Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Pleasure Principle


The last post briefly described how our survival instinct emerged; essentially stating that it evolved due to random chance mutations within the DNA molecule and nothing more.  This mutation produced the first primitive nervous system . Subsequent mutations produced DNA segments compelling the creation of more sophisticated nervous systems, eventually leading to advanced neurological life as we know it today.  


The post also described the basic sensations produced by these nervous systems and the purpose thereof:  pleasure and pain. Both constitute a two-prong strategy the DNA uses to make copies of itself. Generally, the animal (i.e. the vessel containing the DNA) feels either pain or pleasure sensations when performing certain actions or present in certain environments; pleasure if acting in ways or existing in locales that increase odds of survival or reproduction, pain if the the opposite is the case. The "goal" of all this is to perpetuate the DNA ad infinitum, although to say DNA has a goal is an anthropomorphism – attributing human types of qualities, actions, or thoughts to non-humans (in this case a self-replicating molecule).


The role of pleasure is to inspire the organism to perform actions that cause it to live and reproduce. Physical pleasure’s goal is to inspire consumption of nutrients and energy sources plus engaging in actions that prolong either (directly) the survival of the organism or (indirectly) the survival of the species, i.e, the type of DNA molecule.   Psychological pleasure’s role is to inspire us to remain alive, namely by holding out the prospect of emotionally fulfilling experiences either at present or in the future. Again, increasing the odds for the survival of both the individual organism and the species. Thirdly both the physical and psychological aspects combine to create the urge to pair bond and to reproduce, yet again increasing the chances of both individual and species survival.  The role of pain (including fear) is to keep us away from situations that can cause us to lose our life or reproductive ability.  This sensation to be avoided at all reasonable costs, unless (from the organism’s perspective) there is something pleasurable to be gained that adequately compensates for the pain. 


This post will focus on the pleasure side of our sensations.  Pleasure (or the prospect thereof) is probably an organism’s strongest motivation to remain alive, particularly for  humans.  In fact, it is said to give the organism something to live for, its very reason for being, as discussed below. 

The Meme: Definitions of the Terms
Recognizing that pleasure is a strong, if not the strongest, motivator for a creature to remain alive, particularly a conscious and intelligent one, there exists a common meme among antinatalist members of YouTube: The purpose of life (i.e. its reason for being) boils down to “consumption, reproduction, cannibalism, and addiction”.

Definitions 


The definitions of both consumption (of resources) and reproduction deviate little, if any, from the conventional, common everyday ones.  However, cannibalism and addiction are defined much more broadly.  In this case, cannibalism mean the consumption of at least any neurological lifeform. This definition emphasizes the fact that all living things are related to each other. From this, many, but not all, antinatalists conclude that demarcations between non-relatives (i.e., edible life) and relatives (non-edible life) is arbitrary at best and illusory at worst, especially among neurological lifeforms.[1] Theoretically, at least, this could include even plants, fungi, and microbes, although most adherents to the meme limit the definition to neurological life on the grounds that such lifeforms possess neither a consciousness nor the capacity to experience pain. Nevertheless, even many antinatalists disagree that this broad definition of cannibalism makes any sense outside the abstract one. Even so, many antinatalists still argue that if in the process of obtaining nutrients we inevitably cause agony to a lifeform, then we ought not consume it.  Hence the meme's broad definition of cannibalism.

Addiction, as used by most antinatalists, also has a broader definition than the conventional one.  As used by many antinatalists, addiction appears essentially indistinguishable from need.  In this context, it includes any need for a thing, or any need for a pleasure or prospect thereof. This  includes pleasures or things universally seen as harmless or even necessary for survival. Therefore, addiction can include consumption and reproduction themselves, for these activities are also pleasurable. Still, addiction also includes consuming things or performing activities that may not be pleasurable, yet are necessary for its survival or reproduction.

