborn what they can deal with? I was born without a choice and am quite happy I am here. A decision that I could not have made without the option of existence. Only those who come into being can decide whether or not it victomised them. I have handled it fine, and my children seem to be as well. And since the future belongs to those who show up, my heirs will shape what comes after. Mean while sad little nihilists that could never find a woman who thought they were worth having children with will die and be forgotten.

            That’s what’s really bothering you isn’t it. You desperately want to believe self abnegation is correct and it just pisses you off no end that people will not only refuse to validate your belief, they’ll just actively ignore you and keep life going any way. You don’t even get to pretend to make a difference since your sacrifice means nothing to the people who go on.

        • Evander, I’m confused:

          “People don’t assent to the presuppositions of antinatalism, nor do they think the consequences humane, so they’re reacting with and without logic to the position. ”

          What people? Isn’t the idea of antinatalism that “people” will be convinced and shuffle off willingly to extinction?

        • Michael says

          “Francois, you fail to grasp the distinction without a difference between genocide through activity and genocide through omission; genocide is repugnant no matter the means. People don’t assent to the presuppositions of antinatalism, nor do they think the consequences humane, so they’re reacting with and without logic to the position. I join their ranks; your philosophy is arbitrarily grounded and anti-human.”

          Evander, everyone who is born will die. There will be more death if we keep on perpetuating the cycle of harm and imposition than if we stop it now. There is never going to be any ‘humane’ way out of this. You can only postpone the death of the species (and in doing so, keep churning out more human cannon fodder in this futile pursuit), you cannot prevent it. Creating additional harm to avoid a harm that will certainly come to pass is not a solution to this problem. There’s nothing arbitrary about damage limitation, nor is it necessarily “anti-human”.

      • Stephanie says

        Francois, the difference between ending a life and preventing a life from ever existing is that the latter is denied the decades worth of the singular most fulfilling, meaningful thing that exists in this universe: life. Antinatalists deny the essential value of life, so it isn’t very far from there to get towards what even you would consider genocide.

        Genocide is about destroying a people. Sterilizing people counts as genocide, because it ends them in one generation. I fully encourage you to never have kids, and honestly the world would be better off if you convince your fellow leftists to follow your lead, but just know that the people you disagree with most (both religious and secular humanists) see this depressed rant and become more motivated to procreate.

        • Michael says

          “Francois, the difference between ending a life and preventing a life from ever existing is that the latter is denied the decades worth of the singular most fulfilling, meaningful thing that exists in this universe: life. Antinatalists deny the essential value of life, so it isn’t very far from there to get towards what even you would consider genocide.”

          Stephanie; how do you identify these people who have been “denied” and how do you know that they feel deprived of their life…and in what form do these people exist, if they’ve never even been conceived from a sperm and fertilised egg, much less been born? Life may be the most fulfilling and meaningful thing in the universe, but it’s also the most harmful and futile thing in the universe. Most antinatalists are atheists, so of course deny that life has any value independent of the minds that experience it. Therefore, if we don’t bring those lives into existence, we aren’t depriving those people of experiencing the ‘essential value of life’.

          “Genocide is about destroying a people. Sterilizing people counts as genocide, because it ends them in one generation. I fully encourage you to never have kids, and honestly the world would be better off if you convince your fellow leftists to follow your lead, but just know that the people you disagree with most (both religious and secular humanists) see this depressed rant and become more motivated to procreate.”

          There’s a difference between ending a genetic lineage out of bigotry, and ending it out of concern for the terrible suffering that would be caused and wanting to prevent that suffering.

          • Defenstrator says

            “There’s a difference between ending a genetic lineage out of bigotry, and ending it out of concern for the terrible suffering that would be caused and wanting to prevent that suffering.”

            See, that’s a perfect example of ivory tower logic. Completely consistent and totally stupid. If you were even the slightest bit practical you would would recognize that there is no difference at all, as the result is the same.

            That’s the thing you see. I am a results oriented person. And to an objective observer who knows nothing of motivation, and only sees the result, the difference between ending a group of people out of concern to end future suffering or evil bigotry is exactly the same. A bunch of people got sterilized, and there genetic legacy is over.

            Here’s a piece of honest advice. If what you are advocating for Is indistinguishable in result from what the most evil people in history would do, you aren’t advocating a moral good.

      • So Francois, your sole objection to Hitler’s Final Solution is that he tried to kill all the Jews instead of simply sterilizing them?

    • Michael says

      “The question Benatar and his disciples fail to address is this: why do you weird, miserable, nihilistic people write books about why everyone else, but you, should be dead? If you shouldn’t have been born so that you could avoid suffering through this post, then do the deed and remove yourself from the suffering pool.”

      I daresay that a lot of us would decide to unburden ourselves of this existence, if your type weren’t also so hellbent on denying us the right to die in order to validate your ‘life is harmless and precious’ dogma.

      “Let go, if it existence is so worthless and leave the rest of us to enjoy the sublime gift of our lives, come what may!”

      Antinatalism isn’t about those of us currently living, it’s about those who may live in the future, and whose existence can be prevented.

      • Stephanie says

        Michael, no one is stopping you from killing yourself. We’re just not interested in doing the dirty work for you, or setting up a system one of your ilk can abuse to kill the sick and elderly.

        If you’re American, you can buy a gun today and do the deed. If not, jump off a bridge, arrange to be poisoned by carbon monoxide, whatever. You have a million ways to do it, but you won’t. Stop blaming others for your cowardice and hypocrisy.

        Merry Christmas.

        • WildCard says

          It’s concerning how many apparently grownup men have the same outlook on life as I had when I was a brooding 17yo going through their first breakup.

          • Brandon says

            You should be more concerned with the common thinking of pronatalists and drug addicts. Despite the risk, it’s still attractive to engage in a deadly activity. Like the stupid ass alcoholic who despite vicious hangover after another keeps hitting the bottle because most like he/she has someone they can leach off. That’s essentially breeding in a nutshell..quite a parasitical co-dependence.
            Please don’t believe for a moment that you breeders are mature. You think like children, ergo you desire them.

          • I remember that dreadful day as well, and now I look back on sixty years of wonderful adventures and discussions and regrets ? too few to mention.

        • Brandon says

          I like how your argument hinges on whether he is American. Please get a clue.

          • @brandon And you lament those non-Americans forced to live under gun control who are condemned to find lethal alternatives.

      • Michael, would you happen to be one of the people who favors gun control and uses suicide as an argument? And you really seriously expect anyone to believe “our type” is preventing you from suicide?

        You’ve ceased making rational arguments and are simply reacting emotionally… Perhaps because your arguments have run aground? Maybe the solution is to capitulate and learn.

        • Michael says

          Charles N Steele – No, I would not use suicide as a reason to favour gun control. I believe that everyone should have the right to an assisted death using modern medical technology. Suicide is the only decent argument against gun control, in fact.

          I can’t reply directly to one of your posts above (for some reason some of the posts here cannot be replied to, and I also cannot copy and paste from this computer on which I am currently typing); but you stated that I’ve conceded that Benatar was incorrect. You’re wildly off the mark with that one. People who already exist may benefit from some forms of suffering which help to anneal the character; but there’s no need to create the person who will experience the adversity so that they can “build character”. A person who doesn’t exist is not deficient in character. if you don’t bring them into existence, they won’t need to apply their “strength of character” when facing the travails of life.

          As to your second point,I don’t particularly care how much pain you think is worth enduring for whatever illusory goal you have in mind. My concern is for those who don’t yet exist who may have existence imposed upon them. You can continue pushing your Sisyphean boulders up the hill for as long as you want, as far as I’m concerned. Just as long as you don’t drag other people into your futile struggle with the excuse that someone who doesn’t exist yet needs to suffer in order to build strength of character, or whatever other fatuities you are proferring as a justification for putting someone else in harm’s way.

          As to your third point from the above post that I can’t reply to, relating to your time in an impoverished country; I am not surprised that the people in that country consider life to be worth living. They’re too busy struggling to eke out a mere existence to start worrying what the point of that existence is. And they’re likely not sufficiently educated to start to question whatever religious mythology they’ve been taught to explain away why they’re struggling to feed themselves and succumbing to treatable illnesses and starvation due to the lack of $0.50 to buy a loaf of bread and access to clean drinking water. Ironically, you probably have to be in a position of relative privilege before you can start thinking of the bigger picture. But it certainly doesn’t mean that the suffering of the people you met during your time abroad is excusable, even if they are somehow under the delusion that their hardship is serving a higher purpose.

