Thursday, March 19, 2009

Better Never To Have Mentioned...

Here's some interesting commentary on one blogger's encounter with David Benatar's 'Better Never To Have Been', and the subsequent visceral reactions of those he tried to discuss the book with. Not surprising; once I saw a reviewer actually suggest not opening the book, I knew it would be an uphill battle. Meanwhile, suffering and death continue, unabated.

And this from another article by the same blogger:

I'll tell you what's depressing: that social and psychological urge that compels us to deny our own states of pain and suffering, to pretend in some asinine charade that happiness is the default state of human existence. There is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. It's the most widespread illogical assumption among contemporary Americans, more pervasive even than the existence of God. Benatar deals with this delusion extensively in one chapter of his book, citing a multitude of psychological studies that suggest the happiest people are those least in touch with the reality of their own lives and prospects.


Tor Hershman said... moi oft times sezzzzzz -
"You're welcome, Flushy "The Aborted Fetus" Hershman."

Anonymous said...

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.

(Taken from "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College" by Thomas Gray).

Anonymous said...

I have a random comment about being an anti-natalist...

I have no anti-natalist friends! There is no one with whom I can go out for coffee or go out for a beer and discuss anti-natalism. Whenever I try to broach the subject among friends, I am rewarded with nasty stares and dismissive condemnations. It makes me feel lonely. I can only discuss this stuff with a small circle of faceless cyber-"acquaintances".

Today is a day I would particularly love some A.N. companionship. Thanks for your blog, jim. It helps.

your host said...


You're butting up against the most universal of religious doctrines (though mostly left unspoken),
the belief that life MUST go on. And I know what you mean- once a few years back, I made the mistake of talking to a few of the girls at work about my beliefs. One of them actually responded with "Wow, Jim, I really thought you were a nice guy."

Anyway, I'm glad the blog is somewhat helpful. It's really helped me to know that I'm not utterly alone out here, so thanks back atcha. Take care.

compoverde said...

I have a question. I started a post on a philosophy forum about anti-procreation. We were discussing suffering and existence and I had this obnoxious response that was very Nietzchean in nature. I want to counter his claims, but I am having trouble. Can anyone help me? (I am Schopenhauer1 and he is medical student responding to one of my post:

schopenhauer1 wrote:
To work harder and study harder, does not take away from the fact that work can be stressful, menial, tedious, unsatisfying, etc.. But almost all of us take up 40 hours of our week with it. Sure, its the other side of leisure time, its the necessary evil, why is it acceptable that this is how it should be? And if your automatic response is "because there's no better way", then, why put more people into the world to experience this tedium/unsatisfying/stressfulness? If you're automatic response to this question is "working builds character or virtue (or some other nonsense)", my response is: "go join the sado-masichist club in your town, because in my opinion, you are imposing pain on a new being for the enjoyment of watching some supposed good consequence happen down the line (the child builds character or virtue)."

In other words, its NOT ok to have children knowing they will suffer merely for the possible outcome of the child building more character. And that's assuming that work even does build character. That can be another argument.

medicalstudent wrote:

I don't work 40 hours a week. I work a 168 hours a week. My wake up in the morning to watch the sunrise, write down my dream in my journal, and drink a cup of coffee. I go for a walk to watch the sunrise ---- not a blazing sun, a pleasant new-born sun. I eat a healthy breakfast with fresh fruit and grains. I take a warm shower. A hum a few tunes. I go to work knowing my purpose ---- to study "X" hours and within those hours complete "Y". If someone or something begins to irritate me, I ensure I get the problem resolved quickly (maybe with a little bluntness) so I can get back to my task. And now your question --- why do I want to get back to my task? Because I know I'm very special. I am gifted with the resources to do something very fine with my intelligence and talent. But also because I know that my work is of social meaning. It is a march of a certain kind of person. Have you ever had to deal with a bad service in a restuarant? Maybe there is salmonella in your food? Have you applied to a college with such a bad administration that your application got "lost"? Have you ever voted for a political party, only for it to turn around and invade Iraq? Have you ever had someone give you such bad advice("morals") based on a superficially deep understanding of life that it led you to hate your life without even knowing it? Well, my point is not that the world is screwed up, but that all this incompetence and moralizing is just a symptom of what Nietzsche would call "sickness"--- people who hate their work and life. BUT if you work with love, you join me and others like me who have an intimate connection with their work, who love it not because its a thrill a minute or very pleasnt(though it may be --- rollercoaster and comfy flip flop tester maybe?), but because it is meaningful, has its pleasures (this itself requires some work, what I mean by getting some "study skills"), and gives us a sense of mastery and competence. And as evening arrives I go again to take a walk in the fresh air and look at the stars, watch a little Sarah Silverman (of late), drink a cold glass of milk, and go to sleep --- if I have any tensions, I will wake up earlier in the morning so I can resolve these tensions.

