Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Confessions of an Antinatalist' Review in 'Cryonics Magazine'

Aschwin de Wolf at Cryonics Magazine has written a very nice treatment/critique on antinatalism, featuring my book, as well as The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, by Thomas Ligotti, and Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence, by David Benatar. I'm planning on using Mr. de Wolf's review as a launching pad for several posts in the near future, so stay tuned.

P.S.- Aschwin just mailed me to let me know he'll have an html version up at his blog Depressed Metabolism very soon. I've also invited him to participate in the discussions. Looking forward to some fascinating interchanges from this extraordinary group of people (I'm talking about all you bloggers and commenters who bless this blog with your presence, naturally :)).

Here's the link.

UPDATE: Since Thomas Ligotti's book is included in this review, I thought folks might be interested in reading a negative reviewer's thoughts from TCATHR's Amazon page:

By San Francisco Book Review
This review is from: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (Hardcover)
As a reader and amateur philosopher, I am conflicted. The less said about Thomas Ligotti's //The Conspiracy Against the Human Race//, the better. As a reviewer of books though, I don't have any other option. I must review the book no matter how terrible I believe it or its author to be. Already I am off to a bad start. But, then that may be a good thing and you'll stop reading this review now and make your way down the page to a book that deserves your time and consideration! If not, then prepare for the worst. //Conspiracy// is a work of "pessimist" philosophy by an author of horror fiction. I'm being kind by not putting the word philosophy in quotes, too. This book's main thesis seems to be that life is terrible and awful and nasty. Furthermore, that consciousness is a cruel joke that Nature played on humans, despite the fact that Nature itself has no meaning or purpose. Mostly it's the ravings of an impotent teenager who is so upset that existence doesn't conform itself to expectations that nonexistence, for all, would be better. By the end of the introduction I hated the author; by the end of the second chapter I was willing to help Mr. Ligotti end the misery that is his life.

Reviewed by Jonathon Howard



The flip side of optimism bias? Lest we forget that PollyAnna has teeth.

Polly Anna turns her head
Ignoring this and that
Her heart is full
Her eyes are round
Her point of view is flat

70 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful to see antinatalism being tackled by the cryonics crowd. It all makes sense to me, yet I'm still pleasantly surprised. Air time for "us" = broader audience. Congrats, Jim (and Thomas and David, if you're out there). I enjoyed reading the review.

metamorphhh said...

Thanks, Anonymous. At this stage of the game, I count any exposure as good exposure. I believe there's a silent throng out there who just need to hear the ideas exposited. Resonance will follow.

Karl said...

First up, it's great to see the anti-natalist position receiving a serious and unjaundiced consideration, so well done to the reviewer and the journal.

I've only skimmed the review before a proper perusal later, but it did strike me that the reviewer missed certain key points. He focused on the individual perspective on whether happiness is real or not. Surely one of the greatest strengths of the anti-natal position is a rough form of utilitarianism: we can look at human history as a whole and judge that in terms of mass-deaths, murder, rape, suffering and so on that the negative scales surely outweigh the positive. Given that humans are animals with predictable and regular behaviour we can safely assume that future history will offer more of the same. Ergo, why add one's own contribution to the pie?

I also noticed that the reviewer made a few allusions to God, theodicy, Plotinus and so on. Obviously, if one believes in a loving deity, one will stomach whatever carnage goes on down here in the hope of future payback, but this is not acceptable to an atheist. Of course, the believer is left with the time-old problem of justifying the misery of humanity even if there is a god.

Ultimately, existence is contingent; no-one is deprived by never being brought into existence; suffering is guaranteed for those born; humans en masse act in pretty horrible ways toward each other; death is assured for all. In short, existence hasn't a leg to stand on!

Anonymous said...

I must at admit that this last bit caught my eye as I scrolled down the page to see how lengthy it was.

“Antinatalists are also quick to point out that their pessimism should not be dismissed as an expression of weakness and depression. But then the antinatalists commit a similar error by too easily viewing optimism as a defense mechanism or a form of bias.”

I remember a 2-hour concert (the most enjoyable experience of last year) with greater vividness than I remember 4 days of feverish flu. My body has no good reason to simulate the flu experience as it happened and simply logs it symbolically as a generically bad experience. We all have these experiences and I might be stupid for keeping score but it saves me from making the same mistakes that I constantly watch other people making – if only they wouldn't drag me into their drama of rediscovered disappointments. That’ll be the day (that I die).

Sister Y said...

I lol'd at the idea that antinatalists are illiberal because we don't consider the possibility that life is much better than we realize:

"Like Crawford, Benatar cannot completely escape the charge of illiberalism. Classical liberalism takes very seriously the difficulties in reaching satisfactory conclusions about the quality of other people's lives. In practice this means that we exercise restraint in making strong cognitive and moral claims about the feelings and preferences of other people. This is a mindset that does not seem to come easily to antinatalists."

Hilarious because it's actually the core of our belief system: we just consider babies to be "other people." Giving birth is about as clear an example of "making strong cognitive and moral claims about the feelings and preferences of other people" as you can find.

CM said...

I love how every reviewer of BNtHB and now Jim's book just assumes they pulled out the claim that people are overly optimistic out of thin air. There are decades worth of research documenting various optimistic biases, but it continues to be ignored by lay people and even most philosophers. It's pretty easy to tell that someone is being unrealistically optimistic if they expect to make 30% more at their first job than they actually end up getting, or when 90% of people expect their lives to contain more pleasure and less pain than the average person. I've been making a compilation of studies on various optimistic biases. Do you guys think it's something that could go in the wiki?

Compoverde said...

CM- Absolutely.. please use the wiki however you see fit. Just press the edit tab and type away. You can even create a new internal link within the overall wiki for your section. Play around and see what you can do. Also, if you are so inclined, the writing on the "Preamble" part needs to be edited.

The website is www.theantinatalismmanifesto.blogspot.com

Compoverde said...

whoops the site is

theantinatalismmanifesto.wikispaces.com

(I'm used to the blogspot address I guess :))

Jim- I must say that is the most sophisticated critique of antinatalism I have seen.. which means minimal strawman arguments and a lot more dealing with the actual claims of individual pessimists/antinatalists.. I am very interested in reading your rebuttals.

Anonymous said...

