The “Don’t Have Children” Movement.

Actually, I believe it is known as antinatalism.   I had no idea there were so many people passionately opposed to procreation, on the grounds that it morally indefensible to bring a child into the world when we know with  certainty that it will lead to suffering and death.

Do you feel this is a crock of shit? I do, and here’s why. I believe that if I invited every antinatalist to commit suicide, I would get no takers. Why? Because they fucking want to live, that’s why! Even though life means suffering, THEY WANT MORE OF IT. But they don’t want to subject this thing they want more of, to any future beings.

I believe these avowed antinatalists are acting in bad faith by refusing to kill themselves. Shit or get off the pot, know what I mean?

Life is certainly filled with tragedy but as Woody Allen complained about a restaurant with bad food, the portions are so small!

By the way, I came upon this topic via Chip Smith, a provocateur (and antinatalist) whose website wants to make you mad, or at least ruffle your feathers.

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57 Responses to “The “Don’t Have Children” Movement.”

  1. Paco Wové Says:

    …Chip Smith, a provocateur (and antinatalist) whose website wants to make you mad…

    Oh, my, he’s so shocking. (Rolls eyes)

  2. enc Says:

    I’ve never thought about this side of life; I’m surrounded by people who are dying to have several kids, or add to their broods.

    I’m on the outside looking in.

  3. Imelda Matt Says:

    hahahahahahahaha

  4. hammie Says:

    enc. if you are talking about infertility then I will tell you; everytime I am tempted to regret my life with 2 kids with Autism; I remind myself that I got pregnant easily 3 times. And was twice able to carry to term and have happy and healthy babies.
    Sis; to me this argument is like wearing a motorcycle or bike helmet; As the Great Jerry Seinfeld once said: If you don’t think you need one then you probably don’t. (no is going to notice if you get an aquired brain injury)

    If you really don’t want to have children; then you probably don’t need to, but don’t marry someone who does and fuck up their life.

    And don’t expect the rest of us to give up the chance to go on this ride.
    When my kids both joined me in this world, I got to start again at being a better person. I even had someone who liked my singing (for a while, then they got wise) And I think they make it a better world.
    xx

  5. marmalade wombat Says:

    ouch. sensitive topic. after attending a feminist girls’ school for six years and sitting through geography and civics classes full of graphs depicting exponential population growth and the effect of this on the earth, I was effectively dissuaded from having babies… to the point where babies in prams often sense my unease and shriek at me.
    logically, i have to agree that population growth has unwanted effects. but i don’t agree with the antinatalist’s justification that life is not worth living… emo much?
    glad you’re back sister wolf. another post that got me thinking.

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  7. Tobi Lynne Says:

    This IS an interesting one! I am actually anti-kid (although I occasionally have days I think that I might want one someday). Not for a “life sucks” kinda reason, though … I’m just too selfish. I want to travel, I want to be able to come & go as I please, I want D & I’s attention to remain focused on each other, I want to learn everything about everything, I want to have money to spend, I want to have grown up conversations with grown ups. And then there’s the fact that we’ve waited so long — If I plopped one out tomorrow, I’d be 50 by the time they got out of the house, D would 60 … if we waited a bit longer? I’d be screaming at my own kids to stay off the lawn! As an aside, my parents are mortified by my attempts at justification, and are endlessly asking when we’re going to have them.

  8. Jen Says:

    I never thought about it that way, you really make it an impenetrable argument, nice job! Im preggers now and i haven’t run into any of those disgusted by my breeding hipsters yet that will no doubly look down upon me and my pregnant belly with disdain, but im looking forward to asking them to kill themselves when they do!

  9. Chip Smith Says:

    The “why not just kill yourself” refrain comes up whenever people encounter philanthropic antinatalist arguments for the first time. I’ve responded to it in a number of forums, and David Benatar addresses it in some depth in his important book, “Better Never to Have Been” (see pp 211-221 of the OUP edition). I think it’s an understandable first reaction. As arguments go, however, it’s a non-sequitur.

    No matter how much one may cherish — or rue — their OWN existence, the question of whether to continue one’s life — a life already set in motion — is fundamentally and crucially different from the question of whether to bring a NEW being into existence. There are a number of reasons why this distinction is sustained, the most obvious being that it is impossible for a pre-existent person to consent to being brought into existence. This is so obvious, in fact, that people seldom even think about it. But if consent is a value worthy of emphasis in other moral contexts, then why not here, in this profoundly important first instance?

    There is also no way of knowing in advance how a new person will take to their life, or how well or badly their life will go. When you have a child, there is the chance that that child will be happy and grateful. There is also the chance that that child will, for reasons quite beyond anyone’s control, be very unhappy. Perhaps even suicidal. Perhaps the victim of a terrible crime or illness. Regardless, some degree of suffering is guaranteed to visit even the most charmed lives, all of which will end, as sure as you were born, with the harm of death.

    But even if you don’t buy into my view that death is a harm, keep in mind that the risk entailed in procreation is a risk imposed, not taken. You roll the dice not with your own life, but with that of another person, who might have been spared.

    And if the argument resorts to the flippancy that “we always have the option of killing themselves, so why should it matter?” then I suggest thinking a little further about the moral and physical difficulty of suicide, and the toll it exacts on others.

