Friday, June 22, 2012

Why Not Commit Suicide? (Part 2)

Last Updated December 26, 2012


With every suicide, there are many losers and few, if any winners.  Even with the latter, the gains accruing to them as a result of an antinatalists suicide are highly trivial at most and often outright nonexistent.  This includes any alleged gains antinatalism’s critics say would accrue to sweatshop workers (namely that a suicide denies the sweatshop a paying customer), implying antinatalists should commit suicide if they are to remain true to the Least Suffering Principle.  However, not only would suicide fail to meaningfully reduce these sufferings, it would more likely increase them, namely by denying to legitimate garment factories or coffee plantations (“sweat-free” and Fair Trade™) paying customers (and hence profits). This reduces the number of people who “vote with their wallet” to stop worker exploitation, which in turn reduces the strength of the movement to raise living standards for exploited workers. Therefore, whatever trivial gains the sweatshop workers obtain through the suicide of a customer is more than offset by the admittedly equally trivial opportunity loss a sweat-free garment factory or Fair Trade™ coffee grower suffers from the needless loss of a potential paying customer. 

Even assuming that antinatalists would still be supporting sweatshops because some products cannot be bought from “fair practice” factories, it is highly doubtful that suicide would come even close to reducing the exploited workers’ sufferings by a noteworthy amount.  The suffering reduction would be so small that it is highly unlikely even the workers themselves would agree that the trivial gains accruing to them would outweigh the agony that the antinatalist customer’s deliberate death would cause the antinatalist’s own family and friends.  Even worse, it can be argued that effectively denying purchases to “sweat-free” and “Fair Trade” concerns removes inspiration for manufacturers of high-end products to choose a similar such path.


The last post left off with my claim that suicide  of even all antinatalists would reduce suffering on a worldwide scale by only a trivial amount at most, certainly by an unnoticeable one; contrary to what some critics' claim's imply.  So who do the critics think would benefit from an antinatalist’s suicide, other than possibly the antinatalist him or herself (but as show in the previous post, only at the expense of others)?  The following table illustrates each side's claims regarding who would be hurt or helped by an antinatalist's suicide.  Critic's claims are in the upper left and bottom right quadrants, the philanthropic antinatalist's  are in the other two. 

Antinatalist Continues to Live
Antinatalist Commits Suicide

Hurt by Decision
*Sweatshop Workers in the Third World: AN keep buying products from exploitative factories, at the cost of worker well-being.
Family and Friends

Highly Sensitive Distant Strangers*

*Everyone on Earth, present or future: AN keeps using fossil fuels, consuming and/or wasting food that could go to the poor, creating waste, etc.
Place of Employment*

Places the Antinatalist Shops*

The Antinatalist   (in some cases, i.e.. Knowledge of pain to family, friends and acquaintainces caused by death. Also if their death is through unusually pleasant means, which is very unlikely)

The Antinatalist: If he or she looks forward to their own death or if they think their life is not worth entering into. 

Helped by Decision
All who would be hurt by the ANs decision* (in the very loose sense that not doing harm is a help). However, Family and Friends would not be a GBIE. 
All those who are helped by the antinatalist's suicide*except the Antinatalist

The Antinatalist, for he or she will know that ny continuing to live, they spare close ones additional trauma beyond what their natural death would cause.  
The Antinatalist in their last few moments of life.

Asterisk (*) means “GBIE”, Genuine But Insignificant Effect. The astrisks reflect my own view of the situation, not that of the party making the argument.

As shown above, a critic can go out on a limb and say that committing suicide reduces exploitation of sweatshop workers in the third world, environmental damage, and consuming food that could otherwise go to the poor.  Yet, philanthropic antinatalists counter that the gains for these parties would be incredibly trivial compared to the grief and suffering the antinatalist's suicide would impose on their loved ones, family and friends. 

The critics' argument might work only against the antinatalist's "pinprick argument" - the "hard" argument that even a single pinprick experienced by a single person is an unnecessary amount of pain to suffer, based largely on the Benatarian Asymmetry

Brief Overview and Commentary of the Pinprick Argument

The argument states the following:

(a) Non-existent people neither need pleasure nor suffer from a lack of pleasure (including masochists, given that it's actually a pleasure, though it bears pain's disguise), due to the Benatarian Asymmetry and further explications given on the linked page
(b) Theoretically, no potential people have to (in the factual sense, as opposed to the moral one) come into existence; and had they never been born, 'a' would remain the case forever.
(c) Because of 'a' and 'b', it therefore makes no sense to say we should bring a potential person into actual existence so that they can experience pleasures of life.
(d) Non-pleasurable (i.e., non-masochistic) pain that is pointless, unnecessary, and serves no purpose is always a bad thing.
(e) Therefore, because of 'a' through 'd', even the pain from a single pinprick negates the value of all the pleasure one can ever receive.  
(f) Because of 'e', and because everyone suffers from pains greater than a pinprick - whether physically or emotionally,  it is immoral to bring new people into this world (or universe, for that matter).

However, in the real world, even most antinatalists place the threshold of a life too unbearable to be worth commencing and/or living tremendously higher than a mere single pinprick (or even paper cut).[1] Other antinatalist arguments emphasize the unknown future (i.e. "The Gambling Argument") and the lack of opportunity for consent to be born before being thrust into a realm which operates under these kinds of rules and produces these kinds of circumstances (i.e. "The Consent Argument"). [2] , [2b] Neither argument relies on single pinpricks and in fact deal with more realistic scenarios.  It is difficult to see how what might be called the "Exploited Laborers Argument" can work against antinatalist arguments that assume the threshold of "a life not worth living/commencing" orders of magnitude less strict than the inevitable single pinprick.[3]  

Even if there are a microscopically small fraction of cases in which someone believes their and/or our total lifetime happiness is indeed canceled out by a single pinprick, that still gives us no right to decide for them that they have misguided definitions and/or criteria of "a life worth living and/or commencing". True, we may have a right in some cases to decide for them whether a certain action is right or wrong, but only to the extent that those actions affect the well-being, dignity, or safety of other people.  This is not so when it comes to personal actions or opinions that cannot significantly grieve or threaten anyone else. For this reason, even if this issue proves to yield only subjective answers*, this subjectivity would actually work in the antinatalist's favor.  This is especially true if we cannot predict a potential future existent's standards, definition, criteria, etc. of a life worth commencing and/or living; which in turn supports the Gambling Argument against procreation.

*This is not a concession, only a contingency.

OBJECTION: There exist infinitesimal but genuine odds of horrible things happening to us due to even drinking certifiably safe tap water, or (a favorite of critics) driving a car across town. Yet we all perform these acts despite our awareness of the risks to others.

RESPONSE: See Appendix.

Hurt vs. Help: The Effects of an Antinatalist's Suicide on Others

Now we return to the starting point of this post, the issue about how much an antinatalist's suicide would reduce the overall suffering of this world. Referring back to the table outlining who would be hurt or helped by an antinatalist's suicide, this examines how and to what extent or degree an antinatalist's suicide would affect the following parties listed in the chart.

Family and Friends: Very negatively, both short run and long run.  As discussed in Part 1, the former is certainly the case while the latter is very likely; especially considering that family and friends are likely to be hurt worse by a close one's suicide than their natural death, or even their untimely death of any sort,  even years after their actual death.  Anyone who still doubts this only needs to ask someone whose loved one died several years ago which they would rather experience, a loved one's or friends natural death or that loved one's suicide. Many internet forums devoted to suicide grief support exist, such as this one.

If the sources cited in Part 1 are sound, then it is difficult to deny that suicide causes more grief, anguish, and even harm than does a natural death; particularly for first-degree relatives and spouses. Though the abstracts and studies did not address the next mentioned aspect of the matter, this blog's author speculates that even a person's demise by murder is at least fairly likely to cause less suffering for relatives than  that person's suicide would. At least the relatives would see their loved one's murder as an involuntary untimely death, thus leaving the deceased blame-free regarding their death. This also allows the relatives to pin the blame of death on someone else. A suicide's surviving relatives would not have even this consolation, for the killer in this case is the grieved-over deceased him or herself.

Coworkers / Place of Employment: Intensely negative but temporarily at most. Exceptions probably exist for coworkers who were close friends or admirers of the deceased. However, the workplace's employees as a whole would likely suffer much less in the long-term from the suicide than the family and friends would.  In the meantime, the short-run quality and/or quantity of work may well drop, especially for a small employer. Even so, it will likely rebound to previous levels after the typical duration of a grieving period for such circumstances.  Hence, after the grieving period, the suicide would not likely affect the firm's long-run productivity and quality. Overall, the suicide would have practically no affect on the employee's long-term mental well-being and the employer's balance sheet - unless the deceased was a highly valuable employee with exceptional or unique talents.  On average though, the effect on the employer and employees will be neglible to practically non-existent - financially, physically, and psychologically. 

Even if the suicide were to affect productivity and / or quality of output more than claimed above, this would only strengthen the argument against committing suicide.  At any rate, the emotional pain caused to coworkers and the owners of the place of employment is likely to be considerable, even if for the place of employment as a whole not as long lasting as for family and close friends.

Highly Sensitive Distant Strangers: Most likely trivial, moderately high but temporary at the plausible most. Even then, highly emotional reactions are likely to happen only if upon hearing or reading of the suicide, it causes a flashback of one of their own friends of one of their own friends or family members who committed suicide.  Still, the overwhelmingly vast majority of even sensitive strangers will suffer trivially - except perhaps in the very short run.  Almost certainly such people will not see their overall quality of life decrease. 