@Sister Y
Exactly…
Procreation involves tacit assumptions that have become normalised and this makes us look like we’re the ones making the demands. Benatar covers this in his book when he discusses the disability movement and the way able-bodied people presumptuously plan society.

metamorphhh said...

Compoverde: I'll probably do an item by item response, trying to make my answers comprehensive along the way. Of course, you folks have already made a fine start without me.

metamorphhh said...

At the end of all this, it might be interesting to explore the presumptions inherent in cryonics; I think they're pretty plain to see by all here.

Luke said...

It would probably be good publicity for cryonics if antinatalists were to begin attacking it viciously for being too optimistic regarding the value of existing. They seem to represent polar opposites of a spectrum (though I confess I am new to the concept of antinatalism). I would expect that both sides would be more motivated to attack each other's actual positions rather than a strawman, which could render things very interesting.

I am curious how antinatalism affects transporter or backup-restore ethics. If you are recreated from a backup every time you are killed, you would have pretty good certainty that the restored individual (assuming you want to make the distinction) values being brought into existence in the exact same way that you value continuing your existence.

Also on the topic of transhuman technological impacts on the antinatalist position, the ability to edit memories and remove evidence of trauma raises some interesting questions. For example, I don't think I'd want to be in a situation where I am experiencing 5 minutes of torture in exchange for every 5 minutes of bliss, even if my memories of that torture were being erased.

Aschwin said...

Thanks for your kind words, Jim.

I do not think I will be responding to single blog posts or comments but it is quite likely that I will comment on any feedback in the form of another article.

There were a number of topics that I did not cover in my original review that I could incorporate in such an article.

I should mention that the mathematician and "quantum immortalist" Mike Perry reviews Benatar's arguments in the same issue of Cryoncics Magazine:

http://www.alcor.org/cryonics/Cryonics2010-2.pdf

He is the author of what must be one of the most optimistic philosophical works ever published, "Forever for All"

http://www.amazon.com/Forever-All-Philosophy-Scientific-Immortality/dp/1581127243/

I should point out that I am not sure whether I would classify Ligotti's book as an unambiguous defense of antinatalism or pessimism. There are many passages in the book that can be read as available criticisms of those positions, and he does not always identifies the need or possibility to refute them. His nihilistic temperament ultimately prevents him from jumping on any bandwagon, I think.

johannes said...

People seem reluctant to want to do away with civilization in a non-traumatic way, including, for instance, the anti-natal´s way, i.e, by not having children. They sometimes respond to that, saying, generally, that if such thing happened, it would prevent humanity of conquering their goals and accomplishing stuff. Has anyone stopped to think this through? What it is that mankind really “achieved” so far? People refer to our century (and the last of the past, 20th centry) as a century of achievements. Let's look at some of these achievements and accomplishments?

Some human achievements:

- Music and videos from Lady Gaga, and all other pop personalities;

- Drugs (even as alchohol and cigarretes);

- Cable Television;

- Pizza delivery and fast food chains;

- Expensive, name-branded clothing and fashion;

- Loud, noisy and sometimes stupid games and games disputes (as in hooliganism, torcidas organizadas, etc);

- Expensive sports cars;

- A whole lot of eletronic products, be that the latest Ipod, tablets or those Bluetooth thingys we use on the ears;

- Women´s magazines;

- DVD and DVD players, home theater;
[...]
more on:
http://antinatalismo.blogspot.com/2010/12/human-achievements.html
-------

I´m just posting a link to this post, hope it´s alright with Jim.

By the way... the review of this dude about thomas ligotti´s work is kinda dull..really.

Luke said...

Johannes, just because *some* human achievements inspire cynicism does not imply the same being true of *all* human achievements.

filrabat said...

@ Luke

Re: Backups, transhumanism.

For the sake of argument, let's assume transhumanism and backups can eventually deliver all that its most optimistic proponents claim.

IMO, it ultimately doesn't matter, for the most life extention and/or consciousness uploads, etc. can do is delay the inevitable outcome. Ultimately, the universe's life giving ability (and perhaps even atoms themselves) have a finite time span. That means the last heat sources in the universe will cease to give off sufficient heat for any reactions and atom-to-atom transmission of information. This, in turn, means there WILL be a last day that life can exist. So why foist on potential future people what we experience? This is especially true if "proton decay" (literally what it says) stands the test of time to the very end. No protons, no atoms; no atoms, no life. This renders transhumanism ultimately irrelevant as a life perserver for infinity, even if it does prove to be a quality of life enhancer during our duration (I could be for transhumanist technologies in theory, though the whole gamut of technologies will only multiply our ethical challenges and ways to easily destroy ourselves, but that's another topic entirely).

Garrett said...

Yeah, a bit of publicity is just fine with me.

Luke: I'm curious, from your perspective, what do you consider to be some examples of notable human achievement?

Luke said...

filrabat: I don't see why the eventual, unpreventable heat death of the universe should impact my enjoyment of the here and now. And if I am allowed to enjoy the here and now, there's no reason not to attempt to continue my existence for as long (and with as good of quality) as possible.

My main question regards the implications of transporter-tech for reproductive ethics. If you can copy a human at will -- not just their genes, but their entire mind -- you can have a reliable prediction of whether they will want to have been copied. That seems to bring a rather sharp contrast with the ethics of bringing defenseless newborns with unknown preferences into a dangerous environment.

Garret: It just struck me as kind of strange that landing on the moon, the founding of democratic countries, etc. didn't show up on the list. It appears to be a case of cherry picking, if the claim is simply that human accomplishments aren't impressive (which is how I took it). If the claim is that they aren't all so impressive (i.e. on average are less impressive than we imagine due to selective attention) it supports it well. A forest shouldn't be judged only by its tallest trees.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how common it is that people, who in the face of antinatalist arguments insist that "they're glad they were born", are actually confounding that sentiment with the relief that they have not yet been killed (or otherwise died of natural causes). While I think it's entirely possible that a lot of people, when pressed to contemplate the issue thoroughly, might still proclaim that they're glad they were born, my suspicion is that many others are not thinking the matter through it its entirety, and therefore don't recognize the difference between the two. For my part, I'm not glad/grateful that I was born. However, I've had a couple near-death experiences in life where, if only by reflex, I obediently struggled to survive. My sigh of relief at having evaded death, however, doesn't change the way I feel about having been born. I still feel it would have been better had the whole mess not been kicked off in the first place.

timcooijmans said...