  10. Chip Smith Says:

    By the way, if anyone want to take a look at my notes on the subject, here are links to a the first four parts in a series that I abandoned:

    http://hooverhog.typepad.com/hognotes/2007/06/initial_harm_pa.html

    http://hooverhog.typepad.com/hognotes/2007/06/initial_harm_pa_1.html

    http://hooverhog.typepad.com/hognotes/2007/07/initial-harm-pa.html

    http://hooverhog.typepad.com/hognotes/2007/09/initial-harm-pa.html

  11. Sister Wolf Says:

    Chip, I don’t believe my question is a non-sequiter, but rather a challenge to the very essense of your philosophical position, and underscores its blatant hypocrisy.

    Again, you cling tenationsly to the life you have, even though it will lead to death, which you call ‘harm.’ You are saying, “This shitty ham sandwich should never be foiseted upon any innocent being who need not suffer such a bad sandwich, but GOD DAMN, I’m going to eat every last bite!”

    Are you yourself sorry to have been born? If not, how can you extrapolate such feelings from the yet-to-be-born.

    Have you experienced any joy in your existence, from art, music, sex, love, nature? If not, killing yourself would spare you any more of your joyless barren existense,

    But if you have, why are you so presumptuous as to decide such joy isn’t compensation enough for a not-yet-born-person.

    I would like to hear more about your perceived moral and physical difficulty regarding suicide. The Japanese had no trouble with suicide when honor called for it. I think you should consider emulating this code yourself, if you are as righteous as you claim to be (re antinatalism.)

    Another point you have got wrong: “the risk entailed in procreation is a risk imposed, not taken.” What?!? Have you read no statistics on maternal mortality rates??

    Chip, you must be aware of the Disabled Rights movement. People who struggle with tremendous disabilities are rightly incencsed by the notion that it would’ve been better not to be born. Many can tell you quite eloquently why they love life and resent the assumption that they are sorry to be here.

    Read “Unspeakable Conversations” by Harriet McBryde Johnson.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9401EFDC113BF935A25751C0A9659C8B63

    Again, I vehemently disagree with your statement that “a life already set in motion is crucially different from the question of whether to bring a NEW life into existence.” If the crux of the matter is ‘consent,’ there are countless instances of taking action without consent that are morally correct. If your sister were unconscious from a car accident, would you refuse her surgery on the grounds that she could not give her concent?

    You are making too big a deal on the issue on consent, so if this is really at the heart of your position, I urge you to rethink it.

    I’m not being flippant about suicide, actually. If you are unwilling to end your own life, you can’t possibly be taken seriously when you depict life as too dismal to ‘impose’ on anyone else.

    Maybe this is your problem: You feel like a balloon that has been blown up with air, and your dread the fact that one day you will pop. Therefore, no other balloon should be put in your position of facing the ineviable POP.

    But you are soaring! Better to have soared to such glorious heights, Chip, than to have layed there for eternity as an empty balloon.

  12. Chip Smith Says:

    Sister Wolf,

    You write:

    “Another point you have got wrong: “the risk entailed in procreation is a risk imposed, not taken.” What?!? Have you read no statistics on maternal mortality rates?? ”

    This is a good point. I should have qualified as “morally relevant risk.”

    I’ll need some time to compose a fair reply to the rest of your response. Though I will emphasize, briefly, that one of the reasons I think it is wrong to bring people into existence is that death is so awful and horrifying. In one of my above-linked posts, I talk about the compatibility between antinatalism and immortalism/transhumanism.

  13. Make Do & Mend Says:

    Oh my – firstly I’m amazed at your clarity and cohesive arguements given you’ve just had a major trauma. So sorry that it happened and the pain. Your journal part 1 to 3 was amazing and on that basis alone I’d side with you over Chip Smith who actually falls into the why that name camp.We used to have potato chips in the UK called Smith (the company name).

    Anyway I digress but on the point of not bringing a new life into the world because of pain and death etc. I don’t understand why death is so awful adn horrifying – in many cases it is because of the act of how but otherwise death is an end to a chapter of which we have no knowledge of the next, whether there is another chapter or what.

    All the points about life it’s fullness from joy to sorrow are all an experience of being a human, of life. And death well it comes to us all as does life.

  14. alias clio Says:

    It sounds to me as if the real emotional draw of anti-natalism for you, Chip, is not fear of the suffering inherent in life, but fear of death. Death is indeed a horrifying thing (and according to Catholic teaching, an unnatural one for us), but I don’t know that fear of this kind is a sound basis for decision-making, except perhaps on a purely personal level. To expect to start a social movement on that basis is destructive.

    The idea of avoiding birth to avoid pain/fear would probably have been despised in many other less sensual/materialistic cultures, too. When the Jesuit missionaries preached the pains of hell-fire to the Huron, the latter were outraged at the suggestion that fear of pain should be used as a persuasive device. “Are we not braves?” was their response.

    Clio

  15. gabrielle Says:

    Hi sister,

    I’ve tried looking for an email for you but can’t find one – anyhow, I wanted to find out if you need some help while you’re bedridden? I live in Venice and have a lot of free time on my hands, plus tons of old issues of Voge and Vanity Fair and the New Yorker laying around in case you need something to read. I make good deserts, can pick up your dry cleaning or tell your husband to wear headphones, whatever. Just thought I’d return the favor since I get so much enjoyment out of your blog. Let me know if I can help.

  16. Iheartfashion Says:

    I agree: antinatalists shouldn’t have children.

  17. Chip Smith Says:

    Sister Wolf,

    Later, I’ll try to reply to your remarks — and challenges — on the problem of suicide, but I think your take on my position, at least the part that justifies your accusation of hypocrisy, may come down to a misunderstanding.