Evaluation of definitions


While it may sound absurd to say that consuming sensible amounts of healthy food is addictive, a lack of food will make a person just as obsessed with finding food as any drug addict will be for his or her next “hit”.  It does not matter if the desired substance is absolutely vital or truly destructive for the organism. The point is that the organism needs it, to the point where it likely would become mentally unhinged without it.  By definition, this is an addiction in a very real sense, even if not the common every day one.


Thus, according to many antinatalists the four factors above not only compel the organism survive and reproduce but it also serves as its very reason for being, for the simple reason that the organism’s genes contain instructions / programming that tells the organism’s body to make a nervous system; one that compels it to pursue these four factors.   The consumption, reproduction, cannibalism, and addiction serve as positive motivations for continuing our existence. Together with the pain avoidance for its own sake, it forms a very deeply coded genetic programming in our psyche which may be called the survival instincts.

The four aforementioned positive motivators are partially accurate.  Consumption and reproduction usually are pleasurable for their own sakes, and certainly necessary to keep the species a going concern.  Regarding consumption especially, it is a drive even when it is not particularly pleasant, especially if there is no other resource to consume (e.g., people trapped for days away from sources of water have been known to survive by forcing themselves to drink their own urine).  


Some also argue that consumption is not limited to physical resources.  Pleasure itself can be a form of consumption insofar that the pleasurable thing or activity provides us with joy.  In a very real sense, this is true; especially if we agree as sensible the saying “soak up the glory”, “take in the beautiful scenery”, etc.  It is hard to see how this cannot be intelligently interpreted as consuming the glory or scenery – at least in the sense of our aesthetic sense creating satisfactory states within ourselves. Because of this, we can well argue that admiring the beauty of scenery or a painting, or feeling pleasure when people display admiration and respect for you, is a kind of consumption; given that our souls feel like they are absorbing something when we are inundated with these experiences. Therefore, it is certainly legitimate in many contexts to see this as a form of consumption as well.


The same principle about pleasure derived from consuming physical resources goes for reproduction, or at least activities that lead to reproduction (having children, even if with a less favored mate), although even many non-antinatalists regard reproduction is necessary for happiness.  Even so, as a general rule, most people do have a drive to either have children or perform acts that can result in children.  Likewise, the same idea that consuming abstract but pleasurable sensations also applies to sexual or romantic activities as well – arguably even more so, especially in the poetic or metaphorical senses. 


Cannibalism seems redundant vis-à-vis consumption. While many, perhaps most, antinatalists do consider consuming animals as such, I suspect they use this term only because it highlights an important aspect of the often brutal nature of living existence. Therefore, the consumption of living things is just that - consumption, one of the basic activities increasing the probability that the DNA molecule will continue to make copies of itself. Therefore, while adding cannibalism is a good way to highlight the point they want to get across, it robs the meme of its strictly logical elegance.  This does not mean it is wrong through and through, just, as said above, rendering it rather inelegant.


Addiction as defined by antinatalists is agreeable - a mental state that compels the organism to do whatever it takes to acquire the things that give organisms pleasure, regardless of how good or bad they are for the organism.  As implied above, it does not matter if the substances the organism seeks out is bad or good for its health; it is a matter of whether they seek out the substance obsessively and fanatically in the first place.

The definition of addiction is are on stronger ground than cannibalism. Unlike the flatter, the notion of being addicted to even a vital need is not just academic - it is an everyday reality for all of us.  The antinatalists recognize that our ultimately maniacal desire to be alive is, by characteristic, irrational. Therefore it follows that consuming anything for the purpose of remaining alive is likewise irrational - unless our starvation or dehydration either (a) translates into an actual substantive and needed relief of another's pain or (b) is necessary to prevent a substantive loss(es) for another,. Even then, the other person's gains or loss prevention must be commensurate with loss of life in question.

Returning to the topic of food consumption as an addiction, people consider obesity caused by eating excess amounts of food an extreme case of food addiction, even if the excess food does happen to be of great nutritional value; which most people will very likely agree that it is.  In practice, both the mainstreams of the medical community and society will only call it an addiction if it causes serious health problems.  Nevertheless, antinatalists emphasize the fact that any deprivation of even a vitally necessary substance that causes us to act irrationally and maniacally is indeed and addiction - to pain avoidance at the least and outright pleasure at the most. This includes consumption and reproduction as well.