          • Thanks for replying, Michael, I appreciate this. I think you’ve mostly sidestepped my arguments, though. Benatar’s position, if Engle has it right, is that every life is, on net, negative, thus life should be abolished. He states it as objective fact. Your argument sensibly concedes some lives can be net positive, but continues that since we cannot say in advance whether a not-yet-existing life will be positive or negative, life should be abolished. That is a very different position, and doesnt follow – you are simply expressing your subjective preference and calling it a moral imperative. One could as easily conclude that since some lives will be worthwhile we *should* bring them into existence, and also work to make it increasingly likely that lives will be positive. You are not expressing concern for others; you are arguing there should be no others.

            I think I’ve learned something important from your reply; it’s apparently that life requires effort, that overwhelming happiness doesn’t come automatically and freely, and the fact that you can conceive of things being even better than they are leads you anti-natalists to want to abolish the whole thing. Its eternal life in heaven for you, or nothing.

            I suggest that if you really are concerned with others, you drop the idea of the Final Solution and take every opportunity you can to help make people around you happier. If you see a life that you think has too much suffering, why not take steps to add happiness to it? This could actually accomplish something positive, unlike condemning reality, and might even help alleviate some of your own Weltschmerz.

        • Michael says

          Charles N Steele, thank you for your further response. There is no ‘reply’ link beneath your latest post, so I am posting it to your previous one. I hope that this will not cause you to miss my post.

          “Thanks for replying, Michael, I appreciate this. I think you’ve mostly sidestepped my arguments, though. Benatar’s position, if Engle has it right, is that every life is, on net, negative, thus life should be abolished. He states it as objective fact. Your argument sensibly concedes some lives can be net positive, but continues that since we cannot say in advance whether a not-yet-existing life will be positive or negative, life should be abolished. ”

          If that is how you have interpreted my post, then I’m afraid either you have misunderstood, or I have failed to express myself clearly. Those of us already in existence may choose to experience suffering if we believe that it will be in the service of some greater good. But that is not intended to indicate that I believe that the person in question is turning a profit in comparison to non-existence. It merely indicates that in a choice between 2 different paths, both with undesirable elements, they are choosing what they perceive to be the route of less evil. Even if they attain their goal at the end of the path, they have still not managed to do anything more than partially alleviate some of the ills that their very existence has created. So they don’t end up in the plus column, they simply get closer to the state of not being burdened with problems needing to be solved. A state that they were already inhabiting before being imposed upon with the burden of existence.

          “That is a very different position, and doesnt follow – you are simply expressing your subjective preference and calling it a moral imperative. One could as easily conclude that since some lives will be worthwhile we *should* bring them into existence, and also work to make it increasingly likely that lives will be positive. You are not expressing concern for others; you are arguing there should be no others.”

          It’s not a “subjective preference” that the people who don’t exist don’t have any problems. In order to gain anything positive in this life, you need to first have the desire for the positive. If that desire goes unmet, then it can turn into a crippling deprivation. In any case, none of it justifies drawing straws on behalf of someone who cannot consent to the gamble, and neither needs nor desires any of the rewards from the gamble. Obviously if these people don’t materialise, there will be nobody to be concerned for; however the same could be said about the people who aren’t being maimed by drunk drivers on account of the fact that driving whilst intoxicated is illegal. The thing about prevention is that the outcome that you don’t want to see doesn’t come to pass, and therefore no identifiable person can be said to have benefitted from the prevention, even though we know that harm has, in fact, been prevented.

          “I think I’ve learned something important from your reply; it’s apparently that life requires effort, that overwhelming happiness doesn’t come automatically and freely, and the fact that you can conceive of things being even better than they are leads you anti-natalists to want to abolish the whole thing. Its eternal life in heaven for you, or nothing.”

          Frankly, even eternal life in heaven seems a bit pointless. It’s just creating the desires for the sake of satisfying them. Not having any desire or vulnerability in the universe would be just as good. Since we can’t give people heaven, any outcome that does occur is distinctly sub-optimal when compared to a state in which there are no desires, needs or vulnerabilities.

          “I suggest that if you really are concerned with others, you drop the idea of the Final Solution and take every opportunity you can to help make people around you happier. If you see a life that you think has too much suffering, why not take steps to add happiness to it? This could actually accomplish something positive, unlike condemning reality, and might even help alleviate some of your own Weltschmerz.”

          Well, I would like to add happiness to people’s lives, but not at the expense of causing people to think that it is harmless and even laudable to impose sentience on unconsenting intelligent creatures.

  33. Ghatanathoah says

    Benatar’s “exquisite logic,” at least as it’s detailed in this article, fails in the very first paragraph. It’s based on a rhetorical trick. Generally when we talk about “ending someone’s suffering” we mean that we make them stop suffering, but don’t stop them from experiencing the good things in life. But in the context of anti-natalism, “ending suffering” means ending the good right along with the bad. Technically it counts as “ending suffering,” but not in the way most people use the term.

    If I could end someone’s suffering, but doing so would also end all the good things in their life, I wouldn’t feel ethically obligated to do it, on the contrary, under normal circumstances I’d feel obligated not to. There might be some exceptions that are arguable, like terminally ill people with severe chronic pain. But for the most part, if someone’s life contains more good than bad, (which most people seem to think is the case) you are not helping them by stopping them from existing.

  34. Jason Cooper says

    Suffering is the active rationale behind human evolution. Ease manifests through potential expressed by solution. Every successive ‘set of experiences’ subject to suffering increases the chance of a solution to that particular cause through the above mentioned mechanism. Anti-natalism is not any answer to the ethical dilemma of suffering. Optimizing conditions for potential to become manifest is.
    You only have to look at the very small number of people it takes to cure a disease compared to those that suffer from it…how many people can one farmer feed…how many patients one Doctor treats…Benatar has hit the nihilistic bottom of the rhetorical swamp of ideas. He managed to build a career on ‘The solution to life is death’, and it’s embarrassing that he gets traction. I am not, however, surprised…we are living in an intellectual environment where the pre-adult, Post Modern argument ‘Well….that’s just a your perspective’ is treated seriously.

  35. Procreation isn’t about human happiness or suffering, but about our “selfish genes” that go on generation after generation, while no life lasts more than once.
    The idea about suffering and happiness is a human thought or wish, having nothing to do with nature or life in general.

  36. mitchellporter says

    “Would that there were an end of men, without conception, without birth! Then would the land be quiet from noise and tumult be no more.” – The Admonitions of Ipuwer, Middle Kingdom Egypt, as translated by Faulkner and Dollinger

    • Kelli R. says

      And then there is, from the book of Proverbs: where there are no oxen, the manger is clean; but much increase comes with the oxen .

      Or, my paraphrase during child-bearing age: I would be such a great mom if only I didn’t have kids. But much increase has come with those kids and great suffering through the loss of one of them.

      I would gladly do it all over and over again (eternal recurrence) if I could.

  37. Ashley Squishy says

    In his 1973 novel “The Bridge”, D. Keith Mano addressed this issue satirically, and I’m sorry he’s no longer with us to see this idiocy taken as seriously as it is. While Benatar frets over the suffering of the “final generation”, in Mano’s novel that problem is solved much more cleanly, with the world’s ruling ecological council ordering everyone to commit suicide almost simultaneously.

  38. Anti-natalism: an anti-natalist sees a mother playing with her baby. The mother coos, the baby gurgles and giggles, the mother laughs, the baby laughs. The anti-natalist imagines the baby will be colicky at 3:00AM and waken the sleepy mother, and concludes they’d both be better off dead.

    It’s philosophy for Jonestown and Heavensgate.

    • Abirdinthehand says

      Just think of all the suffering Ted Bundy spared his victims. They would be middle-aged and elderly women now, with career disappointments, failed marriages, health problems. Bundy ended the misery of their existence.

      • Yes. For an anti-natalist, Hitler must be a saint. True, he had millions of people cruelly murdered, but that pales in comparison to the suffering of their countless generations of descendants he prevented from coming into being. Hitler is an anti-natalist saint!

        Jonas Salk, on the other hand, is a villain and a scoundrel.

  39. Ray Andrews says

    Just a thought: we could see to it that life was a joy to live. True there is a huge amount of work to do but it could be done. We’d need to resurrect our dying culture, control our numbers, eliminate pollution (which will take more technology not less), and turn the planet into a garden. Hey someone already thought of that, the guy who wrote Genesis.

