Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sort of Another One on Singer

Not exactly. More an opinion about population control vis-a-vis environmental concerns. But Singer is mentioned, and the tension existing between Singer's ACTUAL position versus Benatar's is addressed in an indirect way.

Chuck Colson on Peter Singer

Not surprisingly, our former Watergater now born-againer dots the by now familiar i's, while his Senior Partner in the clouds crosses the lower-case t's. Today I thought I'd zoom in on some loaded and subtly deceptive phraseology which seeks to make antinatalism what it is not.

This time, Singer is considering the idea of not just getting rid of the elderly or the disabled, but total human extinction.


To start with, tying the word 'extinction' to the phrase 'getting rid of the elderly or the disabled' is problematic, inferring an active elimination of already living beings. Human extinction by way of procreational attrition is a far different thing. Applying Colson's logic to the personal, we are then obliged to define any successful attempt at preventing a pregnancy as murder.

'Extinction' is a buzzword these talking heads get a lot of mileage out of. With it, they conjure up images of the Gulag, people forcibly marched into ovens, and the general damage and violence brought to bear in an attempt to exterminate a large number of people. Admittedly, such forces might be utilized in a farflung future where antinatalist doctrine holds political sway. However, violence isn't a necessary component, and could be avoided completely if everyone simply recognized the suffering they were inflicting upon the newly conceived.

On the other hand, there ARE examples of the kind of violent extinction Colson is afraid of; all he has to do is leaf through the bible under his arm to find them.

Utilitarianism seeks to increase happiness and reduce the amount of pain. Nothing reduces pain like eliminating everyone capable of feeling it.

Again, Colson is using the word 'elimination' here to generate a defensive feeling, as if Singer (Benatar) is promoting violence to rid the planet of people. Others have even gone so far as to label antinatalism 'genocide'. All this for advocating a voluntary act i.e. non-procreation. We're not talking about elimination. The very process of life takes care of that on its own. We're talking about circumventing the process altogether, thus SAVING lives, not eliminating them.

Then again, Colson's God seems to be one of those pack rat types who saves EVERYTHING, including that majority of souls He disapproves of. That's why He prefers stockpiling them in His basement and sticking needles in their eyes for eternity, rather than just living and letting live. Or die, as the case may be.

Sure, the remaining animals would could still feel physical pain, but every animal's pain, i.e., being eaten, is more than balanced out by the happiness being felt by those doing the eating. The net increase in happiness would be undeniable in a "kumbaya/circle of life" way of thinking.

And of course, animals, many of whom abandon their young before they are actually born don't feel guilt about what they are doing to future generations. It's great to have a selfish gene.


I found this particularly amusing, since the system he's disparaging is the one his God set up. By the way, Chuck, 'kumbaya' is a spiritual song, and literally means 'Come By My God'. You know, 'Yah' as in Yahweh.

They could do it because they had already decided that there wasn't anything inherently sacred and worthwhile about human life.

Bypassing a discussion of what 'inherently sacred and worthwhile' even means (nothing, in my view), what's this got to do with voluntarily NOT having children? Being a devout Christian, I'll assume the Chuckmeister doesn't believe in a backlog of souls floating in the void, waiting for their chance to take the stage. That being the case, just how much sacred and worthwhile human life is necessary to fill the quota? I mean, God plans on putting an end to this earthbound production pretty soon, anyway...doesn't He? And is every adjuration to 'pull out and come on my stomach, sweetie' a slap in the face of sacredness, then?

Then again, there is this. Whoops! My bad.

To them, the future lay not in God's hands but in their own—they, not God, decided who did and did not have a future.

So all family planning is out, then? Leave it all in God's hands, and God'll decide when enough is enough? Is this the way it works in your Christian community, Chuck? Christians just keep on squirtin' out them youngin's until God, in His Infinite Mercy, finally renders them barren somewhere in their mid to late fifties? Puleeeze! And conversely, if people actually ARE allowed to make their own decisions regarding the number of children they have, might one of those 'allowable' numbers be 'zero'? Or is there a minimum requirement for every Godfearer on the face of the Earth? I'd like to see that chapter and verse, if you don't mind.

As I said, Singer is "nicer" than that. He's not a monster. Instead, he wants us to imagine being monsters together
.


Thus spaketh Chuck. Hear and obey, oh ye faithful of the Lord. And remember, if you're not popping them out like bunnies, that.makes.you.monsters. Straight from the horse's...

Monday, June 28, 2010

What Children are For, and How We May Use Them

Ok, I said I wasn't writing anything tonight, and I'm not, really. Just wanted to point you here.

Musical Interlude

Not much to say tonight, so I thought I'd post this improv piece by Keith Emerson at the California Jam. All my friends went...I had to work :( Right down the street from me, too. Ugh! Anyhow, I hope you'll take 10 minutes out of your evenings and give yourselves a real treat.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Talking Skull on Peter Singer

Just wanted to share a couple of comments from this site. By this point, I don't think any other commentary is necessary. Just thought some of you might like to play the 'spot the fallacies, non-sequiturs and selfish motives' game-

Are we not animals? Is not the goal of every other single animal on the planet to reproduce and carry on their genes to the next generation. Well if some "intellectual" thinks we should not have kids because they will not have perfect lives then that person is forgetting the whole purpose of life. Without children there is no future and there is no hope.

Life is a constant struggle and to decide not to continue your genes to the next generation because of some imaginary beliefs is really silly but I guess thats natural selection at work. I have 3 kids and plan to have as many as I can before I die. Nothing can surpass the joy of having your own children and guiding them into the future. I feel sorry for anyone who decides not to have children as they will miss out on some of life's most important experiences.
Or all the stupid people will have loads of kids and in a few thousand years life will be like that movie Idiocracy.

I think sometimes in our modern world of computers, cell phones, and not being forced to struggle daily to survive we often forget what is really important. What is the point of being intelligent or rich if you cannot pass this down to the next generation. I remember as a child shortly after my dad died, a person told me he had died but lived on in myself and my siblings. I am a part of him as my children are a part of me. I will die to but part of me will live on in them. I see that everyday in them and how parts of their personality or traits remind me of my childhood. Sure they might have hard lives and encounter lots of obstacles but where there is life there is hope and a world without children is a world without hope.
It is an individuals choice to have children or not to but I could not imagine life without my children now that I have them and they have enriched my life in so many ways. Truly the greatest job is to be a parent.

Commenter CM's Critique of Ben Bradley's Essay

What Good Is The Logic of Betterness?


Ben Bradley's BENATAR AND THE LOGIC OF BETTERNESS spends a lot of its time knocking down strawmen. The very first sentence of part I is a mischaracterization. Professor Benatar only uses pains and pleasures as exemplars of harms and benefits (p. 30, BNtHB), and makes no claims about hedonism being true or false; other theories are discussed and taken seriously by him in Chapter 3, as well.


Then (almost immediately), Ben Bradley alleges that David Benatar views the absence of pain in (A - X exists) as intrinsically better than its presence in (B - X never exists); it is unclear why Professor Bradley thinks that. David Benatar states that "absent pleasure is relatively (rather than intrinsically) bad [in (A)]" (p. 41, BNtHB). It would seem reasonable to infer from the above that he also views the absence of pain as relatively (rather than intrinsically) good, especially since we are making the comparison with reference to the (potential) interests of X. For some reason, Ben Bradley does not consider that last point very important, and refuses to take it into consideration "for simplicity's sake" (see footnote 1).


A major part of Ben Bradley's paper is devoted to descriptions of how the asymmetry self-destructs when the concept of values is introduced, down to sarcastically asking how the values of absences are to be weighted. He says nothing about Professor Benatar's discussion of these very issues (pp. 45-9, BNtHB), where the latter shows why it is mistaken to assign values in this case and illustrates by revisiting his Healthy and Sick analogy; if the assignment of values were appropriate there, never getting sick (H) would be worse than getting sick and recovering quickly (S) if "the amount of suffering that [the presence of capacity for quick recovery] saves S is more than twice the amount S actually suffers". But such a conclusion is clearly absurd. Again, recognizing the fact that the asymmetry is to be understood only within the context of individual-affecting values (p. 37, BNtHB) would have saved Ben Bradley a lot of unnecessary trouble.


After doing a bit of googling, I stumbled upon this Google book preview, in which Roderick Chisholm (one of the betterness theorists) postulates that "the only bearers of intrinsic value are actual states of affairs - just those states of affairs that occur, obtain, or exist" (p.55). This, then, seems consistent with my interpretation of Professor Benatar's arguments above. However, the expanded list of intrinsic goods and bads proposed by Professor Chisholm presupposes the existence of someone and is therefore irrelevant to our case. While I am neither a logician nor a philosopher, the two quotations mentioned above seem straightforward enough.


