Sunday, July 31, 2016

Someone wanna explain to me how I'm wrong?!

A while back I posted what I felt to be an adequate deconstruction of David Benatar's antinatalist asymmetry. Francois Tremblay "responded" to my critique and when I attempted to follow up, he proceeded to ignore my arguments and then ban me.

Being the anxious and obsessive-perfectionist I tend to be, this has not sat well with me. Apparently I "don't get it" and am "not addressing the argument", as well as being generally an idiot.

I've made a diagram which I think will hopefully show what I believe to be the problem in the asymmetry. So please, if anyone is reading this (especially you, Tremblay), explain to me how I am wrong, preferably without telling me to die in a fire. Or, if you agree, post a comment and you'll get a purple sticker.

Tremblay in particular claims that Benatar is not talking about possible people but states of affairs.

If we ignore states of affairs, the symmetry is obvious. But Tremblay argues that "this is not the argument".

Regardless, I think the diagram clearly shows how an asymmetry derived from states of affairs is still question-begging and ad hoc.

The absence of pleasure is seen as a personal bad (from the possible person's interests), but not an impersonal bad, since nobody is actually there to be deprived of pleasure. The impersonal values here, then, are referring to the value of a state of affairs.

The absence of pain is seen not only as a personal good (from the possible person's interests), but also an impersonal good. Tremblay, to paraphrase, says that the absence of pain is impersonally good because nobody is suffering.

But this ignores what could (and should) be applied to the absence of pleasure: the absence of pleasure is impersonally bad because nobody is experiencing pleasantness. Indeed, we can (contra Benatar) actually feel regret for missing an opportunity for pleasure, even if there's nobody there to experience this regret (excluding ourselves). For example, if we have a choice between one state of affairs in which a person was extremely happy (and felt no pain) and another state of affairs in which nobody existed at all, and we chose the latter option, it is plausible that we would actually feel regret for not bringing this happy person into existence.

None of this is to say that we actually have a duty to bring happy people into existence. As I've pointed out before, our obligations prioritize pain over pleasure. Having a child takes a lot of effort - any obligation we had towards creating happy people would be counteracted by our own discomfort.

Furthermore, it's not even clear why we should ignore the symmetry of personal values in favor of the supposed-asymmetry of impersonal values. This seems to be question-begging.

Additionally, there is implicitly a prioritization of harm in the asymmetry (no harm is a good, no benefit is not-bad). But this is not logical, rather it is material argumentation.

The bottom line here, the underlying point, is that if nobody needs to exist for the absence of pain to be impersonally good, then nobody needs to exist for the absence of pleasure to be impersonally bad. There's no justification for applying an impersonal value to one but neglecting this for the other in the purely logical, formal sense.


  1. Hello man!

    How are you? Thanks for commenting there on my blog! Nice name, btw!

    I think you are right regarding Benatar´s points. It´s not perfect, just.. sounds right.

    And we agree with the conclusions, that´s all.

    Though, I only agree nowadays in a weak sense these days. The point is not to spread suffering. That´s cool.

    Hey man.

    Thanks for commenting. Hope your blog receives a lot of views! =)

    1. Hello Shadow, thanks for stopping by.

      "I think you are right regarding Benatar´s points. It´s not perfect, just.. sounds right. "

      Yep, it's not logically sound but it sure as hell is intuitive. But this intuitiveness rests upon a material argument, not a formal argument.

      "Though, I only agree nowadays in a weak sense these days. The point is not to spread suffering. That´s cool."

      What do you mean by this? Are you kind of like me, where you don't support birth but neither are really "politically" active?

    2. Hello man, you are welcome and a great blog you got here.

      Well. The point is that I´m disillusioned with AN, I used to think that it was something that mattered a great deal. But on my bad days I seem to think it doesn´t matter all that much. Either have a kid or not, your parcel of suffering in life wont change much.

      Im a meteorist more nowadays. LOL. I think it would be better for everything to just explode.

      Sorry man, I am just depressed today.

      How are you going?

    3. Sorry you're not feeling well.

      I'm kind of hesitant to call myself an AN. A quick search on AN on Google results in various people dramatically condemning everything about life, whether that be on YouTube, Reddit, blogs, or whatever. They hate their parents. They hate their lives. They want to die. It's all very over-the-top and morbid.

      I'm not that kind of person. I'm not very approving of life in general but I take a more theoretical and therapeutic approach to it, attempting to say it like it is without getting all riled up and angry.

      There's just so much anger and intolerance in the AN community. It disgusts me and I don't wish to have any relation to it. I don't understand why it's so difficult for people to be decent and nice to each other.

      Should I go out in public and spread the AN word? Should I get angry at those who have children? Should I do everything I can to stop childbirth? Should I view childbirth as murder? Am I being disingenuous by not actively and publicly being against birth?

      I don't know. Part of me feels compelled to get involved, and another part has no wish to. It's as if it wouldn't be worth it. Which is basically why I don't really like calling myself an AN, because AN seems to necessitate some kind of political involvement and I have no wish to get involved. I mostly want to remove myself from mainstream society and live my life in peace.

      I don't know. It's too much for one person to think about - life, death, pleasure, pain, love, hate, birth, it enough just to recognize the facts of life?

  2. Hello!

    Man, people being not decent is one of the things that baffle me as well.

    And the component of political involvement you identified with AN is the same I identified as well.

    And frankly after some time, after getting to know the community, I decided I don´t want to have that much of an involvement with it.

    This is one of the reasons I abandoned my blog, called 'antinatalismo'. I don´t want it anymore.

    It doesn´t mean that I´m ashamed of what I defended, and that I don´t agree with many premises, it´s more that I´m sad that this might not be the complete medicine. We are alive and on earth, and in general, there´s no cure for it. For a while AN wanted to be the cure and I dont think today that it is.

    Yeah, maybe do not have kids, but dont have also for practical reasons. Kids are difficult. Every day life nowadays is a nightmare.

    But maybe if you win the lottery and want to have a kid, go have it, I dont care anymore.

    We should be able to bypass this as well.

    Do you have my e-mail?


  3. The problem with this somewhat apathetic view is that it allows the suffering to continue. I mean, if suffering is bad, and if we care about suffering, then we ought to get rid of it.

    So the question comes down to whether or not we are obligated to get involved in the suffering of others, or the infliction of harm upon others. We would stop a rape or a murder, and yet we don't stop a birth. It's a bit contradictory. Makes me uncomfortable. Like I'm don't support birth, but I wouldn't get involved to stop a birth. And it's hard for me to find any justification for this.

    I could just recede from the world and never get involved, but I think that would make me somewhat cowardly or an accomplice. Not to mention neglectful.

    And no, I do not have your e-mail.