  40. Katherine says

    I just read a review of The Thin Red Line (a war movie by Malick – I haven’t seen it) where a character says, “One man looks at a dying bird and sees nothing but unanswered pain – that death’s got the final word. It’s laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory. Feels something smiling through him.” (The review is on First Things. Not necessarily a safe space.)

  41. Supermartingale says

    Speaking as someone who is a great ape, I’m incapable of accepting the antinatalist position, even though I follow its logic. Nevertheless, this review seems to miss something: Humans will almost certainly become extinct at some point, i.e. there WILL be a last generation, and their suffering will be great. By Benatar’s logic, there will be less suffering if this last generation comes sooner, rather than later. There is therefore no need for Benatar to take account of the last generations.

    • Martin28 says

      Wrong, wrong. First, you don’t know that humans will become extinct. They may evolve. So you can’t assume that. And, you don’t know what will happen in ten, a thousand, a million generations. Not knowing that doesn’t give anyone a free pass on people alive now or their children. Time matters, Direct responsibility matters.

      • supermartingale says

        Hmm… Either humanity becomes extinct, or it doesn’t. If it does, there will be a last generation that suffers terribly, and bringing about that last generation sooner rather than later will decrease sum total suffering. But if it doesn’t, then humanity’s sum total suffering will be infinite. Voluntarily bringing about humanity’s demise will at least make that sum total finite, and again: sooner is better than later.

        I don’t believe any of it, of course: Every one of my ancestors had offspring, I have two myself, and am hoping for grandkids within the next decade or so. My point is that Benatar’s logic is in no way refuted by this review article.

  42. Personally, I had my tubes tied for the opposite reason: life is to enjoyable to spoil it with the burden of raising kids. It’s a win/win. I get to do as I like and if I fail it’s only my life I mess up, and for everyone else, they don’t have to deal with my stupidity and selfishness being passed along to another generation. You’re welcome! 🙂

    I’m mostly joking. But, seriously, having my tubes tied was the smartest thing I ever did. Never had the desire to have kids, was tired of partners trying to talk me into it, and now I never have to worry about it. I still love my nephew and friend’s kids, admire those I know who are good parents, and am humbled by all they do to raise their kids. But, still have no regrets for my choice and encourage anyone who doesn’t want kids to do the same.

    That said, the “life sucks and nobody should have kids” argument is just dumb. 1. It ignores the primary purpose of life: to continue it. 2. It’s dumb.

    • Your comment is the only thing that’s dumb here. We are not worms, we can decide whether we want to continue life or not, and how to do so. The “purpose of life” is whatever we make of it. I’m always stunned at evolution-worshippers: evolution is an unintelligent, amoral process, not worth attaching yourself to.

      • augustine says

        The assertion of purposeless, amoral and unintelligent existence is the baseline requirement for nihilism, neo-natalism, disinterested observation, etc. It is also a good way to obviate meaningful (oops!) conservation with others, if that’s your thing.

      • Defenstrator says

        Only an individual can decide that their life is worth living. Only an arrogant fool believes he can make that choice on behalf of others.

        I fully encourage you to practice what you preach however. You will die off, my heirs will live on, and the argument will be de facto won by those who keep existing.

        • Brandon says

          “Only an arrogant fool believes he can make that choice on behalf of others”

          Like breeders? You dumbass..until the being is conceived in flesh or is in the process of being conceived, it has no choices taken away from it!
          This shit is so simple to comprehend.

  43. I can’t make heads or tails of this criticism that declining birth rates would affect minorities and the poor in a worse way. Surely this is due to capitalism and democracy, not procreation or lack thereof. Blaming the latter for the problem seems to me vastly disingenuous and an attempt to bat away antinatalism because you have no logical arguments.

    • Defenstrator says

      They’re being sarcastic. Papers like the Guardian often have headlines about issues that affect everyone, that then claim women/minorities are affected more, because reasons.

  44. Chris Ball says

    It seems like there’s some confusion between deontology and consequentialism in all of this.

    “First, do no harm.” is not a consequentialist rule. If someone is using it as an axiom, there’s not much point in criticizing then for failing to perform a different utilitarian calculation later. They’ve already told you that their axioms aren’t utilitarian.

    Honestly, it’s not even a sensical deontological rule. When a surgeon cuts into someone’s body with a scalpel, she is doing them harm. But if the harm is less than the disease that brought them to the hospital, we support the act as an ethical one, and reveal that we were actually consequentialist.

    So I think the only way to criticize the argument on these grounds of a missed consequentialist calculation regarding the final generations is to throw away “do no harm” as an axiom. But if you do that, you have to actually contend with whether most human lives truly have negative utility. And the evidence for that is not strong.

  45. It didn’t take him long to bring out the big guns, didn’t he? Argumentum ad Mao, Stalin and Hitler. Jordan Peterson must be proud.

    • Defenstrator says

      This is the internet. Why would you think this conversation would be immune to Goodwin’s law?

  46. Thomas Barnidge says

    Apparently the anti-natalist types have never heard their parents say “I hope your children make you suffer as much as you make us suffer!” They would soon realize that “do no harm” is a false assumption.

  47. Martin28 says

    The cynic in me tells me that anti-fatalism is the ultimate excuse to not reproduce, not bear the responsibility and cost of raising children, never grow up, and enrich yourself by spending all of your money on your own needs. And to convince yourself that by doing so, you are making the moral choice. Further, that everyone else is immoral.

    • Defenstrator says

      I guess I’m pretty cynical as well then, because that about sums it up for me as well.

      ……

      Actually my friends and spouse do say I’m cynical. It doesn’t mean we’re wrong though!

  48. It’s worth noting that biological extinction will occur whether or not it is countenanced by “programmatic anti-natalism.” Is there any valid reason to imagine that this inevitable event will be worse for the final generations under one condition than under another? I don’t think there is; I think this supposition arises through speculation leveraged to sustain a particular line of criticism.

    If human extinction were to come about as a result of such an attritionist “program” that Benatar contemplates (rather than through catastrophe or cosmic entropy), the quality and quantity of the suffering of the final generations would have to be scaled up profoundly to tip the scales against the inconceivable degree of potential suffering that would, under the same scenario, be withheld from manifestation. That’s a tall order that Engel doesn’t seem to consider very deeply.

  49. Of course any argument that is based on a false premise — in this instance that avoiding pain is always good — isn’t really terribly interesting.

    As an Orthodox Christian, I look with sorrow and pity on modern humanity that really believes that false premise, and rails against God for not abolishing pain, coming to disbelieve in the divine and even any transcendence because pain exists. No, there is no God who abolishes pain, instead there is a God who comes, takes on our passible nature, though He is by nature passionless, and suffers with us, that through pain we may become like Him.

    • BrownBear says

      You do fully recognize that the the very nature of the World and even possibly this site is to ensnare you in the fully material world. From that one metaphysical blockade, damnation is ensured.

      I think the first article of faith in the world must be “this is not all that I am”, more poignantly put by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “I am not a physical being, having a spiritual experience, I am a spiritual being having a physical experience” If you can start off with that then scaling the ladder of theosis is achievable, though not necessarily fully in line with traditional christian views.

    • Brandon says

      Speaking of a paradox, the most significant one I see is that of the “spiritual” communities that promote anything short of renunciation of the material world. This is the shit that kills me. Most of the religious people are the biggest breeder machines. The irony is pretty rich!

      • BrownBear says

        I think you are assuming some sort gnostic metaphysical grounding.

        I’m not going to speak for @DNY but many of us do not believe the Earth is any sort of prison created by the demiurge. We view incarnation in the physical realm as a necessary step to godhood. I believe we call that embodied learning in the educational gulag.

        Bringing more and more children into the World is an infinite net good if and only if you train them up on the correct spiritual path.

      • Defenstrator says

        Such arrogance amuses me. If all people are is breeder machines, then you are one as well. You’re just like them, except defective, because you don’t even breed.

        Surely you aren’t going to pretend that a defective machine is superior to the ones that achieve their purpose.

        • Brandon says

          Its purpose..lol

          Congrats on your journey to theism. All breeders end up there..because with their God complex, they must defend the notion of God at all costs.

  50. Lewis Sullivan says

    I’m surprised no-one has suggested the obvious: invert this reasoning. Clearly, if your “philosophy” concludes that humans shouldn’t exist, well, work backwards and find the flaws. There are many here. Among them: the assertion that human suffering outweighs human joy. Not for me, and at the end of the day, that’s the only person for whom I can make a definitive statement. Presuming that suffering in another soul must outweigh their joys is the very definition of subjagation.

