Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Indulging My Right Brain (just a wee bit)

I've written three moderately long pieces in the last twenty-four hours, but still find myself with the urge to blog a little more. Since I have nothing more to say at the moment, I thought I might post a poem of mine. It isn't utterly irrelevant to the subject of antinatalism, and besides...well, it's my blog...

A Physicist/Theologian/Linguist/Philosopher/Poet Discusses Poetry in Terms of His Particular Naturalistic Metaphysic(s) …Back Pocket Scribblings

A gnat, trapped against the
Windshield of a moving
Car, vomits up its life,
Just moments before life
Returns the favor…it’s
Another fatal notch
Cut into entropy’s
Pistol grip, or bedpost,
Depending on how one
Looks at it.

Derrida dipped a dinosaur
Into a vat of sulfuric
Analysis, and discovered
Smoke-a double-edged conclusion
To be sure.
But, like Chomsky, he
Was right and wrong,
Or, left and wrong.
Or left and right
……………………………..Like a Pendulum do.

Conservation of energy
Begat substance,
Begat form,
Begat sensation,
Begat grunt,
Begat sign/analogy,
Begat metaphor,
Begat horizontal masturbation along the Planck/Plath timeline
(or, start anywhere you choose) ,
Begat slant logic-
That is, of course,
Until genesis was ripped out of the bible,
And we were left, stranded,
With cover to cover revelation
(Amen!) .

Kant can’t.
Sartre will,
But nature won’t budge;
At least, not on purpose.
She’s a blind, enigmatic lass,
Glued to the mirror,
And pretending to be a womb w/a view.
Essence precedes existence, indeed!
Did anybody else hear a giggle?
She turned herself inside out,
And the resulting surprise came with a bang.

Now, on to the meat of things…

There was this little girl,
Brutally murdered.
Only child of parents subsequently
Rendered sterile in a bunging jumping accident.
The perp got off hands free,
Thanks to the help of a conniving lawyer,
Who, himself, eats puppies before bedtime,
Though hunks of flesh and DNA were actually detectable,
And still exist under her fingernails.
Oh, and the little girl
Also had a puppy, which
Was also murdered right before she was,
While she was forced to watch.

At the funeral, the theologian performed a eulogy,
And some members of the cast
Breathed big, hesitant sighs of relief.
And the physicist promised release from pain,
And the parents wept.
And the linguist discussed the meaning of meaning,
And of death from sundry points of view,
And he was heckled from the podium.
The philosopher fared no better,
Though some in the crowd
Recognized his sincerity, and shrugged.
And they were poets, one and all,
Though they never acknowledged the fact.

Oh, and one other,
Who stood apart from the proceedings,
Writing in a dog-eared notebook
With the stub of a pencil.
He was also a poet,
And knew it,
And, after finishing his piece,
He quickly skimmed over the content,
Paying more than some attention to the style;
The flow, as it were.
It wasn’t particularly sonorous,
But it was tight,
And, more importantly,
It sounded contemporary…

Then, when he was through,
He promptly shoved the aforementioned
Stub of a pencil into his
Eye, and fell to the green, green
Grass, under the glistening orb
Of the unforgiving sun.

Another poet, happening by,
Dipped his index finger into
The bloody socket of the wounded
Poet’s eye, put it to his mouth,
Sucked on it for a moment, and was allegedly heard to remark,

"It just doesn’t work…perhaps
You could use the assistance
Of a mentor."

Wrapping up, he and the funeral
Procession soon disappeared over
The hill, the sound of music emanating from their I-Pods
Dwindling as they disappeared into
The unforgiving face of the setting sun.


Anonymous said...

Interesting blog you have here; the nihilism and potential for violence in antinatalism is a little disturbing, but I can't say it's not a thought provoking idea.

I would ask, though, what's your answer to suicide? The overwhelming majority of the human species has the option to get the same painless oblivion they'd have had they never been born, but they don't. I know I'm miserable, but not enough to get off this ride even though I can any time I want. It's awfully paternalistic to tell people they'd be better off not existing when they already have the choice and they've chosen existence.