If, like Ben Bradley claims on page 2, "pleasure must be intrinsically better than the absence of pleasure", how about we just grant him that and say that the absence of pain in (B) is non-intrinsically better than the presence of pain in (A)? If intrinsic values are only relevant to existers, we must think beyond then if we want to compare non-existence with existence. It doesn't follow that such a comparison would require us to redefine every axiological concept; we can simply continue applying such concepts to existers and come up with new concepts that help us make ethical decisions about potential people with regard to their potential interests. Otherwise, we are again forced to face the non-identity problem, or even logic of the larder (with regard to people; not that the fact that Henry Salt's essay applies primarily to non-humans makes it any less persuasive).

In contrast with some of the other reading material we have been exposed to lately, Ben Bradley's discussion note at least attempts to engage Professor Benatar's arguments. Whether or not it has done so successfully is a different question, however. A useful way of describing this paper would be to say that it is relatively, rather than intrinsically, good.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Benatar and the Logic of Betterness

Just thought I'd throw this out there for discussion. Not sure if anyone's touched on this particular essay yet.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Antinatalism- A Path to Transcendence?

In the previous comment thread, new commenter Cactus Jack writes-

...I always felt that there was something not quite right about this whole show (being life) on this planet, and it seems as though the not quite right aspect was life itself. Before reading the contributors work I had never even considered the concept of antinatalism, let alone it being an option. I don't suppose it's a natural line of thought, must need to be learned. Now that you all have dismantled any objections I may have had with antinatalism before reading older posts, a state of despair has made itself felt. You know, the whole evolutionary thing, passing on genes, meaning of life. Any thoughts? I'm just concerned for myself (very selfish I know, blame human nature) that it may be a long and miserable life down this road.

To which commenter Karl replies-

Cactus Jack, you've hit the nub of the problem. Once you've transcended the conditioning to procreate, you're left in the void.

Commenter Compoverde's advice?

Refrain from procreation. Stay adrift. Look at the void head on. Do not give yourself a false sense of identity, anchoring your meaningless existence into one of a parent. Life is meaningless. Understand this, and do not pass the inherent meaninglessness to another generation. Don't enslave or condemn another human being to suffering and meaninglessness because you are having an existential crisis and you want to anchor yourself.

The commenter Shadow nails the whole thing down with this emphasis-

Look at the void head on!


Cactus Jack remarks on the feelings of despair he is experiencing as the exposure to antinatalist thought sinks in. The reaction many people have to these ideas is that life becomes meaningless. But what has changed? A pro-natalist lies down to sleep, dreams a nightmare. He awakens drenched in sweat, clutching at his sheets. He is now an antinatalist.

But nothing in his room has changed. The same sun shines down upon his face as yesterday. Nothing's really different, other than his perspective on things. And it occurs to him that life never had any meaning in the first place, other than that which he personally cast upon it. The world is the same. He is different. He has simply lifted the curtain, and seen the void behind it.

What's left, then? Utter despair? Suicide? I'm reminded here of Dante's Inferno, and of the saying at the gates of hell, "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", or "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." I think a lot of people would post this message on this blog if they could :) Cactus Jack's own sense of hopelessness seems on the surface to vindicate this warning. And yet, when I read a lot of the comments, I can't help but feel that some have managed to accommodate themselves to that initial dread, perhaps weaving hopelessness with purpose, and punched through that void, much like Dante escaping hell by going through the very center of it. Or if not exactly fighting through, learning to face it until they're not quite as afraid anymore.

I'm also thinking of transcendence via the 'heroic journey' motif, with the twist that instead of fighting to slay the dragon head on, antinatalism is taking the more practical route of simply burning all the crop it feeds upon. Brave knights usually end up with their heads stuck up on pikes, anyway :)

Ikkyu Sojun is a personal hero of mine. Eccentric, iconoclastic Zen priest and poet, he often walked about with skulls attached to his belt to remind others of the transience of personal existence-

nature's a killer I won't sing to it
I hold my breath and listen to the dead singing under the grass

As horrible as it can feel sometimes, there's something uplifting about staring into that horror without flinching...isn't there? We spend so much of our lives turning our heads to the side and considering existence askew, maybe the very act of looking forward is its own vehicle of enlightenment, yes? Meaninglessness remains, but it is a meaningless imbued with clarity, which seems to make a difference. At least, to some. Be well, my friends.

Only One Koan Matters...You (for Ikkyu and Mori)

Sad, boisterous, lecherous, drunk, suicidal-
Ikkyu embodied the flux of human existence.
He found transcendence in the dung of his master, Keno,
and spiritual release in the mouth of a 19 year old blind girl.
What wisdom coats your dead tongue, Mori?
Does he carry your skull on his belt, as he walks the fields beyond the moon?
Give us a kiss, sweetheart, and then another round
on me.


The Last Messiah by Zapffe, contributed by Karl. Good read. Thanks to Zapffe and all here for inspiring this morning's post.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Another Tragic Figure Bites the Dust

Commenter Shadow got me leafing through the old poetry archives tonight, and I came upon an old sonnet that I think is good to end the night with--

Another Tragic Figure Bites the Dust

Another tragic figure bites the dust.
Another life of hope and dreams goes south.
Another curving hip, and lucious mouth
fall down into the acid mists, and just

because- no other reason can I give
to justify the way it all goes down.
One day the bus of us pulls into town;
we stay a while, but then it's time to live

no more. We leave as fast as when we came,
not knowing where our destination lies.
The mourning mourners mourn the one who dies,
then saunter off to carry on the game.

No matter where you go, it's all the same-
the book of life's motif is pretty lame.

Half a Life



I'm reminded of this episode of 'Star Trek TNG'. One Dr. Timicin (played ably by David Ogden Stiers) comes aboard the Enterprise with a plan for saving his home planet's dying sun. The plan ultimately fails, but the thrust of the episode involves Timicin's impending death by euthanasia. It seems that on his world, people are put to death when they reach the age of sixty. It's a cultural tradition named 'The Resolution', formed in the days of rampant overpopulation, and is also justified as 'a means of ridding their culture of the need to care for the elderly.' (Wiki).

Counselor Troi's mother happens to be along for the ride on this mission, and naturally, being the horndog that this character always was, she immediately sinks her empathetic claws into Dr. Timicin. Unsurprising, she is shocked and outraged at such a 'barbaric' tradition, and immediately sets about putting the kibosh on the whole deal, getting everybody involved and instigating a diplomatic froufrou. At one point in the episode, I remember her self-righteously riposting to Timicin's 'care for the elderly' argument with something like "Why SHOULDN"T our children take care of us? They OWE us!"

She actually gets Timicin to go along with her little vicarious rebellion for a while, pissing everybody off in the interim (as that character always did), but in the end he decides he's not the man to fight this fight, and acquiesces to the cultural norm. I really liked this episode, as I thought the writers created a genuinely balanced tension between the two world views, and didn't cop out with a convenient condemnation of Timicin's choice. They came close, mind you, but at times you could sense Troi's over-the-top denunciations as something close to visceral prejudice. An approach that I felt was quite refreshing.

There was another episode I remember liking, I think it was 'Star Trek Voyager', where one of the 'Q' continnum was imprisoned inside a comet to keep him from committing suicide. Seems he was experiencing Deific Strength ennui, and just wanted to blow the scene. The rest of the 'Q' were definitely against the idea, because if one Q were allowed to do it, why, it might bring into question that all was peachy in Paradise!(Q style) Sound familiar?

Here's that episode. I looked it up just for you, dear reader, so make sure you read it. I just did, and found it extremely relevant to what we talk about here. Appropriately, the episode was entitled 'Death Wish'.

Enjoy the day!



UPDATE: Just in case you don't feel like reading through the Wiki, I thought I'd cut and paste the last couple paragraphs for you, solicitous guy that I yam-

Quinn shows the court the Q continuum (or rather how it would be interpreted by their limited human minds) as a road stretching around the entire planet with one rest stop, a country gas station and store, and some Q standing around, bored. Quinn describes immortality as dull, that it is only possible to experience the universe so many times before it gets boring. Q tries to dismiss it and makes a poor attempt to show that the other members of the continuum are happy, but Quinn sees through it and confesses, to Q's surprise, that it was Q's earlier unrestrained behavior in an attempt to make his life fun that was the motivation for his own actions. He makes an impassioned speech comparing his eternal boredom to suffering from a terminal biological disease for which suicide is the only humane release, and that being forced to live for all eternity against his will "cheapens and denigrates" his life, and indeed all life. Janeway is clearly moved by this and agrees to grant him asylum. Keeping his part of the bargain, Q makes him human. At this point Quinn chooses his name.
While trying to decide where to assign Quinn so that he won't use his knowledge to evolve humanity overnight, Janeway and Chakotay receive a message from the Doctor that Quinn is dying after ingesting a poison. After realizing that the Doctor did not keep any of the poison on hand, and that the computer would not replicate it due to its harmful nature, Q then appears and admits that he was the one who gave Quinn the poison. He's taking up Quinn's rebellion against the staid order of the Q.