    Here’s another: how do you define harm? A doctor’s oath contains this very phrase, and yet, they do considerable – at times almost unbearable harm – and yet, its in service of a greater good. I’m sorry, but this whole piece a total fail.

    • Brandon says

      I love how you go “not for me” as if to say you are against imposition. What a joke!

    • Brandon says

      Futhermore that soul is not being subjagated until the moment it becomes PHYSICAL. That’s what breeding does, Einstein.

  51. Lee Floyd says

    Benatar has too much time on his hands. Intellectual playtime is fine, but everything in the real world militates against playing beyond bedtime.

  52. augustine says

    It is all too easy to conflate anti-natalism with a concern for human suffering, especially as an antagonist of the former (I am guilty of this in my previous comments). But instead of basing its precepts directly in a concern for suffering, anti-natalism is clumsily couched in the wider context of abstract existence, which for humans is based in birth to begin with. Isn’t that circular reasoning or something close to it?

    Almost anyone interviewed will say “I don’t want to suffer” yet such a predictable response does not begin to plumb the depths of human experience and responses to experience. Where is the anti-natalist case made for suffering being objectively undesirable or negative at all, let alone so awful as to render extirpation the only “rational” solution? This line of thinking betrays a profound unwillingness or inability to contemplate the nature of human suffering, even though anti-natalists presumably suffer like the rest of us.

    Where END IT ALL is posited as the solution, how much intelligent, good faith reasoning can be involved? Neo-natalism is a case of conjuring “the solution” and claiming it to be more important than the problem itself. Modern history exhibits many similarly arrogant, stillborn ideas.

    • Brandon says

      What a goofball you are. Clearly the one thing you seem to have ignored in your “objectivity” is the fact that nature does in fact end it all. What you dumb pronatalists don’t grasp is that fatalism is not a mere philosophy..it’s a fucking fact! You are and all of us are going to die. Let it sink in (for real) not buffered by some desperate, sarcastic or humorous distraction.

      • Defenstrator says

        Yes, we are all going to die. So could you kill your self now, so the rest of us no longer have to suffer listening to you? You’ll die anyway, and there will demonstrably less suffering in the world.

        Not that I actually expect you to. These pseudo intellectual types never seem to put into action anything that would affect their own lives. It’s just everyone else’s that they prattle on about.

        • Brandon says

          Why should I kill myself right now, Mr
          “results oriented..it’s all the same” lying ass hypocrite. You think you have one up? Don’t kid yourself. (No pun)

      • tarstarkas says

        Are you in favor of resurrecting the Thuggee cult of Kali?

  53. Northern Observer says

    Anti Natalism is just another of marxism’s toxic children designed to collapse the West for its fsilure to implement the Utopia that was promised. It’s a sick and evil ideology of hate.

    • BrownBear says

      It seems blase to point out the origin of the name ((( Benatar ))) in S.A

      “Hey Goys, isn’t life like such a drag. Best to not pro-create so you can end the suffering.” Funny I’m only going to present such an argument to hyper-literate Western audience who are suspectible to dysgenic though “rational” argument instead of campaigning for birth control to Africa or reducing food subsidies.

      Forget that noise, I have three children. We are giddy with life despite the trouble, we can do this because we know struggle (suffering/sacrifice) is father of all good things.

      Marry a spouse who you get on with fairly well, have a 1-3 kids. All this anti-natalism rubbish will go right out the door. Turns out Patriarchial HetereoNormativity was a memetic immune system against this sort of bullshit

  54. I am an anti-natalist. I refuse to play along in this world. Harm to self and others can never be stopped. I cannot gain solace or comfort. People suffer endlessly. I wish euthanasia could be available for all, but that constitutes destruction of government property. I must be farmed and taxed. The selfish and greedy who want to live and procreate at all costs created this paradigm. I did not choose to live.

    • Stephanie says

      @no, shut up and seek help or just kill yourself already.

    • augustine says

      no

      Sounds like you are really only against life lived without thoughtfulness and humility. Is that it? If we all promise to get along and not torture one another from now on, will you disband your club?

  55. Rosenmops says

    Dogs are happy provided they are well taken care of. So we need people to look after the dogs, even if you think humans suffer too much.

    I’m going to stick around to (among other things) look after the dogs. I’ll teach my grandkids to do the same.

    These morbid anti-natal people just need to get a dog.

    https://youtu.be/0x-z0nOGuVI

  56. “It is challenging indeed to conceive of a cogent ethical system in which the right to procreate supersedes the procreated person’s right not to be harmed—a right necessarily transgressed the instant they are brought into existence.”

    This sentence distracted me for the rest of the essay. It seemed to try and level set that the environment Benatar set up for this thesis was valid and interesting. But where do either of these ‘rights’ come from? They seem like desirable goals rather than ‘rights,’ which made any attempt to engage with them as a reader impossible until we figured out why these two things were worthy to compete for primacy.

  57. Stephanie says

    @BrownBear, in case you’re not aware, triple paratheses are an anti-Semitic meme.

    Also, screw 1-3 kids. Aim for 6 to make up for all the anti-natalists.

    • Really now says

      @Stephanie, how could he not be aware you simple little breed pig? Does it ease your guilty conscious thinking your intellectual allies are innocent? Keep summoning innocent lives into this realm of pain, disease, crime, corruption, exploitation and abuse.

      • augustine says

        “Keep summoning innocent lives…”

        Please tell me when does a state of innocence begin or end for an individual? It is not something that any person can summon. It just happens. Coercing our species to cancel reproduction does not just happen, however.

  58. “All that is required from you is to abstain from an activity with no compelling justification. Would any reasonable person neglect such an opportunity?”

    My issue starts with the beginning-
    How can a ‘reasonable’ person ‘justify’ abstaining from action? If one is reasonable, then the decision to act or not act must nessessarily be a reasoned. By definition. I would have thought that reasoning is the justification for the resulting decision. A justification so compelling so as to direct ones actions or inactions…

  59. Pingback: The Anti-Natalist Paradox | Business Link Advertising

  60. Tyler says

    Excellent discussion, thank you all for a fascinating read. I really have nothing to contribute that hasn’t already been dissected here. Just my personal reaction.

    Not being familiar with the term, I had no idea what this piece was going to be about when I read the title, or even the first sentence. Which is as far as I needed to go before rejecting the very first premise asserted. However valid the rest of the argument may or may not be, instantly rejecting the first idea that is assumed to be a given is not a good start.

    Paragraph 1, sentence 1:
    “What if you could choose one person in your life and end their suffering? All the pain and frustration and woe intrinsic to their mortal condition would disappear and—best of all—with no financial investment, effort, or trouble on your part.”

    Before the question is even asked, NO! I would not wish that on my worst enemy.

    The first thing that came to my mind was a bit cheesey, but apt:

    “I don’t want my pain taken away. I NEED my pain!”

    – James T. Kirk

  61. Brandon says

    Breeders are basically like drug addicts. They can rationalize the hell out their persistence in making stupid ass choices.

    • Evander says

      Serious philosophical question: why haven’t you committed suicide yet, Brandon?

      On the anti-natalist view, life has a negative value. Why persist in suffering? Own your philosophy or disavow it.

      • Defenstrator says

        The reason he hasn’t is because he’s a troll. He doesn’t believe the things he says, he just wants the attention and your annoyance. Don’t feed the troll. Just ignore him and eventually he’ll go away. You have to deny him what he craves.

    • Defenstrator says

      OMG! I just realized you’re a troll. I thought you were just stupid, but that last one was pretty obvious, even for me. Good trolling man. Sorry I was taking you seriously.

      • Brandon says

        Giess what. I KNOW you’re a retard!
        Go suck a tit, annoyed man.

  62. Brandon says

    “Serious philosophical question: why haven’t you committed suicide yet, Brandon”?

    As noted above by others..because I have not found a method that is to my liking, and I am sure that has much to do with those with a breeder mentality placing obstacles in the paths of those who would should a less cliche method of suicice. Why are there so many anti suicide campaigns. Answer that!

    • Evander says

      It took me twenty seconds to conceive an actionable suicide plan, one easy and relatively painless. I think you lack will and courage – for which I’m thankful, because your life is valuable.

      Theoretically then you’re an anti-natalist, but in practice you can’t – or rather won’t – implement its logic in your own life. Blaming others who value life and want to obstruct suicide legislation is a cheap out and intellectually dishonest.

      • Brandon says

        Yet it didn’t dawn on you to describe this “actionable plan”. You are FOS.