Anonymous said...

I suppose there's potential for violence in almost any philosophy, excluding perhaps...jaism? But I don't see anything innately violent in trying to dissuade someone from conceiving a child. Certainly you can imagine reasons that might make it a bad idea for a particular person to bear children. I just happen to think it's a bad idea, period.

Addressing suicide: while it's my contention that there are lots of psychological tricks we play on ourselves, as well as on others, to make the option unpalatable (as well as the simple hesitance to commit such a final, irreversible act), I'm really not arguing for that sort of thing in the first place. I think it's ultimately futile to try and argue anybody out of their personal happiness; after all, they know how they feel better than I.

My goal is to persuade, through general application of knowledge and life experience, that life FOR MANY PEOPLE, but certainly not for all, and certainly not at all times, sucks in a big way. And furthermore, since we have no way of predicting the fate of a particular life (except the ultimate fate of death, of course), the risk of bearing children just isn't worth taking.

I go more deeply into this stuff in my blog articles...I hope you'll take some time to read them,and then get back to me with any thoughts you might have.

One more thing: you say "I know I'm miserable, but not enough to get off this ride...". For anyone who might feel this way, don't you think it behooves them to at least consider the chance that their children, or other children, might grow up to feel the exact same way? And knowing this, is the ride really worth the ticket? And if so, why? Questions to consider.

Thanks for your input...hope to hear back from you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response, I plan to stick around and browse the archives a bit, at least. Still, I can't resist a couple premature rejoinders:

I suppose there's potential for violence in almost any philosophy

You make a fair point, and I don't doubt you're sincerely opposed to violence and coercion, but if antinatalism ever caught on big, the urge to make it compulsory "for the sake of the children" would be nigh irresistible.

For anyone who might feel this way, don't you think it behooves them to at least consider the chance that their children, or other children, might grow up to feel the exact same way?

Oh I'm certain any kids I had would feel that way. They'd have the same choices I do, though, so I would assume they still prefer existence right up until they chose nonexistence. In your introduction post you wrote,

I believe the arguments often get sidetracked in attempting to quantify 'good' in a rationalistic sort of way; which, as I hope to show, is impossible to do.

The ordinal vs. cardinal utility question is one of the few things I learned in the course of an undergrad economics major that's actually worth a damn. It sounds like you'd agree that cardinal utility is pretty flimsy stuff, but aren't you endorsing some sort of cardinal utility when you question people's demonstrated choice not to kill themselves?

Anonymous said...

While perhaps cliche, Hamlet had something to say about this topic:

To be or not to be, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to — 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life,
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Anonymous said...

"You make a fair point, and I don't doubt you're sincerely opposed to violence and coercion, but if antinatalism ever caught on big, the urge to make it compulsory "for the sake of the children" would be nigh irresistible."

While I would certainly urge a benign approach, through reason, I don't doubt that other adherents to antinatalism might choose different approaches, including coercive and/or violent ones. However, seeing the way the cards are stacked, I suspect any initial violence would be aimed at the proponents of the philosophy, and not the other way 'round. People don't like their taboos fucked with, and often tend to act out with violence when their worldviews are threatened. This is one of the aspects of the fundamental nature of life, and one of the main reasons I'm opposed to the whole mess.

"Oh I'm certain any kids I had would feel that way. They'd have the same choices I do, though, so I would assume they still prefer existence right up until they chose nonexistence."

The 'choice' of suicide is mitigated in so many ways: fear of death, fear of pain, fear of mucking the thing up and living on physically damaged, societal stigma attached to your memory, and to your loved ones who live on, various parental duties, etc.
There's a very real sense in which a person wants to die, but defers suicide due to obligations which he feels are pressed upon him, but nonetheless are dissuasive. I've known several people like this, including myself at certain times.

It's a tough choice, and I shudder under the knowledge of the pressures involved in the mind of the person who actually accomplishes the thing. And I'd just like to inject here that one who is never born, never has to go through the process of making such a decision.