Between Disability and Dust

There's a couple who've been coming into the restaurant for as long as I've worked there, maybe a couple times a week. She's around my age, but her companion's a much older man. Her father. They don't talk much; just sit in the corner and eat their breakfast burritos in relative silence.

The other day, she came in by herself and ordered something to go. While she was waiting, she suddenly burst into tears. "I don't know what to do! I've been taking care of him for such a long time, and as he gets older, it's consuming my life. He doesn't want things to be this way, but he's gotten to the point where he can't do anything by himself. He has to be constantly monitored. The bills are piling up. And I have no life of my own."

This is my greatest fear. I don't want to do this to my children. Of course, I have no money so my options are few. I worry about having to end my own life when circumstances make it necessary- mostly, about the method- realizing that my suicide will do its own damage; though in the long run it's most likely the best alternative.

I wish...I wish...I wish there was a societal recognition of this problem, with a governmentally sanctioned solution for those who don't want to just sit back and 'let nature take its course'. In case I'm not being clear, I'm talking about government assisted suicide, specifically euthanasia centers where people who don't want to live anymore can be put down humanely. I don't want to leave my children with the image of a gun in my mouth and the back of my head blown out. But when you get to be my age, you have to start thinking about these things. Nothing I'm considering in the short term, mind you. I'm still hoping to go peacefully in my sleep :) Unfortunately, that doesn't happen very often.

I don't really like the idea of dying; the process, I mean. It represents a loss of control. At this point in my life, that's pretty much all that's left- and I feel it slipping away. All the signs of aging are jostling for position now, making their proximity felt in numerous ways. I'm not a kid anymore, although 12yrs old feels like yesterday, and that's what hurts the most. To look back and see all those years barely out of grasp, a dream just beyond your fingertips. Then to look forward, and see a wall rushing at you, and to know there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. And your kids standing on the sidelines; trying to live their own lives, trying not to think about the bad shit life is going to throw at them until the very last minute, when they're forced to, and the chips- or body parts, as the case may be- fall where they may.

It's all such a tragedy.

This horrifies me to no end.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Children or Cash Cows?

I was just reading a newspaper article about outsourcing in India. Seems that it's spreading from the cities into the outlying and rural areas. The article begins with the story of a 20yr old guy performing data entry tasks for an outsourcing firm in a converted school building. Here's the relevant text-

Initially his mother was worried for her only child, fearful the 20-yr-old would meet the "bad" women who populate the wanton call centers of Indian TV and movies. That changed, however, with his first paycheck, more than his parents ever made, and a new sari for his mother's birthday.

"Now she wants to know how much longer I'll be at it," he said. "She's counting saris in her head."

Now, I realize that this has always been the way of the world, and probably still is in most places, including the good ol' emancipated USofA. Children have always been objects of utility within the family structure, as well as to society at large. Still, the idea sickens me. It smacks of slavery, where the chains are replaced by law, and guilt, and duty.

On another note, and speaking of slavery, I read something the other day about the idea of bringing back the military draft. Funny, the idea of a draft was so ubiquitously accepted in my country until a few decades ago. I thought for sure I'd eventually be going to 'Nam, though I missed that war by a few months. But think about it. The government has the power to physically snatch your 18yr old child right out of your home, and forcefully send him overseas to kill people, and run the risk of being killed or maimed himself. Is this not completely outrageous in a 'free' society?

Let's put it in another context. What if the government had the power to grab your kid and force him to work in the post office, to live there, to eat officially sanctioned post office chow, and only granted a leave now and then to visit home? No one would stand for it, yet until recently it was ok to send your child off to be killed. Amazing when you think about it!

Of course, I suppose it's a different story when it comes to defending one's country. I guess I should translate the phrase 'defending one's country'. What that REALLY means is kidnapping young people and building a security fence out of their flesh to protect the old. Think about it this way- I'm being chased down the street by a man with a gun. I duck into your house, grab your son by the scruff of his neck, and proceed to use him as a human shield. The kicker is that I FEEL MORALLY JUSTIFIED FOR DOING SO!!!

The draft is just another one of those crazy things that's obviously wrong by most peoples' normal moral reckoning, and yet is still practiced in many parts of the world, including some of the 'enlightened' nations, simply because moral decency is overridden by the 'need' of those in power to survive. Naturally, this atrocity is buttered up with jingoism for easier digestion, such that a significant percentage of parents have always been willing to sell their own children down the river in the name of 'patriotism'.

Disgusting, isn't it?

Then again, when you consider that a large segment of society still kisses the ass of a God who would gladly send their own children to live in an everlasting torture chamber, you begin to realize that personal survival- as transient as that actually is- trumps moral sensibility pretty much every fucking time.

Life fucking sucks.

Monday, June 21, 2010

In Which Trimester is 'Confessions' Most Appropriately Read

I notice ads for my book are popping up on several abortion information websites. I couldn't be more thrilled! Still, I'm curious as to how web crawlers are picking it up, since I don't believe the word 'abortion' is anywhere in my book, nor on the cover. Are the ad engines playing off the words 'procreation' or 'childbirth', and if so, just how fucking smart are these things?

UPDATE: Ah, I figured it out! Somebody simply slapped an 'abortion' tag on an Amazon review...duh! Wow, it's amazing how fast that got picked up and shipped around. Sigh...I'm old.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Troy McClure Speaks Out on Peter Singer


Hi, I'm Troy McClure! You might remember me from such motivational videos as 'Wheel Chairs, or REAL Chairs?', 'Call Me Gifted, NOT Gimpy!', and 'Differently Abled- The OTHER White Meat!' I'm here to talk to you today about Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer, the most dangerous man in the world today! (2nd paragraph)

Professor Singer is what experts call a 'non-exclusivist'. That means that if a child and an amoeba were drowning, and he only had one life preserver, chances are better than 50/50 that he'd throw it to the amoeba. Yes, Springfield, Mr. Singer believes in that most Satanic religion of all...EVILUTION! And you can't say evilution without the 'evil'! He actually believes that once upon a time, two monkeys got together to make a baby, and a human popped out! Ha ha ha ha ha! Why, I'd bet my big red butt that THAT isn't true!



Remember, kids, if Peter Singer is ever invited to speak at YOUR school, ask him to show you his prehensile tail, and while he's busy unbuckling his belt, point at him and yell "Get your paws off me, you dirty ape!" loud enough for the principal and everyone else to hear. THAT should take care of our 'intellectual' friend, now shouldn't it? And after all, seeing that he thinks people are monkeys, he should feel right at home LIVING IN A CAGE!"

Oh, and as for the publisher of this blog, I'd just like to say- Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!



Now, which way to the aquarium? Troy's got a hankerin' for some forbidden tuna!

I miss Phil Hartman.

UPDATE: When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!



DOUBLE UPDATE: CARTOON CROSSOVER!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Once Again...

I remember watching Joseph Campbell in that series of PBS interviews with Bill Moyers back in the 1980s. He actually paraphrases Schopenhauer at one point, saying 'life is something that should not have been', or something to that effect. His response? No logical justification for the opposite point of view. He merely said something like "That's not a 'mature' outlook for a person to have. We MUST say YES to life."

I feel pressed to remind all of you who believe in the morality of bringing new children into the world, that you are saying 'yes' to all the tragedy of the world, actual and potential. All the atrocities, the horrors, the victimization, the despair, the pain; all of this is worth it to you, simply because the show MUST go on. Think about this next time tragedy strikes close to home- which is the only time most people ever seem to think about these things. By saying 'yes' to life, we encourage the process by which people suffer. We also usher death into the world, which is something most people ostensibly seem not to like very much.

Help us make a clean break of it, won't you? Don't have children. Discourage others from having them. You might just save a life or two.

The Human Centipede

I heard about a movie from a girl at work today. It's called 'The Human Centipede. (SPOILER ALERT!).

I thought this was a blogworthy subject for a couple of reasons. First, because it dovetails nicely with my previous post concerning unthinkable- or in this case, perhaps, unwatchable- ideas. I'm sure many people would consider the making of this film to be outside the pale of moral acceptability. Frankly, if I ever see it I'll probably be peeking through my fingers a lot of the time. And tell me if I'm wrong, but isn't Ebert home-brewing his own batch of Helsinki formula (nyuk, nyuk) when he ends his review like this?

I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine.