    To clarify, the crux of the matter isn’t merely the absence of consent; it’s the absence of consent in the context of the asymmetry that largely informs philanthropic antinatalism. In case you don’t have it memorized, Benatar’s formulation goes more or less like this:

    1. The presence of pain is bad.
    2. The presence of pleasure is good.

    But

    3. The absence of pain is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone.
    4. The absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.

    Thus, when you write…

    “Have you experienced any joy in your existence, from art, music, sex, love, nature? If not, killing yourself would spare you any more of your joyless barren existense, . . . But if you have, why are you so presumptuous as to decide such joy isn’t compensation enough for a not-yet-born-person.”

    … I think the charge of my “presumption” and the contextual use of the idea of “compensation” for “a not-yet-born-person” fails to take proper account of of the second half of the asymmetry. Where there is yet no person, but only a potential person, the unrealized joy that that potential person might go on to experience cannot be fairly described as something for which compensation is owed. Once realized, this joy balances against no commensurate deprivation that preceded it. In other words, the absence of this particular joy — say, my joy — prior to my existence wasn’t hurting anyone. If compensation is required, it perforce begs the question of precedent injury. But the injury presupposes being hatched. The absence of pain that came before that event is good, and the absence of pleasure that came before is immaterial.

    Similarly, it doesn’t make sense to characterize one as being or acting presumptiously by not creating a person (or by counseling against person-creation) on the premise that such inaction (or counsel) forfeits that potential person their due share of joy. “The absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.”

    Once a particular person — say, me — is summoned into existence, then we can talk reasonably about compensation and justice and consent, etc. with narrower reference items 1 & 2 above.

    If you are inclined to dismiss the asymmetry as not meaning what it means, consider the moral implications of upholding your view that pre-existent people can suffer deprivation. If it were the case that the absence of a beings future joy before their existence was somehow a morally relevant deprivation, wouldn’t we be burdened with the task of procreating madly in order to balance the scales for the countless people presumed to be slighted by having not yet been brought to life?

  18. Sister Wolf Says:

    Chip:

    With all due respect, hahaha!

    You quote Mr. Benatar as though it were the sermon on the mount. “The absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.” Just because Mr. Benatar said this doesn’t make it true or valid.

    His “formulation” likewise is just his own nutty belief system yet you seem to take it as some holy gospel that can’t be refuted.

    It seems as though you give yourself godlike powers: you somehow know that the not-yet-born-person doesn’t want to be born. Do you have a direct line to the unborn? Does a lack of some sign from the unborn that they DO want to exist, mean they are saying “NO!”

    Finally, Chip or anyone else, I simply cannot converse with anyone who refuses to speak in clear English. Re-read George Orwell on this if you need to refresh your memory.

    “If compensation is required, it perforce begs the question of precedent injury. But the injury presupposes being hatched” bla bla bla. This is the kind of pseudo-intellectual blather up with which I will not put.

  19. Chip Smith Says:

    Fair enough. I’ll try to write more clearly.

    In return, I would ask that you point out where you find fault with Benatar’s formulation, and that you justify your reasons. I don’t take anything as dogma. My reasoning follows from taking the harm principle seriously (a choice, I realize) as a logical starting point. I don’t believe in a transcendent moral order. As to the charge that I imagine myself to possess godlike powers, well, doesn’t the act of creating life beg the same accusation?

    I’m going to go catch up on the new season of Project Runway now. I will try to reply later this evening. Unless you’d prefer that I go away.

  20. Sister Wolf Says:

    Just off the top of my head, “The absence of pain is good” is not some sort of truism. Sometimes pain is good. Must we define “good” first? Okay, beneficial.

    When I was a weight-lifter, pain in my muscles let me know that I had a productive work-out and that my muscles would grow (hypertrophy), according to my goal.

    Emotional pain is often the road to wisdom and greater compassion. It is often the effect of great art and literature, if you are capable of being moved by such things.

    Practitioners of martial arts must endure pain in order to hone their strength and prowess.

    I could go on and on but I too have reality shows to follow!

    Just between us, Chip, I was in labor for three days with my youngest son. The doctors didn’t want to induce his birth, because it was two months before his due date. The pain cannot be communicated to any male person, because it is literally unimaginable. I took no pain medicine and when I was given some, I asked that it be removed from my IV drip immediately. I wanted to be aware and have my wits about me.

    I am stronger for enduring this pain. I am a fucking Samurai.

    And no, don’t go away.

  21. Charponnaise Says:

    A very nihilist outlook on life. And one that, because of my own mindset & experiences in recent years, I can partially understand. Myself, I want nothing less than children – the thought has filled me with horror my whole life – and that being the case, my first reaction is [deeply inappropriate, I know] sympathy and vague appallment when I hear someone is going to have a baby.

    Even so, founding a whole movement around the ideology that we should cease to procreate… I can’t support that in any way. I don’t believe there is any ‘meaning’ to life, beyond ourselves, our experiences and the other life we encounter – we are here, and we have to try to survive, or it’s all for absolutely nothing. The ego, the survival instinct, the desire to express ourselves, and the sex drive all exist to keep us alive [individually and collectively]. There are many arguments for the difficulty of life [and death] and the damage our existence does to the world we inhabit, but I would like to think that the first answer should be to try and better ourselves and our lives, before giving up and terminating our species by what amounts to going on procreative strike -human history’s greatest toy-throwing session.