Establishments the Antinatalist Shops: Trivially negative at most, even in small towns with a likewise small customer base.  Certainly a well-run establishment in even the proverbial "one-stoplight crossroad community" would see customer base (and hence gross revenue and profits) reduced by only one in a few hundred at most, and much more likely less than that in the typical rural county seat.  This loss is certainly manageable for any competent store owner, and most incompetent ones besudes. In fact, even the store owner or manager, deeply concerned as he or she is with profitability, would easily feel more grief for the customer's death in and of itself (by whatever means) than the resulting loss of revenue.

Sweatshop Workers, et al: Trivial reduction in suffering at most.  This deals with multiple issues, some of them qualitative in nature, although even those do have a semi-objective component to them. 

Critics assume the following regarding antinataists and sweatshop workers (plus a whole host of other social ills)
(a) A single person remaining alive - antinatalist or not - contributes more total pain to sweatshop workers than that person's suicide would for others.
(b) The suicide of the end-customer would bring a net reduction in overall suffering (i.e., There would be a greater reduction in sweatshop workers's suffering than there would be an increase in the suffering of family and friends, and even familiar  acquaintainces).
(c) Even an unnoticeable amount of improvement in the sweatshop workers' condition is a worthwhile improvement.
(d) Suicide is the most effective way to reduce the sweatshop workers' sufferings.
(e) The sweatshop workers themselves believe the suicide of even a large number of their customers will lead to a substantial improvement in their working conditions.

Actually, when considering the broader picture surrounding worker exploitation, a suicide would, if anything, hurt the movement to halt worker exploitation (specific reference to point d).  A suicide deprives sweat-free garment makers, Fair Trade TM coffee growers, etc. of a potential customer (and hence a new "voice" and more power to the anti-sweatshop movement); not to mention deny profits to the the legitimate factories and farms, and hence motivating other factories and farms to treat and pay their workers more fairly.  For the sake of argument, though, let us focus only on the amount of pain the antinatalist causes by buying sweatshop-made goods.

Naturally, both critics and antinatalists will have to use some objective measure and data from which to argue in order to even approach anything resembling a meaningful answer. Unfortunately, there is no truly objective way to measure suffering in others, although the great majority will agree that death of a close is worse than that same person stealing $100 from your wallet or purse.

Even regarding the objective or semi-objective aspects of the sweatshop worker issue, an actual reliable estimate would require a formal (preferably comprehensive) study.  This study would examine multiple aspects of the issue. Among these would be minimum (a) a survey of the types of goods imported from sweatshops (b) reliable estimates of how many people work in sweatshops, (c) the percentage of goods sweatshops sell to each retailer  (d) the percentage of US citizens who do patronized the specific retailers who buy goods from the sweatshops (e) how many goods US consumers buy that is likely to be produced at a sweatshop. 

Only if and when such a comprehensive study is conducted can we even begin to make serious determinations about how much of the total worker’s misery the average person in each nation is responsible for.  Until then, we can ultimately do nothing more than speculate about how much misery each end customer is responsible for.  Within these limitations, I will hazard a very contingent guess about this matter.


These calculations assume (likely incorrectly) that all goods made, grown, or sold by the exploited workers will be evenly distributed around the world, based on each nation’s share of the Gross Global Product (in the US case, 20% of the Gross Global Product).  While undoubtedly untrue, the assumption is biased in favor of the notion that the US is indeed responsible for 20% of the miseries of the sweatshop workers.

Where it concernes exploited child labor, the  United Nation's International  Labor Organization report states that there are 250 million child laborers working in conditions considered to have a negative effect on their overall development, 60% of them in agriculture.[4]  While the report did state that in 2005 there were 200,000 children in Cote d'Ivorie alone who worked on cacao plantations,undoubtedly many more work on subsistence farms or small to medium-sized farms.  These farms will likely serve mainly the local or national market, or at most the markets of bordering nations. Hence, the larger global market does not contribute substantial to these childrens' miseries. However, other than the Cote d'Ivorie figure, the ILO child labor report addressed neither how many worked on small farms nor what percentage were on the plantations.  This makes it it is impossibly to meaningfully determine other producing nation's share of the responsibility for the maltreatment of workers within their jurisdiction.

Beyond the ILO report, Oxfam provides the best estimates of exploited labor in geneal, with 23.6 million textile workers that work in sweatshops as of 2003.[5]  Regarding this figure, the blog author will assume that the number of sweatshop workers who work in neither agriculture nor the apparel or allied industries is at least as great as the 23.6 million textile workers estimate.  Based on these findings and the assumption, we can give a round estimate of 300 million total exploited workers worldwide in all industries.

Nevertheless, as stated, estimates of the number of sweatshop workers can and do vary widely, not the least because there is no definition of “sweatshop” that everyone agrees about. Even so, we will argue from the highest estimates, which favors critics of antinatalism. Also for the sake of argument, we will focus exclusively on the oft-stated most voracious consumer of their goods, even on a per capita basis – the United States of America.  This assumption also strengthen the case for justifying antinatalists’ suicides, particularly among Americans. We will also ignore the potential problems generated for sweatshop workers of ashrinking customer base for the demand of the products they make.  

Estimating Anguish Caused Per Consumer to Exploited Workers
With a current world population of seven billion people, 300 million of whom are sweatshop workers, then given the assumptions discussed, the average person is responsible for close to 1/23 of an average sweatshop worker’s total misery. The greater the number of such workers, the more of a worker’s misery each person is responsible. Stopping here, we can say that it takes 23 suicides to relieve one exploited worker of their miseries, or that one suicide will relieve the worker of 1/23 of their miseries.

Undoubtedly, in the real world, this is an  extremely simplistic method of determining each person's share of a sweatshop worker's misery.  Nobody buys goods from every sweatshop and its agricultural equivalents, especially if they those goods only serve  the local, national, and bordering countries markets. Furthermore, wealthier individuals, even "blue collar" workers in wealthier countries, will buy a larger share of those goods.  The greater the nation's average wealth, the greater the number of goods the average person of that nation buys from sweatshops.  Hence, we need a new set of calculations.

As stated above, the ILO Report did not specify what percentage of child laborers work on plantations or other farms growing crops that are exported to the wealthy world (cocoa, coffee, etc), nor did it state the percentage of those who work on farms growing goods only for the immediate local, national, or regional market.  Therefore it is impossible to say what share of exploited childrens’ labor does benefit wealthy markets. Still, let us assume that each factory, farm, and plantation exports are evenly distributed globally with respect to each nation’s share of its Gross Global Product. For the United States, that is about 20%.

With the United States buying about 20% of the factory’s production, this makes US consumers responsible for one-fifth of the exploited laborers’ miseries.  There are two ways to view this: (a) US consumers are responsible for all the misery of 60 million sweatshop workers (300 million times 20%), or (b) US consumers are responsible for 20% of the entire misery experienced by all the 300 million (20% of the lifetime working hours of all sweatshop workers).  In either case, there are 300 million US consumers responsible for that misery, even if indirectly; from purchases of infant clothing and cribs to consumer goods the very elderly use.
However, this does not mean that if five U.S. residents completely stopped buying from any sweatshop within the next few days with no new consumers, one worker would gain complete relief from their sufferings.  A net loss of five customers will produce only a miniscule loss in gross revenue and/or net profit for the factory. It is safe to say that even the most ruthless capitalist would barely feel scratched by such a small drop in revenue.  Certainly the drop would not be enough to compel the factory to fire even one worker. Therefore, the worker would continue suffering practically the same level of misery after the loss as before.  Therefore, it is more likely that (b) is the case - US customers as a group are responsible for 20% of the total misery of all workers. 

With 300 million U.S. residents responsible for 20% of the Gross Global Product, the US's assumed share of each worker's misery is likewise 20%. To get the average US resident's share of each individual sweatshop worker's miseries, we divide 1/5 by 300 million.  This is 1 / 1.5 billion. In this case, this can mean either (1) each U.S. resident is responsible for 1 / 1.5 billion of all  the misery occuring all the time or (2) each U.S. worker can hypothetically be held responsible for the miseries suffered over  1 / 1.5 billion of the worker's work-life.

Admittedly the figure is probably very much higher for high-tech goods digital goods. For these, we can safely double the US share to 40% and consequently double the size of the subsequent figures for at least sweatshops producing “high tech” goods.  Even so, merely doubling a very infintesimal share of the US consumer’s responsibility for the workers miseries still makes for an extremely trivial amount  of suffering, no matter how measured. This still would not not affect the sweatshop management's decisions in the slightest. This is before we consider how many sweatshop workers actually earn their living assembling computers, cell phone, portable digital music players, and the like.

This leads directly to the next question: What is 1.5 billionth of a sweatshop worker’s misery?  Time at work seems the only semi-objective measure, so we will look from that perspective.  Assuming 80 working hours per week for 50 weeks per year, that is 4000 working hours per year, which is 14.4 million seconds exactly. 1.5 billionth of this is 0.0096 seconds, or just less than 1/100 of a second per year. That is how much misery the average US person is responsible for regarding one factory worker per year, and only double that with regard to our example of iPod, laptops, etc.). Even using a 16 hour work day 7 days a week for 51 weeks yields only 20,563,200 million seconds per year. Dividing that figure by 1.5 billion yields 0.0137 seconds per year. 

Regardless of which calculation you find most plausible, any one person's suicide for reasons of stopping sweatshop worker exploitation will be a quixotic act at best. This does not yet begin to mention the issue of buying from sweat-free factories (preferably in a "First World" country with realistically humane working conditions and salaries), which unlike a suicide, would have the virtue of giving real rewards to workers and factories who manufacture goods under civilized conditions.

Some will object that it is absurd to think any one person, including antinatalists, will buy products from every sweatshop in the world and certainly not within a year.  This is a strong objection.  It is most likely that the items the average person buys from a sweatshop include shoes, socks, pants, shirts, perhaps coffee and chocolate if we add in the foodstuffs.  We can also add goods bought every few years, namely electronic communication devices (cell phones, laptops, portable music devices, etc).  If each individual buys ten sweatshop items a year and that each individual good produced typically requires 30 sweatshop workers involved in the process, then – for the amount of time it took each worker to perform his or her task for that one particular item or unit to be sold individually - each American is probably responsible for the misery of 300 workers.