On the other hand, if Michael Moore was doing the cutting-and-pasting, employing Republican members of the Senate, mightn't Ebert be turning a whole n'other worm? (Again, and in case you missed it...nyuk, nyuk).

The other reason I thought the film and review were germane to what we mostly talk about here is reflected in Ebert's introduction-

It's not death itself that's so bad. It's what you might have to go through to get there...You would have to be very brave to choose this ordeal over simply being murdered. Maybe you'd need to also be insane.

Ring any bells? There's nothing to fear before you're born. It is my belief that the same applies after you're dead. The two states are, in fact, experientially equal; or perhaps I should say non-experientially equal? There seems to be this continuum, like this long, long stretch of impeccably smooth road extending from the infinitely distant hills behind us to an infinitely remote land beyond the setting sun, interrupted by this one fucking, teeth-jarring speedbump. If we had the ability to look back and reflect, wouldn't we be asking ourselves who the hell put that damnable thing there in the first place? Of course, the answer is...our parents. And it's an odd thing, isn't it? Even though relative to the length of the infinite road, the jolt of the speedbump seems an ultimately inconsequential thing, for one who is sensitive to it's jarring effects upon one's self and one's fellow passengers, it seems to take an ungodly length of time to get beyond it. Alternatively, for one who finds the encounter with the obstacle thrilling, the experience is over far too soon.

Perhaps in the end, some would be 'brave' enough to choose this ordeal; although, the ordeal is never actually open to choice. Someone else always chooses for us, and we learn to play along, or not. Are there things more horrible than non-existence? That's easy- everything that's horrible- or even slightly uncomfortable such that you'd wish for circumstances to be different- is worse than non-existence. Because non-existence is in no way bad. Non-existence is our natural state of affairs. It's where we're coming from, and it's where we're going. In the meantime, we laugh, and cry, and contemplate, and hope like hell that somebody doesn't kidnap our children and surgically attach their mouth to somebody else's anus.

UPDATE: Damn! I almost forgot to mention the third reason I found this subject pertinent, having to do with the relationship of this film to the Utopian visions of the transhumanist crowd. At any given time in history, the world is populated by a given number of sick fucks, as well as an even larger number of people who'll go along with the sick fucks, for any number of reasons. It doesn't take a genius to imagine the possible horrors inherent in new technologies wielded by maniacal hands, such that one might pray for the privilege of having ones mouth surgically attached to someone else's anus. Let THAT one sink in for a while :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Unthinkable Thoughts

I wanted to move this up from the comments section, and see what everybody thought-

CM said...
Speaking of Fahrenheit 451, have you guys seen this article before? It's an oldie but goodie. It was mentioned on Benatar's UCT page, but there was no link, so I'd never read it until a couple days ago.

The author (a U of Helsinki Philosophy prof - I can't imagine how Matti Hayry must feel when in company with that specimen) basically says that some ideas are so unthinkable (and so outside of the human moral framework) that they should not be tolerated, no matter how logical the arguments may be, and he uses Benatar as an example. It's not like he's advocating burning his book, per se. He doesn't even suggest it shouldn't have been allowed to go to print. All he asks is merely that no one read it or think about it. That is all. Also, "there are indeed culturally loaded ethical limits to what we may truly think and still remain human beings"
.


What's interesting to me is that this comes from a Philosophy professor. "Please, students, neither read nor think about this subject. Das ist verboten!" Not that we're unfamiliar with this sentiment, but to see it emerge from this particular corner, and proclaimed so unashamedly, well...I guess I can still be surprised.

UPDATE: I was just mentioning to Chip in the comments section that it might be nice if he'd write something substantial addressing the essay offered by CM. Considering the subjects he often grapples with, I'd imagine he's faced this sort of challenge on more than one occasion. I was also thinking that others might like to give it a shot, plus it would allow me to shine a light on some the brainpower that drops by here on a frequent basis. If you're interested, mail your piece to quidproquo55@rocketmail.com, and I'll put it up. Make sure you label it 'unthinkable', as this is my public email addy, I receive 5 to 10 Nigerian email scams per day, and so am quick with the trigger finger.

Please don't feel rushed. Whenever they come in is fine with me. I'll go ahead and tag them so anyone interested can pull them up all together. I just thought this subject warranted a real group-think, and I'm hoping everyone will participate.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On a Personal Note

I had the rare privilege of meeting one of my readers and contributors who was in town this afternoon. Great fella! A couple hours of great conversation and tolerable domestic beers. A pleasure to meet you, Jeff. Maybe next time we'll get some bowling in.

Btw...

If I read one more asinine joke ending with the phrase 'Love is a Battlefield' in reference to David Benatar, I'm gonna kill a puppy, I swear!*




*Said puppy will be fed its choice of a fast-food last meal, administered a gentle sedative via ham-flavored chewy, and euthanized by the most humane means available.

Brainpalming- More Singer and Benatar

Heres a puzzler-

This is the kind of thing that gives philosophy a bad name. Really. I have nothing against this kind of thing in a graduate seminar; to publish it, to offer an argument that, precisely because existence involves suffering to some degree or another, non-existence is actually a better moral choice than existence is just, well, silly.

While it is true that there are those, many perhaps, whose existence involves extensive suffering - consider children born with extremely debilitating disorders, such as anencephalia, or even something like spina bifida. Or a child born HIV+. Or a child born in to a family, community, or whole nation defined by desperate poverty. Does "suffering" define the entirety of their existence? I cannot imagine that it does. There are, to be sure, those who choose to define their lives that way. Such may even be the case.

Yet, they do, indeed exist. Whether it's a child born with a rare condition in which their brain develops outside their skulls, or a young man who was once active and athletic who suffers a traumatic injury leaving him a quadriplegic, or a woman raised in a home filled with domestic violence who grows up and continues the cycle by marrying an abusive man, subjecting yet another generation to the cycle of violence - these cases (some, admittedly, more common than others) do not negate the simple fact, because these people exist they should be the center of our ethical concern. Rather than figuring out how to argue that it would have been preferable they never existed at all - the George Bailey Syndrome - we should be figuring out how to alleviate their suffering. That and that alone should be the focus of our ethical concern.


Since when is prevention not part of practical ethical concerns? We are encouraged to spay and neuter our pets precisely because of such concerns. In fact, dog and cat sterilization could probably be said to be THE primary ethical focus of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That doesn't mean other aspects are ignored, such as prevention of physical cruelty. The only difference with antinatalism is that it extends the scope of preventative measures, and makes arguments as to why such an expansion is necessary. Limiting our ethical concerns to the inevitable suffering that comes after the fact, or only to prevention in terms of those who have already arrived on the scene is a perfect example of closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out, isn't it?

What intrigues me about this particular article is that the author is able to recognize the existential problems of being alive on this planet- at least, some of them- but then fails to comprehend that maybe this stuff is worth talking about. I mean, honestly, can anyone say with a straight face that not bringing a child into the world isn't at least SOMETIMES the right moral choice, ever??? Acknowledging that, the question then comes down to a simple discussion about risk, and what kinds of risks are worth taking under what circumstances. This is all quite basically commonsensical, which is why I suspect people would rather eschew the subject altogether. Because they know in the backs of their minds where this leads, and they don't like it. Why? Because their unexamined presuppositions are threatened by digging this stuff up, as well as their vicarious immortality. That's why.

So instead- "What? Stop breeding?! What a stoopid idea! Nope, not worth going into at all, not one bit. My hands are over my ears now. I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

Etc.

UPDATE: This part-

While it is true that there are those, many perhaps, whose existence involves extensive suffering - consider children born with extremely debilitating disorders, such as anencephalia, or even something like spina bifida. Or a child born HIV+. Or a child born in to a family, community, or whole nation defined by desperate poverty. Does "suffering" define the entirety of their existence? I cannot imagine that it does.


Really? REALLY? He can't imagine it at all? And does suffering have to so infuse a person's whole being that anything less isn't worth considering in the context of the conversation of whether or not it might have been better if that person had never been born. Really? Such obtuseness can only be explained by psychological denial on a grand scale- David Benatar's point, btw. I wonder if people of this mindset would be willing to apply such a stringent standard to folks they'd otherwise describe as 'happy'. Doubtful.

More Singer/Benatar yada, yada, yada...

I can't bring myself to comment on this anymore. It's all getting so very redundant. Still, what's that they say? There's no such thing as bad publicity? In this case, I have to agree. This very public exposure to the ideas we talk about here warms the cockles of my heart. And as everybody knows, there's nothing worse than a cold cockle.

UPDATE: There is this one bit I can't resist commenting on-

A world without people is a blissful place to the intellectual. Why, just think: “No one’s rights will be violated”! One of the many, many commenters anxious to agree with Singer’s religion says, “I love the idea of a planet devoid of people, healing itself from our damage, taken over by animals and plants.”