"The ordinal vs. cardinal utility question is one of the few things I learned in the course of an undergrad economics major that's actually worth a damn. It sounds like you'd agree that cardinal utility is pretty flimsy stuff, but aren't you endorsing some sort of cardinal utility when you question people's demonstrated choice not to kill themselves?"

I'm not sure that either ordinal or cardinal utility give us an accurate picture here, since both express preferences on a scale (one fixed, one sliding, so to speak). Both speak to clear rankings of preference, but I would propose that this outlook minimizes the reality of conflicting principles. Allowances are made, balances are struck; but when all's said and done, I don't think the end product can definitively be expressed as a 'preference'.

We could turn this around by expressing everything in negative values..."I hate THIS, but I hate THAT more." Can the least hated thing thus be defined as a preference? Perhaps technically, but I don't buy it.

Thanks for the discussion...I hope you enjoy the site, and your comments are always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Hamlet, anonymous. Seems very appropriate here.

Chip said...

At the risk of polluting the right-brain festivities (I loved the poem), I might pick a couple of nits...

The problem of coercion is complicated - and potentially recast - if one begins by taking seriously the premise that creating sentient life inherently imposes some degree harm. This is true even (and I would argue, especially) if the baseline for that harm is reduced to the implacable fact of a created being's eventual death. Deducing that procreation is itself a form of violence, an antinatalist ethic that proscribes childbearing, even by dint of law, is violent only in the sense that customs and rules against murder are violent. It's tough to swallow, I know, but the "violence" of the sanction contemplated in both instances is meant to prevent the initiation of harm - the harm of unprovoked killing.

On the question of suicide, I agree with Jim's points about mitigating psychological mechanisms and concern for the suffering of those affected, but I would add that antinatalist conclusions do not perforce begin to beg the question. By again invoking the inevitability of death, we may see mortality as a central consequence of being brought into existence. If you rebel or tremble before this incontrovertible fact, if you would rather not go gently, as it were, then it easily follows that you might not wish to cast an unwitting being into the same dire predicament. Thus the philosophical "immortalist" who would never contemplate taking his own life may refrain from having children precisely because the prospect of dying is so fucking awful. Antinatalism is a guaranteed way to "minimize existential risk," as Hopefully Anonymous puts it.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...violence against a lifeform to defend it from the violence of mortality? Peace through Annihilation...hmmmmmm. Seems like a stretch, but then, lots of wars have been initiated in the name of peace. At least, ostensibly.

Personally, I can't imagine the whole world voluntarily putting the kibosh on breeding. Evolutionary predispositions aside, there are huge societal pressures to keep the ball rolling (ironically, most of these are based upon selfishness, which I'll address another time-amusing, considering the rhetoric). That leaves force, I suppose; though I can't imagine a critical mass of opinion ever being acheived, such that coercive actions are ever taken at a political level. Like I said before, its far more likely that proponents of antinatalism will find themselves at the fat end of the baseball bats, if the talk ever got really serious, and threatening to the status quo.

Where's that leave us, then? Well, for me, any ear that hears is nice; information in the air always has potential, no matter the smallness of the probability. Every unrealized birth is one less injured soul, in my view.

Large scale outlook? Well, there's always the Children of Men possibility; viral mutation of some kind, natural or man-made. Frank Herbert killed off all the women in 'The White Plague', if I'm remembering correctly. Of course, the less injuries the better, IMO. And I hear the Umbrella Corporation is working on a T-virus that turns people into zombies. Scratch that! Hate zombies (one reason I'm very pro-cremation).

Fuck! Predictions and solutions are all so messy! Just stop having children, folks; it's so very easy not to do. You want the carrot instead of the stick? Then consider this:

The end of disease.
The end of mental illness.
The end of murder, and all other crimes.
The end of hunger.
The end of war.
The end of despair.
The end of all pain.

However it happens, it's ultimately worth it...but it could be so easy...




