Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Response to Francois Tremblay's "darthbarracuda’s attempt at debunking the Asymmetry"

Edit: Since Tremblay is an intolerable asshat who hides from discussion by banning anyone who disagrees with him (even if they're on the same fucking team), there will be no discussion over at his blog. Please leave comments and criticism at the bottom of the page, and please be respectful. Unlike Tremblay, I actually do wish to hear your feedback because I'm more concerned with having a coherent set of beliefs than with pushing an agenda.

Edit: It is confirmed that Tremblay is a nightmare of a person. He called me a pathetic little troll and advised me to die in a fire. Those are not words of a rational human being.

I was surprised to find that Francois Tremblay had actually responded to my blog post regarding my "final" thoughts on Benatar's asymmetry. I was equally surprised that I had been "allowed" to comment on his post, except later he asked how I was able to even post since he had banned me earlier. In which case, I have no idea, I was just testing the comment section in case Tremblay had un-banned me. Apparently he did no such thing, and apparently he doesn't really care for my own thoughts on this, because if he did, he would have allowed me to comment. But I suppose I'm just talking to an echo chamber right now.

Like I said in the comment section of the post, I have already covered practically everything Tremblay accuses me of misunderstanding. But for the sake of brevity and convenience, I am going to write an entirely new post in response to Tremblay's post. Hopefully this will make the discussion less confusing. It's my only hope that both of us try to respect each other and abide by the principle of charity, and most of all be honest. This is the internet, we've got nothing to lose but our pride.

So, now that the necessary intro is out of the way, let's take a look at what Tremblay has written in response to my previous post:

"Rebuttals to the Asymmetry seem to pop out with some regularity, mainly because it is the most well-known antinatalist argument. I think this is too bad, as there are many much stronger, and more intuitive, arguments (e.g. the duty argument, or the “Russian Roulette” argument). Still, here we are again."

I agree, the asymmetry is the most well-known antinatalist argument. I believe this to be the case because it comes across as very intuitive and obvious. I for one bought into Benatar's asymmetry argument for several years until realizing how it is flawed. So it's a shame that it's the most popular, and perhaps the only well-known, argument for antinatalism, since just as Tremblay said, there are far stronger arguments for antinatalism, such as the deontic duty argument and the worst-case scenario ("Russian Roulette") argument, as well as just a rational and honest look at real life (which I believe to be the best argument - it is very difficult to justify the extreme suffering on Earth). So both Tremblay and I are antinatalists and agree that there are stronger arguments for the asymmetry. Nice.

Despite Tremblay claiming this, though, he spent over two posts at his blog attempting to explain and defend it. If it's not the strongest argument for antinatalism, why bother with the defense? I ask this primarily because Tremblay's blog is one of the first links that appears when someone types in "Benatar's Asymmetry" and "Antinatalism". Coming from an antinatalist who wishes the philosophy to be spread more, I find it to be disconcerting that Benatar's asymmetry is seen as the penultimate argument for antinatalism. If I found issues with the asymmetry, so can other people, and these other people might not be antinatalists. Thus, they may not be convinced by antinatalism despite there being a rich, albeit secluded, philosophical background. 

To continue:

"darthbarracuda’s argument is not much different from the other more sophisticated rebuttals: there cannot be an asymmetry between pain and pleasure because you can reframe them in a symmetrical manner. But this is a linguistic game, the same game that Christians play when they ask “why is there anything instead of nothing?”: framing existence as being symmetrical to non-existence because of the way we formulate concepts does not mean they actually are symmetrical in reality (or to take a more ignorant example, when they say evolution and Creationism are both “just theories”). In this regard, I think the following passage from darthbarracuda is key:"

I do not understand why me arguing for a symmetry is automatically a linguistic game. If I'm playing a linguistic game, then so is Tremblay. What is actually going on is that I reject the premises underlying the asymmetry - I do not feel they are adequately justified or can be defended.

I can easily say:

"Framing existence as being asymmetrical to non-existence because of the way we formulate concepts does not mean they are actually asymmetrical in reality."

I believe this shows that Tremblay believes the premises of the asymmetry are self-evident, when in reality they are not. This means that Tremblay is begging the question, assuming that the asymmetry is indeed a sound description of reality.

[darthbarracuda]: 'Second, if we are to use counterfactuals for pain, then we really ought (and need) to use counterfactuals for pleasure. For I can imagine myself experiencing pleasure – in fact, this imagery is often the cause of desire (which causes suffering in some sense). Regardless of the fact that this imagery causes suffering, since pleasure is good then a possible me experiencing the pleasure is better off than the actual me who is not. This does not mean that the actual me is in a bad state, though, just as the lack of a headache does not mean that I am in a better state.'