Ah, the contradiction again, this time in a different form. The intellectual somehow believes he will be able to smile down on creation after mankind has been exterminated.


Firstly, note all the 'intellectual' dissing once again. So many of these folks really seem intimidated by people who 'think about stuff' for a living. Why do those images from 'Fahrenheit 451' keep flaring up in my mind? LOL!

But the really interesting thing is how the author can't wrap his mind around the idea of someone caring about something enough to do something about it, without the ability to later personally experience the fruits of his efforts. To see an act of self-sacrifice as definitionally contradictory is just so, so sad, isn't it? Why should mankind care about something that he can't ultimately benefit from? Somebody should probably warn this guy that if he keeps seeing things like this, eventually he's gonna find Jesus' boot buried in his groin (sorry, but I just can't help myself :))

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Peter Singer Clarifies His Position

Not that it really needed clarifying, at least to those who didn't react hysterically to his hypothetical premise. He seriously considered Benatar's strain of philanthropic antinatalism, and ultimately rejected it because he has 'hope' for the future. No surprises here. He went about as far as a 'reputable' academician can go, misanthropic(sic) exceptions like Benatar notwithstanding.

You can read Professor Singer's response here. It's all fairly self-explanatory, with any commentary on my part probably superfluous, and unnecessary. The only thing I wanted to highlight was this part-

Since readers have the opportunity to recommend comments by other readers, I also asked Ms. Kheyfets to count the recommendations. This yielded a higher score for those with negative views of existence, in part because fewer readers recommended comments that were neutral or undecided. Excluding once again those comments that did not address the issue, 1870 readers recommended comments expressing negative views of our existence or opposing bringing children into the world, which was 29 percent of all recommendations, while 3109 or 48 percent took a positive view of our existence or favored bringing children into the world, with 23 percent of comments neutral or undecided.

None of this allows us to draw any conclusions about the attitudes of people other than those who chose to comment, or recommend comments, but at least among that group, there is more support for a negative view of human existence and against having children than one might have expected.


This at least tentatively supports my belief that there exists a passive support for antinatalism in a not insignificant percentage of the populace. Singer's opening remark is telling-

That so many people were roused to comment on my piece, “Should This Be the Last Generation?” — despite comments being closed at one point — suggests that it achieved this aim.

What's encouraging to me is not only that the article drew such unexpected attention, but that the responses were so polarized; meaning, of course, that an opposite pole to the supposedly indisputable position actually exists! This is very exciting! According to Singer's calculations, a full 52 percent of all responses were either negative or neutral/undecided regarding the continuance of the human race. Wow! These figures fly in the face of those who would marginalize antinatalism as the philosophy of a handful of misanthropic losers. And even if these admittedly limited findings don't perfectly reflect the attitudes of the populace as a whole, neither can an honest appraisal count them as wholly insignificant.

All in all, I'm happy with the results here. Like I said, Singer's ultimate position hardly surprises me, and really doesn't matter much. In fact, seeing that his upbeat closing paragraph is delivered sans ANY logical justification- feels like a lame tack-on, really- what we're left with is a solid outlining and defense of antinatilism without a shred of adequate riposte. I count that as a win.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God Weighs In on the Singer/Benatar Controversy

Jesus has spoken! Well, through his representatives at Christianity Today, that is. Oh, and through his servant Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who has 'christened' Singer as "one of the most reprehensible intellectual forces alive today." And now it seems the good professor has topped himself by daring to ask the question, "How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?" Wow, how's it feel to be in the presence of PURE EVIL?! Mwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Anyway, the first half of the article basically covers the same emptily rhetorical ground that we've already gone over in previous conversations. Things don't really get interesting until a bit farther down, when what I consider to be Professor Singer's Pollyannish conclusion is addressed. In case you haven't been paying attention, here's what he wrote-

"In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living," he writes. "Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now."


Interestingly, what follows is a challenge from the Christian perspective of Professor Singer's cockeyed optimism. This doesn't surprise me at all. As I've stated before on this blog, and written about somewhat more extensively in my book, the one thing the otherwise goofy Bible has going for it is a realistic appraisal of just how fucked up life truly is-

Though we may hope future generations will learn from our mistakes, history gives little such comfort. And besides, Christian anthropology recognizes the constraints of original sin (Rom. 3:9-20; 5:12-13). If anything, Christians might be considered more pessimistic than even Singer about human prospects. Jesus offered no hope for an ever-improving human condition. On the contrary, he indicated that good and evil would spar until his climactic return and triumphant victory at the end of the age.


Take away the mythological mumbo-jumbo, and I'd say this is a pretty accurate assessment, no? It seems that in this case, Singer is out-faithing the faithful. Continuing on-

Still, Singer prompts us to reflect on why Christians nevertheless enthusiastically bring children into this world. We harbor no false hope about eradicating suffering through evolution. We understand these children to be stained with sin from the beginning. We groan along with a creation subjected to futility, currently awaiting redemption (Rom. 8:19-23). What reason do we have, then, to bring new children into this world?


No false hope of eradicating suffering in this world. So far, so good. Why 'enthusiastically bring children into this world', then? And for once, we are led to believe that there will be an actual discussion, with logical reasons given. Great news, right?

Unfortunately, things go downhill from here. Here's the first 'reason' offered-

The simple answer is that we fulfill God's original command to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28). God's command alone would be enough to compel our obedience.


A simple answer for a simple people. Do it because the God Whose Ass you're kissing commands it. Just following orders, ma'am.

But wait! All is not lost. Four other supposedly sound reasons for procreation are offered, these being- Design. Blessing. Crucible. and Hope. Unfortunately, these aren't expounded upon in the article, but I think we can perform a little speculation on our own without getting too far off the mark-

Design- God made us. God made the world. If we don't like it, we're pussies, and tough shit, anyway.

Blessing- If we're just willing to put up with the shit, and subject our children to the shit, eventually God will reach down and pull us out of the shit, clean us up, and then we'll be able to spend the rest of eternity kissing His Ass without all the shit, and being ever so thankful that we don't have to live in shit anymore.

Crucible- Shit makes us stronger, presumably so we'll be able to kiss God's Ass for long stretches of time without getting tired.

Hope- Let's all hope that putting our kids through all this shit was worth it.

There IS a little bit more on good, Godly hope a little farther down-

Christian hope differs significantly from the evolutionary hope harbored by Singer. Hope rooted in God's sovereign care for his creation transcends circumstances—even circumstances so dire as Judah's exile into Babylon. The exile, God's judgment for persistent sin, was cataclysmic for everyone in Jerusalem and the southern kingdom. Hope was in short supply. So how did God address his downtrodden people?


So, what was God's sage advice (command) in the face of the Babylonian exile. "KEEP HAVING KIDS!" Thus spaketh the Lord.

The article ends with some more claptrap about having children to please God, BECAUSE it pleases God that we have more children. God didn't HAVE to create people, after all. In fact, He knew when He did it that life would end up in the toilet. Then WHY did He go ahead and do it anyway? Because we'd be that much more grateful when God finally deigned to fish us out of the toilet, making us that much more eager to kiss His Holy Ass forever and ever, amen.

Seriously, that's what it says, more or less. Read it yourselves.

Mor on Petor Singer

Nothing much new from this direction, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this chuckle. From the comments section-

Eric
A perfect expample of something so stupid that a only collegage graduate would beleive it.


Ok, so I do my fishing in a barrel! So shot me, alraedy!

People Know

Some people, anyway. A young guy at work and I were chatting it up the other day about the reasons people have children. "In my culture (Mexican)," he noted "people have kids to take care of them when they get older. I complained to my mom about that, about how she charges us all rent, makes money off us. You shouldn't have kids to do that, man." Unfortunately, that basic utilitarian attitude towards offspring has probably been the prevailing one throughout history, much like marriage was less based upon love, being a social contract to promote familial and social stability. The more modern parental attitude- at least, the apparent one, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it's come close to pushing aside the other agenda yet- is to raise children for their own sakes, with an eye towards cutting them loose and letting them fly, without tying them down with the burden of octogenarian caretaking.

Now, I realize none of this is as clear-cut as my little summary might be communicating. I'm just building a little launching pad to get to this, an article about Japan's falling birthrate. Specifically, I wanted to talk about this observation:

I repeat: A rise in mood (and stocks) = A rise in diaper duty. Ten years ago, EWI's founder and president Bob Prechter put this very notion forward in his September 1999 Elliott Wave Theorist's compelling case study "Sex and Stocks." Bob's main observation:
"In a bull market, when aggregate feelings of friskiness, daring, and confidence wax, people engage in more sexual activity with the aim of having children. When these feelings wane (bear market), so does the desire for generating offspring."