I think humanity has made significant achievements. It's impressive how much we know about our environment, from itsy-pitsy subatomic particles to the entire universe. It's also amazing that despite the immense complexity of everything in real life, we have managed to create machines that provide us with a perfect world in which everything is precise and objective and absolute. Yeah, I'm talking computers. They're a double-edged sword, but an impressive and actually useful achievement. More awesomeness can be found in how we use (natural and formal) language to preserve, communicate and spread ideas. And think of how the Internet connects the whole damn world in real time! Whoa!

Damn, I sound like Thunderf00t raving on his little beautyintheuniverse channel now. I've been thinking of setting up an uglinessintheuniverse channel, where for each video on beautyintheuniverse, I'd make a response video pointing out the ugliness Thunderf00t had to go through to get to the beauty. Sure you can show awesome time-lapse videos of shit you see through your telescope, but you can't get all that time and money and all those supplies for free. You'll need to work a miserable mediocre day job to be able to put this off. And in the end, what do you have to show for it? A 30-second video.

Ah, that's better. I'm back to my old self again.

filrabat said...

Luke: His first paragraph.

filrabat: What you do with your own life, the choices you make in this regard, they're your own business. The difference here is that you yourself are the "parent" of (literally) LukeII. Because LukeII is in every relevant sense you, then you can speak for Luke in this regard (although there's the issue of what happens to Luke II in the future, especially if you two become as spatially separate as two humans can possibly be given the time's technology, but that's another argument).

Our concern is for entirely new people who are not in any reasonable way able to have a personality and attitude perfectly identical to their creator. This is especially relevant regarding whether one may object fundamentally to the rules of the game called life (not, of course, to be confused with the Milton Bradley board game).

To me, bringing someone into this kind of a world/universe, subject to all it's "rules", without their permission, is akin to forcing someone to signing an otherwise legally enforceable business contract under durress. It's not exactly the same because there is no preexisting person against whom to committ violence, threat of violence, or other kinds of pressure. Nevertheless, it is forcing the person into a situation into which he or she might find disagreeable to the very core of his or her values. As such, this could be interpreted as a kind of human rights violation.

Anonymous said...

Well put, filrabat.

metamorphhh said...

"Because LukeII is in every relevant sense you, then you can speak for Luke in this regard (although there's the issue of what happens to Luke II in the future, especially if you two become as spatially separate as two humans can possibly be given the time's technology, but that's another argument)."

Actually, I see this as the very same argument. JimII may very well be me as long as he remains in the abstract, potential state. However, as soon as he is made manifest in the flesh, he immediately moves into his own personhood, occupying as he does a different space than me, and as he immediately acquires both agency and vulnerability apart from my own.

A commenter recently approached this problem of 'selves' from another direction, stating that since nature is really a 'whole' when viewed through the microscope of physics, then there really is no self, hence no suffering. However, when we speak of the self, we are generally talking about the 'sense of self' which is the emergent property of a confluence of chemical particulars that result in the kind of subjective consciousness that each of us is uniquely privy to.

Wherever there is a sense of self, there is a unique bundle of sensations, thus another node for potential suffering, and for death.

Leaving Society said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leaving Society said...

The review is reminiscent of the emotional reactions that people used to have to the notion of blacks being allowed into white schools, among other now near-universally accepted behaviors and practices. Funny how the average person thinks himself enlightened and "progressive," yet reacts the exact same way to discussions like these as those whom he lambasts do to whatever he finds positive for society -- by getting emotional, even to the point of becoming vitriolic and passive-aggressive.

CM: Re: optimism bias

I agree, but I don't think that we need to go as far as to cite research into the nature of this phenomenon. We can plainly and anecdotally reference the obese man who dies of heart disease after years of mobility complications and breathing problems, all because he enjoyed food, or the rapist who has some fun at another's expense, or the drunk man who irresponsibly impregnates a woman after a night of fun, or any other wide-reaching example of cognitive bias toward pleasure-seeking and how it perverts rational thought. By its very nature, pleasure-seeking is visceral, and must therefore be checked by other, rational thought processes.

Leaving Society said...

Anonymous: Re: remembering experiences

You may not remember the flu as vividly as you do the concert, but you're deconstructing this problem into a false dichotomy, where only the qualities are relevant. On the contrary, the qualities are only the starting point, as they can differ in degree or quantity -- from one another and among themselves; your comparison of a rather insignificant negative event to an obviously significant positive one, therefore, is nonsensical. Try getting bone cancer, then determining which was more vivid -- the cancer or the concert. If you've ever withstood an unpleasant experience of a sufficiently distracting and thought-prohibitive nature, then you'd understand just how much more memorable such events are than their inverses; after all, posttraumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia leave far greater impressions upon the mind than any wedding, party, or night out on the town -- even from an objective, scientific perspective.

Anonymous said...

@Leaving Society
From The Anonymous with memories of flu and a concert:

I can’t cover every type of qualitative experience in a comment section and instead settled for summing up a typical year of experiences as being remembered less badly than experienced. I suffer depression and people might claim that my view of life is warped because of my depressive disposition – Whilst this may be the case in some areas, it isn’t warped in the way they think it is in terms of memories.

Post-traumatic stress is not typical of the way the body responds to moderate discomfort and it is more like a buckling response than a survival strategy. Cancer is another tricky one because there is the psychical pain of cancer and the emotional pain. Combining neural networks strengthens the individual networks which means you might have stronger memories of cancer than flu but you are not going to remember the physical pain as it was. These are just additional types of badness that can be added to the pile of basic badness- Pain made worse for its emotional re-liveability.

And then there is emotional pain…
Emotional pain is easier to re-live because it is more like a strategic response to life where one is weighing up scenarios and experiences (possibly for closure but just as likely out of habit). In small doses the exercise of simulation might yield worthy resolutions but for big problems it’s hard to know when to quit so the agony goes on. It is recognised that some people have overcome of the downsides of “over-thinking” (if that’s the right term) and that brings an additional set of problems to a debate if emotional pain is conflated with physical pain. Emotional pain is not as easy for people to comprehend so they try and make the variables into something that, if managed effectively, would leave us spiritually or emotionally fulfilled. In reality emotional health just takes us back to the psychical pain asymmetry that is only good because emotional pain is so very bad.