However, there is a crucial unknown in all this – how much time does it take for a typical sweatshop worker to perform one specific task for one specific good (or in the case of socks, the number of socks that are sold in a single bag for end-consumer use)?  Without knowing this, it is impossible to know how many minutes of misery each person who buys the product is responsible for.  Even so, it seems fifteen minutes is a reasonable absolute maximum estimate of the time for one person to complete his or her task for one item to be sold to an end-consumer, depending on the type of good sold.  

So assuming US residents on average buy one such item per year, the average US resident is responsible for fifteen minutes of worker misery per year for all those 300 workers.  This is not to say that the total misery caused to those 300 people in that fifteen minutes is the equivalent of all the pain of those 300 workers concentrated in one single worker within that fifteen minutes, or not even 4500 minutes (300 workers times fifteen minutes). Each person’s threshold of “unbearable pain or miserable” is quite likely to be above the pain suffered as a result of assembling that one product.  We can say five basketball players collectively feel X units of pain and exhaustion after basketball practice, but that is not the same as saying we can concentrate all that pain inside one person and assume it was unfair or unreasonable to make the whole team practice. 

So in this sense ¼ hour out of a whole work year of 4000 hours is 1/16,000 of a work year per worker for 300 factory workers.  In this case, 16,000 US suicides on behalf of that exploited worker would yield one single year of relief for him or her, and their other 299 co-workers on top of that. Even this assumes the benefits to the exploited workers will, in fact, actually accrue to those particular people who made, grew, or picked the suicide’s products. As explained above, this is a risky assumption at best. Thus, the charge to commit suicide is effectively asking us to believe that a typical sweatshop worker would be grateful for the suicide of one single customer who purchases from his or her workplace once a year; a dubious assumption at best, especially given the alternative of supporting anti-sweatshop activism and buying whatever one can from certifiably sweat-free manufacturers.  In fact, it is far more likely the sweatshop worker would prefer the antinatalist vote with their money rather than with a pistol or rope, especially if one agrees with the saying "Money talks, hogwash walks".

As stated earlier, all the above calculations are ultimately based on at least partial speculation, for there are simply too many unknowns in the process.  Regardless, it is clear that the amount of pain each person causes is such a tiny portion of that of the sweatshop worker that it is absurd to think that even the suicide of all antinatalists in the US (say, 1.0% of the total US population) will make any substantial difference in the life of the sweatshop worker.  It is doubtful that even the sweatshop workers themselves will consider the suicide of a distant person in a “First World” country would consider it worth the anguish they would put their family and friend through. Certainly they would think it less helpful than pressuring their employers and end-retailers to stop buying those goods until their employer makes definite improvements in their working conditions.

At any rate, even the suicide of all antinatalists worldwide will shave off only one year’s worth of population growth, in which case one year from now the world will be back in the situation it was in just before the suicides.   The same argument applies to environmental degradation, resource depletion, food consumption, and a whole host of other social ills – only a 1.0% decline in the total use of those resources at most, and only a temporary decline at that.

So with regard to the five questions at the beginning of this section, the answers are as follows:
(a) A single person remaining alive - antinatalist or not - contributes more total pain to sweatshop workers than the person's suicide would for others.
This, of course is subjective, but even assuming the worst case scenario – each US resident is responsible for fifteen minutes of pain per worker per year, it is highly doubtful the fifteen minutes of pain of that worker is greater than the pain of one person whose family member or spouse committed suicide.  The pain and misery from that fifteen minutes of work is very likely not as bad for the worker as the anguish and even potential mental health problems resulting from the suicide of a close family member.  This is especially true when the anguish from a close one’s suicide can last for years and certainly beyond those fifteen minutes.  Put another way, it would be amazing if even the great majority of poor people would rather have a stranger on another continent commit suicide than go through fifteen minutes per year of workplace misery.

(b) The suicide of the end-customer of a sweatshop would bring a net reduction in overall suffering (i.e., the reduction in sweatshop workers sufferings resulting from one less customer purchasing those products would be greater than the increse in family and friend's sufferings due to that same person's suicide).

As show above, even assuming that reducing sweatshop worker demand does bring about a reduction in suffering, that suffering will likely result in only a quater-hour's worth of suffering reduction at most.  As shown in the comment under (a), saying this small amount of improvement in the sweatshop workers' condition is worth the suffering of family and friends generated by a suicide simply goes against both human nature and everyday experience. 

(c) Even an unnoticable amount of improvement in the sweatshop worker's condition is a worthwhile improvement.

Perhaps in the abstract sense this is true, but when dealing with the real-world sufferings of exploited workers who are wanting relief as soon as possible, this is hard to believe. It would be the same as saying a mid-19th century South Carolina slave would have his or her situation improved by having 300,000 Americans (1.0% of the population in 1860) stop purchasing cotton products.  On top of that, we have to wonder - from the exploited workers' perspective - if an improvement unnoticed really is any improvement at all, let alone a meaningful one.

(d) Suicide is the most effective way to reduce the sweatshop workers' sufferings 

A dead person cannot engage in anti-sweatshop activism of any sort, or even purchase goods from a “sweat-free” plant.  If the consumer’s money is the strongest ballot to cast in favor of “sweat-free” goods and by extension the strongest motivator to get sweatshops to improve either pay or working conditions, then the suicide of those concerned with suffering is not exactly the most effective way to end sweatshop worker exploitation.

(e) The sweatshop workers themselves believe the suicide of even a large number of their customers will lead to a substantial improvement in their working conditions.

Of course it is best to ask the workers themselves, but given the above it strains credulity to think so.  If anything, the workers want those who care about suffering alleviation to remain alive and fight against the exploiters via activism and purchasing “sweat free” products.

After all is said and done, the most the critics' "sweatshop worker" argument may prove is that antinatalists should do more to engage in community activism to help reduce the sufferings of people in distant lands.  Even then, there may be some question as to whether they are more obligated to do so than other child-free singles their age. After all, if suffering prevention and mitigation should be part of everyone's basic ethics, regardless of whether one agrees that suffering prevention leads to antinatalism, then everyone ought to do what they can to speed the day when sweatshops the world over are a thing of the past. 
Furthermore, it is highly doubtful that even devoting every waking, non-working moment to “causes bigger than ourselves” would make the critics think twice before suggesting antinatalists commit suicide. After all, this world is full of injustices and inequities that demand everyone elses attention.  For such critics, no amount of suffering prevention and mitigation, no matter how relentless, will be enough – their real objection is that we espouse antinatalism in the first place.


[1] A paper cut's pain level is of a similar intensity level - even if both are considered trivial in intensity, the intensity levels of both remain quite comparable). The possible exceptions are hemophiliacs and any possible medical condition characterized by pain sensitivity on an unimaginable scale - physical or psychological. Even in these cases, antinatalists claim that only the person him or herself has the right to judge his or her life as worth commencing and/or living.

[2] The Gambling Argument states that we shoud not bring more people into this world because we cannot know the outcome of a potential person's life if brought into actual existence; particularly regarding their future well-being as society defines it. The conventional Gambling Argument usually relies on mainstream society's standards of "a life and/or conscious existence worth commencing and/or experiencing" (see note 3 for further explanation of the phrase). These criteria usually include some combination of the following types of well-being: physical, psychological, economic / financial, and others. 

[2b] The Consent Argument is a subset of the Gambling Argument. This differs from the conventional Gambling Argument in that it emphasizes the birthed person's own definitions, criteria, and judgements for "a life and/or conscious existence worth commencing and/or experiencing", whether for people in general or only for themselves.  The crux of the argument is that we cannot know what the potential person's views on the matter would be if we do bring them into existence. Due to this unpredictability, we should not bring potential people into actual existence.  Mainstream definitions and criteria are immaterial, for an individual's definition can and sometimes does vary significantly from the mainstream's; sometimes radically so.  Also immaterial is how well their own lives are going, whether by mainstream standards or even their very own (if the latter, then they could well see themselves as "just lucky, so far", and therefore concered that others - even their descendants - might not be as lucky as they have been so far).

[3] "A life worth living" is not necessarily the same as "a life worth commencing", for at least three reasons:(a) the birthed person may find life not worth living, even if his or her own life is superficially less painful than even most non-antinatalists (even both their parents); (b) the capricious nature of how, when, and where serious misfortune strikes; and (c) the person may develop more rigorous standards for "a world worth bringing children into" than those of either their parents or mainstream society.  This is the core notion behind the antinatalist's Consent and ultimately Gambling Arguments against procreation.  Whether the person's own definitions and criteria for "a world worth bringing children into" is a mere "subjective position" or the objective "right thing to do independent of our perceptions" is a matter of debate.  Still, even if the position proves subjective, the very subjectivity itself actually supports the antinatalist position, for we neither can predict any future existent's views in this regard nor have the right to overrule that person's own definitions and criteria for "a world worth bringing children into".

[4] (ILO, UN)

[5] (Oxfam Canada)


On Drinking and Driving: Confusing Duty-Bound Risk Acceptance of the Already-Existent With Imposing Risks of Existence on Those Who Did Not Need to be Born.
OBJECTION: There exist infinitesimal but genuine odds of horrible things happening to us due to even drinking certifiably safe tap water, or (a favorite of critics) driving a car across town, yet we all perform these acts despite our awareness of the risks to others.