The way I see it, this translates to one of two things, though not exclusively one or the other, for the prospective parent on the street. Both concern possible future states-

1. People are concerned about the ability to raise children in a climate of diminishing resources.
2. People are worried about a future in which their grown children will not prosper.

What I want to zoom in on here is the idea that prospective parents actually do have the ability to forestall the basic procreational urge, in the face of what they deem to be an uncertain future. Or in other words, since in actuality the future is ALWAYS uncertain, to see through the cracks of their carefully crafted life-lies, and act accordingly. Sometimes it doesn't take much to shake people from their complacent life affirming habits. A few numbers go down on the big board, and suddenly things don't appear quite so rosy anymore.

Naturally, while I'm reflecting on this one little encouraging trend in Japan- which may or may not mean a damned thing in the long run- somewhere else in the world people are breeding like bunnies in the midst of a leprosy outbreak. What do I know? Still, in a world where over 150,000 people die every day, and where billions more suffer the spectrum of possible discomforts and atrocities, ANY news of reason winning out is good news.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy!

And LOVING it! Thank you, Professor Singer, for providing antinatalism this day in the sun. I realize you don't fully embrace the philosophy- but none of us are perfect, and I'm hoping you'll one day follow the logical thread to its inescapable conclusion and come around :)

Meanwhile, I see you've been criticized by a fellow bioethicist, one Wesley J. Smith. Here's the text in full. And now, in the spirit of fairness, I'd like to turn the tables on one who I understand is more often than not hostile to Professor Singer and his 'existential nihilism'. Here goes-

At the New York Times blog, Peter Singer favorably discusses a book that I haven’t read–Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence–that illuminates the profound danger of Singer’s utilitarian philosophy and the growing nihilism among the intellectual set.


Ouch! More 'profound danger' emerging from the 'intellectual set'. And indeed, what could be more dangerous than preventing a childbirth, or even a passel of 'em? Or ALL of them, as a matter of discussion. Why, just think what peril human non-existence would pose to...to...to...hmm, not exactly sure WHO would be in peril, but most certainly it would be perilous!

That’s pretty simplistic. People don’t sit back and coolly make utilitarian decisions. We are more vibrant than that, for good and ill, more messy.


And this is a good thing, why? Seems like this statement would apply equally well to a father who fritters away his childrens' futures on cocaine addiction, or even to a serial killer, for crissake! Oh yeah, you DID include that '...and ill' part, didn't you? Then what the hell is the point you're trying to make? That people tend not to think things through? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for future parenthood, is it?

Moreover, people who don’t want children that will experience difficulties often make that decision because of the problems it will create in their own lives, a value system promoted by the popular culture–hence the ubiquitous practice of eugenic abortion, and in the Netherlands, infanticide–both of which practices are supported enthusiastically by Singer.


It may well be that many people choose not to have children out of selfishness, although I think you're painting with a conveniently broad brush. My attitude to this is a big, fat SO WHAT? At least it's not selfishness at the expense of someone else, which is ALWAYS the case when someone chooses to have a child. Or did you think you were doing somebody a favor, foisting suffering and ultimate death on the non-existent? And don't give me that crap about most of them not regretting their own existence. That's an attitude which develops AFTER the deed is done, often on the basis of some pretty fucking faulty self-evaluation, as Professor Benatar points out in his book. Oh yeah, you didn't read it, did you?

Reducing childbearing to crass utilitarian measurements and projections of suffering, thus, leads to justifying killing as an answer thereto, illustrating the oppression unleashed by the avoid suffering at all costs attitudes so prevalent today.


By crass, I'll just assume you mean 'considered'. As for the rest...meh. Any philosophy can be shown to 'justify' killing, from fascism to buddhism, to...gasp!...theism. As far as 'oppression unleashed by the avoid suffering at all costs attitudes', how about the oppression unleashed by the 'fuck everybody else's suffering as long as I get what I want' crowd? Including, of course, all those who are willing to expose a child to the risk of horrible suffering, and sure death, simply because they want a real live babydoll to play with who'll eventually grow up and take care of them when they're old. Oh, and who'll fight their wars for them, of course.

Singer takes this mindset to the next logical step, sympathizing with the view that we should become extinct as a way of avoiding suffering...


Since you're aware that Singer doesn't actually embrace human extinction, I'll assume by 'sympathizing' you mean 'doesn't automatically dismiss', and leave it at that.

This is nihilism on stilts and it is polluting the West’s self confidence and belief in universal human equality like the BP oil well is polluting the Caribbean. Only the resulting mess isn’t measured in polluted beaches and dead birds, but existential despair that destroys human lives.


Disillusionment's a bitch, ain't it? Oh, and all those dead birds? That's the way of all flesh, Mr. Smith. Including the human kind. We're all destroyed eventually, one by one or in bunches. The difference between you and Dr. Benatar is that he wants to put an end to the destruction, once and for all, while you and your ilk hand out fertility charms in the midst of the black death, and sing kum ba yah.

After seeming to embrace the concept of human extinction, Singer takes a step back:


Bummer, that.

We have to “justify” continuing the species? Good grief. Under the influence of anti-human advocates like Peter Singer, we have gone in the West from seeking to “secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity,” to seriously questioning whether there should be any posterity at all. This is not healthy. But it is the natural consequence of rejecting human exceptionalism.


And what do you base your notions of human exceptionalism on, sir? The superstitious scribblings of primitive desert wanderers, perhaps? I'll tell you what I base mine on: Depth of consciousness. Empathy. Sensitivity to suffering, both immediately physical, as well as abstract. The ability to reason, to contemplate the existential dilemma all humans face. And finally, on the possibility to take matters into our own hands, to summon up the courage to do what no other animal on Earth understands the need to do. To end it, here. To end human suffering and death. Of course, our posterity won't be around to shout accolades as the last of us goes down into the dust, which makes the act all the more selfless. Antinatalism is kind. Antinatalism is good. Antinatalism is right.

And Yet MORE Commentary on Benatar and Singer

This one's basically substanceless diatribe, whose conclusions never really rise above incredulous declarations like "Have you ever read a statement more contrary to reason this this?", "...it's just plain stupid.", and "PS. Let's hope none of Benatar's or Singer's fans are found dead any time soon." The comments section isn't much better, although there IS this gem-

"Actually I think Benatar makes a lot of sense. Given the ratio of pain to pleasure in human existence, and presuming that there's no eschatological purpose to it, you either reach that logical conclusion or else put on a brave existential face and pretend that despite all the suffering and misery (and abrupt, pointless end), somehow the experience of living makes is worth it. To say, as Woody Allen put it at the end of "Annie Hall," that we keep on living because we "need the eggs." But I've always found the latter attitude an intellectually dishonest one."

Written by Todd M. Aglialoro

A lot of the rest is your typical god-talk fare (the blog IS InsideCatholic.com, after all). Of course, and as I've argued in my book, traditional Christianity is probably the greatest argument against procreation the world has ever known, given the inconceivably horrendous stakes of eternal damnation. Why anyone who believes in an eternal hell would bring a child into the world is beyond me. It's the ultimate 'Everything'll work out for the best' faithgesture, isn't it? Pushing a child in front of a bus for the entertainment value of seeing if he'll get out of the way in time is mild in comparison.

How the hell did we ever get into this mess?

Not to be Missed!

Thanks, Sister Y.

Another Review of Peter Singer's NYTimes Essay

Over at Planet Moron, people are questioning (mocking) the audacious impropriety of anyone who would dare even QUESTION the morality of bringing a child into existence. In fact, given how the phrase 'deep thinker' is peppered throughout the 'critique' as a seeming invective against those who, well...er...THINK, I'd say antinatalism's 'taboo' credentials are apparently still firmly in place. At least, on Planet Moron they are. The whole piece is basically an anti-intellectual diatribe. This attitude reminds me of a comment I read on another blog somewhere recently, where the commenter notes that people are too 'vibrant' to use their reasoning abilities when ascertaining whether or not to breed, whether 'for good or ill'.

How comfortable. We can justify any action we wish to take, simply by denouncing the very process of reasonably considering our actions. And as the first two commenters point out, if the deep thinkers don't like it, they can go kill themselves. Or so say the ostrich people of Planet Moron.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some Insider Info for Folks Who Bought My Book

As I was out walking during my lunch break today, the homeless lady to whom I'd given a copy of my book last week spotted me, came running across the street through traffic, trotted up to me and said, "I'm almost finished with your book! Can you sign it for me?" Then she added "By the way, his name is Chuckie, and he DOES live at the storage place. Oh, and I know what kanebanol is."

Just thought some people might like to know.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ill Conceived Arguments Against Antinatalism

Per request. The floor is open, ladies and gentlemen. If you can, try to be as succinct as possible...makes 'em more memorable and easier to articulate.