This is quite agreeable where the issue’s jargon is concerned, especially if we question what the real point is in pursuing this pleasure. Is it really for our own sakes or merely because a molecule possesses a segment that programmed us to have these sensations – and that programming just happens to be one better able to sustain the molecule's existence long enough to make another copy of itself (i.e. reproduce).  In short, what’s the point of this DNA making a copy of itself?  If there is no objective point, then we are hard-pressed to say that our existence serves any purpose beyond allowing a non-sentient molecule to perpetuate itself. In that case, our desire for even the most basic pleasures is a kind of addiction, even if some of them are necessary to keep us alive. 


However, if there is an objective point in the DNA molecule making more copies of itself, then that point must come from something outside ourselves.  Just as it’s difficult to say what purpose a von Neumann machine would have if its creator created it just to see if he or she could create it, so it is that it is difficult to say what objective purpose a self-replicating molecule would have if nobody created it.[2]  In fact, the DNA is in an even worse position.  At least the von Neumann machine served the purpose, however temporary, of giving satisfaction to its creator.  The DNA molecule doesn’t even have that much going for it, at least barring the existence of a supernatural creator, which not all people agree with. This aspect will be discussed in a later post. Suffice to say that even assuming any one supernatural belief system is, in fact, true, this need not be a real obstacle to antinatalism.


For the above reasons, perhaps the meme is better rephrased “Consumption, reproduction, pleasant sensations, and addiction”, or we can drop the “pleasant sensations” and possibly even the “addiction” parts if we wish to be the most parsimonious about it (if we're thinking strictly in terms of what it takes to keep a living thing a going concern). If we choose to focus on the nervous system's pleasure-pain psychology instead, we can say that we live only to satisfy addictions; with consumption, reproduction, and ultimately pleasure being the things we are addicted to.  No matter which aspect is the focus, it is still meeting needs and engaging in pleasures that will never be permanently satisfied; and in any case must come to an end for all of us at some point - whether as individuals or as a species.

The DNA strategy is to the compel the organism to perform activities that lead to survival on both the individual and species levels reproduction – namely consumption and reproduction. Success in these endeavors results in the pleasure sensation. If something is pleasurable, yet the activity leading to that pleasure furthers the DNA “agenda”, totally aside from whether its pleasurable, then the DNA achieved its goal – compel the vessel that contains it to perform activities that allow the DNA to produce another copy of itself, or at least the increased probability thereof. Consumption, coupled with the pleasure generated from it, is the shortest term goal of the nervous system and ultimately the DNA molecule that created it. 


While reproduction is usually a pleasure itself, it is more accurate to say that it is the activities leading to reproduction that are pleasurable.  Reproduction is usually a pleasure itself, it is more accurate to say that it is the activities leading to reproduction that are pleasurable.   In fact, many unplanned pregnancies are the result of obtaining sexual pleasure for its own sake, if we focus only on the neurological aspects of pleasure and go no further (which almost everyone does, barring a few to near the vanishing point).


However, pleasure is not enough to compel an organism to consume and reproduce.  There has to be negative motivation to further increase the chance that the organism will do the bidding of the DNA molecule it hosts. That negative motivation is pain, which is will be discussed in the next post.






NOTES


[1] Anticipating the possibility of discovering extraterrestrial life, one might try to justify hunting and consuming extraterrestrials possessing a vaguely human-like intelligence or even a human-level one, even species possessing a civilization as we define it  – for the simple reason that if we already consume this planet's life, then why should we not consume life on other planets, even species that possess advanced civilization? They are in no way genetically related to us, after all.   However, practically every conscious human alive today would violently oppose this view, and on the same grounds as they oppose human cannibalism besides. For this reason, it is more sensible to believe that cannibalism means consumption of intelligent sentient life, regardless of any relationship (or not) we have to it and no matter where in the cosmos it is.