        • Evander says

          Because ethically I’m uncomfortable specifying how to end one’s own life.

          My point stands: you’re a hypocrite.

  63. Morgan says

    To me, it seems easy to be both ethical and in favor of procreation.
    Simply put, humans are the only ethical beings of which we are aware. Without us here, no one would consider ethics, and so nature would continue it’s unethical progression into infinity. Humanity can attempt to make the world better, with less suffering, and therefore create a segment of nature which does not follow the unethical, amoral reality. If we want to save nature, and any future sentience it creates, from nature’s own unethical reality, we must exist, and we must fight to exist. Because it really is up to us.

    Anti-natalism is another way of giving up. Surrendering to what already exists. Of admitting to being simply soulless animals. It would be disgusting, if it wasn’t so embarrassing.

  64. Jon willson says

    Anyone who thinks Benatar overlooks the other species has not read his book! He discusses it expressly and favors extinction of all life. Conscious life is inexcusable. It has no possiible justification. To never exist no one must die and no one ever would die ir suffer. Non existence is not a state or quality so its freedom from inconvenience is flawless and perfect.
    There is no paradox and this paper is a waste. 99.99% of human life ends in proteacted illness with terror, pain, dread, fear, depression, and hopelessness. In the end every person suddenly realuzes this is what it comes down to that you spent a lifetime on earth to perpetuate the piintlessness and become non existent. Any contrary assertion is preposterous. Preoccupation with death is the human predicament. All religions hold forth the prospect of eternal life. That is not because you are indifferent! No one is puzzled by that offer. New testament is replete with god declaring death the number one enemy. Your children and every successive generation will be afraid and suffer and die asking your doctor “will I make it to my dayghter’s wedding”
    Evey life now on earth did not exist for over 13 billion years. Not one of them suffered or pleaded to be created. The dinosaurs are choking with laughter at the mindlessly masochistic humans and their selfish, narcisisstic creation of lufe wrapped in Pollyanna, maudlin, self congratulatory platitudes

    • Evander says

      Leaving your broad, loose and unsubstantiated claims aside, I put the same question to you: why haven’t you applied your philosophy yet and taken your own life?

      btw, since it’s Christmas, just a reminder that there is life and hope for all mankind on offer in Jesus.

      • Brandon says

        You are rather dense. As mentioned many times, while some Antinatalists are suicidal, that has no more logic than suggesting that breeders should brush their teeth with lye since they feel inclined to defend pain/suffering. Furthermore, breeders have already have already sealed our fate and it’s called death – suicide or not, dumbass!!

  65. Haven’t read the book, don’t intend to. Only an athiest could come up with or debate such a stupid idea.

  66. Marcia Rizzy says

    Over the past few years I’ve become solidly pro-natalist. This is not the same as being anti-abortion. My reasoning is that youth cultures lead to economic growth and larger families are not prone to the same kind of dysfunction that we see now in single and dual child families – It’s not easy to coddle three or more children. Larger sets of offspring also tend to develop stronger social skills. It’s hard, however, to make this case today. Few parents are willing to put aside immediate wants to make a longer term investment.

  67. WildCard says

    One has to wonder why anyone who claims that life is not worth living hasn’t killed their friends, family and themselves already. That would be the only rational thing to do if you truly believed in that questionable philosophy.

    My guess is that the majority of anti-natalists are not in a social situation that would allow them to reproduce anyway, so they rationalize their circumstance with pseudo-concern for human suffering and/or “the environment”.

    The way I see it, anti-natalism is merely an angtsy manchild’s nihilistic wet dream.

    • Brandon says

      One has to wonder why with pronatalists being such tough masochists, they haven’t designed roads full of hot coal they they walk on for 10 mile every 4 hours, everyday for their waking existence.

      • WildCard says

        If you’re so hellbent on life Brandon, why are you still breathing?

        It’s a simple question I’ve asked in a few different comments to which you apparently felt compelled to reply to, but not once were you able to address that very obvious hypocrisy of yours. So what is your excuse exactly? Too cowardly to put your philosophy in practice?

        • Brandon says

          A simple question? Ha
          No it’s a dumb ass question. I’m breathing because that’s what my body does involuntarily. You on the other hand voluntarily choose to impose upon another while expecting your autonomy to be respected. Breeders are the hypocrites my friend. You are deeply confused.
          And I assure you I don’t need to put my “philosophy im action” if you don’t. Get started walking on those hot coals. Go sleep on a bed made of daggers, masochist. But even if you don’t, we are still going to die, thanks to the cult of breeding. Please get real soon.

        • Defenstrator says

          He’s not going to answe because he doesn’t care. He’s a troll. The purpose of his existence is to say inflammatory things in order to annoy people. His contention that reducing suffering is just a lie, because as a troll suffering is what he lives on. Just ignore him.

          • Brandon says

            Why don’t you just kill yourself? Lmap
            You are so pathetic. Please invest in a mirror.
            Breeders don’t have a clue. But they will eventually. I feel sorry for your offspring, D.

  68. northernobserver says

    You know upon further reflection anti-natalism is a self refuting philosophy, destined to be replaced by people who have pro-natalist opinions and behaviors. There is nothing to argue about, just point and laugh.

    • Brandon says

      Death is proof that the joke is always on the delusional pronatalist. You haven’t accomplished shit and you will be wiped out! No wonder breeders are the inventors of fake ass religion.

  69. Tyler says

    Please don’t conflate atheism with idiotic, naive philosophies like this. I would imagine that anti-natalists are almost exclusively atheistic, but there are many subsets of christianity that are just as insane and don’t justify the derision of all Christians. The opposite of anti-natalism isn’t necessarily christianity or any other religion.

    • Michael says

      Tyler, we are (mostly) atheists who understand that evolution is directed by crude and unintelligent forces. We didn’t evolve because the universe needed us to be here, or because it’s intrinsically good for us to be here. Since we are endowed with higher intelligence, we are able to question our base biological instincts and determine that evolution has created a mess that it falls on intelligence to clean up.

      Atheist natalism is essentially religion, but swapping God for evolution, and having faith that evolution knows what its doing and is creating an intrinsically valuable and worthwhile product. Evolution worshippers are worse than the Christians, in some respects.

      • Brandon says

        I have a theory that atheist natalism is a precursor to those belief systems such as Christianity. It’s a defense mechanism. At some point the cognitive dissonance becomes overwhelming; knowing this existence is a trap but being too chicken to appear as anti human anti family etc. for speaking out loud what many acknowlege secretly. So instead they whole heartedly embrace the illusion that we’re doing anything but decaying everyday.

        • Evander says

          Michael and Brandon, antinatalism is also religion. Arbitrarily, you think we are duty-bound not to procreate, because this violates a supposed right of people not to exist in a world where suffering predominates. You posit a godless universe then urge an ethical program. Conrad’s Marlow called life ‘a mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose.’ Be consistent and stop injecting meaning into it while calling out others for doing so.

          • Brandon says

            Don’t demand consistency when you fail to do it yourself. You’re like a retard who constantly strikes someone then becomes irate when the blow returns. This is the breeder mentality, absolute insanity. But as the saying goes, for lack of better words: ” you started it, but I’m gonna finish it”.

          • Brandon says

            I never claimed the universe is godless. If fact if there IS a God, that lends even more to the idea that reproduction is a violation. Why would any created thing need to create something if not to upsurp the authority of the original Authority. You Christians need to take a lesson from the Gnostic. They are not hypocrites like the Christian, especially those of the Catholic persuasion.

  70. Humans are a social species; our individual happiness may be of extreme importance to us but it is actually irrelevant. It is not even acceptable to think about an individual in this context because separate from his family or tribe he is no longer even human. By all means do not reproduce; but don’t expect anyone else to follow your example.

    • Brandon says

      That you believe humans are a social species may be relevant but don’t expect anyone else to give a damn.

  71. Brandon says

    Sounds like someone is having a very hard time getting laid.
    Why make any effort to get out of inceldom when you can just blame the “breeders” (99% of people) for everything wrong in the world?

    Wildcard, refrain from replying to me if you’re gonna be a chicken shit and remove the reply button on your comment!

    Trust me, there is nothing “getting laid” will grant me that I can’t achieve on my own. And yes my friend, breeders are responsible for everything wrong in the world, like fucking literally. You want to take all the credit, then take all the blame. Hypocrite!

    • WildCard says

      Lmao, do you really think I have the programming skills to hack into Quillette’s html code and “remove the reply button from my comment”?