    When we alleviate suffering, we aim to replace it with relief… comfort… peace… even contentment, happiness, etc. Ceasing to be, singularly or collectively, does not do any of that – none of those things are on the other side of it – there is simply the awful knowledge, at the end, that this is the last there is, that nothing good or hopeful is beyond it. Nothing is more awful than that knowledge. You don’t replace the suffering – it’s destruction for destruction’s sake [certainly not for our sake, since the idea is we cease to be and to have any possible gain from it], and if your cause was taken up, it would merely embody the pique and selfishness of a small handful of generations. Speaking from experience I think I’d rather take the suffering, and the points of light that accompany it, than just turn to dust.

  22. Mark Says:

    Chip:

    As for David Benatar’s “formulation”– what is ‘good’? What is ‘bad’? And why is the presence of pain bad? Don’t we often grow from pain? Learn from pain? Are growing and learning ‘bad’?

    I prefer Pat Benatar’s formulation:

    1. We are young
    2. Heartache to heartache we stand
    3. No promises
    4. No demands
    ERGO: Love is a battlefield

  23. Sister Wolf Says:

    Hahahahahahaha, Mark! I would pee if I knew where my bladder was!

    Charponnaise, what soul and wisdom for one so young.

    Jen, congratulations!!!!!

    Alias Clio, beautifully written.

    Hammie, you are a fellow Samurai.

    Make Do and Mend, thank you for a lovely point of view.

    Toby Lynne, I know, you have that 100 things to do!

    Miss Wombat, I’m always interested in what you have to say.

    Gabrielle, wow, you are an angel. I am getting around now with a walker….but I really like a good dessert. I will email you.

  24. Jools Says:

    Better than any philosophy class I had at UCLA. (and that was my major!) Sister you are brilliant. Alas, I have smoked way too much weed to add anything to the discussion….. So glad you are better!

  25. Chip Smith Says:

    Sister Wolf,

    I think you — and others — are confusing the potential benefits of pain (which can be good) with the experience of pain, which I contend is always bad. Just track back a bit to consider whether you would prefer to achieve a certain outcome with or without enduring pain to get to that outcome. Perhaps you would, as your examples suggest, but if this is true, then I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. I suspect we’re talking instead about a kind of preference you have cultivated, a preference for costly gratification. Calvinists take this to the extreme, but there is no pretense that the hardship is itself good, merely that it is necessary to achieve something that is. If pain were good, it would be possible to increase it immensely and make things better. But multiplying pain only increases the badness of pain; the rewards, even if they are contingent, are a separate matter.

    However, if you insist on characterizing pain as a potentially good phenomenon because of its potential utility, we could simply modify the expression of asymmetry to state that the presence of “unrewarded pain” is bad. Or, for more resonance, you could say “unrewarded suffering,” or perhaps “harm.” This would not essentially alter the reality of the formula, since every person is sure to encounter some measure of suffering that comes without benefit. Some of it is petty (paper cuts). Some of it is horrible (the death of a loved one). We are equipped with a toolkit of psychological mechanisms for rationalizing this stuff, but the fact remains.

    I’ll try to respond to the rest in another comment.

  26. Sister Wolf Says:

    Yes, no one wants ‘unrewarded suffering’ but that doesn’t lead to Mr. Benatar’s conclusion.

    Just to correct a misperception: I have in no way ‘cultivated’ a gratification from pain and suffering. I merely reported that I am not a coward where pain is concerned. And I believe the antinatalist position includes a tremendous cowardice toward both life and death.

    My documentation of my horrible accident was a means of coping with a traumatic experience. Believe me, if I had a time machine, I would undo it in a heartbeat. I still need a walker, which is no fun at all.

    Carry on!

  27. jim Says:

    “It seems as though you give yourself godlike powers: you somehow know that the not-yet-born-person doesn’t want to be born. Do you have a direct line to the unborn? Does a lack of some sign from the unborn that they DO want to exist, mean they are saying “NO!””

    This seems oddly backwards to me, with the inference that, by refusing to procreate, a person is acting in a ‘godlike’ manner. Wouldn’t that more reasonably fall on the shouders of one who chooses to proCREATE?. Do YOU have a direct line to the unborn? Are they saying “yes”? Silly rhetoric.

    As far as pain goes, the kind of pain you endorse is the transient sort sometimes necessary to achieve a valued end. Even your ‘greater’ pain of childbirth is that sort, to be endured for a short time (and lest you think you’ve somehow experienced the apex of pain such as ‘no MAN could understand’, I’d just tell you that I lay in a hospital bed for 6 weeks, cut open from pelvis to sternum, held together by cable, and for 23 and a half hours a day, for 1 solid month, it was as if I had a demon plunging a butcher knife into my stomach over and over again. I chuckle at your fem-hubris). But beyond that, your argument trivializes the real suffering which is intrinsic to life, under whose extremities millions suffer every day, with no hope for recourse other than the grave. And the antinatalist message, trimmed to its essentials, is that we have no right to visit such possible fortune upon those who don’t even have the opportunity to voice a yea, or a nay.

    Concerning the ‘why don’t you just kill yourself’ riposte, here’s my standard reply https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=354069516366024003&postID=5649662879068291539

    If you’d like to pursue this subject further, feel free to drop by and comment.

  28. jim Says:

    “And I believe the antinatalist position includes a tremendous cowardice toward both life and death.”

    Again, you trivialize the absolute horrors that some people down through history, through today, and into the future have and WILL experience. You talk a brave game, but most people could be made to beg for death under the right circumstances, and many have.

    Furthermore, what has courage or cowardice have to do with consigning such possibilities to new people? How does bringing a life into a world fraught with chances for unhappiness, and sometimes EXTREME unhappiness and misfortune, usually for selfish motives, make somebody brave? ‘Wow, look at me! I sired an offspring…I’m Ironman!”