[2] A von Neumann machine is a hypothetical  machine that can make replicas of itself; in short, a self-replicating machine.  The concept is named after mid-20th Century mathematician and computer science pioneer John von Neumann; though others at the same time contributed greatly to the concept.  More recently Eric Drexler, nanotechnology pioneer (manufacturing machines at the level of nanometers, or the size of only several thousand atoms) uses the self-replication idea to advance the notion that nanometer-sized self-replicating machines could in principle exist.  Given that DNA is an already-existent self-replicating molecule, it is easy to see how the purpose issue can apply to both artificial and naturally produced self-replicating entities.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pathologizing or applying evopsych to your opponent? Always a great way to be insanely insulting and drive your opponent away from your position.

But then YOU JUST BELIEVE THIS CAUSE YOUR DEPRESSED

That wasn't convincing to you, but often is to other people. Think about why that might be.

filrabat said...

Pathologizing or applying evopsych to your opponent? Always a great way to be insanely insulting and drive your opponent away from your position.

Claiming I’m pathologizing my opponent is one thing. Proving that I’m doing so them is quite another.

The brain itself – the seat of psychology - had to come from somewhere. The most obvious scientific explanation is that it arose from a DNA mutation, How else do you explain how a mass of self-replicating molecules came to be aware of anything at all, much less the survival instincts? BTW, basic origins of the sesory and info. processing organs is about as far as I care to believe in evopsych.

Show me high-quality evidence that I’m insulting and I’ll start taking you seriously. Just because someone is offended by a claim does not mean the claim isn’t true – especially if no caricatures are being drawn of the opponent (which I also challenge you to show where I did so).

But then YOU JUST BELIEVE THIS CAUSE YOUR DEPRESSED

And here you completely make a hypocrite of yourself, and contradict yourself besides. If you claim I’m merely pathologizing and insulting my opponent with these claims, then how can you not say you’re pathologizing and insulting me with your claims?

Beyond this, appealing to a discussion opponent’s depression (real or merely guessed at) is a pretty weak basis for dismissing a claim. If we’re going to say a person’s mental state proves a claim wrong, then why can’t I say that most people being happy with their lives biases their thinking both (a) for the notion that a new life is worth commencing and (b) against what this blog asserts.

Besides, I somehow doubt you’d change your beliefs about religion (whatever they may be) merely because someone who formerly shared your beliefs became depressed, switched to the belief you opposed, then had his or her depression lift shortly thereafterward. If that kind of thing doesn’t convince you to question your beliefs about religion (or any other hot potato subject), then how can you say depression (real or merely guessed at) is valid grounds for disproving antinatalism. But I don’t do so because I know the person’s mental state has no real bearing on the truth or falsity of any claim. So let’s just drop the long-distance armchair psychoanalysis and discuss the serious substantive issues here.

Also, drop the all-caps when commenting about posts you don’t like. That way people’ll take you more seriously. As it looks right now, you’re responding no more rationally than someone who read a blog that said something that deeply attacked their politics, religious beliefs, etc. then lashed out in anger like an angry spoiled child – forgetting that caricature attacks are for those whose real arguments lack force.

That wasn't convincing to you, but often is to other people. Think about why that might be.

I told you why in this post and the previous one: humans (and all neurological life for that matter) are simply programmed to believe life has a built-in bias convincing them that it has an objective, independently confirmable purpose. That bias is so deeply entrenched it causes people to knee-jerkedly dismiss any claim that offends their deepest-held views (again, like religious or political beliefs). I decided to go where the evidence goes, and so far I see no evidence that life has an independently confirmable purpose. I’m still open to the notion that it is, but all the claims I’ve seen in favor of this is pretty weak.

Anonymous said...

"And here you completely make a hypocrite of yourself, and contradict yourself besides"

Yes, that was the point. As the misspelling was supposed to convey

"I told you why in this post and the previous one: humans (and all neurological life for that matter) are simply programmed to believe life has a built-in bias convincing them that it has an objective, independently confirmable purpose"

I'll call up every neurological lifeform in the universe and ask them whether they believe life has an objective independently confirmable purpose, shall I?

filrabat said...