      You are one sad, delusional individual my friend. Get some help, and maybe try to get some of that “breeding” action you seem to despite so passionately. It might calm your nerves.

      Happy holidays!

      • Brandon says

        Wildcard, you’re retarded if you sex calms anyone down.

  72. mitchellporter says

    “The Anti-Natalist Paradox”… This essay itself, if not exactly a paradox, also has two sides.

    One is the criticism of antinatalism as a social movement or intellectual subculture: that it is blind to the concrete consequences of its agenda. This is a familiar theme in criticism of world-saving ideologies, and it is the side of the essay that (in theory) better fits Quillette’s reputation as a haven for skepticism towards all ideologies.

    Then there is the argument that antinatalism may be an ethical mistake for utilitarian reasons. The suffering of the last generation, under a global antinatalist regime, might actually be greater than the combined suffering of the future generations who otherwise would have lived.

    Kenton presents the failure to consider this possibility, as demonstrating the antinatalist movement’s tunnel vision. But evidently quite a few commenters, who already consider antinatalism absurd or inhuman or both, also look upon Kenton’s critique as an absurdity. Some present it as a battle between “leftist” fanaticism and antinatalist nihilism; though to me Kenton looks more like an effective altruist, who cares about the sum total of suffering in the world, and is open-minded about the best way to proceed.

    Anyway, the discussion has mostly passed over Kenton’s main point, in favor of a generalized debate about antinatalism. So I’d like to return to his actual scenario.

    Apparently not everyone considers it a foregone conclusion that an antinatalist world would be one of suffering and collapse. Long ago I read an essay by an ecofeminist who speculated that the quality of life might *improve* if the human race collectively decided to stop reproducing. I believe her concept was one of enlightenment through nonattachment: ordinary life is a frenzy of hope and disappointment, ambition and cruelty, but having let go and accepted oblivion, we would all be more reflective, and more humane toward each other.

    More seriously, something missing from Kenton’s scenario is the idea of resistance. If the human race had actually achieved an unprecedented consensus that dying out is for the best, then it would also organize to ease the transition. But if the world were in collapse simply because the core of civilization had opted for oblivion, the global poor wouldn’t just suffer and die, they would go to war against the old core and start a new civilization with themselves at its center.

    • Surely you can understand, mitchellporter, that altruism, taken to the extreme, leads to the very positions we are here combating. For example, the desire to alleviate the Earth’s suffering leads many extremists to advocate for human extinction. Altruism almost always ends up in a position against humankind. For are not humans – in reality – the lords of creation? That’s a very compromising position to be in when altruism is on the loose.

      So we use umbrella terms like ‘Leftist nihilism’, etc., to designate this extreme altruism, among other things. And as Kenton seems to accept the arguments of anti-natalism, at least on the ‘local, individual’ level (I guess there will be no Kenton Jr.’s in the world for my children to annoy with nasty internet comments, then), your distinction is unacceptable.

  73. Brian says

    If you are an anti-natalist, you have a responsibility to kill yourself. If you don’t, that would constitute a lack of true belief, seeing as how actions speak louder than words.
    I have a Glock 19 on my hip at the present moment. I will gladly hand it over to an anti-natalist to use on themselves, providing they don’t do the deed on my carpet…..it is a bitch trying to get blood and brains out of the carpet.

    Brandon……I can only laugh at your angry, nihilistic rantings as being disingenuous at best. When I read your obituary, only then will I know that you truly mean what you say. Until then, what I am reading are the angry, impotent rantings of a coward.

    Put your money where your mouth is, and end your own suffering. Or shut the fuck up.

    • Brandon says

      Oh look another screen name. So pathetic with the same illogical ass demand. I’m glad you have it on your hip. Maybe it will unload some special place so you can’t..and spare everyone the joke that is your lineage.

  74. Brandon says

    “Are you unable to post without resorting to invective and insults? You discredit yourself.”

    You must be under the mistaken impression that I give a fuck what an irrational cry baby like you who whines about certain language but not the imposition of birth, thinks. Don’t make me laugh!

  75. connorbehan says

    Most people will find this repugnant? It’s the most obvious thing ever to me.

  76. Pirus says

    There is nothing like anti-natalism to unite all of us around one true identity, which is humanity.

    Ironically it shines a light on the lunacy in all of us anti-natlist or not.

  77. Peter Kriens says

    I’m a programmer and learned the hard way that when you get a bizarre counter intuitive answer it is highly like your program is wrong. However debugging can be hard.

    The basic weakness in the argument of Benatar is of course that we cannot ask the unborn souls about their opinions. However we could do a thought experiment. Assume after our dead we’d store our brains in the cloud. One day a new Steve comes around and figures out a way to get answers from this brain in the clouds. If we’d ask it if it wants to be resurrected we can get an answer without any suffering since the brain is just bits in the cloud..

    My inanimate brain would clearly jump on the opportunity to get another chance to be conscious again, despite the certainty I will suffer. Even if my brain was somehow kept sentient in eternal bliss (heaven?) I would chose to live another live because the unimaginably rare gift we all have received to witness this awesome universe is too good to pass up. I expect that the far majority of people would make the same decision. Could you imagine for example Stephen Hawkins not wanting to live again even if it would involve the same debilitating conditions he endured?

    Why would we consider the opinion of some ivory dungeon type about infinite souls more realistic than our own mind?

    Anti natalists give me the impression they do not go out very often into nature. (Or do not take their anti depressants.)

    • Brandon says

      “Stephen Hawkins not wanting to live again even if it would involve the same debilitating conditions he endured?”

      You really think he would? You are nuts if you think so!!

    • Pirus says

      Quite. It takes a very arrogant mind to presume the unborn will prefer to not to be born at all.

      I wonder if they extend that logic to other beings too. For example do they advocate if it was possible, to make all animals infertile?

      • Michael says

        “Quite. It takes a very arrogant mind to presume the unborn will prefer to not to be born at all.

        I wonder if they extend that logic to other beings too. For example do they advocate if it was possible, to make all animals infertile?”

        The unborn do not have any preference, therefore it cannot be for their benefit that we bring a child into a world in which they can be severely harmed, and in which they will need to expend their own resources to maintain their life. You can’t have any logical reason for bringing them into existence that pertains to their needs, preferences and desires, because they don’t have any until you impose them.

        As an antinatalist, I favour whatever solution would eliminate sentient life (including non-humans) in the swiftest and most painless fashion. Though I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity for an extinction event that was less than instantaneous and less than painless.

      • Defenstrator says

        He’s not arrogant, he’s a troll. He’ll say anything to get a rise in people. Just ignore him.

    • Michael says

      Peter Kriens – The ethical default solution would be the one that does not aggressively impose. The non-identity problem is not a flaw in antinatalist thinking, it’s what natalists cannot overcome. If someone doesn’t exist before you bring them into existence, then they have no needs to be fulfilled, You can’t be doing them a favour by bringing them into existence, because there is no conceivable downside to not existing. What you are doing is creating the needs and desires and then congratulating yourselves for trying to partially satiate those same needs and desires that you’ve created. Unfortunately, you have very limited control over the harm to which your children will be exposed, and you also cannot guarantee that they will have the same value equation as you do (i.e. this much pleasure is worth this much work and risk of harm).

      Your analogy is not an apt one, because in order to “jump at the chance” you would need to have been in a deprived state ‘in the cloud’. The chance to live again would have to be offering something that satisfies a need or desire that you have, in order for you to take that choice. No such need or desire exists for a mind which does not exist.

      I’m an antinatalist, and I get out into nature about as much as I can. And having a relatively negative appraisal of what life means, compared to whatever you arbitrarily deem to be the baseline condition (based on what objective standard?) is not a pathology.

      • augustine says

        “If someone doesn’t exist before you bring them into existence…”

        Michael, your writing is front-loaded with presumptions of God-like free will, intent and motivation. As if we wrote the program and control it completely. How is it that you ascribe this omnipotence to us? Is reproduction any different than our need for food or rest in terms of human volition? Without choosing to do so consciously, we can keep going as a species. It happens every day, all over the world. By contrast, it takes conscious effort to try to end life.

        A biologist, when speaking to the layman, will commonly ascribe purpose to his subject: the hummingbird whose bill is “designed” so she can visit her “preferred” flowers of complementary “design”, etc. How are we any different? If we are, in evolutionary terms, absolutely without purpose, how can our reprodutcion be morally wrong? In other words, what is your source of moral objectivity to make your case in the first place?

