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.


Compoverde said...

Jim, that is the typical "middle class" response to the antinatalism claim. I do feel a bit sorry for them and sad when I burst their little bubble regarding procreation. They have an unexamined sense of optimism. Perhaps your "piling on" method would work on them, if you figured out what it was :). This is really the most common response we are going to find, but its not like arguing against a philosophical opponent these are everyday folks that have rarely took the time to examine the issue. With these kinds of people, we have to be gentle and slowly guide them into our understanding. Otherwise, confusion and misunderstanding will take place, and they will only react emotionally and not fully take in what you are trying to make them understand.

timcooijmans said...

Some quick notes in case anyone gets here and wonders what's wrong with the cited comments:
* For what it's worth, I am not an "intellectual", and I think no one should have kids.
* Having a child may enrich the parents' lives, but never the child's because there is no life to enrich. And, critically, there is no life YET which NEEDS enriching; having the child creates such a life, and with it, the need for enrichment.
* There's nothing wrong with not having hope if there is no future.
* Life has no inherent purpose. Everything in animals' bodies points to continuation of their species as life's purpose, but that's just a result of evolution.
* I can imagine that having and raising a child is one of life's most important experiences, right up there with being stoned to death for having been raped. Step right up if you're into important experiences.

Shadow said...

No thanks, I´m not so much of a "great experiences" fella.


Jeronimus said...

Me neither =)

"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."

Anyone else had a mild nausea from reading this passage ?

Human Waste said...

The salt of the earth strikes back!

metamorphhh said...

'...a world without children is a world without hope."

A world without children is a world with no need for hope, INCLUDING the sort of hope that goes unfulfilled generation after generation after generation after...

Curator said...

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 [sic] 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.

The selfishness of procreationists astounds me at times. How can you even formulate a pair of sentences like this? "I guess children suffer, but I like having them, so fuck their rights!"

Some Emo Kid said...

Okay first off I'm a 16 year old and I will admit my intellectual skills are a bit lacking but still I don't see the logic in this happy-go-lucky lady's statement. It seems to me like she's saying "Let's all procreate because we are supposed to procreate because that is just the way life is. I'm going out and fuck like a rabbit to spread more children on an overpopulated planet so when I'm dead, part of my DNA will responsible for bringing on another pointless and miserable generation."

Or am I dumb and devoid of understanding?

Compoverde said...

CM, aka "The Fork", thanks for contributing to the philosophy forum. You had a great response to Dragon Lance. I don't know why he didn't respond. That is sort of unsportsmanlike to not give another comment back acknowledging your counterargument. Please keep checking in and contributing when you can.

Shadow said...

Some Emo Kid (lol at the name):

Yes, you got that lady´s point.

She is THAT foolish.

Can you believe it?

metamorphhh said...

Curator: What amazes me is the number of articles promoting procreation I read where the emphasis is COMPLETELY on parent fulfillment, without even a mention of the possible welfare of the new child.

timcooijmans said...

I think these people base their reasoning on some strange implicit assumption, just like some mystic might base his reasoning on the "fact" that children's souls are waiting in hell until they are granted a body by loving parents.

I blame nihilism for this; nowadays it is clear that nothing really matters, and people get to CHOOSE worldviews and have their OWN truth. While that is in some ways a good thing, it wreaks havoc with things that are ACTUALLY TRUE. (While some people may believe they can fly, not many hold on to these beliefs for long.)

People choose causes as a pastime now.

For instance, most people consider environmentalism a good cause, and fight for it, until it actually gets in their way, like when they want a kid. Then they will loosen up, denounce the real environmentalists as over-the-top fanatics who have lost perspective, and have their kid. Their worldview changes instantly.

Similarly, many people think eating meat is bad. However, when it becomes clear to them how hard it is to actually be a vegetarian, they crap out and decide to eat only fish or only HAPPY cattle (yeah right). They will then go on to dismiss veganists as over-the-top fanatics who have lost perspective.

These are like life-lies; you pretend to be committed to whatever keeps you going. Anything goes.