Anonymous said...

@Leaving Society
From The Anonymous with memories of flu and a concert:...

And finally… The flu was not insignificant to me. I can tell you now that by day three I was beginning to think about the positive experiences I would trade in (including the concert) not to have to endure it. Four days is slightly more than 1% of a year and even the concert required me to travel uncomfortably for several hours each way (something that I always fail to remember when I plan to go to a concert). It effected me so much that I specifically made a mental note of the day 3 despair.

What scares me is that I know there is worse than flu out there and that future parents allow themselves to believe that flu is “pretty insignificant” Compared to all the “Joy” of concerts and other significant things that fill their memories.

filrabat said...

Jim/Metamorphhh

You're actually right. I should've though of the agency/independent vulnerability one. It's quite similar to the proverbial identical twins going to radically different households shortly after birth. They can't help but have different lives and day-to-day experiences (just like in the Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin movie Big Business - one set of identical sisters growing up in New York City, the other in rural West Virginia). Point should be clear.

Anonymous said...

@filrabat

So true…
DNA is only half the story and probably not even that.

A favourite quote of mine is this:
"man is a mob, a chain gang of idiots" by Jonathon Nolan (From short story “Memento Mori”) It’s not a bad assessment of the fragmented nature of human behaviour (and personality). He goes on to explain that individual motivations overpower other motivations when intense enough. Fairly obvious at face value but...

If you are hungry you care only about your next meal. When the meal is finished do you worry about the next, seek out shelter or have sex? Some of this gets cancelled out if life is going fairly straightforwardly but you know what your priorities are if life is tough enough…. For an identical life you have to have identical priorities, identical situations and outcomes. If you don’t the lives will gradually drift apart. A disposition gives you rules to live by but some of those rules can get very primal if things are going badly.

(Note: J. Nolon is the brother of C. Nolon who was inspired by “Memento Mori” to make the film “Memento.” Brilliant film – not least because it tackles the horror of a life forgotten and the disaster of making the same kinds of mistakes. )

timcooijmans said...

CM once posted a link to this TED talk on a philosophy forum somewhere:

http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory.html

I think that what's said in this talk applies to the discussion about bad stuff outweighing good stuff. It's an interesting talk, so just watch it.

At the end of it, where the guy answers questions, he mentions one result of one study more or less being "money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery". That should fit right in here.

Luke said...

metamorphhh, it seems true that the total number of individuals who may possibly suffer has been increased in the case of a copy, but it does not seem true that a person was forced against their will to exist. So one of the most compelling arguments against having children (the consent argument) seems to not apply to this case.

Compoverde said...

This is a bit confusing, but I am having an internet debate on a philosophy forum.. I put up the link somewhere, but I will paste it here just in case.. I really want to defeat his argument, but first I must have a good understanding if he even has a point, and if it can be refuted (which in philosophy I think almost anything can as arguments are just arguments..and it seems the more arrogant the arguer, perhaps the more one THINKS they won..) anyways.. the next few posts are going to be about this argument so excuse me if I take up space, I think the people interested in academic arguments of antinatalism might be interested (Jim, CM, Curator)

Compoverde said...

(I am Schopenhauer1, my opponent is Benkei)

Benkei:
As stated before, the problem is when comparing states of a person that will come into being to the states of something that doesn't exist (being better or worse off). That's the nonsense of Benatar's argument. Carnap deals with it mostly in Paragraph 5 but the entire thing is an interesting read.

I've never claimed there is anything wrong with saying: If a child is born from those parents it will suffer X, Y and Z (we can argue that qualitatively though). But to go beyond that and then say: "therefore it would be better off if it had not been born" is where it becomes a pseudostatement.

Benatar thinks he anticipates it but basically shows he doesn't understand the problem.

Benatar wrote:
This objection would be mistaken because 3 can say something about a counterfactual case in which a person who does actually exist never did exist. Of the pain of an existing person, 3 says that the absence of this pain would have been good even if this could only have been achieved by the absence of the person who now suffers it.

Benkei:
The question is, who is doing the suffering and who is better off? Let's take a few statement to illustrate.

1. Person A suffers
2. Person A can suffer less or more (happy childhood, car accident, whatever)
3. Person A has red hair
4. Person A can ride a bicycle

Then, Person A does not exist:

5. ... does not suffer?
6. ... has red hair?
7. ... rides a bicycle?

Who is doing the not-suffering, has red hair and rides a bicycle here? Nothing. But we can't use nothing as a noun, so this is a pseudo-statement. To subsequently compare these states is not possible.

Furthermore, if we would accept even this possibility. We are in fact comparing two different entities. Certainly non-existing person A is not person A. And since we cannot define non-existing person A (which is "nothing", we cannot ascribe qualities to nothing) what are we comparing? So the comparison itself is the second pseudo-statement.

[Benatar wrote] In other words, judged in terms of the interests of a person who now exists, the absence of pain would have been good even though this person would then not have existed. We may not know who that person would have been, but we can still say that whoever that person would have been, the avoidance of his or her pains is good when judged in terms of his or her potential interests. If there is any (obviously loose) sense in which the absent pain is good for the person who could have existed but does not exist, this is it. Clearly 3 does not entail the absurd literal claim that there is some actual person for whom the absent pain is good.

Benkei
More of the same mistake.

Compoverde said...

Schopenhauer1 wrote: The argument still seems like a strawman, Benkei. You are telling me that we cannot intelligibly talk about potentials? Hogwash... I can talk about potential risks in finance, potential risks in driving in snow, potential risks in anything.. That is an example of a real potential, and in this case a potential danger. Now, how about potential people? If there are two people with the capacity to procreate of the right sex, OR if there is an artificial means available to conceive more people.. then guess what? There will be a POTENTIAL for more people, or what I like to phrase a "potential person". Yes, as long as people have the capacity to procreate, we will have in our repertoire of concepts the idea of "potential people" (aka, people that MAY be conceived and brought into existence through the act of sex or artificial insemination). This is a real concept. To deny it is to deny any idea of potentiality.. and to do that, you are either being disingenuous (because you really do not do this), inconsistent (because you believe in other potentials that may come into existence and have a high likelihood of coming into existence) or you really believe that there is no such thing as a concept for "something that has a high likelihood to come to be, even if that something is not existent right at this particular time".