"Yes, that was the point. As the misspelling was supposed to convey"

I don't see ANY point in that statement at all. Unless you can specifically spell out your point, then there's nothing to discuss.

The closet thing to a point I see (and I can't be sure) is that you're equating a sound explanation for how we got the survival instinct with being insulting toward humanity. But unlike you, I'm not gonna put words in your mouth.

Given this, I repeat what I said in my previous comment

Show me high-quality evidence that I’m insulting[humanity with my explanation for how living organisms obtained the survival instinct] and I’ll start taking you seriously. Just because someone is offended by a claim does not mean the claim isn’t true – especially if no caricatures are being drawn of the opponent (which I also challenge you to show where I did so).

filrabat said...

BTW, if by that "cause your depressed" line, you mean the old saw "Why don't I kill myself", this is old hat to ANs, and pretty sufficiently answered http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2011/12/a_cursory_rejec.html (especially by me, username filrabat and Sister Y). Give those a read, plus give the following link a view to see how AN addresses the suicide pseudo-issue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiJcdUpIcPA

Anonymous said...

What? I'm not going to ask you to kill yourself, I'm not a monster. I've met the kinds of bastards who tell depressed people to kill themselves, but I'm not one of them.

You don't seem depressed anyway. I was just comparing the pathologization that is "You're just a depressive death cultist!" to the pathologization that is "You're just a pre-programmed DNA worshipper!"

filrabat said...

Anon,

Thanks for clearing this up. It's good that you can see how name-calling and personal distaste toward something doesn't make that something false.

Because of this, whether AN's have death wishes or not or that pro-natalists worship DNA isn't the issue. In many contexts I am a DNA worshiper too (in that I also have a self-preservation instinct - for both myself and for other people; due to my DNA-programming + social and memetic influences on my psyche).

The issue is whether the evidence, mediated by the must rigorous standards of logic and reason, support the assumption that bringing more children into this world is a good thing. I just happen to believe that it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Wherever reason takes you.

BTW, what do you think of this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NMoKYYWixQ&feature=channel_video_title

Anonymous said...

oh DE, i hope you have a good Xmas. :-) MRA

filrabat said...

To anon, DerivedEnergy (I think that's you).

Sorry for not answering sooner, as I was in an Internet desert over Christmas (remote area, with only my smart phone for access - even then not always reliable).

To Anon: I saw the video just now, and have to agree with DE's comments - spoke too fast for me to comprehend him properly, yet made some good points (from what I could make out)

To DE (assuming that's you). I had a great one, and I hope you did too. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of rationality?
What benefit you have for being rational?

I prefer to live a happy life and enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer. WE dont need justification.

Life is fun and that's all we need.

FLP said...

Honestly, I question if an irrational person is even capable of deducing whether or he or she is living a happy life. It seems to me that deducing anything without reason would not simply be difficult, but impossible. Antinatalists generally respect others ability to decide for themselves what is the quality and value of their life, but I'm not sure that respect is warranted in the case of an irrational person.

A lack of sanity is one of the common ad hominem rebuttals used against antinatalists on YT, so I might have stolen that one. Of course, these accusations of anantinatalist lack of sanity are not substantiated.

filrabat said...

@Anonymous (Jan 5, 2012)

What's the point of rationality?

To help us see the truth of reality, independent of our perceptions. In case you take the line “we can’t know anything about reality – at least not beyond “we don’t exist”, then I wrote this article on my other blog, that touches on non-antinatalist topics
What benefit you have for being rational?

Rationality makes life easier to live in the long run. It’s impossible to be perfectly rational, but

I prefer to live a happy life and enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer. WE dont need justification.

First, there’s nothing contradicting being rational and being happy. In fact, I think happiness is impossible (in the long run, at least) without a considerable degree of rationality. Otherwise you’ll be like driftwood tossed upon the waves – you have nothing to anchor yourself onto.