(It's only minutes after midnight that I've finished this post. I just woke my daughter, and scooted her off into her own room, after a long hug, and kiss on the forehead. Jesus Christ! You have no idea how much I love this child, nor how much I wish I'd never had a hand in bringing her into this world. I am NOT removed emotionally from this subject, nor is it a lark for me to be wishing my children back into their pre-existent non-states of being. But I also realized that I have conferred upon their heads a death sentence, as well as the unpredictable possibilities of pain and anguish to be suffered on the way to the graveyard. Disagree with me, if you will, but NEVER assume that this is simply a philosophical exercise for me, or that I throw these opinions out lightly. I'm just too fucking sane, sometimes).

Sorry 'bout the sermon...I used to be a christian minister. Peace...

Chip said...

Just to be clear, the preemptive "violence" I was imagining would take the form of prohibiting procreative freedom, which is what I assumed "anonymous" had in mind. Nothing as sexy as "annhilation," although that more extreme conclusion (the "apocalyptic imperative," or pro-mortalism) can arguably be obtained through certain formulations of negative utilitarianism.

Of course, I don't expect states to begin outlawing babymaking anytime soon; nor, for pragmatic reasons, am I sure I would endorse such a power. My point was merely that the potential for "violence" isn't as straightforward as it seems on first pass.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was just being a little 'tongue in iron fist' with that annhilation thing. To tell you the truth, though, I'm a little reticent to label coercion as violence, at least up to a certain, rather vaguely defined point. Smacks a bit too much of minority/vitimization speak- 'economic violence', 'cultural violence', 'they won't let me write my doctoral dissertation in ebonics violence', etc.

And I gotta say, I have more than a little sympathy for China's efforts to slow down their population explosion. As far as I'm concerned, all these hand-wringing, unlimited freedom of reproduction adovocates can shove it. Barring the ultimate antinatalism fix, I'm all for lowering population, since I see overpopulation as the crux of much present and future suffering from a slew of different directions.

You know, I can't help but imagine that, sooner or later, we're gonna start seeing some massive die offs, fueled by our shortsighted planning (or lack thereof). I'll hate to see it happen (if I'm still alive by then); just more fucking suffering that I'm against. Although, part of my abhorence is the myopia I share with most of the people on this planet. It seems worse when it happens all at once, but really, it's happening every day, all around me. People are dropping like flies, only at a leisurely enough pace so that we don't have a big, untended pile of carcasses to bother our midafternoon snacktimes.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I experienced this weird, psychological instance where I actually felt myself to be in the middle of a molasses-speed apocalypse. Everything around me seemed to be in slowdeath mode, and all of it was participating in this dance of decay. I think it was a moment of deep truth acceptance...funny, the colors all seemed brighter, and I had this feeling that, for the first time, I wasn't running away from something.

And yet, in our cultural lexicon, 'dis-illusionment' is a bad thing. Go figure.

TGGP said...

It is claimed here that there were wars between Hindu and Jain kings, and since it takes two to make a war rather than a slaughter perhaps Jainism is not that purely pacifistic.

I though disillusionment was usually portrayed as a good thing. It doesn't lift your spirits, but happiness isn't everything or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Ah, now you've gone and burst one of my few remaining bubbles, tggp (a webster's synonym for 'disillusionment', btw).

Anonymous said...

Every unrealized birth is one less injured soul, in my view. [...] Predictions and solutions are all so messy!

Unless you're looking for a total solution to human births, I would recommend investing significant resources in donating to family-planning charities. For instance, was recently recognized as highly cost-effective at saving lives (in large part by promoting condoms against AIDS), and so, prima facie, may also be quite cost-effective at purely preventing births. I'd be interested to see further research into the cost-effectiveness of various population-based charities.

Anonymous said...

In total agreement with you. To my way of thinking, every less birth is a good deed. I'm not saying this is the necessarily straightest utilitarian line to victory...for instance, perhaps promoting overpopulation to bring on a devastating plague might actually better further my ultimate aim. But then, as I've stated from the beginning, my motives are ultimately philanthropic, emerging naturally from a certain mindset which would be hard pressed to support such means to obtain a goal.