Now here is the crux.. IF there is the concept of a potential child.. and as long as there are two fertile humans in the world to create a child and make it a real child from a potential.. then there is an idea of preventing potential suffering. Potential suffering can be prevented from a potential child (remember a potential child is the concept of a child that might exist if two parents conceive and bear forth a child into the world) and thus YES we can intelligibly discuss potential child and the fact that a potential child (a child that may be born if two parents come together yadayda) can be PREVENTED from harm by not ACTUALLY coming into existence. Think of it as an imaginary number that if squared (conceived) becomes a real number.. the imaginary number is not on the real number system (existence), however it is a placeholder for a real concept (potential children) that CAN actually have the ability to switch into the state of a REAL number (human).

Unlike the concepts of pure fantasy these do have a chance to exist, potential children CAN be thought of, and in fact do pass the test of being a real statement and not as Carnap phrases a "pseudo-statement". True the REAL child does not exist, but the potential child of a sperm and egg conceiving DOES exist.

Compoverde said...

Perhaps we must look at the situation stochastically. IF a concept can be thought of as having a high likelihood of occurring THEN this concept can be thought of in very close to REAL terms.. a door that will be created by a carpenter with the willpower, knowhow, materials, and tools can pass this test perhaps. A POTENTIAL door is a very REAL concept in this case.. just like a POTENTIAL human is.. just like the very POTENTIAL risks we think about every day with a high probability of occurring. The higher the likelihood that a thing/event will become a real thing in existence, the more we should and CAN treat it as a real thing that has attributes like "better off" and "won't be harmed".

Benkei wrote:
Then, Person A does not exist:

5. ... does not suffer?
6. ... has red hair?
7. ... rides a bicycle?

Who is doing the not-suffering, has red hair and rides a bicycle here? Nothing. But we can't use nothing as a noun, so this is a pseudo-statement. To subsequently compare these states is not possible.


This is a strawman example. The potential child is not "nothing" if we look at what I stated earlier... the more a concept has a very real chance of coming into being (even if not existent at the moment), the more it can be talked about as a very real thing. Potential children "exist" like imaginary numbers "exist". They have a correlative and necessary connection with the actual child. As a baby you did not have some of the traits you have as an adult... does that mean you are not the same person? Even if you say in some strange way "yes", then in some strange way that "potential child" is in some way correlated to the actual child. If yous say, of course its the same person.. the potential child in question will be the future actual child. It might not have some of the traits (red hair, or "blank" hair), but in fact it has a very real trait, and that is the POTENTIAL for harm, which is very REAL and hence, like potential PEOPLE, can be talked about intelligibly.

Compoverde said...

Benkei wrote:
You turn it into a strawman because you misinterpret what I am saying. I have never once said we cannot talk about potentials, I said you cannot compare nothing to something. You can talk about the potential suffering of people that will come into existence, you cannot talk about the non-suffering of non-existent people and then claim they're better off compared to potential people. It's utter nonsense, a pseudo-statement.

As I've said before, you're too committed to your conclusions and work your arguments towards it. You're not stupid but you act stupidly by not reading what I actually write.

Compoverde said...

Benkei wrote:
The potential child is a concept. He either comes into existence and is able to suffer and experience joy, or he does not. (This is in a sense another pseudo-statement because it implies potentiality to something that does not exist). To subsequently chose the existence or non-existence, one over the other, because one or the other would be better, is a pseudo-statement as it requires you to apply states to non-existent persons. Presumably you are attempting to make a value statement by comparing something with something else. As stated before, comparing to nothing cannot be done and yet you keep doing it.

Shifting it to the "potential child" merely adds a quality of "potentiality" to nothing as if there is a state prior to that decisive moment of coming or not-coming into existence. Just more nonsense upon nonsense.

filrabat said...

Well done, Compoverde!

Potential risks in finance, etc.. also equates to legitimately talking about "potential peopl". that's all we really need to be aware of

Luke said...

As a non-antinatalist myself, the argument made by Benkei strikes me as fallacious. A potential person is real, just like a potential car crash is real. Perhaps Benkei only wears a seatbelt as a meaningless social ritual?

metamorphhh said...

Luke:

"metamorphhh, it seems true that the total number of individuals who may possibly suffer has been increased in the case of a copy, but it does not seem true that a person was forced against their will to exist. So one of the most compelling arguments against having children (the consent argument) seems to not apply to this case."

It's not so much that we're forcing something against someone else's 'will', since in fact that will doesn't yet exist. In the context of this conversation, I'd say the real problem lies in the act of procreation, when we create the necessity of making a choice in the first place, which is where the fundamental coercion lies. The new person is then faced with the decision to either learn to get along, or to kill him/herself.

metamorphhh said...

Compoverde:

I think most of us here have run across Benkei's argument at one time or another...

"To subsequently chose the existence or non-existence, one over the other, because one or the other would be better, is a pseudo-statement as it requires you to apply states to non-existent persons."

If this statement were correct, it would undermine the whole notion of preventative action; or non-action, as the case may be. An examples-

B-"Hey, let's build a museum at the top of an active volcano!"
C-"Well, that's a rather silly idea. What if the volcano erupts and destroys the museum?"
B- "But no museum exists yet. Let's quit worrying about your pseudo-museum, as well as your pseudo-volcanic eruptions, and just build the damned museum!"

For an argument that hasn't an ounce of credibility, it's incredible how much it gets around. Considering the welfare of our possible future children is the hallmark of good sense. It's called 'planning'...duh! Is the guy actually saying that if, say, somebody has the genetic disposition for passing along gross birth defects, any consideration toward a potential inheritor of those defects should be thrown to the wayside? Doubtful.

To be honest, I've pretty much dispatched most of the variants of this 'argument' to my file marked 'empty polemics'. People who stick to it after just a little bit of discussion aren't really committed to honest dialog, in my opinion. There are better ways to waste time.

Compoverde said...

Jim and filrabat, Luke.. thank you.. Jim with the volcano argument.. good point. My only concern is he would say something like "oh well yes, you can talk about potentials, but you cannot say that the museum is "better off" not being on the volcano.. which to me seems ridiculous.

metamorphhh said...