There seems a pretty solid, though perhaps not perfect, parallel with this argument - the claim that insurance is simply another form of gambling. Some claim that buying insurance is effectively betting that an incident will occur when there's no substantial guarantee that it will.   The problem with this analogy is that with true gambling (e.g. craps tables, lotteries, etc), the risk of loss did not exist before the person made the wager, plus it is extremely unlikely he was forced in any way to make that wager.  However, as soon as the person made the bet or purchased the ticket, there was a substantial probability that the money would be lost; one that did not exist before the person decided to make the wager. 

By contrast, insurance covers risks that always did exist due to the inherent natures of three basic factors: the owned thing itself, the natural world, and human behavior (e.g., a car can have an unknown serious assembly flaw, be wrecked, flooded, stolen, etc.). Furthermore, many insurable items are practically impossible to do without and certainly so if one hopes to maintain both humane standards of living and a reasonable quality of life worthy of the names. You require to live in a dwelling. Loss of a dwelling is always a possibility for all dwellings as long as they continue to exist. Same thing with cars, your health, and even your life (in which case that loss is guaranteed, "when" being the only question).  Therefore, barring the very occasional wilderness survivalist, the very nature of modern life imposes upon us loss risks  that simply cannot be reduced to absolutely zero. 

As with insurance, already existent people are at the very least compelled to drive autos to work even if that activity could conceivably  hurt others or themselves.  First and foremost, not to do so will deprive them of income, or even visits to the grocery store, doctor, and a broad range of other destinations.  Furthermore, they are practically duty-bound to perform activities of non-zero risk for the sake of preventing guaranteed greater harms or injustices to others (simply living off others' resources when one is perfectly able to provide for him or herself, and without offering anything of sufficiently compensatory value to their benefactors. In a word, exploitation).  So in a sense, by traveling in a car for any reason (employment, groceries, etc), the person is giving up a little bit of safety in order to prevent an even more unsafe or unjust circumstance  from occuring. Put more simply, driving a car could be seen as a form of poverty insurance and/or prevention.

On the other hand, bringing a person into existence likewise brings into existence the possibility of negative circumstances that would otherwise not exist had that person not been brought into existence, somewhat comparable to purchasing a lottery ticket. There is simply no relevant comparision between choosing the lesser risk over the greater risk with choosing to bring a potentially existent person into actual existence. This is even more true given that there is no way to know that person's life course, nor a way to know how that potential person would actually define / set standards for "a world worth living in". This makes it difficult to see how birthing a person is not effectively gambling with the future well-being of that person. 

Now we go beyond the insurance-gambling analogy and deal with the actual essence of the argument.

The Existent

As implied above, it does no good to counter with the claim that practically everything we do has risks, even drinking certifiably safe water and traveling in cars. In these two cases, we are talking about people who already exist, and thus have an interest in remaining alive, happy, and/or preventing their own well-being from declining (if for no other reason than to prevent even greater sufferings from coming about, as explained in Part 1). 

Furthermore, the already existent likewise have a duty to not cause pointless and unnecessary harm to others, especially when the harmed party neither consents to be subject to such pain, nor likewise receives a compensating gain from experiencing that pain. Neither refusing to drink certifiably safe water, nor refusing to travel by motor vehicle for the reasons given above, nor the respective consequences for the person (even antinatalist) or their loved offer the surviving loved ones can plausibly offer any compensating gain for them that overcomes the death of their loved one under such circumstances. Such deaths or other hardships only create added burdens for surviving loved ones and possibly society as a whole (in the former case, greater anguish that suicide causes versus non-suicidal death in the former case; in the latter, in addition to the said family and friends, a greater burden on social services, charities, etc)

Also already existing person, by refusing to drink certifiably safe water, guarantees their own pointless and needless death and its inevitably consequent anguish for others, due to their easily avoidable premature deaths by their own hand (which as mentioned in Part 1, such deaths create more anguish among those close to us than our natural or even other involuntary unnatural death would). Similarly, though with a considerably less severe result, refusing to travel in a car ultimately results in a stark drop in one’s quality of life (and depending on the circumstances, unemployment and its consequent lowered availability of food, clothing, shelter, essential “consumer goods”, etc.). This creates negative impacts not just for themselves, but also their family and friends – and very possibly society as a whole via creating a higher caseload for social services, charities, etc. - negative consequences which all people have a duty not to commit and certainly such consequences that were avoidable, needless, and produce no compensating good for the aggrieved or otherwise harmed parties.

The Non-Existent

By contrast, the non-existent cannot suffer because their potential parent(s) refuse to bring them into existence on the basis of remote odds of an event happening. Nor can the non-existent have any need to experience what good in life does exist. The non-existent do not exist in any state, though potential future existents could become real at some point and therefore a legitimate subject of discussion. This is particularly true when we realize that we do have a duty to prevent or mitigate against future harmful events that can happen to future existent people, even those events whose effects we believe will happen outside our future lifespan. That includes our duty not to bring potential existents into a realm in which harmful things (and very possibly egrigiously harmful ones) can happen to them if the future existence of these people is a possibility - especially if (1) they do not need to experience good things and (2) consent to be born into a realm that operates under rules which permit, if not mandate, that all people in this world will suffer, with some people suffering quite egrigiously even when there is no need for them to suffer.

Last but not least, the potential future existent cannot have an interest in seeing humanity continue into the future. Nor really do any living people themselves have an interest in continuing the human species after their deaths, for they will no longer exist after they die and thus cannot care about the well-being of humanity any more.  The living can care about the well-being of those who will be born only after we ourselves die. We can only do so for the sake of those who will, in fact, exist. We cannot do so for our own sakes because our interests will cease after we die.

These differences between the circumstances of the present existent (to whom we owe presently-existing duties) and the non-existent (to whom we owe no such duties) renders spurious the comparision between driving a car / drinking water and a non-existent person.

From here, we can still say that assertions that giving birth to children is the right thing to do remains vulnerable to both the Consent and Gambling issues.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Not Commit Suicide? (Part 1)

Last Updated April 3, 2013


The reason not to commit suicide is based on both grief study research and the view that the rights of the individual sometimes are inferior to the rights of others. This is so when, in the process of the individual reducing or eliminating their own suffering (or pursuing their own wants), he or she creates more suffering for others, or even one single other individual, without any compensatory gains for either the one who suffers more or for the greater society itself (so long as the individual's suffering is not considered a harbinger of a potential menace to all other members of society, especially human rights violations). 

 Aside from “Physician-assisted” situations, suicide causes for friends and family greater anguish and psychological problems than does the same person's natural death.  To call this an excuse or a cop-out is to imply that we should disregard the negative effects our acts can impose onto others. This would create ethical problems in many respects, often well beyond the antinatalism issue.    

Fundamentally, we all have a duty to both not cause and to prevent bad occurrences from happening to others - especially those that are pointless, unnecessary, avoidable, nonproductive, and offer nothing of sufficiently compensatory value to others in return for the said suffering(s).  To deny this is to effectively say that even the most egregious wrongdoings do not matter, which ultimately undermines the core point for having any kind of rules, laws, and ethics in the first place.

First, disregarding trauma and anguish of the scale created by a close one’s suicide allows anitnatalists to disregard lesser but still great negative effects on others with regard to other acts, even those which practically all people and societies oppose.   

Second, permitting antinatalists to disregard the fundamental well-being of family and friends in the name of following their own beliefs out to the supposed "logical conclusion” allows subscribers to many, if not most, other points of view to likewise disregard the fundamental well-being of others when deciding to act on the supposed logical conclusion of their own views.   

Third, assuming we should not allow nepotism to influence any moral or ethical issue, disregarding the well-being of family and friends exactly equates to doing likewise for others’ well-being, and even that of society in general.  

Fourth, due to the above, asserting people may (or ought to) disregard such traumas in others in the name of following their beliefs or lifestyles also severely undermines, if not outright eliminates, the ultimate basis for most, if not all, laws, ethics, moral codes, etc.; given that laws, morals, etc.  ultimately are also largely, if not entirely, based on suffering prevention.

Fifth, even if despite all the above one still insists antinatalism’s logical conclusion is suicide, the fact remains that practically all people refuse to follow out even cherished systems like democracy and competition to their logical conclusion (i.e. rigidly following "majority makes the rules" and "unfettered struggles against rivals results in superior outcomes"), namely to protect the well-being of others and even society as a whole (specifically by introducing "impurities" into democracy and competition that protect the minority and/or the losers of a competition from the tyrrany of the majority and/or strong). Therefore, it is a form of special pleading to insist antinatalists disregard the negative effects that suicide would impose others yet at the same time oppose any insistence that both democracy and competion be followed to their logical conclusion due to the negative effects that unfettered forms of both democracy and competition would impose on others.
Suicide’s failure rate is actually quite high, as discussed by suicide expert Thomas Joiner of Florida State University.  In fact, often the very power of the in-born survival instinct instills a built in risk of a botched attempt, often leaving the committer even worse off than before.  This would create more pointless, unnecessary, and non-productive suffering that serves no higher purpose, for both the attempter, the close ones.
Last but not least, history shows that not only does suicide do nothing to advance any view outside society’s mainstream, it is more likely to cause society to dismiss it even more readily.  Only suicides committed in the name of advancing a cause or issue position already widely embraced by the mainstream have any meaningful chance of inspiring substantive changes in society.


This is probably the most common initial reaction to antinatalism when a person first hears about it.  To be fair, it is not always a “cheap shot” response, even if the question is often asked in that spirit.    As such, this question deserves serious treatment.

So, antinatalists, why not kill yourselves?  As just mentioned, there are two ways to interpret it: (a) an expression of reactive personal distaste toward antinatalism, or (b) believing it is contradictory to think new life not worth creating yet also say life is worth continuing. 

The first interpretation needs no in-depth response, for it is obviously just the result of petty personal distaste, as opposed to being a product of the rational thought process; no more substantive than a six-year-old spitefully spitting out spinach, then claiming that spinach is a terrible food because he and others like him say so. The latter interpretation, though, does deserve serious treatment.   