Everything is Beautiful



Jesus loves the little children



All the little children of the world



Red and yellow, black and white



They are precious in His sight



Jesus loves the little children of the world

Let's cut to the chase. When we say yes to life, we say yes to this. All of these children were conceived out of selfishness, or just sheer neglect. This is how it ends for all of us, for every child. Is it better because some will lie down in velvet-lined caskets? Parents, here is the end of your 'achievement'. And to those of you who call antinatalism genocidal, fuck you. When you say yes to life, you say yes to this.

Why do I do this? Because I wish someone had spoken to me like this, once upon a time. I love my children. This is how my children will end. Because I know this, because I could have prevented this from falling upon their beloved heads, I am filled with remorse. I am filled with self-hatred. I am filled with the knowledge that I have committed the most unspeakable of acts.

It's too late for my children. It's too late for all of us. But it's not too late for all those still unborn. My plea? Let them be. Let them remain snuggled up in their warm blankets of negative bliss, undisturbed. No need to usher them into this world- we'll join them in theirs soon enough. Soon enough.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Procreation of Risk

Here's an interesting paper on the subject of risk aversion relating to population ethics. Below are the basic questions it addresses-

1. Is it plausible to devaluate the chances of possible children? Is risk-aversion reasonable in the context of population ethics?
2. What is the responsibility of the actual generation? Should long-term scenarios be taken into account?
3. What is the relevance of population ethics on the family level? Is it morally defensible to have children?

Different views are formally addressed, including antinatalism. Benatar is referenced, and philosophical fun is had by all. I'll be commenting on the paper at a later date, mostly regarding what I see as a faulty assumption or two which ultimately affect the conclusion. Until then, please feel free to jump ahead of me and offer up any and all opinions you might have.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Silly Interlude



One more for the night, and I'm out. Here a picture of my ugly mug, the only one of myself on the internet besides maybe something on my daughter's facebook. Yesterday, a friend and I were discussing something that's been bugging me ever since I took that picture, namely- what the hell is that green shit on the left side of the pic? I took it standing 3 or 4 feet in front of my open garage, middle of the day, good lighting. There were mainly stacks of boxes behind me inside the garage, maybe a few other pieces of garage junk and bric-a-brac, but absolutely NOTHING like that green shit. Plus if you look closely, the green shit is somewhat transparent near my head, before it spreads out and becomes solid and all shiny. Naturally, I assume it's a photographic defect of some kind, but it's like nothing I've ever seen before. Plus you'll notice that it sort of disappears behind my shoulder, which seems strange.

Anyhow, I thought I'd end the evening with a little puzzler. Any suggestions?

The Five Year Ban

So MUCH to write about this morning, it seems. This comes from commenter Rob over at TheViewFromHell, concerning the idea that we should have a moratorium on childbirths to get the detrimental environmental impact of too many people somewhat under control. I'd like to zoom in on one particular comment, if I may:

Not wrong, but incomplete.
Submitted by Jill on February 8, 2009 - 8:24am.

It's not that I think you're wrong-- I don't. I think you're absolutely right. But this article conveniently fails to address the byproducts of the kind of change you're talking about. A very good friend of mine is a delivery nurse. Her and her tens of thousands of colleagues across the country would be out of work for the next five years, along with obstetricians. If this ban were to exceed five years, kindergarten teachers would soon be out of work, too. I realize that none of these issues are as pressing as addressing the overpopulation crisis, but punishing those with careers in the infant-producing-and-rearing industry doesn't seem appropriate. What sort of programs would need to be in place to make sure these people don't fall through the cracks? How much time would be need to implement such changes?

Just curious if you're thinking beyond the numbers.


I don't mean to be overly harsh to the commenter here, as I think it's reasonable to assume that a lot, if not most, people think along these rather 'practical' lines. But isn't this an awful lot like working to keep the crime rates high to ensure employment for prison guards? And if we cure cancer, what are we gonna do with all those oncologists? They'll all be standing out in front of Home Depot looking for day labor, disrupting traffic!

I also find it telling that even the various environmentalist groups seem to have absolutely nothing to say about overpopulation these days, even though they know damned well that 'too many people' is at the root of practically all their concerns. Why? Because they know that asking people to sacrifice their procreational 'rights' is unpopular, and will lose them financial support. And so, once again, the truth goes untold. It's the way we operate.

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I thought this conversation from the comments section was worth moving to the front-

Rock/HardPlace said...

My tragedy is in finding out that I didn't want kids after I became happily married. I'm thinking of procreating with my wife instead of losing her. I'm trying hard to be unselfish here, but the suffering I'd experience post-divorce makes me horrified.

metamorphhh said...

Rock/Hard Place:

Wow, I know that feeling. In my case, my forebodings hadn't really concretized into a genuine philosophical position yet, and I caved under the universal but utterly false aphorism, 'Everything will work out, honey'. I tell myself these days that things would've been different if only I'd been exposed to the ideas I and others are now espousing. But that's water under the bridge, and I love my children.

However, because I love my children you can be damned sure that, had I the chance to do it over again, I would NEVER bring them into existence- to labor, to 'do their duties', to suffer, and to die. And even though I might miss their presence in my life, they wouldn't miss anything, and would never know what it's like to miss anything, or to lose anyone, or to become disenchanted with a life filled with pain, and loss, and meaningless toil. They would never inhabit bodies that would sooner or later turn on them via disease, or accident, or simply through the aging process. And they wouldn't ever be forced to tell themselves lies to avoid the reality of the ever encroaching doom that's creeping up on each one of us out of the mist of an unsure future, where the only certainties are dissolution and death in some shape or form.

Rock, if you choose to have children, knowing the stakes, you will hate yourself for the rest of your life. Even if you learn to sublimate, the hatred will be there, buried. Personally, I'd rather lose 1,000 wives than go through what I've gone through, even acknowledging the great joy my children have brought me. Because it's not about me, after all. It's about them, and the fact that in bringing new life into the world, I have in the same breath condemned them to some degree of misery (possibly a LOT), and death. Back to where they came from in the first place.

I'll finish this with an excerpt from my book-

What is so crucial about our particular existence that we feel compelled to roll children out of their eternal slumber, slap them around for awhile, feed them, fuck them, pull them through knotholes, blindfold them, turn them round and round, then send them back off to find their beds? It makes no sense!

Last Generation- The Thing That Angers Me Is...

...that Singer asks the right questions, makes the right arguments, and then completely ignores what he's just said and opts for the popular conclusion. It's as if he's just presented a good, solid case against handgun ownership, then ends his argument by advocating that all kids should own handguns because he has faith that sooner or later their marksmanship will improve.

I still believe the main psychological obstacle in the way is this vicarious 'feeling' that we somehow live on through succeeding generations, thus achieving a kind of immortality. Of course, it's a fake kind of immortality, experientially meaningless, but the fear of death will fashion a life preserver out of anything, it seems. Even imagination.

Ooh! That reminds me! My next little project needs to be a review of the film 'Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality'. It's something Chip asked me to do a while back, but I never got around to it (sorry, Chip). Although, I DID manage to procure a copy of the DVD signed by the director. Here's part of the blurb on the back cover-

Flight from Death uncovers death anxiety as a possible root cause of many of our behaviors on a psychological, spiritual, and cultural level.


I guess I should point out up front that they never address the obvious solution, although it's screaming to be heard from right off-stage. Then again, advocating the extinction of the human race, even on a voluntary basis, is the 'greatest taboo', isn't it?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Should This Be the Last Generation?

Peter Singer, Princeton's professor of bioethics, has commented in the New York Times on the subject of antinatalism, referencing David Benatar's book, Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence. It's a good article, though in my opinion the conclusion is an unmitigated cop-out, namely-

I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now.


I've gone into this argument too many times to mention, so rather than rehash yet again, I thought I'd paste a few of the more salient remarks from the comments section...

1022.
ed
san diego
June 9th, 2010
2:42 pm
Since the vast majority of humans are non-thinkers who are easily drawn to superstitions (religions), most of the children born will go through life happily deluding themselves into thinking that there is some meaning to life, and that they will live forever after they die. For the unfortunate one's who use their brains (less than 1% of the population), they will mature and soon recognize that life is about suffering as the human body begins to fail after middle age. Horrible diseases will make some of their lives a living nightmare far sooner. Others will slowly rot as discs in their back rupture, their eye sight fails, their joints become painful with arthritis, or Alzheimer's disease eats holes in their brains. While all this is occuring the thinker knows his fate is non-existance and a life without any meaning. Most people are no more capable of rational thought than a chimp. They breed out of pure animal instinct without giving it a second thought, or even a first. They firmly grasp at their superstition, suspend all rational thought and breed. I recognized the reality of this life as a child and decided then that I would not make another human being for the sole purpose of suffering and dieing for no reason. Bringing other beings into this existance who may have the ability to think, even though it is a rare quality, is immoral.