Luke: After reading what I wrote to you, I realized that some folks might extend the concept of coercion to include the fundamental inability to provide consent, which would apply to the potential person. At the level of metaphor I think the argument holds water. Maybe it's ideologically cogent as well, though I'm reticent to assent to the idea of coercing a 'nothing' or 'no-thing'. Actually, I'm of two minds on the subject, though I suspect the answer lies in the parsing of the term 'potential'.

Anyway, thanks for the input. I'll think more on the matter when I'm not dreading my bicycle commute in the pouring rain this morning :)

Compoverde said...

His arguments seem to try to veer to the idea of non-existent things being "better off". As Benkei he stated here:

"You turn it into a strawman because you misinterpret what I am saying. I have never once said we cannot talk about potentials, I said you cannot compare nothing to something. You can talk about the potential suffering of people that will come into existence, you cannot talk about the non-suffering of non-existent people and then claim they're better off compared to potential people. It's utter nonsense, a pseudo-statement.

As I've said before, you're too committed to your conclusions and work your arguments towards it. You're not stupid but you act stupidly by not reading what I actually write."

He gets this unshakable notion of pseudo-statements from the logical positivist philosopher Carnap. If I can prove that Carnap is not considering something, or that Benkei is misapplying Carnap, then maybe we have something because he won't back down unless Carnap is refuted.. because he just thinks of it as an airtight case. He says specifically paragraph "5" has to do with my arguments.. (I'm assuming in the introduction). I will put the link up.. I warn that this is not light reading and is pretty much formal logic.. I would be extremely GRATEFUL for anyone who can unwrap Carnap's argument on pseudo-statements and refute Benkei's thesis that Carnap proves that a non-existent beings that are "better off" are pseudo-statements.

metamorphhh said...

Compoverde: Now that would just be silly, wouldn't it? :)

Compoverde said...

The link to Carnap is here:

http://www.calstatela.edu/dept/phil/pdf/res/Carnap-Elimination-of-Metaphysics.pdf

metamorphhh said...

Compoverde:

I'm on my way out the door, but here's a quick shot.

"I have never once said we cannot talk about potentials, I said you cannot compare nothing to something. You can talk about the potential suffering of people that will come into existence, you cannot talk about the non-suffering of non-existent people and then claim they're better off compared to potential people. It's utter nonsense, a pseudo-statement."

I am now Jehovah. Benkei has been a bad boy in my eyes, and I'm about to send him to the everlasting torments of hell. Forever and ever he will have the flesh flayed from him bones, over and over again.

However...

I have just finished the most delightful repast of ambrosia and dark beer, and am feeling...generous. I've decided to give Benkei an option of a simple, painless death. Back to non-existence, if he so chooses.

Now, I fully realize that some people are so fearful of the end of their conscious selves that they might foolishly opt for eternal torment instead. Different strokes, I suppose. But that's not the point of the question. In this scenario, we are comparing non-existence to eternal torment. Or in Benkei's words, a 'nothing' to a 'something'. A 'pseudo-life' to a real life, albeit not a particularly attractive one. Is his choice truly meaningless in this matter? Does consideration of the question make no sense? I beg to differ.

Ok, enough with the hypotheticals. Gotta go hit the 'real' asphalt.

Compoverde said...

Haha, very good example Jim! I'll use that, see what he says. He might be just keep saying "no no no", but then he would be doing what he supposedly says I do, which is illogically stick to a position for emotional reasons.

timcooijmans said...

Well, there isn't much wrong with that passage in Carnap, as far as I can see. It just clarifies how some confusions can arise through improper use of natural language.

Consider, for instance, the politician's syllogism:
1. something must be done
2. this is something
3. therefore, we must do it
The error in the reasoning becomes obvious (if it wasn't already) if you translate the statements into formal language:
1. ∃x Thing(x) ∧ MustBeDone(x) (there exists some x that is a thing and that must be done)
2. Thing(y) (y is a thing)
3. From 1 and 2, we get MustBeDone(y)

But none of this applies to Benatar's argument. He isn't making such a silly mistake. In fact, he consciously tip-toes around it.

He says absence of pain is good even if there is no one to experience that good, and that this is because the alternative is much worse. He also says absence of pleasure is not bad if there is no one to be deprived of the pleasure.

But this is easily challenged by asserting that absence of pain is merely "not bad". Benatar just says that he finds this "too weak": "Avoiding the pains of existence is more than merely 'not bad'. It is good."

Meh. That leaves a lot to be desired.

In any case, Benkei's argument is just an assertion that antinatalism depends on dualism. It doesn't.

Luke said...

Compoverde, a good place to look for counterarguments might be the Less Wrong sequence on the use and abuse of words.

http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/A_Human%27s_Guide_to_Words

Someone could argue that a tree falling in the forest doesn't make a sound if there's no one to hear it -- and they are correct for a particular definition of "sound".

For some particular definition of non-existent, Benkei might be correct to say that it is meaningless to compare it to existence. But that doesn't mean his argument is valid, since in this case non-existent refers to something that would otherwise exist -- in other words, we are talking about a specific form of the term "non-existence" which actually *can* be meaningfully compared to something that exists (and in fact that comparison is the whole point of talking about it).

Compoverde said...

Jim, Timcooijmans, Luke, thanks you so much.. I am using all of your arguments in my response.. I'll keep you informed on his response...

Timcooijmans, I am a bit confused.. do you think Benatar successfully "tip toes" or is only a sleight of hand that isn't really getting around the issue?

Compoverde said...

Luke, which "less wrong" argument do you think applies in this case?

Compoverde said...

Timcooijmans, your first response to what you said.. Can you help with another response?

schopenhauer1 wrote:
He says absence of pain is good even if there is no one to experience that good, and that this is because the alternative is much worse. He also says absence of pleasure is not bad if there is no one to be deprived of the pleasure.

Mako said:
Your and Benatar's arguments both require a metaphysical assumption of good and bad being present prior to 'agency,' as if morality is itself somehow an intrinsic part of the universe.

There is no evidence of that whatsover. Can you please justify why we should assume notions of goodness/badness as separate from agents who can determine these qualities? You can't simply argue by assertion.

It's reasonable to assume that notions of good and bad derive from agency and that agents are 'necessary' conditions for goodness and badness to inhere.

The possibility for bad-ness must also presume the possibility of good-ness. Your fatalistic solution precludes both.

timcooijmans said...