    Kinda goofy, no?

  29. Chip Smith Says:

    Clio,

    My emotional attraction to antinatalism may have something to do with a fear of death. However, I take this fear to be entirely rational and grounded in reality. Religions arise, in part, to cast a supernatural gloss over the ineffable horror of mortality. I also think, more as a matter of deduction, that the fact of every person’s eventual death means that every birth is an (avoidable) death sentence, which is to say, a serious harm. If you knew, prior to conception, that your child would live only five years, would you have second thoughts about consigning him or her to the game? Perhaps not, but many people would. Take the view from eternity (or even Rawls’ “original position”), and a few extra decades doesn’t perceptibly alter the doom factor, which, of course, is really a harm factor. As for those brave Hurons, I’m sure it’s nothing a few hours of focused torture, much less an eternity of immeasurable agony, couldn’t fix. Bravery doesn’t much interest me, but if you sincerely believe in the possibility of Hell (and I don’t know that you do), then the stakes of creating new life become infinitely more grave. Should your child die outside the grace of God, the unrewarded and inconceivable agony that awaits him or her will be literally endless. All the better to be avoided, I say.

  30. Sister Wolf Says:

    Jim: First, let me reject the term “fem-hubris’ as just stupid and beneath this conversation.

    Second, the pain you describe sounds indeed excruciating and horrifying. I don’t know how this came about, but perhaps the extremity of your distress has colored your world view. I am very sorry to hear about this dreadful experience.

    Childbirth was more like having a train hurtle through your loins every 5 minutes, hitting at full blast, then returning. I defer to you in the area of pain endurance, any day!

    However, after reading your feelings about suicide and life in general, I feel you are too clinically depressed to argue with. I wish you could feel differently. Your view of life, in my opinion, is gravely distorted by depression. It may seem like clarity to you, but it isn’t.

    Please believe that my empathy for you is entirely real and sincere.

  31. Sister Wolf Says:

    Chip, are you saying to Clio that you believe in Hell, in the Christian sense? If so, we may be at a standstill, intellectually. I am an atheist and the notion of ‘eternal’ agony or punishment is absurd from my perspective.

    As long as you consider. and even define, birth as a “death sentence,” any further debate may be pointless…..but I’m up for it if you are.

    To consider birth a death sentence is to negate life entirely, and I am not that screwed up yet.

  32. Chip Smith Says:

    Sister Wolf,

    You ask, “Are you yourself sorry to have been born?”

    Yes.

    Next question: “Have you experienced any joy in your existence, from art, music, sex, love, nature?”

    I’m a big fan of Strangers With Candy, and classic SCTV. I like Ethiopian food, cheap beer, and the art of Fracis Bacon and Otto Dix. I love cunnilingus. I enjoy Patricia Highsmith novels, early 90s lo-fi rock & roll, roller coasters, and the films of Gaspar Noe. Sleazy horror movies. I love my wife. I love my cats. I don’t much care for nature, except for the animals. I feel bad for the animals, being surrounded by all that nature.

    Moving on… “If not, killing yourself would spare you any more of your joyless barren existense”

    I’ve come pretty damn close, Sister. You didn’t ask about the bad stuff, though I notice your quick to talk about yours. But the truth is, my life is far from “joyless or barren.” I just wish it had never begun. Given that it has, I see nothing wrong with making the most of it.

    I would be a hypocrite if I had children. Still wouldn’t mean that I am wrong. Even if you were to convince me of my hypocrisy in not offing myself, this would in no way justify imposing life on those who have no voice in their fate, and for whom things might turn out very badly. And if I were to kill myself, I think this could upset my wife very much. And the litter wouldn’t be changed as often.

    Listen, if the never existent are deprived by their uncreated status (the premise of your allegation of my presumptuousness) this has not been demonstrated. Honestly, I don’t think it can be demonstrated. If the uncreated are not so deprived, and there is even a chance that they will suffer (and that their suicide option would cause further suffering), then I say, prudence dictates.

    If you (any of you) want to have (more) children, consider adoption. If I’m wrong about forced life being a harm, it won’t make any difference. Plus, there’s a good chance you will add value to the life of a person who has already been belched into the parade. And if I am right about forced life being a harm? Well, to paraphrase Jim’s slogan, you will have saved a life by not starting one.

  33. Sister Wolf Says:

    Chip, I haven’t asked you about the bad stuff in your life as I didn’t wish to intrude on your privacy but by all means, tell me about it if you want to, either here or send me a comment that you don’t want published.

    I’m sorry to hear about your brush with suicide, and I agree that your existential pain would not be the best framework for fatherhood.

  34. Chip Smith Says:

    Sister Wolf,

    I’m a convinced atheist. Just banking off Clio’s Catholic allusions. I do believe that a belief in Hell raises the ante, from the perspective of the believer. This was the point of my left-handed defense of Andrea Yates, after all.

    I do believe that life is a death sentence. I think this is merely descriptive, actually. But we can stop here, if you like. I don’t expect to change your mind, and I appreciate your courtesy in allowing me to speak mine. Even with all the prolix, which I regret.

    Night, night.