C.A.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
June 9th, 2010
2:43 pm
I decided a long while back that I didn't want to have children. It was absolutely the right choice for me and I don't regret it at all. I am not optimistic about the future but I don't really share this feeling with my many friends who did decide to have offspring. The times of bounty have peaked in first world countries and life is going to get harder for everyone in coming generations. Unfortunately few are paying attention -- it's easier not to think about it & to just believe that we will continue to live in the land of plenty for many years to come. There are signs of trouble all around -- and thoughtful people are paying attention....



1028.
mark
canada
June 9th, 2010
2:44 pm
I agree with some folks - badly written article but bringing up badly needed discussion points. But it's pointless to think about concepts like global sterilzation and population control because they will never, ever happen on any scale. People will cling to the right to have unlimited babies, and die for it, until we're all dead.

Not questioning the right to unlimited reproduction even though it's obviously foolish and makes unspeakable horror and tragedy inevitable: 7 billion (and counting) humans can't be wrong!

Seriously, the rest of all our lives are going to be spent watching leaders and pundits both intelligent and ignorant, both mainstream and underground, debating what to do about climate change, economic collapse, the end of growth, and eventually untold suffering. And the solution has been simple all along. It's available to everyone, in every country. It doesn't require technological advances, diplomacy, or even money. In fact it saves you around $200000.


1032.
Debbie
Virginia
June 9th, 2010
2:45 pm
I'll make my answers easy - YES to each and every question!! However, if you read "The Road" or watch the movie, and read the news every day, you would be inclined to want to cease procreation with this generation. I am a pollyanna-type, an optimist, however, if you knew your family had a gene that would cause an innocent child to live in a world of pain and suffering, then put your selfish wants and desires aside, and go childless. Get a dog, or a cat....


I found this last comment particularly interesting. Here is a commonsensical, self-professed optimist positing a hypothetical scenario, and acknowledging that under such circumstances it would be wrong to bring a child into the world. I congratulate her thinking as far as it goes. However, I am moved to point out that EVERY innocent child is brought into a world of pain and suffering- not to mention, death- and ALWAYS for selfish reasons. Since this is the case, her plea to "...put our(sic) selfish wants and desires aside, and go childless." becomes a universal adjuration to stop breeding entirely...doesn't it?

Anyway, it's tremendously exciting to see this subject broached in the mainstream media, mitigating postscripts aside. It seems some major taboos are having their day in the sun. First the recent spate of popular books scribed by proponents of atheism, and now this. Not immediately world shaking, perhaps, but not altogether irrelevant, either. Tiny cracks and dams, my friends. Tiny cracks, and dams.

This Is How I'm Feeling This Morning



I may not be an art aficionado, but I know what I like. Go here. Enjoy your journey.

Also, here's the Google image page for more good stuff!

Here's a page with more good images.

UPDATE RE TCATHR

Latest word from the author is that the publisher takes possession of the book this Friday, with pre-order shipping following immediately. Take heart, patient souls...it'll definitely have been worth your wait! :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Conspiracy Against The Human Race



History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake- Ulysses by James Joyce

Herein lies the problem of consciousness. Before its refined emergence as the node called human, there is only sleep. An uneasy sleep, to be sure. A tranquility punctuated by appalling interruptions of rumbling stomachs and tearing flesh. No nobility in pre-solipsistic savagery, perhaps, but the agonies keep to their assigned beats and only bother those who actually cross their paths. A dream within a dream.

Then, the worst thing imaginable happens. The dream awakens within itself, becomes lucid. A shard of the latency breaks loose. Falls out of the sky. There is a sense of plummeting, of scrambling for altitude in the midst of obstacles. Worse yet, there comes an awareness of gravity, and of the maxim ‘What goes up...’. The dream becomes a nightmare.

In ‘The Conspiracy Against the Human Race’, a work of non-fiction soon to be released, acclaimed horror author Thomas Ligotti strikes at the heart of the lie we maintain to shield ourselves from the contemplation of that nightmare, lest we find ourselves face to face with the secret ‘too terrible to know’. The lie? That ‘being alive is all right’. And the unutterable secret? That life is ‘malignantly useless’. And so we shut our eyes to that particular horror, sleepwalking our way from one oasis of distraction to the next, as we grope by faith toward whatever version of Zion happens to suit our soteriological temperament.

But even as that nightmare is not of our own making, neither are our somnambulistic defenses against it. For we are puppets, one and all. Forgotten toys dangling from the imbecilic fingers of the First Urge, moved by the mephitic winds of heritage and circumstance, believing all the while that we are real boys and girls. Condemned to dance, and twirl, and dream of what it might be like to be autonomous, rather than automatons. Of course, none of us really want to believe this. Question: What do you call a puppet that refuses to acknowledge its patrimony of woodpulp and ashes? That claims not to feel the tug of the wire at its wrists? Answer: An optimist. But what of his counterpart, the pessimist? The ‘man with a morbid, frantic, shuddering hatred of the life-principle itself? (Lovecraft) Does he occupy some loftier position in the kingdom of wood, cloth and string, a perch from which he can gaze down upon this play of absurd passions with-dare I say it?-objectivity?

Herein lies the conundrum of the hard determinist, of which Ligotti is fully aware. How to build a case on reason, when reason’s foundations are ultimately no more secured than the sound of wind whistling through cracks in the mortar? Origins are lost to us in the stifling complexity of our causative heritage- we are stuck with who we are, and with what we think we know. Our perceptions have been handed over to us bearing neither manufacturer’s label nor warranty. This being the overriding circumstance in the duchy of puppetry, what is the justification by which we can possibly proceed to make our respective cases?

In the end, there is none. We push forward- or speaking with a tad more accuracy, perhaps, are pushed- weighing the quality of music issuing from our squeaking joints, as well as that conjured up by our ideological opposites, against the standard of sawdust between our ears. Knowing that we do not know, including the knowledge of our ignorance, splayed out against the leading edge of a juggernaut whose engines exist in a realm we’ll never be privy to, even after we’re torn to pieces.

We push forward. Make our cases. Pessimists have made their cases, though you’d be hard pressed to hear them in the midst of the Official Life Affirmation Choir and Jug Band. There are names- Schopenhauer. Nietzche. Sartre. Camus. Mainlander. Zapffe. Others. Some motivated by disdain, others by despair. Still others by misanthropic intellects unwilling to take their seats at ringside. Some of these held more or less true to their offending creeds, while others sought and wrought loopholes, straining for illusory beams of light in the cloud cover. Ligotti has made his case as well, drawing from his background of horror and phantasmagorical literature, polishing the mirror of our self-reflection to an astonishing degree, in my opinion. Each time I gaze into it, I catch another glimpse of the darkness behind my eyes. The emptiness. An awareness made more palpable by the knowledge of my own nothingness, realizing that that nothingness is everything I am. A nothingness that one day will be swallowed by its own shadow.

There’s a picture on my desk, a piece of paper confined within a frame of wood and glass. These are my daughters. Little bits of the Nothing that coalesced into temporary simulcra of something. They will remain briefly, moved by the wind, fading in the sun, and finally dissolved in darkness. Once they were not. Soon they will return to that former station, and it will be as if they never were. There is an infinitude of raw material existing in potentia, driftwood in danger of being lifted and shaped by the madness at the core of creation. Carved into the likeness of futility, given breath, and with that breath, hope, and with that hope, pain and dissolution. Carved into the likenesses of sons and daughters. Daughters like mine. At the end of the rainbow? Splinters of broken wood. Bits of rusty wire, and springs, scraps of cloth, and hope, and aspirations. A junkpile.

‘The Conspiracy Against the Human Race’ is a work of non-fiction by Thomas Ligotti, with a forward by Ray Brassier. It is an important contribution to the literature of pessimism, as well as antinatalism; of which, unfortunately, there is a paucity, especially in the contemporary sense. It is sober, insightful, and supports the feeling I’ve always had that fiction writers often have a better grasp on reality than philosophers. For those interested in the subject, I can’t recommend a better piece of reading material- well, unless...er, never mind :)

Sorry for the delay in getting this review finished, both to the author and to my readers. I’ve got LOTS of excuses, most of which I’ve previously enumerated, so let’s just leave it at the fact that I SUCK, and be thankful I trimmed it down enough so that I didn’t give the whole book away. Special thanks go to the author for giving me an advance copy, as well as giving me a blurb to use on my own book cover. It means a lot to me, and I brag about it often :)

UPDATE: For those interested, here's a very good review of the book. Check it out!