Whoops! The silly politician's syllogism example wasn't meant as an argument against any of what they said. It was just to show you what I think Carnap is about.

As for Mako's post... Benatar judges the absence of pain "good" (even if there is no one to experience that good) by, I think, saying that if the potential person were existent, he would judge such an absence of pain good. So there's your agent.

But, to answer your earlier question, I think it is also true that he would judge an absence of pleasure bad. I don't think this is a sleight of hand by Benatar, it's just unconvincing. Maybe I am interpreting things incorrectly, or maybe he could have been clearer. Maybe some of the more brainy folks here know?

As I said, when Benatar justifies his choice of "good" for absence of pain, he says that he finds "not bad" to be "too weak": "Avoiding the pains of existence is more than merely 'not bad'. It is good." I'm not sure this is a judgment we can attribute to the agent.

I don't think you should use any of this on the philosophy forum if you intend to win the argument. I think there are plenty of ways to lead people to see the light of antinatalism by appealing to popular opinion and intuition, but they won't cut it there either.

Compoverde said...

timcooijams, I need a slamdunk! haha

Compoverde said...

Does anyone else know how to refute this?

Compoverde said...

Benkei:
If you think this is what I'm arguing, you really should read again. The tree that falls in your example still exists. For an honest comparison you should ask: "Does a non-existent tree still make a sound when it falls?" This is clearly absurd. The real mystery here is why you have such a hard time grasping the absurdity of Benatar's argument when he says much the same about non-existent persons.

schopenhauer1 said:
For some particular definition of non-existent, Benkei might be correct to say that it is meaningless to compare it to existence. But that doesn't mean his argument is valid, since in this case non-existent refers to something that would otherwise exist -- in other words, we are talking about a specific form of the term "non-existence" which actually *can* be meaningfully compared to something that exists (and in fact that comparison is the whole point of talking about it).

Benkei said:
I don't think you have fully grasped the point Carnap makes yet. A "non-existence that otherwise would exist" assumes that nothing can have potentiality but to claim that nothing has any qualities, automatically relegates the statement into a pseudo-statement. You go on to make another pseudo-statement when you say "a specific form of non-existence".

Nothing doesn't have a form (which itself is a pseudo-statement but useful to illustrate!). The negation assumes that Nothing could have a form and that we can sensibly talk about nothing. It simply cannot be done logically. Linguistically yes and we even have meaningful sentences but an argument has to be logically consistent and this we cannot attain when using "nothing" as a noun.

As I have stated before there may be very good reasons not to "allow" a particular couple to have kids because the suffering they would endure would be more than we think people should morally go through. That compares the possible suffering of children against an idea of what an acceptable life ought to be, it does not pit it against the "better state" of their non-existence.

Also, I fail to see what the politician's syllogism has to do with anything here. It seems you are raising a strawman. If Benatar had committed that fallacy I would've pointed it out but this clearly hasn't been my argument.

schopenhauer1 said:
He says absence of pain is good even if there is no one to experience that good, and that this is because the alternative is much worse. He also says absence of pleasure is not bad if there is no one to be deprived of the pleasure.

Benatar said:
Even if we accept these statements it does not follow that therefore non-existence is better for the reasons that it does not make sense. And that is something Benatar concludes and bases his argument for anti-natalism on.

Compoverde said...

Okay, everyone who is working on this... here is your response from Benkei...Also Tim, I used the politician syllogism so I have to take that back, since I thought it might have pertained.. But maybe you can help me with these reactions:

Benkei said:
schopenhauer1 wrote:


I am now Jehovah. Benkei has been a bad boy in my eyes, and I'm about to send him to the everlasting torments of hell. Forever and ever he will have the flesh flayed from him bones, over and over again.

However...

I have just finished the most delightful repast of ambrosia and dark beer, and am feeling...generous. I've decided to give Benkei an option of a simple, painless death. Back to non-existence, if he so chooses.

Benkei said:
Of course the question can be posed and I prefer not to go through everlasting torment so I would opt for death. However, since I no longer exist I cannot claim to be better off, since I don't exist. My non-existence precludes me from making meaningful statements about the well-being of my non-existence and therefore precludes me from comparing it to my state of well-being while alive.

The conclusion is therefore derived, not from a comparison of states between existence and no-existence, but a comparison between life as I know it and life as it would be. It is not that non-existence is better but that eternal suffering is unacceptable as I understand how life should be.
schopenhauer1
Someone could argue that a tree falling in the forest doesn't make a sound if there's no one to hear it -- and they are correct for a particular definition of "sound".

Benkei:
If you think this is what I'm arguing, you really should read again. The tree that falls in your example still exists. For an honest comparison you should ask: "Does a non-existent tree still make a sound when it falls?" This is clearly absurd. The real mystery here is why you have such a hard time grasping the absurdity of Benatar's argument when he says much the same about non-existent persons.

Compoverde said...

schopenhauer1 said:
For some particular definition of non-existent, Benkei might be correct to say that it is meaningless to compare it to existence. But that doesn't mean his argument is valid, since in this case non-existent refers to something that would otherwise exist -- in other words, we are talking about a specific form of the term "non-existence" which actually *can* be meaningfully compared to something that exists (and in fact that comparison is the whole point of talking about it).

Benkei said:
I don't think you have fully grasped the point Carnap makes yet. A "non-existence that otherwise would exist" assumes that nothing can have potentiality but to claim that nothing has any qualities, automatically relegates the statement into a pseudo-statement. You go on to make another pseudo-statement when you say "a specific form of non-existence".

Nothing doesn't have a form (which itself is a pseudo-statement but useful to illustrate!). The negation assumes that Nothing could have a form and that we can sensibly talk about nothing. It simply cannot be done logically. Linguistically yes and we even have meaningful sentences but an argument has to be logically consistent and this we cannot attain when using "nothing" as a noun.

As I have stated before there may be very good reasons not to "allow" a particular couple to have kids because the suffering they would endure would be more than we think people should morally go through. That compares the possible suffering of children against an idea of what an acceptable life ought to be, it does not pit it against the "better state" of their non-existence.

Also, I fail to see what the politician's syllogism has to do with anything here. It seems you are raising a strawman. If Benatar had committed that fallacy I would've pointed it out but this clearly hasn't been my argument.

schopenhauer1 said:
He says absence of pain is good even if there is no one to experience that good, and that this is because the alternative is much worse. He also says absence of pleasure is not bad if there is no one to be deprived of the pleasure.