        “because there is no conceivable downside to not existing”

        There is also no conceivable upside to not existing. You enjoy some upsides in your life now, I’m guessing, so your advocacy of a “neutral” zero human life future is perplexing. Among other outcomes, your ultimate solution would deprive the universe of experiencing even your own “negative appraisal” of existence thru human consciousness.

        Ultimately I can only guess that your deeper motivation is one of aggressively imposing your own will on the idea of life itself. But if you are an atheist, why would you care about ultimate things at all? Your facade of concern for human suffering appears false.

        • Brandon says

          “By contrast, it takes conscious effort to try to end life.”

          Lmao..your word games are amusing.
          I assure you that the among the trillions who have died in the past, the majority of them had no input at all.

        • Michael says

          “Michael, your writing is front-loaded with presumptions of God-like free will, intent and motivation. As if we wrote the program and control it completely. How is it that you ascribe this omnipotence to us? Is reproduction any different than our need for food or rest in terms of human volition? Without choosing to do so consciously, we can keep going as a species. It happens every day, all over the world. By contrast, it takes conscious effort to try to end life.”

          We don’t require libertarian free will in order to be able to understand what life entails and decide to end it. We learn lots of things and change our attitudes without having free will. Most of us do assume that the continuation of human life is serving some kind of valuable purpose, but most people subscribe to some kind of religious mythology with us at the centre of the universe. It becomes harder to avoid the realisation that life isn’t worth the cost once we shed religion.

          “A biologist, when speaking to the layman, will commonly ascribe purpose to his subject: the hummingbird whose bill is “designed” so she can visit her “preferred” flowers of complementary “design”, etc. How are we any different? If we are, in evolutionary terms, absolutely without purpose, how can our reprodutcion be morally wrong? In other words, what is your source of moral objectivity to make your case in the first place?”

          Because we’ve evolved to be capable of rejecting our brutish innate instincts. We do have the ability to recognise that our instincts cause harm that is not worth the cost that they impose.

          “There is also no conceivable upside to not existing. You enjoy some upsides in your life now, I’m guessing, so your advocacy of a “neutral” zero human life future is perplexing. Among other outcomes, your ultimate solution would deprive the universe of experiencing even your own “negative appraisal” of existence thru human consciousness.”

          If you don’t exist, you can’t experience an upside to that state of affairs, true enough. But prevention of harm is generally considered to be a good thing, even when we cannot identify someone who has benefited from the prevented harm. Laws against drink driving are a good example of this; we don’t know who has been spared harm, but we know that statistically there would be more maimed and killed people out there without these laws. And how exactly can the universe be deprived of anything?

          “Ultimately I can only guess that your deeper motivation is one of aggressively imposing your own will on the idea of life itself. But if you are an atheist, why would you care about ultimate things at all? Your facade of concern for human suffering appears false.”

          The welfare of someone who will be born tomorrow is as important as mine. So therefore it makes sense that I should morally desire to prevent them from being harmed, if like me, they are vulnerable to suffering, and will be imposed upon with the costly task of maintaining an expensive existence.

          • augustine says

            Thanks for your reply, Michael. It seems your position is that life is inherently harmful to all beings and that no amount of non-harmful (positive or neutral) content can provide satisfactory balance to this dilemma. This is an entirely arbitrary and subjective view– how can it be otherwise?– and that is your personal choice. I will also choose subjectively, but differently. Those who arrive in the future will have to do their own figuring just as they have done in the past.

  78. No life = No Glory.

    If glory is a good, perhaps the highest good for those of a Homeric temperament, then life is good (indirectly), and denying glory to your would-be progeny the greatest evil.

  79. There are basically two attitudes:

    One which views obstacles and difficulties as a means of overcoming one’s self, or failing that, dying with honor, and one which craves comfort and security and hates struggle and hardship. The first is an attitude of life-in-death, the second the attitude of death-in-life, the path of strength and the path of weakness.

    While the philosopher may not persuade, he does reveal the essence of his worldview: the will to suicide driven by fear of pain and failure. . . like the warning words of the angle spoken to Lot in elder days.

    • tarstarkas says

      I believe Achilles was given that choice. He chose the first option.

  80. Michael says

    “One which views obstacles and difficulties as a means of overcoming one’s self, or failing that, dying with honor, and one which craves comfort and security and hates struggle and hardship. The first is an attitude of life-in-death, the second the attitude of death-in-life, the path of strength and the path of weakness.”

    KD, this is merely a contrivance that you have come up with to justify your existence after it’s already begun. It can’t work for bringing new souls into existence, because they have no need to obtain what can be won through obstacles and hardships. They have no character which needs to be annealed by being conscripted into a forced march through a minefield. There’s no weakness to overcome until you impose vulnerability.

    • Brandon says

      “There’s no weakness to overcome until you impose vulnerability”

      👏👏👏

  81. तेजस आनंद गोखले says

    You might as well have criticized Benatar for not including Quantum Mechanics in his book. Not once does the work “positron” appear in his book. Moral philosophers’ apathy to advancements in physics is a disgrace.

    Exaggeration apart, there are two flaws in your criticism.
    1. The book’s main focus is on ethics and harms of procreation. It is not a roadmap of its implementation for a governmental program.
    2. ” A combination of the most abject horrors of the gulags, Mao and Stalin’s famines and purges, Auschwitz and Dachau, and our worst contemporary humanitarian crises would likely amount to only a fraction of the suffering visiting upon the final generation’s poorest members.” – this is correct and this suffering of last generation will in turn be only a fraction of total suffering as a result of an infinite cycle of procreation. We “have” to bite the proverbial bullet once and for all.

  82. Brandon says

    “I remember that dreadful day as well, and now I look back on sixty years of wonderful adventures and discussions and regrets ? too few to mention”

    Don’t make me laugh! You know you’re looking for your next cocktail. Don’t pretend you have a functioning memory!

  83. Brandon says

    “@brandon And you lament those non-Americans forced to live under gun control who are condemned to find lethal alternatives”

    Lethal alternatives? As if there is one that isn’t lethal? Even your pretentious”adventures” are lethal” thanks to the fact that you are among the unlucky to be breathing.

  84. Man with the Axe says

    The entire premise is flawed. Who says that ending suffering is a moral imperative? It’s obvious (to me) that some suffering is a good thing, in that it is necessary for a person to build character, to acquire virtues. And perhaps this is the point of life: to acquire virtues so that each of us can contribute to the reduction of suffering in others.

    But to end life itself just to end suffering completely? Sorry, but no matter how elegant the argumentation is, that sounds stupid to me.

    • Brandon says

      That’s what I said after reading your comment. Your insertion of the word “some” is flawed at best…deceptive at worst. Wtf is some?

    • Michael says

      Man with the Axe,

      What you’re describing is suffering that one is willing to endure for the sake of a greater gain. But only someone already in existence would need to sacrifice some suffering in order to build character or gain virtues. Someone who does not yet exist does not need to have suffering imposed on them so that they can build character; and also in that scenario, they aren’t the one deciding to make the sacrifice.

      Without our existence, there will be no need for heroic sufferers enduring the travails of life in order to build character. What you describe is valuable only on the contingency that we already exist; it isn’t an intrinsic good.

      • Of course not, we are trapped in the eternal recurrence, what we choose today we will choose over and over for all eternity. The true hero wastes not a moment of precious time to embody something beautiful and eternal. Those who waste are sentenced to an eternity of mediocrity.

        [Of course it is true that good can only be relative to a group, person or rational agent, and so if you embrace philosophical naturalism, no people = no good. This does not make ethics “contingent” any more than mathematics, as no people = no mathematical truths. Obviously, no humans, no norms of human behavior. The argument here presumes the existence of humanity, but proposes collective suicide, which presumes a normative structure in play. Obviously, if every person dropped dead, it would not be either good nor bad, just a brute fact at that point (without inventing/supposing supernatural agents).]

        • Honestly, the view that all can live or that all should die are both absurd. Some will die, and some will live, and an ethics that fails to address that fact in the first instance sets itself up as something like a frictionless plane or an imaginary world of infinite food. The human problem is scarcity and distribution of human resources, and an ethics that dodges that reality does not engage with the human condition. [We should include appropriation and production as well, of course.]

          Hence, the superiority of life boat ethics to say thought experiments in the vale of ignorance.

    • तेजस आनंद गोखले says

      Two flaws in your reply:
      1. Circular arguments
      2. Confusing the instrumental positive value of suffering with its intrinsic negative value.