  35. jim Says:

    Sister Wolf: The ‘fem-hubris’ was just a little dig at your expense, and at the expense of those women who so often bring up the child bearing thing as a martyr’s shield to defuse the other side. It’s always felt like ‘playing the race card’ to me; not to mention that it’s a mistaken assertion. I also thought it reflected the rather snarky tone you set at the beginning (crock of shit, get off the pot, hypocrite, cowardice, etc). I’ll admit, I often tend to reflect the tone of the person I’m talking to, as I’ve perceived it. You seem to be the sort of person who likes to shoot from the lip…don’t be surprised if you get a ricochet once in a while. *wink*

    I really don’t see what speaking to my emotional state (as you see it) has to do with the ingredients of the antinatalist argument. In fact, your post seems more like a subtly couched ad hominem expression than anything else; and, of course, a way to dismiss my position without thoughtfully addressing it. If you don’t want to discuss the specific arguments, including maybe actually thinking about them for a minute, and stick with the cheap shot rhetorical devices instead, feel free. It’s your blog. Niters.

  36. Chip Smith Says:

    “As long as you consider. and even define, birth as a “death sentence,” any further debate may be pointless.”

    On this point, my thoughts on Camus’ concept of rebellion might be marginally relevant. There’s some stuff in the thread attached to the heading “Mismatch and Meaning” over at the outstanding site, “The View from Hell.” I tried linking to it earlier, but the url must have been read as spam.

  37. hammie Says:

    Chip, if your penis is big enough, then I suggest you do with it what you can. Life is too precious to even engage with the likes of you.

    Gabrielle, your offer to Sis made me smile again after reading and crying for someone I have never met (Vicki Forman). Her pain and loss makes me want to hold my kids tight and realise my love.
    The fact that we can reach out with whatever we have to offer to our fellows is the reason we are alive. Getting to make some new people to protect and show that love is even better.
    Please take up the offer sis. I will feel better if I know you are being fed Tiramisu or Ganache and pouring over marvellous back issues of Vogue and V.F while you recouperate.
    xx

  38. Nephew Mackay Says:

    But to the lesser proposal–that we should not have kids, because Chip is unhappy: here are the assumptions appearing to provide contour to this posturing.
    1. The likelihood of the offspring’s retrospective consent enjoys exclusive moral bearing on the parents’ decision whether to conceive. The likely pain/pleasure ratio during the offspring’s lifetime is key to this imaginary consent;
    2. “Death is awful and horrifying,” and constitutes the bedrock of the likely pain/pleasure ratio in Assumption 1.
    3. “I love cunnilingus,” strategically nested in an otherwise banal litany and followed diaphanously by “I love my wife”, produces shocked-then-somewhat-assuaged interest from strange women online. Thrilling!

    Time and discipline demand I comment only on Assumption 1 and 2. Then it’s off to Friday night Indian food and cunnilingus.

    Chip attempts to furtively cash in at the opening bell by treating Assumptions 1 and 2 as axiomatic. I’ll leave it to others to decide whether they are valid assumptions, either on self-evident merit or by some argument, but I’ll merely observe that they’re trotted out essentially as support for self-centeredness, which on its own terms doesn’t require support.

    Now it’s time to exit these squalid proceedings and go get some honeys pregnant. If it’s good enough for Ol Dirty Bastard…

  39. Sister Wolf Says:

    Hahahahaha! Hahahahahaha!

    Oh, and “Doug”: Fuck off, you stupid wanker. Be off with you, you are hereby banned.

  40. dewayne Says:

    wow, somehow from this morning until this evening i missed an immensity of entertainment…well, to be honest i was quite entertained….i filled my neighborhood with smoke from all the fires i had going to dispose of yard detritus. i’m sure everyone downwind of me is thrilled, as i have had five fires burning for the past six or so hours.

    on the subject of whatever the subject must be, i say, whatever.

    it is equally easy to make and defend an argument as it is to disagree and challenge. i’m too lazy for both. all of this could be solved by simply polluting more.

  41. mitchell porter Says:

    An accusation of hypocrisy is not a rebuttal. There are many atheists who still go to church for one reason or another; does that falsify their atheism?

    In any case, antinatalism simply does not imply suicide. In fact, it can be an alternative to suicide. A person may experience years of misery and still hope for happiness; but perhaps they will also conclude that a person should never be placed in that position to begin with.

    There is no inconsistency in affirming one’s own life while refusing to gamble with another’s.

  42. mitchell porter Says:

    Though, thinking a little further, I see in fact that once you exist, it is impossible not to “gamble with” the lives of others; you cannot know for sure what the consequences of your actions (or your inactions) will be. But still, I think that kindness and caution alone might lead someone to antinatalism.

  43. Sister Wolf Says:

    In theory, perhaps it might, but the proponents I’ve had contact with, thus far, all wish they were dead.

    Let me ask you this, Mr. Porter. Is it possible to adhere to a philosophy that is not connected in a significant way to your own psychological make-up and/or childhood experience?

    I await your thoughtful response.

  44. Sister Wolf Says:

    And by the way, to anyone who cares, I am siding with Nephew Mackay from now on.

  45. Chip Smith Says:

    Nephew Mackay,

    I’ve been accused of sexual signaling before. I find it puzzling. If I were trying assuage the ladies’ sensibilities, why wouldn’t I balance things off with a nice reference to my love of kitties and soft things? Oh yeah, I guess that’s just what I did. Must be a small penis complex, then. Looks like Hammie beat you to the chase.

    I suppose I don’t take well to snarkery, and perhaps that’s a character flaw on my part. It’s not that I find such gestures distasteful. It’s just so often distracting. Your quick and clever reduction of my intentions, for example, adds nothing to the discussion, such as it is. I keep re-reading it. You begin with something, then end on a joke. Or a meta-joke. And I don’t mind that the joke, or whatever, is at my expense. I just would prefer that I wish it were funnier. Or funny. Then maybe I could chime in with a “Hahahahaha! Hahahahahaha!” And be done with it.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not a dour person. I’m not some attention-seeking poseur-nihilist provocateur looking for a reaction. I’m not even particularly unhappy person, at least not at the moment. Nor am I all that smart. But as much as it may surprise or irritate you, I am sincere. If we were talking over beers at some dive bar, I like to think there would be good will and I might even learn something. Of course, I’d pick up the tab because — ladies, pay attention — that’s the kind of guy I am.