If we are to convince these people to (genuinely) commit themselves to our cause, we need to convince them that:
(1) that truth is objective and absolute;
(2) they may have chosen an arbitrary worldview based on their denial of (1), which is fine, but they should not let this worldview get in the way of what we are trying to show them;
(3) that the asymmetry is absolutely and especially OBJECTIVELY true (based on a couple of very reasonable assumption);
(4) that because of (1), this is one of the few things that actually matters (despite rampant nihilism);
(5) that when you have one kid, you actually open the floodgates for millions of kids to pour into this world (because of the exponential growth of the family tree);
(6) that by having a kid, you are responsible for all of these kids' suffering.


filrabat said...

Some of the common objections:

*“Are we not animals?” (as if humans don’t also, paradoxically enough, transcend animals as well!)

*“…forgetting the whole purpose of life. Without children there is no future and there is no hope.” (Eventually, there’ll be no future for humanity or our descendents anyway. The far, far future “Heat Death of the Universe” alone is sufficient to guarantee that) – that alone renders even the “natural selection” argument (read: “ultimate failure” shaming argument) pointless. (more about “natural selection” in a moment).

*Humanity will go extinct if we don’t have kids: If you knew that humanity would go extinct in 25 years, would you have children even if you were a pro-natalist? If not, then what difference does a hundred trillion years make (the end of the Stelleferrous [star-forming] Era)? It’s still a FINITE number of years after all. IMO, this isn’t an actual reason to refuse reproduction but it DOES, IMO, render reproduction pointless. They may consider us losers because they’ll be the ones who’ll pass their genes onto the next generation, but I prefer to think of us as pragmatists who managed to override our DNA / neurological programming to see a starker – if not always pleasant – set of truths.

* Not to mention the usual blather about antinatalists being “emo” and such (not that there’s anything wrong with being an emo). Emo some of us may well be, but that’s just shaming language. To say an emo and/or depressive state renders antinatalism wrong is equivalent to claiming atheism is wrongheaded because an atheist got depressed, reached out to religion in desperation, and soon felt his spirits rejuvenated. You can change the “atheism” “religion” word order and the principle would still be the same.

*People using Darwinian arguments as a justification, humanity is so special and wonderful that it just HAS to (in an emotional appeal sense) survive, plus the other usual shaming language: In the end, this boils down to one word E-G-O-T-I-S-M! Problem is, that the laws of physics are not going to cooperate in the ULTRA long-run (as mentioned above). Seems like the Human Race is ultimately a race to nowhere (or over a cliff, whichever imagery you prefer). So let them have their procreatively-evolutionary ego-trip. It means NOTHING in the ultra-long run.
In fact, for all the claims of antinatalists being so afraid of death that they don’t want to start life, it’s the natalists who are – in a different way – afraid of death. I can’t entirely blame them, especially due to conscious life’s DNA/neurological programming.

As for the special and wonderful part – that’s simple enough to explain: I simply disagree too strongly with too much of human nature the way it is for me to want to contribute my sperm to sustaining it. This, plus the other reasons (esp, the “end of the universe” one) together are what convinced me to go the antinatalist route.

Shadow said...


Man, you nailed the point so hard you actually jammed the hammer in the wood. (i dont even know what that means lol).

You touched some good points there,

First: you talked about the dangerous and wicked side of nihilism, as though this concept is ok sometimes, half the time it´s used so people can have advantage of it.

Like, everybody is a nihilist now. You look those women in Vogue covers and stuff, they are nihilists right there, the whole world just chooses to be fine, because nothing matters. Being a nihilist in not so much anymore about being a intelectual, sometimes it´s just being an idiot.

The other thing you nailed is about the enviromentalist, and all that, people think EXACTLY like you pointed out, dismissing things when they are getting in their way, tossing their worldviews to mars, as soon as they hit the road.

It´s just so fucking sick, that it makes me want to become a fuckin uber-antinatalist, so I can not have children for the rest of eternity, just so my kids cannot enter this wicked theatre.