Benatar said:
Even if we accept these statements it does not follow that therefore non-existence is better for the reasons that it does not make sense. And that is something Benatar concludes and bases his argument for anti-natalism on.

Compoverde said...

For all those who care: the crux of Benkei's argument is this... and he may have a point.. because he admits that it may not be good to "allow" life.. but you cannot talk about non-existent beings as if they are "better off".. which is what Benatar seems to indicate

Benkei said:
Nothing doesn't have a form (which itself is a pseudo-statement but useful to illustrate!). The negation assumes that Nothing could have a form and that we can sensibly talk about nothing. It simply cannot be done logically. Linguistically yes and we even have meaningful sentences but an argument has to be logically consistent and this we cannot attain when using "nothing" as a noun.

As I have stated before there may be very good reasons not to "allow" a particular couple to have kids because the suffering they would endure would be more than we think people should morally go through. That compares the possible suffering of children against an idea of what an acceptable life ought to be, it does not pit it against the "better state" of their non-existence.

Compoverde said...

The crux of of what Benatar is pointing out is that he thinks its a nonesensical statement to say "not experiencing suffering is good (even if there is no actual person to experience the good of not suffering).

Compoverde said...

Jim, I noticed way back you said about Benatar's book:

"He then goes on to address the ‘non-identity problem’, whose proponents would assert renders the question meaningless, since comparing an existent entity to a fictitious, non-existent entity is invalid. This premise is refuted through some rather nifty argumentation (BUY THE BOOK)"

Can you flesh out the nifty argumentation? I feel its needed for this argument. Also, are you familiar with Derek Parfit? Maybe he would be useful?

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nonidentity-problem/

Compoverde said...

CM... I noticed that you had a very similar case you were working with back in the Ben Bradley article:


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.

Do you have any suggestions how to refute the non-identity issue that Benkei raises? How can "nothing" be "better off"?

Compoverde said...

Tobias raises questions on forum:

"How can I experience an absence, like an absence of pain? and if it can't experienced, what makes it good? Doesn't good require a subject for whom something is good? I can't experience abscence of pain, but I can experience pain. Doesn;t that make pain a rare event compared to the default state of absence of pain? If abscence of pain is the default state, does that not mean that life is generally good?"

metamorphhh said...

Compoverde:

This'll be my last response, as I think all that can be said has already been said from my side...


"I am now Jehovah. Benkei has been a bad boy in my eyes, and I'm about to send him to the everlasting torments of hell. Forever and ever he will have the flesh flayed from him bones, over and over again.

However...

I have just finished the most delightful repast of ambrosia and dark beer, and am feeling...generous. I've decided to give Benkei an option of a simple, painless death. Back to non-existence, if he so chooses."

Benkei said:
"Of course the question can be posed and I prefer not to go through everlasting torment so I would opt for death. However, since I no longer exist I cannot claim to be better off, since I don't exist. My non-existence precludes me from making meaningful statements about the well-being of my non-existence and therefore precludes me from comparing it to my state of well-being while alive."

Nobody's argued that the non-existent can make statements. We're talking about value judgments regarding the hypothetical, but not from within the hypothetical. And when he says that he prefers death to everlasting torment, he has decided that non-existence is better than existence in this case, and his argument just comes down to semantics.

"The conclusion is therefore derived, not from a comparison of states between existence and no-existence, but a comparison between life as I know it and life as it would be. It is not that non-existence is better but that eternal suffering is unacceptable as I understand how life should be."

It is DEFINITELY that non-existence is better that eternal hell, which is why he's choosing non-existence over hell. The only point where 'life as he knows it' comes into play is in providing him examples of deprivation and other experiential suffering, which informs his decision in choosing non-existence over hell. He asks himself "Hm, would I be better off being tortured for eternity, or dead? I choose dead!" And I, as a third party, can then stand back and agree in good confidence "He's better off being non-existent, than he would have been suffering in hell for eternity."

Compoverde: At some point, you just have to let these conversations end. I don't see either one of you budging. Naturally, I agree with your premise, but this kind of thing can go on forever (hint, hint):)

metamorphhh said...

Compoverde: Ok, one more then :)

Tobias raises questions on forum:

"How can I experience an absence, like an absence of pain? and if it can't experienced, what makes it good?"

It seems to me that we experience absences all the time. In fact, I'd say that 'relief' (from pain, for example) and 'feels good' are practically synonymous.

Doesn't good require a subject for whom something is good?

If we include absence of suffering as 'good', then no. It's why we put suffering animals to sleep, because we recognize that non-existence is better than existence in those cases.

I can't experience abscence of pain, but I can experience pain. Doesn;t that make pain a rare event compared to the default state of absence of pain?

Of course, the amount of pain varies from life to life. I would agree that extreme instances of pain aren't experienced by everybody, though they're far from rare. However, depression is a kind of pain, often crippling, and is experienced by millions upon millions of people all over the world. They learn to live with it (sometimes, and for various reasons), but it colors most of their waking hours.

If abscence of pain is the default state, does that not mean that life is generally good?"

Again, some lives are better than others. However, if we are to make absence of pain the marker, then any situation you can come up with falls short of the perfect absence of pain that describes non-existence. Admittedly, the conversation is a little more complicated than that, but I thought I just deal directly with the question asked.

metamorphhh said...

Here's a good read on this identity stuff-

http://docs.law.gwu.edu/stdg/gwlr/issues/pdf/DeGrazia-77-5-6.pdf

Not sure if it's been posted before, but I'll include it in the library just in case.

CM said...

Compoverde-

Do you have any suggestions how to refute the non-identity issue that Benkei raises?

My only suggestion is to stop wasting your time with that guy. He is not interested in a productive dialog or the facts, which was evident a long time ago. Just leave him to (incorrectly) interpret the quotations he steals from Wikipedia. It's what he does best.

CM said...

timcoojimans-

"money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery"

Haven't you and The Plague Doctor had a debate along those lines a while back? Having money certainly is better than the alternative, but it doesn't mean it's good enough. I also remember a reference to a study that found that people treat "better" as "best", which could also explain a lot of what goes on in people's heads. Unfortunately, I can't for the life of me remember where I saw that.