To fully understand the philanthropic antinatalism position on this issue, it must be kept in mind that philanthropic antinatalism is sourced in the following ethics:   net suffering prevention and net suffering alleviation. Together, these can be called The Least Net Suffering Principle, the principle that people should keep net suffering to the greatest reasonable minimum.  Net suffering is when the totality of suffering endured outweighs the totaility of benefits received from the state of afffairs.   Debates do happen about what constitutes a reasonable minimum, but the principle itself seems on very safe ethical ground. These will be discussed in more detail in a later post. For now, it is enough to say these are the prime drivers behind philanthropic antinatalism.  These ethical principles have significant implications for the suicide argument, especially when considering how one's action affects others - which in fact is the very basis of the philanthropic arguments against childbirth. From here, it inevitably enters into the issue of individual vs. group, and even societal rights; which has yet to be fully settled, if ever it will be. 

Some claim that it is illogical for an antinatalist to refuse suicide out of concern for the well-being of family and friends (even if especially only one); for it imples that the feelings and/or general well-being of the individual is less important than that of others.  That could - but not necessarily be - plausible only in three cases:

(1) All parties, antinatalists and all his or her family and friends, were suffering equally before the suicide,
(2) The agony negated by the antinatalist is greater than the agony created in the antinatalist's friends and family as a result of the antinatalist's suicide (rarely, if ever, the case outside serious health or disability issues like agonizingly painful illnesses/conditions, severe physical disability, untreatable major mental illness, etc. that are usually the reasons given by supporters of physician-assisted suicide)
(3) The antinatalist were abusive toward them, or even to non-family acquaintainces.

If none of these above the case, it is hard to see how an antinatalist should, or even be supported, in any efforts they may take toward suicide. 

Another claim also made about philanthropic antinatalism is that the individual's rights always supercedes those of others. This claim is outright false. Indeed, as shown throughout this post, it is ultimately incompatible with philanthropic antinatalism. After all, that claim implies we should all should disregard even the greatest net suffering of others when pursuing our own interests.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how this assumption can escape moral nihilism; which in turn would invalidate the Least Net Suffering principle (a moral value) and hence flies in the face of at least philanthropic antinatalism.

It seems hard to disagree that the method through which an individual gains of a good or reduces a bad (i.e. increse in well-being or decrease in net suffering) would be unethical if that method directly (or near-indirectly) results in another person experiencing an even greater loss of a needed good or greater increase of a bad than which the individual gained their own good or reduced their own bad.  For example, in most cases, a married person's net gain from an extramarital afffair with someone more attractive than their spouse is likely to be good for that person, yet just as likely to produce a net loss in their spouse.  In other words, the good gained for one partner is less than the bad imposed onto the other partner. Therefore, cheating is generally immoral, even assuming the cheating spouse never feels guilt about the affair, and likewise never feels bad about any resultant divorce.

By contrast, a husband may well choose to spend his twentieth wedding anniversary with his wife, which happens to fall on a weekend. However he could only do so by sacrificing his once-a-year weekend fishing trip with close his close male friends to distant mountains six hours away.  Practically the same principle would apply to spending a similar such weekend at home to be with his daughter at her eighth birthday party. Assuming his family is reasonably healthy and functional, in both cases the husband's losses are more than made up for by the gains his other family members will have as a result of his presence with them, even if the husband does hide mild disappointment at his absence from the fishing trip.  All three examples immediately discussed seem to show we do indeed have a duty to prevent both pointless harm in others, which extends to net suffering in others in general so long as our own current or likely future net suffering does not that of others.

With suicide the situation is more complex because it involves an event that is inevitable for for all of us anyway, death. Though even natural deaths usually cause significant grief and suffering for friends and family, it is still a mistake to simply assume that earlier-than-otherwise deaths generate the same level of grief as does natural death after a long life. As further explained later, suicide causes additional layers of grief for friends and family that simply do not exist in the case of natural death, or perhaps even with a loved one's deliberate murder. As argued below, this extra level of suffering and grief is so great that the suffering elimination of the suicide can easily be exceeded by far by the grief of other family and friends, or even merely one single such person.  This makes suicide, at best, of questionable ethicity, namely dependent on how intensely others (even if just one other person) grieve and suffer would grieve at person's suicide relative to the grief and suffering of the suicidal person while they were alive.

The reasons one can legitimately refuse to commit suicide are as follows:

(a) It overlooks  suffering of family and friends in the event of a suicide attempt (successful or not)

(b) It implies that people ought to follow their beliefs to their ultimate conclusion, then act on those beliefs without any consideration for how and to what extent their actions hurt others.

(c) Suicide failure rate is quite high (at maximum, one of every six U.S. attempts succeed), often leaving the attempter worse off than before.

(d) Suicide does not accomplish anything to advance antinatalism, nor the suffering prevention cause in general (antinatalism-oriented or not).

The first two can go under another heading: Pointless harm, suffering, anguish, and pain are bad things.  Therefore we have a duty to not inflict such harms, sufferings, and anguishes onto others; lest we surrender our own right to not experience the same at the hands of others. 

Here, "Pointless" means

"insufficiently meets reasonable standards of 'necessary, productive, and/or compensatory for the person, the group and/or the society", or

"sufficiently compensatory for the same described";

is reasonably avoidable or mitigated against; or

above and beyond what is necessary or reasonable to prevent loss of well-being (physical or psychological), or to undertake actions vital to the reconstruction or legitimate enhancement for the said people or groups thereof, especially if the harm and/or suffering resulting from it fails to offer in return to the person, group, or society as a whole anything of sufficient value to compensate for the that harm and/or suffering.

For the sake of clarity, the term "pointless" will be shorthand for the above definition.  As will be shown in the discussion of point (a), suicide can indeed impose pointless suffering onto others, especially family friends and (to varying degrees) many acquaintainces.  In fact, suicide often causes more pointless harm to that person's friends and family (henceforth called "close ones") than would that person's natural death, or even other type of untimely involuntary death; perhaps even more so than even the loved one's murder.

This introduces two of perhaps most fundamental flaw in the critics' claims: the impled assumption that we have no duty to respect the emotional and psychological well-being of others when deciding whether we should act upon the logical conclusion of our world views. As said earlier, claiming we have no duty to consider other's well-being when deciding to take a course of action negates our own rights to likewise have our own well-being taken into account by others when they decide their own course of action.

Another difficulty lies in the fact that the less severe the net harm caused by our actions, the more likely that action is to be morally legitimate.  From here, it follows that if we have no duty to respect the well-being of close ones and others when even highly egregious harms would plausibly accrue to them, then it is difficult to see where any duty exists to prevent other harms of equal and especially lesser intensity. 

Indeed, if we had no duty to prevent pointless harms, sufferings, and pains to others, then it becomes difficult to see any point at all in establishing laws, morals, rules, and other codes of conduct - formal or informal.  After all, the whole purpose of having codes of conduct is to prevent pointless harm from occuring to fellow human beings.  If no duty to prevent that net harm exists in any way, then every action would be permissible regardless of how heinous its consequences for those who would suffer from the act's commission. In the context of this discussion, it certainly leaves little, if any, reason to refuse to commit actions that will likely generate less anguish than than a close one's (friend or family member) suicide would.

At this point, some will object that suicide is a private act that does not affect the greater society as a whole; and that favoritism toward close ones generates inconsistencies in the matter. The first objection misses another aspect of the issue, the second assumes that favortism does in fact exist in the argument.  To the first, it does not matter if the action produces trauma only in close ones. The point is that some people or group will be harmed as a result of another's gain (in this case, pain cessation via suicide). That gain is made at others expense (pointlesss pain and anguish resulting from the suicide). If if is permissible to achieve gains at such an expense for one group of people (close ones), then how can we justly oppose someone making an immensely great gain achieved at similar expense to others? For example, a businessman speeding recklessly through dense traffic who causes a pile-up yet not actually part of it, resulting in a serious injury to another - in order to meet a deadline to close a business deal netting $10 million for himself or his small group of investors.

As for the favoritism accusation, it does not work because if "in group" status does not matter, then one should treat all people the same way under the same circumstances, barring strong justification to do otherwise.  So insisting one perform an action likely create pointless grief and anguish for close ones means that one is also permitted to perform actions creating similar levels of grief for others.  Contrawise, if one should not cause great anguish to strangers and/or the wider society in general, then it is likewise impermissible to cause the same level of anguish to close ones. Put another way, if close ones ought not receive preferential treatment, then while one should not treat them as more privileged than the rest of society, it still does not follow they should receive less privileged treatment than the said rest of society. Indeed, in this context, to disregard close ones in favor of society simply because they are within your close social circle would be "reverse nepotism", which is every bit as unjust as traditionally-defined nepotism.

Therefore, we should not cause pointless harm to others even if that harm is completely limited to one's own social or familial circle. That includes suicide, which indeed is more likely to cause much greater pointless harm to close ones than would one's natural death, and even most unnatural deaths; even if the suicide him or herself does get the benefit of suffering cessation.

(a) It overlooks the anguish and general suffering of family, friends, and even some acquaintances due to the suicide.

While suicide would end an antinatalist's own sufferings, it does so at the expense of other's well-being.  Critics may say this is just a convenient excuse for the antinatalist to continue living, thus discrediting the claim that life is not worth living though still worth enduring.  However, this is too glib a dismissal, for the critics' charge implies that antinatalists ought to ignore how devastating one's suicide is for close ones and that any failed attempt would leave the attempter worse off than before, and other factors.  In effect, critics are asking philanthropic antinatalists, at least, to violate their own Least Suffering Principle.