    What I’m getting at is something very simple. Something that you may find boring or stunted or obtuse. It hardly matters that I abhor death, though I do. It hardly matters that I rue my existence, though I do. It’s not about me. In a sense, it’s not even about those yet countless uncorked people who I believe will be wronged by their birth. It’s about ethics, and it’s about consistency. You mention consent and the pain-pleasure ratio. A good start. But the “imagined” consent that you seem to dismiss I find crucial because of its prima facie impossibility, which I submit would be morally relevant to most people in most other contexts.

    The “death is awful and horrifying” line is an accurate account of my editorial position, but largely irrelevant. That death is a HARM, something that would sooner be avoided if possible, at least under most circumstances, is relatively — I would say uncontroversially — clear. That’s the point I would force (though its not exclusive or even essential), that death is a category of harm. When death results from an agent-specific action, it is usually characterized as killing. If you think this is just bluster and not a sound trajectory of reasoning, try constructing a deep argument against murder without it. I’m not saying it can’t be done; I’m saying that’s the task. Anyway, if you want a real “bedrock” point, I’ll refer you to Hippocrates’ fabled first principle. Or, if you prefer, to Lockean nonaggression. Personally, I started by taking Murray Rothbard seriously enough to get pissed off, but that’s probably a useless idiosyncrasy.

    Here’s the rub, as I see it. You take, and somewhat distort, my central argument about the primacy of harm, characterize it as “axiomatic,” and proceed to your punch line. Let me throw you a clue. There is an easy way to win the debate on terms that I will happily concede. All you have to do is begin with non-cognitivism, layer on a wholesale rejection of positivist ethics, and then you’re free to dismiss every “axiom,” every premise, every moral utterance, indeed every deontological, consequentialist, utilitarian, contractual, or otheryet interest-bound formulation of moral conduct, as a trite fantasy. You’ll be left in the company of Stirner and Sade. And I just might join you, sooner than later. I am cursed with an open mind.

    However, if you observe or adhere to some version of the harm principle, or some version of utilitarian ethics, or if you believe laws and conduct should be justifiable in moral terms, or even if you believe in Christian Hellfire, then intellectual good faith should compel you to explain where antinatalism goes astray. This is something you don’t bother with, perhaps because you have something clever to say. Is it wrong to kill an innocent person? Yes? No? Depends? What if, instead of murdering a person outright, you put them in a small room and dumb-waiter them weekly — then bi-weekly, then monthly — rations of oatmeal for years, until they starve, just for kicks? Or what about rape? Any problem with taking sexual gratification by force? If not, fine. But if so, why? Is it a matter of aesthetics or taste? Or do you support some legal or moral proscription on sexual coercion? A proscription based, perhaps, on the nostrum of “imagined consent”? Or on some greater interest or consequence?

    I’m not baiting you with such examples. And they’re not analogies to forced life. Not exactly. They simply invite the same fundamental questions, although asking the questions may seem odd. Just as asking the questions with reference to procreation may seem odd, for the opposite reason. The challenge — and here I presume — is to distinguish the case against wanton procreation from quotidian examples where the harm principle — or some other moral calculus — is the reflexive, recognized default.

    If you have a child, that child cannot, by definition, have consented to your act of procreation. If this lack of consent is morally irrelevant, Why? That child may suffer. If this suffering is morally irrelevant, Why? That child will die. If this child’s death is morally irrelevant, Why? This is all foreseeable, after all. And all avoidable. It’s an agent-centered outcome, and agency is the crux of moral reasoning, no? Other moral options — adoption or childlessness — were conspicuously available all along, yet not chosen. in my view, the moral relevance is made salient by the asymmetry, which posits that conceivably compensatory pleasures foregone are morally irrelevant when no one is otherwise deprived. But while asymmetry is informative, it isn’t essential. There are many ways to skin this cat. But the burdern of justification rests on the actor, an actor who I believe has much to account for.

    Somehow, I suspect that this accounting doesn’t interest you. It’s easier to throw out a line. Because my perspective is easily — lazily — dismissed as silly or nihilistic or self-congratulatory or penis-envied, or something. But here’s the rub. The idea that people shouldn’t have children, superficially provocative as it is, follows from applying accepted ethical methods and premises consistently. I’ve seen justifications of procreation that may work in a given context, but these are typically esoteric, or centered around emergencies (kidneys and twins and the like). So far as I’ve seen, neither you nor anyone in this thread has attempted to fashion a defense of procreation that comports with normative ethics as accepted and applied in other well established contexts, nor has anyone bothered to distance themselves from the accepted moral order. Instead of simply jousting me and speculating about my MO, I suggest you take the challenge at face value, and try to come up with something. I’m genuinely curious.

    And I repeat: I love cunnilingus, and I love my wife.

  46. Sister Y Says:

    Though, thinking a little further, I see in fact that once you exist, it is impossible not to “gamble with” the lives of others; you cannot know for sure what the consequences of your actions (or your inactions) will be.