Like Khalil Gibran would say: "If you work with love, you bind yourself to yourself, to each other and to God" (ofcourse, "God" is just a metaphor here for a higher level of meaningfulness --- for which in general the best methapors are religious in nature).

Anycase, I'm flexible philosophically ---- can you convince me that life really is suffering "essentially" --- rather than suffering being just a part of life, which I am of the view that some people make a big deal about, but which people like me sublimate to grow?

Curator said...

It's great that some people enjoy their lives and find meaning in them. However, the poster must realize that his or her experience of life is not guaranteed. A child prostitute does not need to just cheer up and think positive(ly).

It is not that the nature of life is suffering or some shit. Some suffering is guaranteed, and a great deal of suffering is likely. Some people find ways to cope with life despite the suffering, but some do not. Bringing a child into existence is a gamble. It is imposing one's own values (life is great, work is fun, I sure like the television) on an innocent who may not share those values.

Ann Sterzinger said...

Not to mention the fact that the child might be unlucky enough to develop the capacity for empathy which our work-lovin' friend seems to lack.

compoverde said...

There is a very interesting thread going on in a philosophy forum. I started a post called "Why We Work". The thread ended up being an anti-procreation/antinatalism thread. There are a lot of opinions pro and con. If anyone wants to read and add their two cents. You would be a great help in the cause of antinatalism. You probably have to sign up to contribute, but it takes a minute or so. Thanks for your help. Below is the link to the thread.

timcooijmans said...

compoverde, I have tried registering, but the captcha is broken so I can't. Their "contact" form uses the same captcha so I can't tell anyone about it either.

That's a pity, because I had some decent arguments cooked up.

compoverde said...

timcooijmans or anyone else on here. PLEASE go to the philosophy forum link I am providing below and help make the case for antinatalism. There are many opponents to the philosophy, and I'd like some smart people on here to give some intelligent responses to the objections or arguments that the pronatalists raise. The only thing is, in order to respond you must register with a name and password. I especially would like to invite the Jim the host, and Curator. But anyone else, please do help in this cause.

Anonymous said...

Antinatalists may be small in number and shouted down by the unreasoning, uncaring majority, but, to paraphrase Dr. Stockmann in Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People":

"The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone."

your host said...

I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating- Antinatalism as a more or less formal philosophical stance may have few vocal proponents, but I believe there's a strong undercurrent out there in the general public; at least, in a more limited form. Many of the google searches that find my pages come under headings like 'It's wrong to have children', 'Don't have kids', 'Is procreation moral?'...things like that. And there are many 'childfree' related websites, though they're more defense-oriented in the main.

I have three goals. The first is just to disseminate the information and arguments in whatever way possible, and many thanks to all of you who are doing that, be it on your own blogs, in other web conversations, and amongst your peers out there in the 'real world'. And hey, video seems to reach another market entirely; so far I haven't found any videos other than my own on the subject, and mine are pretty crappy. So you YouTubers who are more inclined towards audio/visual excellence than I, let's see what you can do! LOL!

Secondly, and this is easy to forget when we get too hung up on the big picture, one life unborn is one life saved. I always encourage any childbearing-age people who'll give me an ear to reconsider their breeding options. This is something all of us can do.

My last goal is the long-term one, to get the world to wake up and see what they're doing. I don't expect to make dramatic headway in my lifetime. The best I have is hope- hope that others will take my spark and, slowly but surely through succeeding generations, turn it into a flame.

Anyway, it's great to see the interest and the passion which I recognize is based on a deep empathy for the human situation. The pronatalist position is a deeply ingrained one, but we also know that anyone can come around given the right situational dynamics combined with a good argument. We are NOT slaves to the procreational urge; we can overcome it through our higher sensibilities. This I truly believe.

compoverde said...

Hello everyone again. I'm sorry, I forgot to actually put the link of the antinatalism philosophy thread. Here it is:

If anyone would like to add their thoughts, opinions, arguments, or responses to this thread, it would be greatly appreciated. This is a thread a created on a philosophy forum. It has gotten a lot of responses. I essentially proposed that it is immoral to procreate. There is a lot of opponents and some advocates; both sides giving their reasoning behind why they agree or disagree. If someone from this blog has already responded and given their input, thank you, it is much appreciated. If you haven't checked it out, I implore you to go on there and look at some of the comments made and give a good argument for the antinatalist cause. You have to register on the forum first with a username and password. But once you do that you can comment on any of the threads.

Anonymous said...

i have only recently discovered this philosophy and from what i can deduce the argument boils down to existence is bad or has great potential to be bad. so, following this how do antinatalists respnd to the problem that thier philosophy seems very pro-homicide/suicide. because if it is better to not exist then surely you have a morral obligation to end existence?

Anonymous said...

Anon, you are missing the point. If you commit suicide or die, you HAVE already existed.