Various researchers have consistently shown that suicide of a first degree relative or spouse does indeed affect family members more negatively than their natural death does.  A 2006 Dutch study indicates that, regarding the self-reported psychiatric and mental health of a suicide's first-degree relatives, the relatives whose loved ones died of suicide rated their own psychological and even physical health significantly lower than did the first-degree relatives of those who died a natural death.  The study showed that for every suicide, 2.067 such relatives of the suicide reported being in worse health (physical or mental) compared to 1.794 relatives of those dying a natural death.[1]  Furthermore, a Japanese study indicates that any "sudden death" but especially suicide produces a very distinctive level of profound grief and depression in surviving parents and spouses.[2]  To be sure, another study indicating no difference in depression, PTSD, and similar such conditions between relatives of a suicid and relatives of the naturally deceased, though even in this case the overall level of grief was less clear. Even so, this same study's abstract states,

 "Considering specific grief variables, suicide survivors report higher levels of rejection, shame, stigma, need for concealing the cause of death, and blaming than all other survivor groups."[3]

Also, a UK study revealed that surviving relatives also experienced high levels of grief, stigmatization, and shame compared to those whose loved ones died a natural death.[4]  In addition, a 2008 Australian thesis shows that a suicide's relatives and associates suffer feelings of "betrayal, abandonment, confusion, anger, blame, etc." in addition to the anguish felt by their premature demise.[5] That  same thesis's literature review indicated a large plethora of unique reactions to suicide that make it, to quote the title chapter, "a special case of grief"; including but by no means limited to social stigma and depression.[6]  Last but not least, the thesis cited a New South Wales Centre for Mental Health study showing a five-fold increase in suicide among the suicide's own family members.[7]

All this is strong evidence that suicide does in fact produce stronger negative effects for surviving close ones than would that same person's natural death.  Therefore, suicide clearly violates both the suffering prevention and suffering mitigation principles in most of their forms - barring very specific circumstances the great majority of people will not experience, at least not while in good health or physical condition.[8]  It does not matter that the antinatalist would no longer suffer after their suicide.  What matters is whether their successful suicidal act would create great pointless suffering for others .  Even an unsuccessful attempt is at least fairly likely to leave the attempter worse off than before. In the event of significant incapacitation as a result of the suicide, it diverts close one's attention, time, money, and efforts to caring for the attempter that could otherwise been devoted to that close one's own family and friends, or to more profitable or emotionally satisfying undertakings. 

Thus, if suicide is very likely to cause greater anguish for more people (especially first degree relatives) than natural death would, then antinatalists are being perfectly consistent within their Least Suffering Principle to refuse to commit suicide; particularly if on the grounds of the aforementioned negative impacts their suicide would have on their close ones. 

From all this, it follows that any implicitly suggestions by critics that philanthropic antinatalists should commit suicide is effectively asking the said antinatalist to be the very hypocrites their critics claim they are being by refusing to commit suicide.  This alone makes it rash to accuse antinatalists of hypocrisy in this regard.

As mentioned previously, another basic problem exists with suggesting antinatalists commit suicide in order to be purportedly consistent with their beliefs: it opens up a lot of ethical difficulties in other areas, even well outside the scope of the antinatalism debate. In particular, it opens the door to the legitimization of everyone disregarding the well-being or feelings of others when deciding whether or not to follow their own viewpoints, philosophies, etc. out to their own logical conclusion.  After all, if antinatalists ought to do so despite the negative impacts it has on others, then why not practitioners of every other viewpoint, school of thought, and philosophy?

(b) It permits, if not mandates, everyone to disregard the grief and suffering caused to others resulting from following their own beliefs out to their logical conclusion.

There are two aspects to the problem of disregarding the well-being of others when following actions out to their logical conclusion.

First, it seems to permit antinatalists themselves to commit other actions whose consequences are less harmful than suicide. If antinatalists should disregard even the severe anguish that their own suicide would generate in others, then why should they care care about lesser degrees of sufferings that would be generated in others by other acts?

Second, it allows all people, not just antinatalists, to disregarding the negative effects their acts would have for others as the result of following their own views, opinions, and even philosophies out to their logical conclusion. If antinatalists, in the name of following their view out to its logical conclusion, should disregard the traumatic effects of their actions on close ones, then why not practitioners of other belief systems? In either case, this legitimizes everyone disregarding the well-being of others in the name of acting upon the end conclusion of one's belief system. Such legitimization leads ultimately to either Moral Nihilism or something close to it.

It allows us to disregard the suffering of others if the suffering likely would be less severe than that of a close one's suicide.

If it is permissible for people to disregard emotional traumas and overall loss of well-being for others as acute as suicide is for family and friends, then how can we object to committing any act whose consequences for others is less hurtful than suicide is for family and friends? Examples of such acts against others are stealing $100 from a close relative's wallet or purse, committing a severe but non-lethal assault against a relative when angry at them (e.g. beer bottle to the face, crowbar to the leg), and unethical but still legally permissible dealings with others in business and/or legal matters (this can definitely cause great grief and embarrassment for loved ones and friends). Still more do they include hurtful or unjust activities usually not considered criminal behavior (outright abusive behavior, cutting insults, rudeness, even if they do not rise to the level of a tort). Should critics insist that these acts are permissible on the grounds that they cause less grief and anguish than suicide of a close relative or friend would be?

It does no good to claim that these are examples of acts against others. It is not a matter of the act itself, it is a matter of the <i>net suffering</i> of the victim. After all, if the act itself did not cause suffering, then it would be difficult to argue that it was morally indefensible. 

Nor does it do good to counter with the claim that society already deems the said acts outside the bounds of civilized behavior, for now we can ask what compels society to ban certain actions. This leads to the next section.

Society's Rationale for Laws, Rules, and Morals

All societies consider certain acts outside the bounds of civilized behavior precisely because they somehow inflict hurt and grief onto either others or to society as a whole. This includes the most heinous wrongdoings, ones reasonably expected to be more traumatic than a loved one's suicide (the said loved one committing murder, rape, child molestation, etc. - especially if against a member close one). It even includes all the unquestionably lesser offenses. Laws against these most hurtful acts exist in large part (if not completely) because of the consequent non-trivial emotional trauma and suffering for the victim, with the rest of the reasons based in the potential well-being of society as a whole. Were murder, rape, child molestation not hurtful or harmful acts in any way, then it would be difficult to see any point behind forbidding them - and hence even why society would bother forbidding these acts in the first place. Furthermore, were harms and hurts themselves not prone to cause pain and suffering in others, then it would be likewise difficult to see how they could be considered a bad thing by anyone - even the "victims" (quotes appropriate in this case, for if one cannot be hurt by the action then it is impossible to be a "victim" of it). The same framework also applies to deeper questions of justice in general. We seek to prevent injustice precisely because injustice hurts individuals and/or society in some manner and to some extent.

In reality, many harms and hurts - and by characteristic all injustices - can and do cause great and grievous pain and suffering. Thus, all these acts are bad, whether to the individual or to society as a whole (often both). Because certain bad things can cause egregious suffering in others, we have laws, rules, and other social admonishments against acts that cause such pointless  pain or suffering to and for others. This is especially true regarding acts that generate no sufficiently compensatory good desired by either the victim, family, social group, or greater society. Murder, rape, and child molestation certainly are such acts in all the described respects, and hence we consider them outside the bounds of permissible actions (in this case, far outside). Therefore, society does establish laws, rules, and moral values against such actions precisely because they cause pain, suffering, grief and anguish for other people.

The same essential reason for banning the most harmful crimes also applies to crimes less harmful and/or hurtful than even the (usually) non-crime of suicide, e.g. the less hurtful wrongdoings described previously. By the same token, it is difficult to see how society could consistently maintain laws against theft, physical attacks, certain unethical (i.e. hurtful) business practices, etc. if these acts did not cause pain and suffering for others. Ditto for moral and ethical admonishments against cheating on spouses, committing legally permissible but still unethical business practices, and many other acts that cause significant suffering not just to the victim but potentially to other members of society. How could we say these activities were immoral if these actions did not impose hurtful consequences onto others in a very fundamental way - all of which boil down to hurting to grievous extents others' peace of mind and/or significantly disrupt the smooth functioning of society as a whole?

Note: This is not to be construed as any support on my part for criminalizing suicide. While suicide does indeed cause greater anguish to close ones than do even many well-established crimes, it conventionally is not a great threat to fundamental public safety and it is usually the result of great mental anguish beyond the suicidal person's ability to control.  Thus it is an expression of a medical condition rather than a bona fide threat to others'.  Continuing...

So it is that justifications for any law, rule, or moral value will ultimately find their source in the desire to prevent suffering, pain, and other deprivations of others' peace of mind. Hence, the goal of preventing or mitigating against suffering, pain, etc (i.e. bad things) is a well-established moral value at all levels of all societies, whether via laws or social admonitions. Thus, prevention of suffering, pain, and other deprivations of other's peace of mind is a sound basis for morally (if not always legally) forbidding any action.

Hence, critics cannot merely appeal to society's say-so or definitions of justice prohibiting the relatively minor offenses (in terms of hurtfulness) while calling for antinatalists to commit suicide on the grounds that many in society sympathize with the latter. This is because, as discussed earlier, in the overwhelmingly vast majority of cases, a close relative's or friend's suicide causes much greater anguish and even harm to a person than would that relative's or friend's theft of $100 or assault with a blunt object. If the consequent pain and suffering is reason enough for society to forbid one from engaging in the relatively minor offenses, then the antinatalist can rightly refuse to commit suicide on the grounds of the consequent greater pain and suffering accompanying their suicide, even if one continues insisting that suicide is the strict logical conclusion of antinatalism.