[Tremblay]: But the Asymmetry does not compare a person X who experiences pleasure and a person X who does not. It compares a state of affairs where person X exists (and therefore experiences pleasure) with a state of affairs where person X does no exist. In darthbarracuda’s objection, both sides of the comparisons are about people who exist. Yes, obviously a person who experiences a certain pleasure is better off than the person who does not. So what? The fact that you can reframe the argument in a manner you prefer does not demonstrate the falsity of the original argument. All it shows is that suffering and pleasure are symmetrical in the context you’ve chosen, but the context, in this case, has nothing to do with what the Asymmetry sets out to prove (that existence is less desirable than non-existence)."

Edit: And the fact that you can reframe the argument in a manner you prefer (asymmetry) does not demonstrate the falsity of my original argument (symmetry).


How difficult can it be to realize you're begging the question, Tremblay?!

Alright, so again I've already covered this in my previous posts but I'll do it again. There's a few issues with this section:

1.) This isn't a really big issue since this post is directed towards the asymmetry argument presented by Tremblay, but I'm not really sure if Benatar is indeed using states of affairs instead of possible people. Benatar's book is called Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Now, Benatar may just be inconsistent with his argument, but Harm obviously refers to a person. A state of affairs cannot be harmed, only a person can. Indeed, a state of affairs can be made negative if a person is harmed, but the key idea here is that the value of a state of affairs depends on the inhabitants. So even if we are to use states of affairs, we, by proxy, have to use possible or actual people as well.

2.) If we are to use states of affairs, then we need to be consistent. We can't use states of affairs for non-existence but then not use them for existence. This is an important point that I'll get back to later.

To continue:

"Now that I’ve made my point, let me now backtrack to the first objection:

[darthbarracuda]: 'First, I do not usually proclaim that it is a good thing that I am not experiencing a headache. It’s only apparent that this is a good thing when I compare myself with counterfactual, possible me’s. In which case, the real me who is not experiencing a headache is not in a good state just because I’m not experiencing a headache – I’m merely in a better state than if I were.'

I agree with this point, but it’s not relevant to the Asymmetry. We don’t say the absence of pain is good because there is a person that is in a better state; we say the absence of pain is good because the state of affairs is better. A world where there is no person X is more desirable, all other things being equal, than a world where there is a person X that will suffer."

Of course I am not actually arguing that there is a person floating out in non-existence that can appreciate the lack of pain - Benatar even tells us he doesn't believe this.

But Tremblay completely misses the point here: the value of a state of affairs depends on who is part of the state of affairs. We apply counterfactuality to possible beings so that the value of no-pain comes out as a good. 

Here's a quick example to flesh this out: say there never was any sentient organisms. Because of this, there was never any pain or concept of pain. Is the state of affairs good? We might say it is, but only because we imagine that there aren't any sentient organisms. But this is just using counterfactuality and possible beings. If there are no beings, and no concept of pain, then the lack of pain cannot be a good thing because pain isn't even anything at all!

Tremblay states that the absence of pain is good because the state of affairs is better - which is fine by me, so long as he recognizes that the only reason the state of affairs is better is by a comparison to other states of affairs in which pain does exist.

To drive the point home: you cannot have a comparative value without utilizing counterfactuals. Without counterfactuals, you can't even formulate a symmetry, let alone an asymmetry.

So let's get down the business here and show how the asymmetry falls apart under analysis:

Every one of us would agree that the presence of pain or the presence of pleasure in non-existence is incoherent - there's nobody there to experience the pain or pleasure. How could there be? It's non-existence, nothing.

Benatar applies this same reasoning the absence of pleasure - since it's non-existence, and nobody is there to experience the deprivation because all there is, is nothing, then the absence of pleasure has no value.

But the problem arises when Benatar doesn't apply this same reasoning to the absence of pain. Since it's non-existence, and nobody is there to experience the relief because all there is, is nothing, then the absence of pain has no value. This is obviously not what Benatar claims - he claims the absence of pain is a good thing, and he does so by use of counterfactuals. And even if he is using states of affairs here, he has to use counterfactuals.

So Benatar is being inconsistent with his use of counterfactuals and thus begging the question. That, or he is literally making something out of nothing, value out of nothing, and thus also begging the question.

There are two options I see here:

1.) There exists a symmetry between non-existence and existence
2.) There is no intelligible way to represent non-existence. 

I'm actually leaning towards the second. This allows me to evaluate life for what it is and come to the conclusion that life is malignantly useless, without having to appeal to an already-immanent value. I can simply say that giving birth is doing more harm than good by a simple appropriation of life.

Furthermore, the whole idea of using states of affairs is misguided. We don't worry about the state of affairs in itself, we worry about the inhabitants of the state of affairs. We place a value on the state of affairs in virtue of its inhabitants, but don't actually care about the "objective" value of the state of affairs. We care about the people within it. The state of affairs is just a placeholder.

Additionally, if we are to use states of affairs and buy into the flawed asymmetry, then we are logically forced to assume forced pro-mortalism. If non-existence is good in virtue of there not being pain, and existence is bad in virtue of there being pain, then we necessarily must get rid of the bad and go back into non-existence. We can't appeal to counterfactual future possible beings here as an excuse, since we apparently didn't use them when evaluating birth (we used states of affairs). So on pain of begging the question, we would have to advocate forced pro-mortalism.