    Mitchell, this is the thing that scares me more than anything. And suicide doesn’t even solve it – as you said, we’re responsible for our inaction as much as our action. The suffering of the world is horrible enough, but knowing that just by existing, we’re forced to participate in it and perhaps exacerbate the suffering of others in unpredictable ways, is not something I can just shrug off.

  47. alias clio Says:

    “Though, thinking a little further, I see in fact that once you exist, it is impossible not to “gamble with” the lives of others; you cannot know for sure what the consequences of your actions (or your inactions) will be.”

    Including antinatalism itself, both as a philosophy and as a series of actions or behaviours. I must say that I think antinatalism is perhaps the one “philosophy”, if it can be called that, that I would not allow to be presented to impressionable young people. Heavens – I mean, even Satanism teaches that there are things in the world worth wanting!

    Antinatalism is a profound and subtle call to utter despair. While it can probably never succeed in its goal of preventing the birth of all future generations, it might yet do grave damage to those that are born, imbuing them with a sense of desolation that makes it impossible to enjoy what pleasures there are in life, exaggerating the pain of inevitable suffering (even physical pain can be greatly aggravated by hopelessness and unhappiness), and encouraging those who hold it to take no action, fight no battle, to improve life for themselves or others in any way.

    Alias Clio

  48. leaving a reply Says:

    The carelessness with which the majority of people create humans (new consciousness) is at least challenged by antinatalism.

    The act of getting children should be approached with the care with which we treat nuclear bombs that have a large chance of exploding and destroying the universe.

  49. antinataliste Says:

    The world is an illusion, designed to make you mad. Existence exists and people like Mitchell, Chip (although I have my doubts owing to his open mind) achieve redemption while you Sister Y, and your likes, get reincarnated again and again in mental experiments a la Descartes until you stop (and stop promoting) sinning, or if you prefer, procreation. Think about it, could well be true.

    Some religious heads got the first part right but religion thrives on people’s suffering. The only way to truly end the suffering inherent in the human condition is to not procreate.

  50. antinataliste Says:

    typo – i meant Sister Wolf

  51. Antinatalistement! Says:

    Sister Wolf: You write “and I agree that your existential pain would not be the best framework for fatherhood.”

    I’d say it would provide the best framework for fatherhood. Existential pain is, in my opinion, of necessity and strikes everyone who reflects further than on what to have for dinner tonight. Hiding this collective and basal pain from our children, treating it as a taboo, is nothing other than an act of deceit. Giving a child a rosy cottonlined image of the world is to make its inevitable existentialist awakening and pain more dramatic and more damaging than it has to be. Had we all tried to understand our existentialist pain, had parents encouraged thought and discussion about our position in existence, the meaning or nonmeaning of it all rather than providing an illusion and desperately treating it all as one big happy garden party, neurotically ignoring the pain of it all (save perhaps the distant sufferings of Christ), the world would perhaps be a more peaceful, more healthy place. Less rosy perhaps, but more healthy. To contemplate one’s existence is not unhealthy, or abnormal. It is and should be treated as the most basic and most important contemplation we undertake, a need as basic as any other. What else is there to contemplate? If I had been so vain (Santa Clause forbid) that I thought of myself as having a right to procreate I would have tried to make sure my inevitably doomed children grow up under no illusions, even if it would mean they would probably blame me for having come into existence (I would have had to apologize). Fortunately I find existence so shit that I am going to spare any future being the experience. The best is of course not to create these insatiable and often pain-rendering needs for meaning in the first place. And yes, one day I will (although antinatalism does not require it, you fierce opponents out there!) put an end to my boring, though pretty comfortable, upper-middle class existence. I’m just going to contemplate it a little while longer.

  52. Antinatalistement! Says:

    One of the reasons I will do myself in is, as you might have guessed, my non-mastery of language (ironic, I know).

  53. mitchell porter Says:

    Back after four weeks!

    “Let me ask you this, Mr. Porter. Is it possible to adhere to a philosophy that is not connected in a significant way to your own psychological make-up and/or childhood experience?

    I await your thoughtful response.”

    Ultimately I think it is possible – e.g. it might just be what everyone else believes. But if you mean adherence by choice, then I think psychological make-up must enter into it. Even if you adopted a philosophy bearing no obvious relationship to your own life experience, that choice would have to come from something in you.

  54. Sister Wolf Says:

    Better late than never, Mitchell. I feel the same way. Thanks for answering!

  55. Jenna Says:

    Everyone knows life is bullshit. Anyone who denies this is fucking delusional. I don’t commit suicide because I like learning things and doing things. I also would like to see where the shit called “humans” will take this planet.

    But seriously, everyday is a struggle for pretty much everyone, why should we put someone who has no choice in the matter through this situation?

  56. To grunt and sweat under a weary life Says:

    There are a lot of people in the world, who actually commit suicide. Many more try (the estimates go up to 20 Million suicide-attempts per year). Still more people are living a self-destructive lifestyle.

    Antinatalists may try to make the best of their “life-sentence”, but still don’t wish the same suffering for the unborn. I couldn’t exist without the aid of my daily medication. It takes so much to make living halfway tolerable, if only a few circumstances would be slightly worse, life would be utterly inacceptable. It is hard to imagine, how one could guarantee their offspring, that their life will be tolerable. Moreover, if someone commits suicide it is the end of years of suffering, and the suicide itself causes pain. The “bare bodkin” of Hamlet doesn’t exist, if it would, well…..

  57. Godammit, I’m Mad! » Blog Archive » If You’re Feeling Philosophical Says:

    [...] two years ago, I brought up the subject of antinatalism here, and the arguments that ensued in the comments thread were impassioned, long-winded, and [...]

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