Therefore the antinatalists are right to claim that giving moral permission to commit an action with highly traumatic consequences for others (suicide) gives all of us moral permission (even if not legal or societal) to commit acts with less traumatic consequences. To repeat, if one person is allowed to disregard others' well-being when following out their beliefs to their logical conclusion, then it is difficult to see why others ought not be permitted to do the same - at least not without undermining the very core reason society establishes laws, rules, and morals against certain actions in the first place. Thus the critics contradict themselves when they appeal to societal say-so to support their implicit claim that it is legitimate for the sake of logical consistency for one group to cause a greater suffering (even if the action causing it is not illegal) while insisting that another group not follow their claims out to their logical conclusion due to it causing a lesser anguish than suicide would, especially if the action causing the lesser anguish is forbidden by society and the critics themselves agree it should remain forbidden. It is not the society's say-so that makes something morally permissible or forbidden - it is whether the act causes unproductive and unnecessary anguish that does.

Therefore, it is safe to say that antinatalists can indeed appeal to the potential or actual violations of others peace of mind, physical security, dignity, and other non-trivial emotional disturbances resulting from certain actions (in this case, suicide) as legitimate grounds for calling a behavior improper or immoral, regardless of its legal status or societal say-so. This includes suicide carried out in the name of following out antinatalism to its alleged logical conclusion. While I do not put suicide in the category of behaviors that ought to receive criminal status, its devastating effects on others are indeed an excellent reason to consider it an inappropriate route for an antinatalist - or even a typical distressed person - to travel; except in extreme circumstances such as serious degradation of physical abilities or cognition.

All this shows that it is beside the point whether or not society prohibits the action or not. It is also beside the point that the action - carried out in the name of following one's assumptions out to their logical conclusion - will impose trauma only on close family and friends and not society as a whole. The point is the extent or degree of the pointless and unreasonable anguish thrust onto others as a result of those actions - in this case, suicide. If the activity would impose such suffering onto others, then the activity ought not be carried out, regardless of its legal standing or societal permissibility (or lack thereof).

Therefore, critics overlook the fundamental reason why we have laws, rules, morals, etc. when they respond that it is legitimate, if not mandatory, that antinatalist commit suicide despite trauma caused to loved ones and friends even greater than any trauma caused to them due to theft, assault, illegal or unethical business practices, etc. with the claim that society has already decided that theft, assault, and illegal business practices are unacceptable. For if critics claim that it is society's rules, laws, and concepts of justice that automatically delegitimize acts usually causing the lesser sufferings while permitting antinatalists to commit acts that generate the greater trauma, then they undermine the very reason those laws exist in the first place - to prevent harm, pain, and suffering that serves neither any productive purpose, nor unavoidable, and offer no compensatory good for either the person or to others in return for the resulting pain, harm and suffering. If the harm, pain, and suffering caused to others by the above discussed acts is the reason society bans or looks down on them, then those same reasons also make it right for antinatalists to take into account their own relatives' and friends' harm, pain, and suffering suicide that would result in the event of their own self-inflicted death.

So the question still stands: If critics insist that antinatalists disregard others' emotional well-being and interests in matters like suicide, then what grounds do they have for disregarding the emotional well-being and interests of family members with regard to the aforementioned unethical activities (or society's in general for that matter)?

Therefore, if we agree that one legitimate reason not to commit theft, assault, and "white collar crime", etc. is the likely resultant grief and shame for family and friends, then it is difficult to see how we can exempt suicide from the list. In short, if claim people can or ought to disregard the interests and general concerns of loved ones when it comes to suicide, then why not when it comes to the other discussed matters? In fact, this can open the door to disregarding the well-being and concerns of people in general. In fact, saying the well-being of others (physical or emotional) do not matter where it concerns suicide and acts causing lesser trauma than a suicide usually does would render the whole field of ethics irrelevant for matters whose consequences are as or less severe than a suicide's consequences would be for friends and family. Very possibly, this can lead to Moral Nihilism.

It allows disregarding the negative effects of following other views out to their logical conclusion.

Our society already places limits on following out at least two sacrosanct belief systems to their logical conclusion: democracy and competition - precisely because failure to do so would inevitably create great suffering for others. In fact, history shows that following out to their logical conclusion the principles underlying democracy (the majority makes the rules) and competition (struggling against rivals results in superior outcomes) actually undermines both democracy and competition respectively; in other words, the strict, ultimate conclusions of the principles underlying either system, if actually followed out, bring forth the very undesired results that democracy and competition are supposed to prevent: an unfree society with numerous human rights violations for the former, and lower quality goods and services for the latter.

Pure Democracy's Logical Conclusion

If democracy is defined by the rule of the majority, then the logical conclusion of democracy, at least in its purest and most basic form (call this "pure democracy"), is the doctrine of "the majority rules" - majoritarianism. Stopping there, it permits, if not mandates, that the majority disregard even the most basic human rights, interests and concerns of the minority when it comes to proposing, passing, and implementing new laws. That leaves "pure democracy" vulnerable to the possibility that the majority will run roughshod over the minority (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison especially wrote about this danger).

If one objects that democracy and majoritarianism are not the same thing (democracy contains the whole bundle of rights to protect the well-being of others while majoritarianism does not), then why do we add those bundle of rights in the first place? If to "protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority", then it is agreed that others' well-being does indeed matter, even in matters where the logical conclusion of the basic rationale and/or system does permit or mandate we disregard the well-being of others.

It was for precisely this reason that both the drafters of the US Constitution added the first ten amendments to the US Constitution; likewise for France's National Constituent Assembly in respect to The Declarations of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. Both recognized that pure democracy itself was not sufficient to safeguard the very rights they fought to secure. Therefore, both assemblies drafted the aforementioned documents to create a firewall between "majority rules" and tyranny. The centuries since then proved the wisdom of this decision. Even with these restrictions, many locales still passed unequal or unjust laws even if the majority did favor them (many eventually struck down by the courts on constitutional grounds, most specifically those aspects dealing with fundamental human rights).

Thus, democracy is one example of a sacrosanct belief being modified (i.e. "watered down") for the sake of promoting the greater good of the people - which is the whole point of democracy. Thus, if we claim the purpose of "pure democracy" is to make government responsive to the needs of all the people, then history shows "pure democracy" will ultimately contradict itself; for there is no guarantee this form of democracy will protect the interests of the person who supports it. Even so, it does not follow that democracy in general is a nonsensical system of government, as evidenced by the fact that democratic governments proved to be more responsive to the needs of their people than dictatorships, monarchies, oligarchies, etc. despite that their constitutions usually limit the underlying "majority rules" principle. Therefore, democracy can be a reasonably sound system of government despite our forced abandonment of the ideologically pure position of "majority rules".

Similarly, even if it does turn out that - despite all arguments to the contrary - the strict logical conclusions of both "suffering prevention" and "suffering alleviation" do indeed mandate that an antinatalist commit suicide, it still doesn't follow that the modifying the principles underlying antinatalism into a "no suicide necessary" position undermines antinatalism. This is particularly true in light of the first reason not to commit suicide - do not cause pointless and reasonably avoidable suffering.

Competition's Logical Conclusion

Competition is an essential feature of life. History shows that it is usually the most reliable way to provide society with the maximum quantities and qualities of goods and services at the lowest reasonable cost and the maximum possible efficiency. Hence, restricting competition easily can reduce the quality and / or quantity of those goods and services. This leaves the society less efficient, more impoverished, and generally worse off than otherwise.

If we stop there, the logical conclusion of all this is that we should winnow inefficiencies and noncompetitive elements from not just the marketplace, but from the society as a whole; for the society’s existence itself creates the market for not just the goods and services sold, but the workers producing these things. In other words, the maximum quality of life and people cannot emerge unless we allow only the most competitive people survive.

If one accepts all the following: We should follow our assumptions to their logical conclusion regardless of how and to what extent or degree they hurt others; competition is indeed the best system for producing the quantity and quality of goods and services with the greatest possible efficiency; and that competition is best for society to have such goods and services produced in such a way; then it is difficult to see how the logical conclusion of all this is the acceptance - in fact, mandating - of no-holds-barred competition in all endeavors, no matter how agonizing the results may be to the "losers".

From the above, some people argue that there are two reasons we should not give aid to those too weak, stupid, or timid to compete effectively: (1) It perpetuates the very inefficiencies and other inferiorities holding back society and the market place that competition is supposed eliminate, and (2) It diverts resources away from the most deserving (i.e. most competitive) to the least deserving (i.e. least competitive), in effect a state-sanctioned theft. Therefore, under this view, the uncompetitive do not deserve even the slightest amount of society’s productive fruits or perhaps even protection (given to them via social services, charity, etc). It follows that we should not care about the interests or even well-being of the weak, stupid, or otherwise uncompetitive. Such doctrines are the core assumptions of Social Darwinism, various forms of "hyper-capitalism", extreme libertarianism, fascism, and other ideologies.

Thus, the same rationale behind the claim that antinatalism logically necessitates suicide (that we should not care about how our actions affect others' well-being) also rationalizes the belief that we should, in the name of competitive efficiencies that bring about the supposed greater good, disregard concerns about how unrestricted competition damages the well-being of other people.

No doubt the vast majority of antinatalism’s critics do not support such unrestricted free-for-alls, particularly when the rationales justifying such environments effectively trivialize, if not legitimize, the inevitable abuses of even the most basic of human rights that would occur under such a dog-eat-dog system like pure and unrestricted competition. This includes the rights and dignities of the weak, dull-witted, timid, and otherwise uncompetitive. So as with democracy, critics themselves undoubtedly believe we should place limits on competition – precisely because such practices inevitably cause unreasonable hardship and anguish for others.

The Discrepancy Between Many Critics Beliefs and Their Charge to Antinatalists

As demonstrated above, insisting we should in all instances act out the logical conclusion of our beliefs, even in sacrosanct matters, handwaves away any violation of even basic human rights that others might suffer due to the person or society acting on the ultimate conclusion of their beliefs. Thus, we insist on impure forms of democracy and competition precisely because these systems in their pure forms and/or the logical conclusions of these systems inevitably lead to great, even horrid, detrimental to both societal well-being and individual human rights.