  85. tarstarkas says

    The premise is flawed because it is weighted against joy and pleasure and towards pain and suffering. I get the feeling that Benestar is depressive, that he finds little pleasure in even the greatest of accomplishments and much anguish at the slightest failure, and that since many people’s lives are much less comfortable than his own, the only solution is to render the human race extinct as quickly and painlessly as possible. He is projecting his own angst upon humanity at large.

    One cannot measure the worth of joy and pleasure any more than one can pain and suffering. It’s an argument worthy of the mad philosophers of the Island of Laputa. Athletics are a good example of how a relative pittance of joy is valued much more heavily than suffering. How many agonizing hours of training and preparation does a championship athlete undergo, how many setbacks and injuries must they experience, all for a few brief moments of ecstasy on the podium, or in the interview booth after their victory, or the remuneration for their efforts. The process is highly skewed towards the suffering portion, especially when you add in all those athletes who do not succeed. Yet uncounted millions continue to join athletic competitions of every stripe every year. There is also the sense of accomplishment one gets from performing to the best of their ability, the friendships made and kept, the life lessons learned. For many the journey is the goal, and a goal well worth having.

    • pleasure and pain do not exhaust the content of human lives. Neither address thd question of meaning. utiltarianism never does

  86. Brandon says

    Pronatalism rests upon the insanely flawed assumption that there is a right to be born

    • Defestrator says

      You still trolling? It’s Christmas man. Surely you must have some friends to spend time with.

      • Brandon says

        It’s Christmas eh? Is that a request for a thesaurus so you can discover a word aside from “trolling”?

  87. Avid Reader says

    Having experienced the pain of reading the infantile comments of @Michael and@Brandon, I am remembering Vicki with pleasure, affection and appreciation of her great wit, something these anti natalists are lacking. This makes them the obvious choice to host the Oscars.

  88. Avid Reader says

    Sorry, I forgot @Michelle. Sorry your life is so shit. But you don’t get to judge the worth of any one else’s.

  89. I refute the argument utterly at its first assumption: life is not suffering, it is joy.

    Anti-natalism then is the killing of joy. A despicable, anti-life, completely dysfunctional creed..evolved only out of the dysfunctional minds produced by the circumstances found in the “mouse utopia experiments”.

    A great deal of humanity are ill, the health of the earth and human civilisation is managing to hang on while you all kill yourselves and attempt to bring down the destruction of all that is healthy, that you yourselves ironically believe is dysfunctional and wrong.

  90. The logical conclusion of totalitarianism. Denial of other individuals of even the opportunity for choice. Academic philosophy in its death throes.

    • Brandon says

      Oh look, someone who CHOSE to be born. It’s a miracle. 😮

      • said the 14 year old to thekr parents…
        idiotic. denying people the opportunity to chose to and how to live does not entail demanding that the choice comes from before their birth. anyway, tnis is beyond good and evil. if a totalitarian like you had tried to prevent my wife and i having children I would have fought you to death

        • Brandon says

          “Denying people the opportunity to chose to and how to live does not entail demanding that the choice comes from before their birth.”

          Dumbass, you would fight to the death because you desire to prove how much of a psychopath you are like any breeder not regretful of having children.. Funny how many of you staunch pro natalists would criticize the feminist abortion pro choicer for using the “it’s my body” rationale, but somehow it’s ok for you hypocrites. The true totalitarians are you raging collectives who have subtly preached spread the mythology that we all belong to one another. It’s BS!!

  91. luke tod says

    Misanthropy posing as humanity through a twisted version of already vapid utilitarianism. Vile.

  92. R Henry says

    As Western Culture rejects Faith, existential questions are entirely predictable…and tragic.

  93. J Dubb says

    “And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere” – Arthur C Clark

    The great danger of Neo-Liberal thought such as this is that they draw equivalence between the Human Race and all other animals/life forms. The existence of the Human Mind to experience the wonders of the world is what makes Nature valuable. Let’s be clear – Is there any value in a hypothetical Human Free Earth Ecology if there is no sentient being around to witness and experience the wonders? The whole purpose of evolution – to my mind – has been to produce “Mind”. “Anti-Natalists” seem to long for the death of the only Minds on the Planet capable of both experiencing and protecting the eco-system.

    • R Henry says

      A perfect illustration of why Christians have no fear whatsover about their dominion over all other creatures. Christians understand their place in Creation.

    • augustine says

      J Dubb

      That is an excellent point to ponder. Without a valuer nothing has any value!

      • Michael says

        augustine:

        “J Dubb

        That is an excellent point to ponder. Without a valuer nothing has any value!”

        No value just means that there is no liability. The universe doesn’t have any need for value or valuers. And us sentient creatures cannot value without there being a tremendous cost associated with it. So I say that we should just render the universe valueless (and therefore harmless), as far as we are able.

    • Michael says

      J Dubb – The universe doesn’t need anything to be experiencing it. It’s quite indifferent with respect to whether or not anyone is gazing up into the starry night sky with “wonder”. The “wonder” is only needed after you create the ‘wonderers’. Evolution does not have any end-game. We’re not here because evolution is itself sentient and had a purpose that we are serving.

      I’m personally in favour of destroying all life, so we would sterilise the biosphere before leaving. But even if I were in favour of destroying only humanity for the sake of the eco-system, it was still doing a lot better without us. We’re causing devastating harm in the form of pollution and extinctions, and are barely even starting to try to mitigate the whirlwind of devastation that we are blazing across the Earth.

  94. Bubblecar says

    One can imagine a number of obvious scenarios in which Engel’s objection to anti-natalism would be valid. For example, the human species going through the anti-natalist end days, and then, at a short enough time in the future, a giant asteroid slamming into the Earth and ending all life anyway.

    In that case the extreme suffering of the end days would have all been in vain – humanity would have introduced more suffering into the world than they alleviated.

    So any species adopting universal anti-natalism would have to formulate a realistic equation to determine the balance of probabilities of more or less suffering.

    One severe problem would be our inability to calculate how much suffering can potentially be alleviated by future technology. For example, an extreme transhumanist future might entail humans evolving into beings that don’t actually suffer at all.

    This absence of knowledge about the future of human suffering – how much will there be, and to what extent it can be reduced – makes the anti-natalist position a somewhat feeble one, however interesting it is to play with as an ethical toy.

  95. I am not sure Engel’s argument as has much worth. Not because it is wrong or right, but because it is practical by nature while anti-natalism in its pure form has a huge barrier to practical implementation, and resolving that barrier likely renders Engel’s argument moot..

    To achieve an end to procreation one has to either enforce it, or agree to it.

    The mechanism required to enforce an anti-natal programme across the globe in all societies and classes is enough, alone, to create a totalitarian dystopia with all the suffering it entails. Frankly the totalitarianism would dwarf what Engel foresees, in my opinion.

    The alternative would be an agreement, involving either some sort of understanding between all layers of society or some sort of massive bribes. But such understanding or such bribes are very likely to involve a redistribution that would mainly remove the issue. If the rich genuinely agree to extinction, they will not pass their riches to descendants, thus will be more willing to spend them on peaceful extinction. Alternatively they will pretend to go for extinction, while secretly continuing to reproduce. But in this case they will be glad to spend much of their riches to buy extinction, knowing the riches will be collected back from the dead plebs with huge interest in the form of a human-free planet (except for the small number of secret children).

    Having said all that – perhaps anti-natalism is not even intended for implementation? Perhaps it is merely a philosophy devised to give meaning to the natural lowering of population in developed countries, the so-called second demographic transition? In this case, total extinction is actually not on the cards as an immediate possibility; but as population declines gradually, people ask questions where this might lead, and anti-natalism provides a prospective answer.

    In this case, as the decline is gradual, there is no abrupt absence of next generation. It is just smaller. But on the other hand it is more productive and better educated. Then the next one is yet smaller and yet more productive and better educated. Not a perfect situation but far from catastrophe.

  96. The real question is if the author truly holds the views that he does and could save himself from future suffering, why has he not ended his own life?

    Is it because he is enjoying the benefits of Hawking pandering nihilistic sophistry to the masses and the creature comforts that come with it?

    By this logic the potential for immense suffering merely increases every day he exists. The chances of him contributing to other’s suffering also remains.

    By not creating a life you also take away the chance to experience pleasure as well as suffering. You are taking agency for an individual that you have no claim to make decisions for.

    Also, murder is now apparently logically a good thing as you are ensuring that no future suffering will take place with the termination of another’s life.

    This is all stupid.

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