CM said...

Emo Kid -

I think your understanding is top notch! At your age, I was drinking the Kool-Aid of Mormonism and loving it. That would be the religion according to which you actually do people a favor by procreating them. It's great that you developed a realistic outlook on life earlier rather than after the damage's already been done.

Compoverde - no prob. I couldn't think of what else to say because the posters there either understand that it's selfish and harmful to breed (even if they are not full-on antinatalists), or just enumerate their selfish reasons for breeding, which is probably what the OP wanted to know. And just FYI, I'm a chick.

Some Emo Kid said...

Thanks CM =)

Now about the Nihilist thing . Do you guys mean existential nihilism? I think existential nihilism can be actually fulfilling, free from religious dogma, able to be in control of your own life.

But I guess some people don't know how to handle that freedom inevitability become destructive(after all 'nihili' in latin means nothing/destroy!)

Its a damn shame that people cannot take control of their own lives in away that is productive to themselves. If people were more productive to themselves in turn they would be more productive toward society because if one's needs are met, there is no logical reason for taking the needs of someone else therefore people would get along and society would function.

Of course there are some holes in this logic but in an idealistic world I think that's how it would go.

Compoverde said...

CM, thanks for clarifying that. There was a new response that seemed pretty silly on the philosophyforum under the "Why Do People Have Babies" thread. This responder named ant4ddd said:

"What if this question is little-bit overintellectualized. Perhaps wanting to have babies is more like a feeling. Similar for example to pain. If you get needle in your eye you don't choose whether to feel pain or not, and you certainly don't give any reasons why do you "choose" to feel pain( a la I choose to feel pain so I could learn a lesson ). And certainly need to have a kids is important and archaic enough to be separate and primary emotion instead of being construction from more complex stuff like vanity or sustainability etc."

I think that if I answer I might write a paper on how one must make this decisions using clear reasoning, quoting Schopenhauer, Benatar etc.. But it would be very long. Do you think you can answer him/her in a short response? You seem to have a knack for explaining complex issues in brief answers.

timcooijmans said...

Compoverde, I think it's important to realize that the thread was originally about reasons/causes people have kids. Some comments in the thread are made in this context. If you view the most recent comment (the one you cited) that way, there's nothing wrong with it.

timcooijmans said...


I can see why people embrace nihilism (even if they don't know they do; most people do so because it's just the way Western culture works nowadays) and why their worldviews are so volatile. It is okay. Life is difficult enough as it is; no need to let other people impose artificial boundaries on you.

The crucial point is: why should people let us impose artificial boundaries on them?

Because if they would respect our artificial boundaries, in the future, fewer people would have to live this difficult life, fewer people would have to endure people trying to impose artificial boundaries on them, and fewer people would have to consciously not let others impose artificial boundaries on them.

Similarly, fewer people would have to debate whether or not to have children, fewer people would have to break their heads about worldwide poverty, fewer people would have to slave away for ten bucks an hour (if they're lucky) to pay the rent to some ungrateful landlord because they got kicked out of the house by their parents for not wanting to wash their car anymore.

All the non-identity problems in the world won't change the fact that if you (the reader) have a kid, there will be one more suffering soul in the world. And the "good" (if any) experienced by your kid won't speak in your favor.

Emo Kid,

I'm not sure what productivity means in the face of nihilism. Nihilism isn't bad per se (see what I wrote above), but it certainly conflicts with antinatalism. People have, long ago, adopted nihilism for reasons that do not conflict with antinatalism, but the end result is that they reject antinatalism now because their nihilism tells them to distrust anything that is touted as absolutely and/or objectively right and/or true.

That said, I have a major beef with subjectivism and relativism and postmodernism and mysticism and whatnot; it probably biases me greatly.

Apart from all that, am I the only one who can empathize with our detractors? Don't we all know how difficult it is to see everything in advance and always make the right decision? Most people have never even thought to think about thinking about procreation; just because we are obsessed with it doesn't mean it should be obvious to everyone.