Undoubtedly most critics of antinatalism firmly agree with the restrictions we place on democracy and competition, and for the above described besides. Yet, many of those same critics insist that antinatalists ought to follow their own belief system (the least suffering principle) out to its purported logical conclusion (i.e. suicide); even if acting on that conclusion would impose strongly negative consequences onto others.

Thus, such critics place themselves in a dilemma when they claim antinatalists ought to commit suicide if they are to remain true to antinatalism. If antinatalists ought to commit suicide in spite of the anguish it would cause others, then it's difficult to object to harmful or anguishing acts committed by practitioners of other belief systems in the name of following out that other system’s views to its logical conclusion –including adherents to the systems of democracy and competition. In fact, such urgings to antinatalists open the door to others likewise insisting they follow their own beliefs about politics, philosophy, economics, religion, etc to their on logical conclusions regardless of how badly the hurt others.

On the other hand, if there actually arelimits to how far out we should follow out the logic of our beliefs on the grounds that going beyond those limits (i.e. following out those beliefs to their logical conclusion) could violate another person’s rights, peace of mind, or quality of life, then it is hard to single out the antinatalist for hypocrisy if he or she draws the line before suicide, especially if they believe their suicide would cause great anguish to surviving loved ones. This also includes those who stop short of the logical conclusions of democracy (“majority rules”) and competition (“struggling against peers brings out the best in society”).

Given all this, it should be clear that entreating antinatalists to commit suicide is not just overly hasty; it opens up a whole ethical can of worms in other areas. The only way around this objection is to provide a way for antinatalist to commit suicide that does none of the following:

(1) Causes anguish in others.
(2) Permits followers of other philosophies, ideologies, religions, etc. to disregard the well-being and concerns of other people in the name of following their own beliefs out to their logical conclusion.
(3) Legitimizes, if not proves, Moral Nihilism or something very close to it (which necessarily entails they abandon their suffering prevention and suffering mitigation ethics, thereby compelling abandonment of at least philanthropic antinatalism).

Anyone seeking to provide antinatalists with a way to commit suicide that does none of the above is going to have a difficult task on his or her hands.

(c) It underestimates the difficulties of carrying out the act of suicide, plus unsuccessful attempts can well leave the person worse off.

Even were we to choose suicide, the response also assumes that suicide is very easy to commit. While the act is simple enough in concept, there are several deep instinctual and other mental hurdles one must jump over in order to complete the act. No doubt this explains why the majority of suicide attempts fail, and of those attempts a substantial percentage can leave the attempter in a significantly worse condition than before. The latter especially adds the burden of being potentially crippled by a self-inflicted injury with intent to kill one's self and compelling loved ones to care for the person, thus depriving both of productive potential that could otherwise be devoted to making a living or alleviating suffering in ways other than caring for the attempter had the suicide attempt not taken place.

First, there’s the already discussed issue of how suicide affects others, particularly those close to us. For those who care deeply about how their suicide would affect their loved ones, this alone is an almost impossible barrier to cross. Beyond this, there are several other facts demonstrating the actual difficulty of committing suicide.

High probability of an unsuccessful attempt. This has a substantial probability of leaving the attempter even worse off than before (specifically non-trivial disabilities, perhaps lifelong). In 2001, there were 400,000 emergency room visits for self-inflicted injury in the US. That same year, there were only 30,622 suicides.[9] Dividing the emergency room visits by the number of successful suicide, there are about 13 emergency room visits for self-inflicted injury. Also in that same year, there were 2,146,426 total deaths.[10] Dividing the total deaths by the deaths from suicide yields one suicide for 70 deaths (to the nearest whole number). Also consider that 17.6 million Americans - 1 in 6 - are diagnosed with depression every year.[11] This means that even were all suicides caused by depression (which is not even close to the truth), there would still be only one self-inflicted injury (let alone successful suicide) for every 44 differential diagnoses for depression. While the figure does not address depression conditions lasting longer than one year, it still suggests that even depression alone is insufficient to prompt people into attempting suicide.

These facts alone signify that popular opinion overestimates how easy it is to commit suicide. Very likely, the reason why suicide is likely more difficult to commit than many people think is due to the next factor.

The survival instinct itself is quite strong. In an episode of "The Wise Counsel" podcast, show host Dr. David Van Nuys interviewed leading suicide authority Dr. Thomas Joiner of Florida State University, author of Why People Die By Suicide?, about the motivational factors behind suicide. Joiner's model includes three prime motivations:

"1) a sense of being a burden to others, 2) a profound sense of loneliness, alienation and isolation, and 3) a sense of fearlessness. All three of these motivations or preconditions must be in place before someone will attempt suicide." [12]

Joiner elaborated about this in an interview with Neal Conan on the National Public Radio show Talk of the Nation,

CONAN: And yet you think of the story, the famous writer Raymond Chandler once described how he went into a shower stall and put a gun to his head and missed three times - and then decided that probably, he didn't really want to kill himself, and went on to write some great books.

But nevertheless, it is so difficult for some people to go ahead and finish the act.

Prof. JOINER: I would respond, of course it is. Of course it is because this is such a fearsome and such a daunting thing. I mean, if you just -consider the following true-false question. True or false: Death is a fearsome prospect. Virtually all your listeners will answer that question with true.

And therefore, if you try to stare down death, it's going to be a struggle. It's going to be a fight. Our bodies are wired for survival, and even desperately suicidal people are in for quite a fight if they're going to try to enact suicide. In fact, there are many anecdotal stories just of that sort, where someone is desperately suicidal, they've truly wanted to die, and yet their bodies wouldn't let them. [13]

This is before how difficult it is to find even a painless and bloodless method to commit suicide that does not fall under legal definitions of physician-assisted suicide in locales whose governments permit it; barring sufficient levels of presently-felt and/or anticipated (i.e. quite extreme) pain and misery resulting from the Joiner paradigm.

Many social and cultural inhibitions must be overcome in order to commit suicide. These includes social stigma, religious beliefs, etc., all of which profoundly shape our psychology, including those of antinatalists. Also, there is little reason to doubt that many suicidal people in general are just as vulnerable to caring how others will speak of them after they die as non-suicidal people are. The same goes for antinatalists as well, particularly those whose rationale behind their beliefs are rooted in the "least suffering" principle.

All this, plus the previously discussed reasons, shows just how oversimple it is to suggest that antinatalism’s necessary logical conclusion is suicide. Regarding the difficulties themselves, that the vast majority of people possesses a deeply-programmed survival instinct that is difficult to overcome even if in cases where the dying process is painless or nearly so. In fact, the vast majority of unhappy people do not even attempt suicide, even if they do experience suicide ideation. That the vast majority of self-inflicted wounds requiring hospitalization do not end in death, and that most suicide attempts do not succeed supports the claim that most people's survival instinct is simply too strong to allow them to succeed at suicide. In other words, it is simply much harder to commit suicide than most people think due to the fact that This also answers the related claim that we should give birth to others if we want to, and if the birthed person doesn’t like his or her life then he or she can always commit suicide. Therefore, it is premature to say that antinatalist should commit suicide, even if it does have a kind of commonsense appeal on the surface.

(d) Suicide would do nothing to advance the cause of antinatalism, nor would it do anything to mitigate the overall sufferings of this world.

Presumably some critics imply antinatalists ought to commit (or at least advocate) suicide if they want people to take them seriously. As shown below, this is frankly naive.

It should be obvious that suicides do nothing to advance most causes. The only known exception is political dissidents protesting against a repressive regime. Even in these cases, it works only because there were already widespread strong grievances well-established among the mainstream segment of that society's population (the Tunisian's self-immolation that sparked the Arab Spring is the latest such example).

Beyond the above example, there is no evidence that it advances any other social or political cause, particularly highly unpopular ones - including antinatalism. In fact, there is strong evidence against the idea that suicide would advance antinatalism's cause. The Heaven’s Gate and Branch Davidian cults of the 1990s and Jim Jones’ People’s Temple cult of the 1970s all ended in mass suicide. None of these actions did anything to open the public’s minds to the possibility that these movements had profound truths humanity desperately needs to hear; quite the opposite, in fact. Given that antinatalism is likewise well outside society’s mainstream, there is little reason to think that antinatalism would fare much better at convincing others of the correctness of their view via suicide (individual or mass) than the aforementioned cults did.

As for the second part of the reason– suicide would not reduce the sufferings of this world – that is best left for the next post. For now, it’s enough to say that any one suicide, including that of an antinatalist, would reduce suffering by a microscopically trivially amount at most. In fact, the reductions are so tiny that the purported beneficiaries of the antinatalists’ suicide would not even notice


[8] This, of course, excludes "heroic sacrifices", deliberate sacrifices of one's own life for a higher purpose (e.g., combat soldiers, emergency workers, parents for their children, and other less well-known but certainly no less noble acts on behalf of others).  The health reasons refer specifically to "Death With Dignity" and similar such movements, which promote the legalization of physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill or otherwise severely incapacitated.
[9] US Suicide Statistics, 2001 Accessed June 28, 2012   

[10] Death by Single Years of Age, Race, and Sex: United States 2001. National Center for Health Statistics, US Center for Disease Control. Atlanta, GA, USA

[11] Depression (differential diagnosis) Accessed June 28, 2012

[12]  An Interview With Thomas Joiner .  Accessed June 28, 2012; (Interview Transcript) accessed July 6, 2012

[13] Deconstructing 'Myths about Suicide', National Public Radio, Washington DC. Broadcast date April 28, 2010. Accessed July 9, 2012.