Which is absurd. The asymmetry is clearly not concerned with any "objective" value of a state of affairs but with the well-fare of potential people.

Perhaps you aren't convinced that non-existence can't have a value. In which case, I will show how it can be symmetrical to existence:

(3) Non-existence entails the absence of pleasure
(4) Non-existence entails the absence of pain

(3') The absence of pleasure in non-existence is bad because nobody is experiencing the pleasure
(4') The absence of pain in non-existence is good because nobody is experiencing the pain

Benatar makes (3) a value of not-bad or neutral because nobody is being deprived of the pleasure. He's looking at the state of affairs and recognizing that there is nobody in non-existence to be deprived of pleasure. But Benatar makes (4) a value of good because nobody is experiencing pain, when it really should be a value of neutral because nobody is able to appreciate the lack of pain.

So if the lack of pain is good, then why is the lack of pleasure not-bad? And if the lack of pleasure is not-bad, then why isn't the lack of pain not-good?

Thus, non-existence can be symmetrical to existence (although this does lead to pro-mortalism) by giving the lack of pleasure a bad value and the lack of pain a good value, or it can be a neutral, un-analyzable value, giving the lack of pleasure a not-bad value and the lack of pain a not-good value.

So if the lack of pleasure is only bad if there's someone there to experience it, then shouldn't the lack of pain be good only if there's someone to experience it? Don't we use counterfactual possible beings, the building blocks of states of affairs, to come to a value of non-existence?

Perhaps you don't agree that the lack of pleasure can be a bad. But see here:

(3'') In non-existence, nobody experiences pleasure
(4'') In non-existence, nobody experiences pain

(3'') gives us a feeling of regret in the same way (4'') gives us a feeling of relief. 

I think I have already adequately shown how the asymmetry is flawed. I see no reason to defend anything else I have said, since I actually already have in previous blog posts. However, Tremblay said this at the end:

"I think I’ve made my point. Most of this response is made of complete red herrings, and this betrays a lack of understanding of the argument. This lack of understanding is also shown by darthbarracuda’s comments on this blog, which similarly miss the point."

I think I've shown how nothing I said is a red-herring, and also shown how Benatar and Tremblay are both begging the question and abusing counterfactuals. If anyone is confused, it's Tremblay, because he doesn't understand how states of affairs require counterfactual entities. and doesn't understand how he and Benatar are being inconsistent with their use of counterfactuality even if they claim they aren't using it.


EDIT: Tremblay responded with the one-liner of calling this a completely useless response, before banning me again from his blog.

I tried. I really did. I tried being reasonable. I tried being accommodating. And look at where it got this discussion. Absolutely nowhere and resulted only in Tremblay's pretentious hand-wave.

Fuck you, too.


  1. "(3') The absence of pleasure in non-existence is bad because nobody is experiencing the pleasure"

    It is very clear to me now that you have no grounding in logic whatsoever. You do not have the basic skill necessary to think critically or grasp a syllogism. If you can't understand why that one proposition is wrong, there is no hope for you.

    I only believe you are an antinatalist in the same sense that a rock can be metaphorically called an atheist.

    1. Pleasure to see you finally over here, Tremblay. I'm not quite sure why you feel the need to assert your intellectual superiority, but anyway here you are. It's too bad that you continue to fail to grasp these simple ideas and yet still continue to bash me over the head with the same rhetoric "I'm right, you're wrong, waaah!"

      If I'm really so wrong about this all, do me a favor and actually point out where I'm wrong, instead of continuing to insult my intelligence with snotty yet shallow comments. You continue to yell about how I'm wrong about all this but never actually explain why I am, for whatever reason I'm not sure. Start acting like an adult and maybe people might start to take you more seriously.

      The very basic idea that you need to prove wrong has been thoroughly and easily summarized in a relatively recent blog post, link posted below, in which I explicitly ask someone (such as yourself?) to point out to me where I am wrong:


      Do please do us all a favor and read it, it's not very long and I even included a picture for your viewing pleasure. If you decide not to read it, or continue to spam me and others with abusive commentary, I'm going to assume that you are not open for any legitimate conservation and therefore should not be taken seriously at all.


  2. Sorry, but I am not open to conversation with you on these topics. This entry has proven to me that you are incapable of basic reasoning. Since you are incapable of understanding something as simple as "what does not exist cannot be deprived of pleasure," all my time spent responding to you was a complete waste since you cannot understand the Asymmetry. I'm sorry you wasted my time.

    1. "Since you are incapable of understanding something as simple as "what does not exist cannot be deprived of pleasure," all my time spent responding to you was a complete waste since you cannot understand the Asymmetry."

      Since you are incapable of understanding your own hypocrisy and realizing that "what does not exist cannot be relieved of pain", all my time spent responding to you was a complete waste since you cannot understand basic logic.

      Try again.

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