Second, you yourself may not require justification for your own existence, but you have no right to speak for others in that regard. I’ll get to this one in a later post. For now, it’s enough to say that is akin to forcing someone to sign a legally enforceable contract whose terms and rules they profoundly disagree with. No, worse. At least the forced signer has recourse to get the contract voided if it was forced. The person birthed doesn’t even get a chance to even read over “the terms and conditions of a living existence” or even have to place his or her own signature onto it before actually being party to the contract.

Therefore, creating a new person is essentially gambling with another person's well-being, as this video demonstrates http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ2FDwuP3Ys

Life is fun and that's all we need.

Again, there is no guarantee a person will agree with you. Also, even if life can be fun (I take this to mean, thrills and feel-good emontionalism), a life of irrationality is NOT a sustainable form of happiness – for the reasons I gave previously.

filrabat said...

Honestly, I question if an irrational person is even capable of deducing whether or he or she is living a happy life.

David Benatar draws on extensive research in psychology showing we consistently overestimate the quality of our own lives.

Still, I have to semi-agree that a person is capable of such deductions (albeit in a very limited sense). Even then, it depends on the definition of “happy”. Some define “happy” as feel-good emotional rushes, glows, etc., others (like me) define true, sustainable happiness (the only definition with a fighting chance of being objectively true) as a feeling of security and satisfaction, characterized by a steady, sober-minded, emotionally neutral ride without frequent intense feelings. Fortunately, the development of fMRIs now allows us to perform increasingly sophisticated brain scans, letting us see how the brain works in real-time. This is critical to adding more scientific objectivity to the issue, namely by allowing us to see what brain states correlate with various definitions of “happiness”.
Still, there’d remain plenty of philosophical issues remaining – as in “which definition of happiness is the most sensible (i.e. objective and independently confirmable, plus a whole host of other traits – far too many to mention in this space)

Even so, there is no guarantee a person will actually live a happy life; which takes us back to the "gambling" issue discussed above.

It seems to me that deducing anything without reason would not simply be difficult, but impossible. Antinatalists generally respect others ability to decide for themselves what is the quality and value of their life, but I'm not sure that respect is warranted in the case of an irrational person.

Agreed. “Deducing anything without reason” is worse than oxymoronic – it’s outright contradictory. Deduction, by definition, is reasoning. Otherwise, we’re left with subjectivism, which degenerates into (if not synonymous with) “It’s true because it feels true”. That’s effectively asking us to believe in magic.

A lack of sanity is one of the common ad hominem rebuttals used against antinatalists on YT, so I might have stolen that one. Of course, these accusations of anantinatalist lack of sanity are not substantiated.

Our critics simply start with the assumption that thinking “the human species should continue” requires “insanity” or other kind of mental imbalance, then build their whole superstructure on that foundation. Problem is, if the foundation isn’t strong, the whole gigantic structure will collapse. At any rate, even the very definitions and criteria for “good mental health” can change over time (I LOVE discussions like this, btw; though this is not really the blog for it). Homosexuality was regarded as a mental disorder until the early 1970s, seen to be just as “unnatural” as our critics claim our arguments to be. If the definitions/criteria for “good mental health” are that flexible with regard to homosexuality, then how can we trust the definition of “good mental health” in other regards (barring clear misperceptions of reality like “I am the POTUS” when you are clearly and instantly verifiably not Barack Hussein Obama.

Anonymous said...

When parents have children they have no intention to cause suffering and pain to their children. All harm is just accidental.

Most people like their lives and are glad to be alive. There is only a little risk to create people who will suffer and regret to be born. Parents can't be morally culpable by the accidental harm caused.

If so, it would make sense to say that it's unethical to drive cars just because you have a little chance to harm and kill someone.

filrabat said...

When parents have children they have no intention to cause suffering and pain to their children. All harm is just accidental.

Lack of intent is no excuse. If you know the risks of substantial harm (from the birthed person’s perspective, not from mine, not from yours), and that person is in no position to escape from being placed in risk of substantial harm, then it is not right to do so. Sure, draft dodgers can evade combat duty (albeit illegally), but that person still has the ability to choose. He may feel that jail time is worth it, for all we know.

Most people like their lives and are glad to be alive. There is only a little risk to create people who will suffer and regret to be born. Parents can't be morally culpable by the accidental harm caused.

No matter how small the risk is – we have no right to impose that risk onto others without their consent because there’s always the chance that someone will not find that risk acceptable. It’s the difference between gambling with your money and gambling with other people’s money, especially without their permission. It gets worse when we consider that different people have different risk thresholds. For all you know, that person’s risk threshold (i.e. “acceptable risk” , “acceptable pain” is much below yours). If you don’t know what their risk threshold is – i.e. their definition of a life worth living is – then it’s hardly unethical to refuse to bring them into existence.

If so, it would make sense to say that it's unethical to drive cars just because you have a little chance to harm and kill someone.

The difference is that other people who drive cars already exist. Furthermore, by being on the road themselves, it is reasonable to assume they voluntarily accepted the risk that comes from driving a car. Furthermore, other moral and probability considerations may cause that person to take a car (earning a living, educating children, purchasing necessities so others - esp. family members – won’t suffer from the lack of the said items, and other general moral obligations to family and others that require use of an automobile).

By contrast, there are no duties to continue the human species because there is no objective need for the species to continue. I’ll get into this later (or you can get a brief overview in the 2010 post “Personal Reasons” in the “Teleological Antinatalism” section. For now, it’s enough to say there is no objective, independent confirmation of proof that humanity has to (in a moral sense) exist.

filrabat said...

Addition to the above.

From Seth Baum’s Better to Exist: A Reply to David Benatar

“ However, as Harsanyi5 persuasively shows, maximin (maximiging the minimum amount of suffering) has many unappealing consequences. For example, maximin recommends an extreme risk aversion, to the point that we would not make, say, routine travel given even an infinitesimal chance of fatal accident”.


Stated albeit simplistically, “unappealing” is relative to personal choice. If a person chooses to not undergo a risk, then it’s his or her right. “Extreme” is also relative to what could be gained or lost from the matter. A dispute of $5 regard a home or even an automobile might be considered extreme, but not when you’re buying ten CDs.

As for the travel versus death, were the matter simply one of taking a trip when there are no other people to take into consideration, then that is one thing. But that rarely, if ever, exists in the real world. In the real world, other people have to be taken into account.

*Trips to work (commutes) - without trips to work, the person doesn’t have a job and his family goes into poverty, or at least a greatly reduced standard of living.
*Vacations to see the relatives – the odds of being in an accident are so tiny that they are worth the risk at giving or obtaining the emotional warmth and fellowship of family members. Even so, if a horrendous snowstorm were occurring on the date of travel, THEN traveling to see the relatives at that moment is not worth the risk.

*Vacations to otherdestinations – similar to visiting the relatives, only that the purpose is to “recharge the batteries” in some way or another. That’s why people cancel trips to Cancun if the area’s right in the middle of a hurricane’s projected.

In fact, the problem with Baum’s analogy is that they treat an already existing person the same as a nonexisting person; namely that existing people do have needs, some of which can only be met if they undertake a risk. A nonexisting person has no need that must be satisfied, therefore there is no point in subjecting the person to a risk, even a future one (i.e. that by coming into existence they may well be subjected to great harms).

The risk of harm from coming into existence is so high that it’s practically not a true risk at all – it is guaranteed. If there is a risk, that risk is in how the person him or herself would feel about it. It is one thing to risk your own self, or people who voluntarily accept the risk of something you impose upon them; especially if the risk is unavoidable. It is another thing to create a situation where a person is assuredly placed into harm, particularly if the risk is avoidable. This is especially true when considering that non-existent people not only do not suffer harm, but that the non-existent do not, cannot, need the benefits of existence.

Unlike money and gambling chips, the object gambled with when brought into existence (people) do have feelings and general sentience that can be hurt. The money and chips don’t care about their fate, people do care about theirs.